"Are you good without God? Millions are."
These words, superimposed over an image of a blue sky and clouds, will appear on two 14 foot tall billboards in Wichita. One is on the right-hand side of the Kansas Turnpike, I-35 North just beyond East 47th Street South, the other on the left-hand side of West 21st Street North, facing eastbound traffic after it crosses North Tyler Road. The ads will run all month. They are being placed by the new Wichita Coalition of Reason (Wichita CoR) with $4,108 in funding from the United Coalition of Reason (UnitedCoR).
The ad campaign marks the public launch of the Wichita Coalition of Reason, an alliance of three non-theistic groups in the city. It also heralds Skeptics of Oz, the coalition's free conference, which will run from April 21-22 at The Forum Theater, 147 South Hillside Street, in Wichita. NASA astronomer Phil Plait is the headline speaker among a number of other scientists and prominent leaders in the skeptic and free-thought movements. The conference will draw a statewide audience and UnitedCoR is the largest organizational sponsor.
This Wichita campaign is the latest in a nationwide effort. Since March 2009 there have been similar billboards, as well as bus ad campaigns, in 29 states and the District of Columbia. The states are Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.
"The point of our ongoing nationwide awareness campaign is to reach out to the millions of atheists and agnostics living in the United States," explained Fred Edwords, national director of the United Coalition of Reason. "Such non-theists sometimes don't realize there's a community for them because they're inundated with religious messages at every turn. We hope our effort will serve as a beacon and let them know they aren't alone."
Reaching out to the like-minded isn't the only goal of the coalition:
"We hope people will realize that we're already a regular part of the community," said Sean Gillespie, coordinator of Wichita CoR.
"Non-theists and skeptics like us live throughout Kansas. We're your friends, relatives, neighbors and coworkers. Some of us may even be in the pew next to you in church!"
"Visibility is important to us," Edwords concluded, "because, in this society, atheists and agnostics often don't know many people like themselves. Furthermore, if traditionally religious people can be open about their views, why can't we be open about ours?"