New Atheist Billboard in Austin, Texas June 28, 2010

New Atheist Billboard in Austin, Texas

There’s a new atheist billboard on I-35 in Austin, Texas, courtesy of the Austin Coalition of Reason:

Reaching out to the like minded isn’t the only goal of the effort. “We also want everyone to know that those who don’t believe in a god are your neighbors,” added Don Rhoades, coordinator of the Austin Coalition of Reason. “People like us can be found everywhere: among family members, friends and co-workers. One of us might even be in the pew next to you in church! So, in the same way that other people are open about their views, we think we should be free to express ours.”

The billboard is up thanks to $7,344 in funding from the United Coalition of Reason.

What do you think about the wording? I know there’s no “official” atheist club or anything like that and it’s just saying there’s a lot of us here. But I wonder if that phrasing could rub people the wrong way… (***Update***: I should’ve been more clear. I meant to ask if it would rub atheists the wrong way. No doubt that other people would get offended no matter what the billboard said.)

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  • Bowser The Cat

    OK, I’m a member of the Atheist Community of Austin…Guess I need to connect with the CoR…

    Good to see this in Austin, I like to think of us as an outpost of (at least some) reason in the center of insanity (Texas in general)…

  • RavynSkyes

    I’m pretty sure it’s going to rub a lot of people the wrong way regardless of how it’s phrased.

  • daniel

    Where is the billboard? Does anyone know because I must take a photo.

  • You know the one big response they’ll get, and the one big thing I’ll never hear the end of, from my religious family? “Why didn’t they spend the money helping people instead of advertising for themselves?”

    My answer? “Why do churches do the same damn thing? Why do they spend hundreds of thousands on something as gaudy and useless as Touchdown Jesus, and hundreds of thousands on a big, elaborate, fancy, mansion-esque church building? Why are churches the only businesses allowed to waste the money they receive on useless shit, but if atheists spend a comparatively small amount on a simple billboard that lets others of our kind know that they’re not alone, then we’re horrendously wasteful and somehow cheating those who need it out of charitable donations?”

    Hypocrisy, that’s all it is.

    (P.S.: Not to mention the various atheist charities and NPOs that already exist.)

  • mkb

    I love the message and the new picture. It seems so upbeat.

  • Bob

    IMHO, “Join the club” is a lot more friendly than assuming that there’s an official or correct religion for America, and that Those Which We Do Not Approve Of Shall Be Suppressed.

  • daniel

    I guess I will have to search for it after work tonight. The reason I asked for the location is that I-35 is a very busy highway and I would like a good and safe spot to take a few photos.

  • MaleficVTwin

    But I wonder if that phrasing could rub people the wrong way…

    Wouldn’t matter how it was phrased. Haters gotta hate….

  • The wording is fine.

    Drive through Texas, or any southern state, and you’ll see more giant crosses, mega-churches, and religious billboards than you can count. The fact that there is now ONE billboard that represents the secular point-of-view is more important than you might think.

  • Siamang

    “But I wonder if that phrasing could rub people the wrong way…”

    Concern troll is concerned?

    I think it’s funny, and timid, and a bit welcoming.

  • Sarah TX.

    I’m a Texas atheist not associated with any of the ACoR groups, and I like the billboard quite a bit:

    (1) The background picture of a sunset is sort of a hilarious parody of a certain type of Christian billboard.
    (2) The slogan can’t really make any sort of claim to exclusivity, since ACoR seems to be a loose organization of several skeptical, humanist, and atheist groups with disparate platforms and goals. Smart move.

  • SickoftheUS

    I think it’s a much better atheism billboard than the recent ones with flags and patriotism. No bs here. I like the use of rays of sun to denote the light of reason breaking through.

  • dude

    Yes it will rub people the wrong way but that’s their problem.

  • Hemant – try as I might, I can’t see why you think this might rub anyone the wrong way. I’m curious … what do you see that could offend? (Other than the obvious way it always offends theists when atheists declare themselves.) What is it that made you ask in the first place?

  • I’m THRILLED about this! Texas is so one sided and conservative, we need this!

  • Andriana

    From their website: “These words are part of a prominent billboard in Austin, Texas, slated to appear today on the east side of I-35, north of Grand Avenue Parkway, facing north.”

  • galderon

    Am I alone in thinking that this billboard might be misinterpreted as saying the opposite? “Don’t believe in God? Join our club and let us help you find Him again.”

