Competing Billboards in Oklahoma September 27, 2010

Competing Billboards in Oklahoma

Remember this billboard that the Freedom From Religion Foundation recently put up in Oklahoma?

The billboard reads “Atheism is OK in Oklahoma,” but members of the group Freedom From Religion say that’s not always the case and that’s why they chose to pay for the sign.

“We want to let people know they’re not alone. There are other people that are sane in the state too. Not everyone in Oklahoma is superstitious,” said Bill Dusenberry, Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Sounds all well and good — it’s a positive message. (Though I still say the “Gore” reference is lost on just about everyone.)

Still, it must be effective because a Christian running a competing billboard advertising company took out an ad of his own:

“When you have 80,000 to 100,000 people driving by that sign every day, it’s our name on that sign,” said Gabe Sherman [of Whistler Outdoor Advertising]. “We look at our core values. Does it match up with who we are, and can we put it up there and feel good about it?”

Whistler decided it couldn’t and this week even opted to display a direct response to the atheism ad. Among the ads displayed on its ten digital billboards are ones that read, “God is More Than OK in Oklahoma,” and “‘Why Settle for Ok? God Promises More.”

The Freedom from Religion Foundation says it has no problem with the dueling billboards.

“They want to impose their beliefs on me, while I don’t want impose anything I believe on them,” Dusenberry said.

It should be noted that God “promising more” doesn’t say much when it’s compared to “nothing.”

But as Dusenberry admits, all publicity is good publicity. The atheist billboard just got more column space and airtime. And if any of these billboards will have more of an impact on the local citizens, I have to think it’s the atheist billboard which is far more unique than the alternatives. A billboard in Oklahoma saying you like God stands out as much as a brand new weed in an already large garden.


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  • Kyle N.

    There’s an ad campaign going on in the Seattle area right now, ads on buses are asking us to fill in the blank.
    Jesus is _____.

    I get the sneaking suspicion this is the religious trying to get the jump on the nonreligious a tas early this year. The FFRF ran ads on the same buses last year that said “Yes, Virginia, there is no God.” It’s a liberal area, so I’m also thinking the “open ended” format lets people know they’re not pushing just one agenda, but rather getting people to think about it.

    On the other hand, I think they’re leaving themselves wide open for being the butt of many a joke. I’m sore tempted to write “fake,” “not real,” “still not proven to have existed,” among others, to complete the thought.

  • VXbinaca

    Theres a difference between promises and delivery.

    Just ask our current president about that.

  • Dan

    I think the response to the response should be “Atheism delivers on all its promises, immediately”

  • Narvi

    On the “Jesus is …” thing:

    “…made of cheese” is one of my favourites.

    Or “…a vampire hunter”.

  • Heidi

    Why settle for OK? Move somewhere with fewer fundies.

  • Kaylya

    God promises more… just like a politician.

    God promises more… but does he deliver?

    For something like an inside bus ad, in two panels:
    God promises more… but when’s the last time he delivered?

    Followed by: If you can think of a time when God delivered on a promise, are you sure it was God, and not (splattered across the ad)
    random chance?
    scientific advances?
    human kindness?
    the work of doctors?
    the work of the immune system?

    (because there’s lots of people who will think “Oh, when Betty was in the hospital and the doctors said she wasn’t going to make it she pulled through because we prayed for her”).

    Feel free to “steal” and improve my ideas 🙂

  • I like this. It is exactly what the atheist billboard seems to be set up for. Discussion, viewing both sides of the argument.

  • ATL-Apostate

    Umm, the Gore reference is lost on me as well. Maybe I didn’t read carefully enough.

  • Min

    Why settle for OK? Move somewhere with fewer fundies.

    Why run away when you can work to make things better?

  • Vene
  • Beijingrrl

    I don’t mind the response billboard at all. It makes people think more about the original billboard. Yay, thinking!

  • BeamStalk

    ATL-Apostate,

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Gore

    His grandson, Gore Vidal, claims that Thomas Gore was an atheist.

  • steve85

    This has happened before. Zealots never change. Check out the similarities to this one http://www.weltbranding.com/blog/2010/08/ad-fail-god-wars/

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Why settle for OK? God promises more.

    Sure. Mrs Mariam Abacha promises more too, in those e-mails I get from Nigeria.

