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Religion in the News
God's skeptics get comfort from above
Sunday, January 13, 2008
BY JOHN CHADWICK AND STEPHANIE AKIN
STAFF WRITERS
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A group of atheists and agnostics has rented a billboard along the New Jersey Turnpike to trumpet what it says is a seldom-heard message in 21st-century America.

“Don’t Believe in God? You are not alone,” the 48-foot-wide sign says.

The message went up on Saturday. It will remain in place until Feb. 3, according to a spokesman for the American Humanist Association, which organized the effort.

The billboard is along Route 95 south in Ridgefield, just before the turnpike splits into two spurs.

“This billboard represents that there’s another viewpoint and that it’s time we spoke up,” said the spokesman, Fred Edwords.

“We have a viewpoint just as legitimate as everyone else’s, and we want to let folks like us know that they’re not the only ones.”

Edwords said humanists are focused on ethical living without a focus on a higher power.

“The life stance of humanism — guided by reason, inspired by compassion and informed by experience — encourages us to live life well and fully,” the association’s Web site says.

A representative of FreeThoughtAction.org, a division of the humanist group, said Saturday that early response to the billboard had been overwhelmingly positive.

“We’re not negative against anybody,” Jan Meshon said. “We’re not out there to hurt anybody.”

The billboard displays the FreeThoughtAction.org name.

The Web site says “tens of millions” of Americans are not religious and cites a City University of New York study conducted in 1990 and 2001. That study found the number of non-religious Americans doubled during the 10-year span, while the number of religious Americans declined.

The Web site also says “non-religious Americans now outnumber Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons combined.”

The U.S. census does not collect data on religious affiliation. But according to results of Gallup polls, a more commonly cited measure of American religious beliefs than the CUNY poll, the number of respondents who said they believed in God declined slightly from 2001 to 2007, falling to 86 percent from 90 percent. The number who said they don’t believe in God increased to 6 percent from 2 percent.

Eleven percent of respondents in 2006 said they had no religious affiliation. Forty-nine percent said they were Protestant, 24 percent said they were Catholic, 2 percent said they were Jewish, 2 percent said they were Mormon, and 11 percent described themselves as “other.”

“The bottom line is there are going to be a large number of religious and non-religious people in this country for a long time,” Meshon said. “We’re going to have to start learning to live with that and have our point of view respected, as well.”

Edwords said the sign is the first in a campaign to counter the nationwide GodSpeaks billboards that were started by an evangelical Christian and contained pithy billboard messages signed by “God.”

E-mail: chadwick@northjersey.com

A group of atheists and agnostics has rented a billboard along the New Jersey Turnpike to trumpet what it says is a seldom-heard message in 21st-century America.

TARIQ ZEHAWI / THE RECORD
The billboard, which faces traffic in Ridgefield, is a response to other ads featuring statements attributed to God.

“Don’t Believe in God? You are not alone,” the 48-foot-wide sign says.

The message went up on Saturday. It will remain in place until Feb. 3, according to a spokesman for the American Humanist Association, which organized the effort.

The billboard is along Route 95 south in Ridgefield, just before the turnpike splits into two spurs.

“This billboard represents that there’s another viewpoint and that it’s time we spoke up,” said the spokesman, Fred Edwords.

“We have a viewpoint just as legitimate as everyone else’s, and we want to let folks like us know that they’re not the only ones.”

Edwords said humanists are focused on ethical living without a focus on a higher power.

“The life stance of humanism — guided by reason, inspired by compassion and informed by experience — encourages us to live life well and fully,” the association’s Web site says.

A representative of FreeThoughtAction.org, a division of the humanist group, said Saturday that early response to the billboard had been overwhelmingly positive.

“We’re not negative against anybody,” Jan Meshon said. “We’re not out there to hurt anybody.”

The billboard displays the FreeThoughtAction.org name.

The Web site says “tens of millions” of Americans are not religious and cites a City University of New York study conducted in 1990 and 2001. That study found the number of non-religious Americans doubled during the 10-year span, while the number of religious Americans declined.

The Web site also says “non-religious Americans now outnumber Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons combined.”

The U.S. census does not collect data on religious affiliation. But according to results of Gallup polls, a more commonly cited measure of American religious beliefs than the CUNY poll, the number of respondents who said they believed in God declined slightly from 2001 to 2007, falling to 86 percent from 90 percent. The number who said they don’t believe in God increased to 6 percent from 2 percent.

Eleven percent of respondents in 2006 said they had no religious affiliation. Forty-nine percent said they were Protestant, 24 percent said they were Catholic, 2 percent said they were Jewish, 2 percent said they were Mormon, and 11 percent described themselves as “other.”

“The bottom line is there are going to be a large number of religious and non-religious people in this country for a long time,” Meshon said. “We’re going to have to start learning to live with that and have our point of view respected, as well.”

Edwords said the sign is the first in a campaign to counter the nationwide GodSpeaks billboards that were started by an evangelical Christian and contained pithy billboard messages signed by “God.”

E-mail: chadwick@northjersey.com


  1. Ken Karp says: The Saturday article (see next comment) has been moved here: http://www.northjersey.com/news/religion/Turnpike_billboard_promotes_humanist_message.html
  2. Ken Karp says: Hey mrflyboy1952: Your earlier comment was not censored. What happened is that The Record posted this article twice, once with a Saturday date and then again with a Sunday date. Your FIRST comment was with the Saturday article, which can still be found here: http://www.northjersey.com/news/Turnpike_billboard_promotes_humanist_message.html (or by using The Record's Search feature).
  3. mrflyboy1952 says: I posted the first comment yesterday but was censored by this liberal press. Let's see how long it stays posted.

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