  • @daniel: According to the Press Release it’s located “on the east side of I-35, north of Grand Avenue Parkway, facing north.” You can download a high resolution image on their website here:

    Personally, I think this image is a significant improvement to the cloud design.

  • I clarified what I meant at the end of the posting.

    I know many atheists who would object to any description of atheists being organized or like-minded or (in this case) part of a club. We’re not like a church that demands you think and act the way we do.

    While some like the groups (including me), others prefer keeping their individuality intact.

  • VXbinaca

    Austin is a pretty liberal area. It’s the “New York City” of Texas. In fact it has quite a vibrant music scene, one of my favorite bands Ghostland Observatory is from Austin. This isn’t really that big of a deal.

    I’d like to see these billboard in SOUTH Florida. There is a terrible terrible lack of Atheist groups and signs in SWFL.

  • Aaron

    Countdown to vandalism ….five…four…three…two…

  • wsl

    i suppose i’m a bit of a Laissez-faire sort of non believer but i can’t help but feel all this billboard stuff is a bit silly. seems likely there’s something more worthwhile to do with all that money and effort.

  • Charles Minus

    For me, this is the best slogan yet. I was never comfortable with the “You are not alone” slogan. The first time I saw that, I thought it was pro-god. But this one is pretty darn clear. “Join the club” is a colloquialism that doesn’t imply exclusivity. This is a great BB, and it has a nice humorous tone.

  • Kevin

    Apparently the need to form some sort of “club” and to publicly evangelize means atheism IS a religion after all.

    Thought so.

  • I am a big fan of being at least a touch flippant, so I personally love this billboard. I don’t think it’s offensive. It makes it clear that all you need for “membership” to the club is non-belief. IMO, the most inclusive club around!

  • Sarah TX.

    I feel it is necessary to reinforce the fact that Texas is not uniformly conservative OR uniformly religious, that we have a strong liberal Democratic party here, and that atheist and free-thought groups seem to be flourishing. Especially in Austin.

  • “Atheism is not a religion, its a personal relationship with reality”.

  • I’ve got twenty bucks that says this sign gets vandalized within two weeks. Any takers?

  • Greg

    I can’t see that being a problem Hemant – ‘join the club’ (being a colloquialism) doesn’t mean there is an organisation, it just means something along the lines of ‘I agree’.

    When a friend of mine was moaning about how rubbish we (England) were in the World Cup, and how he had predicted where all the problems would be years before, I responded:

    ‘Join the club.’

    Of course, I didn’t mean there existed an organisation of football fans whose pessimistic whinging just happened to be proven correct.

    You’d have to be seriously anal to have a problem with that phraseology as an atheist imho.

  • A big improvement over the cloud design. Love it.

    “I’ve got twenty bucks that says this sign gets vandalized within two weeks. Any takers?”

    Nope…even as I type this, there’s an idiot with a full can of spray-paint just chomping at the bit…

  • I like it. I see the “join the club” language just as saying “you’re not the only one.”

  • Jon Peterson

    Doesn’t bother me (it is just a colloquialism)…

    But I can see how it could be misconstrued as insinuating a cult mentality… something that the religious will use as a weapon, and that some atheists will be irked by.

  • I remember a couple years back, one of the megachurches (Grace Community Church, I think it was) on I-45 here in Houston had a billboard that said “Coming Soon – New 150ft Cross – Marking OUR city.” I damn near spit nails. I’ve only lived here 9 years or so, sure, but the fact that it said “OUR” city, in larger letters than the rest felt like a punch to the gut. “It’s ours, you damn baby eating heathen, go back where you came from.” And now, there’s a giant cross off the freeway, sure enough. I know Houston is becoming more and more progressive on the whole, but it’s nice to know that there are some places in Texas where we secular humanists are a little louder about it…especially after the whole textbook fiasco a little while back….yeesh.

  • Sarah

    I like it. I live in Omaha, and our slogan is very similar. “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone.” We don’t have billboards, but we do have bumper stickers and t-shirts.

  • muggle

    Seems just a straight forward ad for a club to me. No big deal.

    So, Kevin, does that make the local gardening club a religion too? Book discussion groups? The chess club in your local high school? Calling something a religion just because they form a club based on a common interest is absurd.

