Atheists are not alone in Philadelphia

Some days, the billboard garnered a little scoff or chuckle from me. Others resulted in a mere roll of the eyes. And, at least once or twice, it got me to audibly say, “No,” in my empty car.

Some thousands of people pass it any given day. An attention-grabbing billboard reads, “Don’t believe in God? You are not alone.” in white block lettering against a background of the bluest sky and the fluffiest clouds.

Is it effective advertising by the Philadelphia Coalition of Reason, the secular organization that posted the ad? Not any more effective than a billboard about Catholicism.

But, in a sea of other advertisements for everything from nose jobs to Corona, Caribbean getaways to hair plugs; would a billboard asking passers-by whether or not they believe in a higher power even make a difference?

Doubt it.

It’s tough to rationalize why any sort of religious or atheist propaganda lining the highway would profoundly strike anyone, especially during a commute that would involve Interstate 95 (a frustrating rush hour commute). Sure, sitting in the amount of traffic highways see, you’d have at least 20 minutes to ponder the philosophical question posed, but still, why bother? Commuters have better things to do.

But, Barry Greenstein, the vice president of the Secular Society of Temple University and a committee member of the Philadelphia Coalition of Reason said the billboard was effective. Furthermore, he said that the Coalition of Reason, a union of atheist, humanist and secular organizations, got a lot of positive attention from the advertisement on I-95 and a similar one in New Jersey by Freethought Action.

“There was a great response,” Greenstein said, adding that the ad was in no way intended to be a jab at the religious. “Membership went up, I have no exact numbers, but [there were] hundreds of e-mails sent by people who really had no idea that atheists and secular people were being so active getting their voice out, so I’ve been very pleased.”

So it did get people’s attention for more than that quick second they took driving by. Go figure.

Regardless of the success of the Philadelphia Coalition of Reason’s advertisement, meant to grab attention and even shock some of its audience, Greenstein and Austin Wulf, president of the Secular Society of Temple University, agreed that advertising such a society, especially on a college campus, can be a challenge.

Greenstein said that despite a seemingly ever-present struggle between the agnostics and atheists of the world and the religious, he thought the response to the billboard came from nonreligious people not knowing there was an organization for them, too.

In fact, he likened the nonreligious’ position to one akin to the former struggles of the LGBTQ community, that is, a fundamental lack of just that – community.

“The nonreligious have somewhat of a disadvantage, which is that historically, we have been unorganized,” he said. “But that is changing.”

Morgan A. Zalot can be reached at


  1. Why wouldn’t I be surprised to find out you are a practicing believer of some kind? Simple. It comes through in every line you write. Have you ever wondered why Christians spend millions of dollars annualy sponsoring exactly the kind of advertising you are so skeptical of for nonbelievers? I am nauseated by the countless number of “Jesus Saves” and “The Bible Says it. I believe it. And that settles it.” billboards that far outnumber this one. What does the “No” mean that you audibly say, “No,” in my empty car” to? You are a bigot because you want to deny expression of ideas to people who do not think like yourself.

  2. Very interesting website and comment.

    One thing though … lets play what if!

    What if the Bible is true? Where would it place any atheist? To answer that, you must first see what the Bible says about unbelievers …

    but that might be an old argument, you might say … ok, lets view this from another angle … it is also said that at the end of the world, people will be mislead by false religions… it is happening, thus people will not believe in God anymore … it is already happening! The fact that people were warned about this 2000 years ago, and that it is written within the Bible and the fact that it is happening today, isn’t but a mere coincidence. Thought: don’t you think that if the Bible wasn’t true, that the people won’t do what the Bble is telling them what to do? Don’t you think that a higher force is responsible for these kind of behaviour?
    And who might he be? Satan himself, as he wants to be the ruler of this world! He wants to demolish and detroy everything that God has created! He wants to trash everything that God has implemented, … and isn’t that exactly what’s going on? … but he, with his followers, wheather intensionaly or intensionaly, forgets one thing … the end is also depicted within the Bible.

    I have digital evidence of the devils existence … it can be biblically interpreted! A 4min 12 sec digital audio track of evidence of the spiritual realm … just unfortunately that people within South Africa finds it very difficult to believe …

    To all atheist and free thinkers … God knows you all, He loves you … there is still time to repent. Do it before it is to late. People would be blasphemy God for His wrath … are you people going to form part of that group?

    Just thinking,

    Enjoy the rest of your day,

    Quintus Eksteen


    I feel sorry for people who believe in god out of fear, think about the morality of that.

    Between the Catholic church lying to uneducated people in Africa by telling them that condoms increase the spread of HIV to the religious war of Israel and Palestine a lot of people in the world are sick of religion and I’m one of them.

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