  • Rollingforest

    As we can see in the comments of this page, even most atheists don’t know who Thomas Gore was. Most people along the road will assume they are talking about Al Gore and we can’t really trust the local news to do any better. Putting Gore’s name on there was a mistake. But I agree that the dueling billboards does at least cause people to go to the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s website which is always good.

  • Hitch

    Why settle for OK when you can settle in CA, NY, PA, NJ, OR, MA, …?

  • I think that it is clever and a significant improvement to a splash of yellow paint. That is how I would expect a competing idea to be presented: politely and directly. I don’t agree but that really isn’t the point.

    Oh and Jesus Christ: Vampire Hunter has been done and done.

  • SeekerLancer

    They’re just like little kids who can’t stand not having the last word.

    “A different opinion? Not on my highway!”

  • SpencerDub

    I had to smirk at the “Ok” in the alternate billboard. Maybe there’s no justification for this, but I was fairly sure that it was either “OK,” in all caps, or “okay.” “Ok” to me looks like it would be pronounced “ock.”

    It could have been worse; they could have pluralized with an apostrophe, or used the wrong your. It still seems a little embarrassing, though. Where’s your proofreader?

    That said, I’m actually fairly glad that this is taking place in such a civil way, rather than through vandalism. I wish more religious groups (and religious believers) would take a page from this book.

  • Rich Wilson

    I read a comment on this saying Whistler was ‘courageous’ for ‘standing up to the loons’. I can get thinking atheists are loony. Easy to think someone you disagree with is loony. But declining to put up a sign supporting a minority position? Hardly courageous.

    I don’t think there’s any way to push home the “God promises, but does he deliver” message. Of course he does. That’s why I’m going to heaven to meet all my loved ones.

  • rbray18

    i don’t know,to me OK looks like something lil wayne would say.but then I’ve been trained that capital letters=yelling.

  • @hoverfrog:

    Holy crap that sounds like an awesome comic series!

  • This spate of billboards comes hard on the heels of our OKC CoR billboard. The media reactions have been almost uniformly an attempt to create a narrative of debate, even though neither our sign “Don’t Believe in God? Join the club” nor the Tulsa signs are anything more than an affirmation of the unbelief of some people.

  • BTW – Is there any good evidence that Oklahoma Senator Gore really was an atheist? We should be skeptical even when we like the conclusions stated.

  • Maliknant

    I would have thought that the confusion about which Gore was intentional. The FFRF refer to Gore on the billboard and theists angrily (and predictably) refute that Al Gore is an atheist only to find out that a different Gore is being referred to. It draws theists into a conversation about what atheists have contributed to society.

    I think it’s the most clever thing about the billboard, actually. If I’m right. If I’m wrong, not so much.

  • ihedenius

    ‘Promises’

    To quote what ‘Bernard Madoff’ never said:
    “My big mistake was to make promises for _this_ life”.

  • todwith1d

    “So, to recap, we agree that Atheism is OK.”

  • stephanie

    I actually am all for these two billboards. I think they’re awesome.

    And FTR, most people driving that stretch are probably from OK so might have a better chance of knowing their representation.

    Also, as far as Seattle, “Jesus is…” … my gardener?

  • “Jesus is… not coming back, ever. Get over it.”

    “God promises more, including punishment like burning alive forever for using his name “in vain” because you hit your finger with the hammer and yelled out.”

    “God promises more, like destroying the world, again, someday soon.”

    “God promises more, like what you get after he slaughters your whole family for a bet.”

    etc.

  • muggle

    I love it! This is America!!!

    This is utterly what makes me love America and be glad, after all, that I was born here (lucky me). Nothing I love better than seeing the polar opposites of anything (not just religion but, for instance, a vegetarian restaurant next door to a steakhouse with both thriving) rubbing elbows in equal open citizenship.

    My favorite all time scene from a movie is in “Moscow on the Hudson” where the members of the Russian circus are coming into New York on the bus from the airport and looking at all the varied people and places from the bus and the clown who has been vocally wanting to deport writes in the dust on the window — freedom.

    Ah, yes, freedom indeed. This is exactly what keeps me patriotic. It’s what gets me and draws me back when I’m most fed up with all of America’s injustices. At the core of our being is this recurring ideal: freedom!

  • the atheist billboard is so much more colorful and cheerful than the christian one.

    The christian one is all black and gloomy. is god emo or something?

  • VXbinaca

    @VancouverMoose

    God is the ultimate emo.