  • Randall

    As a Christian, I am not personally rubbed the wrong way by this sign. It reflects the views and hearts of genuine people. Some people have a puzzling hatred of those who don’t share their belief in God. My Bible says “It is difficult for natural man to believe in something that he cannot see, touch or feel (I Cor. 2:14). I can rightly acknowledge that I believe in God and some will reject that belief. In parallel, I have the right to believe 2+2=4 and others have the right to reject that answer too. My point being – God’s existence is not defined by what we believe. Thousands of people have lived and died who believed our world was flat – but who would make that argument today?

  • matt

    Why would it rub us the wrong way? I think it’s one of the better signs advertising a specific group that I’ve seen. And it’s nice to see CoR doing something in Austin since the ACA became an affiliate.

  • Baudelaire

    I don’t have a problem with an atheist billboard, but it seems kinda weird to have a “club” at all. I think it demeans things by making it like a social thing or something flip — it’s a “club.” Like a cult or something. Just makes it sound really bad.

    “I’m THRILLED about this! Texas is so one sided and conservative, we need this!”

    Do you live in Texas? I don’t think you’d say that if you live here. I’ve lived here for 10 years now (I’m from NY) and there are lots of Democrats and Liberals here. Austin is more a progressive college town, anyway. You can’t judge a place and everyone in it unless you’ve lived there.

  • Justin

    SO much better than quoting John Lennon. I like it. And there are some atheist ‘clubs’. So, whatever.

  • Dan W

    I wonder how long it’ll be before this billboard gets vandalized.

  • Yeah – doesn’t bother me. This exchange will demonstrate:
    “Hey, how’s it going?”
    “Horrible, I have a big meeting this week.”
    “Hah, yeah – join the club.”
    It’s doubtful there’s a ‘Club For People Who Have Big Meetings’ so I don’t think there’s a ‘Club For People Who Don’t Believe in Gods’

  • muggle

    Well, obviously, Kevin, there is. It’s advertised right there on the billboard. How does that make it a religion? You didn’t answer my question. At all.

    So is the local garden club a religion if they dare advertise/evangelize (failing to see how advertising equals evangelizing but oh well)?

    Is FFRF a cult? Americans United? That’d especially be tricky on the latter’s part since they have virtually every religious viewpoint represented.

  • kanthari

    the first words out of the mouth of the atheist when he/she encounters God will be “Oh my God!”

  • FYI – some of the atheist orgs in Austin ARE social clubs. There’s nothing wrong with that. The ACA hosts many regular social activities. These are important for fostering a sense of community, and they fill an important need for individual members of a big-brained social species.

    Re: the possibility of vandalism – no worries. If the sign is vandalized, that will get news coverage. More news coverage of atheist orgs is a good thing!

  • putttrouble

    Love that this has found a home in Texas and in many other states. There is no wording to not offend, the most judgmental are the religious “believers”. Live and Let Live, religious freedom is why we came to this new land, that means we have the right to NOT believe and not be looked down on for it.

  • Yah I can just imagine the form of the vandalism; probably an arrow pointing down, adjacent to the word ‘club.’

    As they say, Heaven for the climate…

  • Kevin too


    Hemant can probably confirm via IP address, but I don’t think the two “Kevin” comments above are the same Kevin.

    – Kevin (the third)

  • Min

    Do you live in Texas? I don’t think you’d say that if you live here. I’ve lived here for 10 years now (I’m from NY) and there are lots of Democrats and Liberals here. Austin is more a progressive college town, anyway. You can’t judge a place and everyone in it unless you’ve lived there.

    I’ve lived in Texas for 27 years, and in my experience, Austin is the only city where there is actually a significant non-religious/non-Republican population. There are isolated pockets of Democrats/liberals/atheists in the other major cities & college towns (primarily DFW, San Antonio, Houston), but they are by far in the minority, and you’ll be challenged to find even pockets in the hundreds of smaller towns that dot the countryside.

    Have you lived in a town with under, say, 10,000 people? Prayer in public schools is a matter of course and nobody dares challenge it. “Which church do you go to?” is a common icebreaker in conversations.

    Texas is just about as one-sided as you can get.

  • @muggle/Kevin Too:

    I’m not the same Kevin as that first comment, hehe. Too many of us. Maybe I should start going by my blogname? But then I’d feel more impersonal, and wouldn’t like that.

    Hum… “Kevin, Critically Skeptic”, perhaps?

  • rex

    the first words out of the mouth of the atheist when he/she encounters God will be “Oh my God!”

