Updated at 9:55 p.m. Jan. 31, 2013
Westbound motorists on state Route 94 see a Stella Rosa wine ad on a billboard west of Lemon Grove. Eastbound travelers savor a different message: “Atheism: A Personal Relationship with Reality.”
“It’s the first time we’ve used that slogan,” said Jim Eliason of the San Diego Coalition of Reason, an umbrella organization of 18 nonbeliever groups.
“We’re hoping to create a lot of buzz. Every time we put up a billboard, we get a tremendous response.”
Four years ago, one was up in La Mesa.
The latest billboard was posted early Thursday morning. Costing $4,000—with $1,500 from American Atheists and the rest from community donors—it will stay up for a month, Eliason said.
Why state Route 94 in the College Area?
“It was time do a billboard again, and … American Atheist President David Silverman” will speak Feb. 24 at UC San Diego, Eliason said.
A 50-year-old North Park resident raised in a Christian household, Eliason was out with a young colleague taking pictures of the billboard about 9:15 a.m. Thursday.
“There’s a big difference between respecting people and respecting their beliefs," Silverman told KPBS. "I respect every person, but I do not respect the belief in an invisible man in the sky, because that’s ridiculous.
Debbie Allen, coordinator of the Coalition of Reason, told U-T San Diego that the 2009 billboard along Interstate 8 said: “Don’t Believe in God? You are not alone.”
“In part because of the publicity, the coalition has grown from nine groups to 18,” the U-T reported. “It now boasts about 2,000 members.”
Depicting a stack of books holding up a curtain, the billboard was “very clever,” Allen told the U-T, adding:
Obviously, we want to get across the message that when you pull up the curtain on the universe or on reality, first of all you do so through education, science, etc., which is what the books symbolize. But on the other side, it’s just the natural world. There are no wizards or goblins or supernatural beings behind the curtain.
Eliason, speaking loudly (see video) to be heard above the din of passing traffic, said atheists meet Saturdays in Balboa Park as an “outreach to nonbelievers.”
“Most of the believers who come talk to us are very respectful,” he said.
For himself and like-minded people who come from religious backgrounds, “Somewhere along the way we realized we didn’t believe anymore.”