    The first words out of the mouth of the Xtian when he/she encounters nothing will be “”

  • Greg

    the first words out of the mouth of the atheist when he/she encounters God will be “Oh my God!”

    More likely to be: ‘who (or what) are you?’

    I’ve yet to come across a good enough description to know what god is.

  • TXatheist

    Ok, I will keep you all updated on the vandalism concern, if it happens. The other beauty is this billboard faces a outdoor fun park with putt-putt golf, race cars, water bumper cars and outdoor rock climbing wall so if anyone looks up they will see this billboard. This is the place right next to the billboard.

  • Can’t wait to see some fox news clip about how these billboards are somehow persecuting Christians.

  • I love it, I’m always glad when the group involved takes the time to make it look good rather than just sound good!

    I’m enjoying the blog, Hemant, LOVE the ambigram title bar!

  • Brian

    I’m a bit late to this game. I passed that billboard yesterday and was thrilled to see it so I came here to see If I’d missed a post about it. While Austin is certainly more atheist-friendly than anywhere else in Texas, this billboard is actually way up north (I’m not even sure it’s in the city limits.) It’s closer to Round Rock and Pflugerville which don’t have quite the same political vibe as Austin. Way to go Austin CoR!

  • lacy liardon

    My husband and I were driving with our 3 children when we saw the bill board. All of us literally screamed out loud with excitement!! We are so relieved to finally see something in public that sheds some light on us. My kids feel like they HAVE to live in the shadows of religious people. My sons advise to his little sister is not to tell anyone we are religionless, because it will make school impossible. I am so ready for everyone to step out, religious people need to see us as a group. And for me, a mother, we all need to do it for the next generation. These kids of ours need a group to be part of. If they are not alone, than why should have grow up feeling that way? The bill board has already helped our family feel less alone, it’s wonderful!!

  • TXatheist

    The billboard was not defaced but it is down and a new advertiser is up on that space.

  • Sarah

    There is a big difference between being friendly and being offensive. I was doing a journal response to the picture and stumbled on this website. Okay you don’t believe in My God that is totally fine that is your choice. You have no right whatsoever though to mock my religion and laugh at it! I accept that you dont believe in my Father you could at least respect my point of view!

  • Tam

    I would rather live my life believing and find out that there is no God than living my life as if he doesn’t exist and then found out I was wrong. 

  • gmr

    My Mama taught me to never put anything in writing that just everyone can see. I do not believe in teaching my children, what is my own belief with the assumption that it is absolute. They should be given the opportunity to learn both sides and choose for themselves. I would certainly rather be prepared, than to meet my maker and realize my mistake at that unfortunate hour of no return. I would never want to be held responsible for teaching my children in error. They have their own minds. They are not yours to misguide! Some of you have no idea the hearts you break. I wonder how many of you would cry out to your God for mercy should you happen to be hanging by your toes in prison under torture. Careful. The hour is coming for some of you.

  • Thomas from France

    Oh come on, people in US really must grow up and have Europe as example. It’s a shame that there are still people believing in hell, heaven, demons and fairy tales and you have NASA and Silicon Valley and Wall street too! Incredible!I can understand old people brainwashed for all their lives, but US is the only developed contry in the world that have an high percentage of brainwashed ignorant children too! And you have politicians that are antiscience, how is this possible?In Europe 9 children/younger up 10 are atheists, non believers, and does not care of religion at all. In 50 years quite all West Europe will be no-religiuos , waiting then for the fall of islam too in nearby undeveloped regions.This is what the world need, only the Science can improve our quality and lenght of life and give humanity a chance to survive, not fables written 2000 year ago. Oh wait..but you teach creationism in the schools??! 😀 LOL I’ve pity for US, really. Study the Christian and Muslim history, neither of these two religion deserve any respect at all (not the people believing, they are only ignorant about the mattter, but the religion itself), massacre, homicides, witch hunt and shutting up mouth only to mainain power (as muslim countries nowdays). Religion is only a way to take control on masses.
    If you are smart you’ll not fall in this trap. Atheists are smart independent people.
    If you have afraid to die and need a god that will “save” you, then kill yourself to reach him as soon as possibile and leave this world for your “eternity”. Afraid? 🙂
    The best in all this is that the only real eternal “thing” is our body atoms. Who knows the atoms of my body in which part of the universe will be in some billion years! 🙂

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