Atheist group takes message to Lakeland via billboard

November 3rd, 2009 by

LAKELAND (TBO)- Motorists along one of Lakeland’s major thoroughfares are being greeted with a billboard asking a provocative question: “Don’t believe in God?”

Then there’s the answer: “You are not alone.”

The billboard went up Sunday on eastbound Memorial Boulevard near Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, making Lakeland the second Florida city to have a billboard sponsored by an atheist organization.

The bottom of the billboard lists the Web site of Atheists of Florida, the group that paid for the message, www The organization picked Lakeland for the billboard to mark the opening of a chapter in the Polk County city, said Rob Curry, the group’s president.

The main goal is to increase awareness of the secular group, which was founded in 1992. The group has about 1,000 members statewide, Curry said, with fewer than a dozen in the Lakeland chapter.

“We want other people in the secular community who are non-religious to become aware of us,” he said.

The group’s main focus is keeping a separation of church and government. Curry said the billboard’s message does not attack anyone or any religion.

The billboard will remain up for 75 days. Curry isn’t sure what reaction it will generate.

“We really don’t know what to expect. Every community is different,” he said.

The initial reaction Monday from people living and working in the neighborhood didn’t fall much on the positive side.

“You shouldn’t raise your children that way …. not to believe in God,” said Carolyn Brown. “I think it should be removed now.”

Nathaniel Thomas said he respects the group’s right to free speech but still wishes the billboard wasn’t there.

“We’ve got a lot of churches in this neighborhood, a lot of black churches in this neighborhood, and we don’t need that,” he said.

The atheist organization is inviting the public to a questions-and-answers meeting at 6 p.m. Nov. 23 in the Lakeland Public Library, 100 Lake Morton Drive.

A similar billboard was sponsored in Fort Lauderdale in June by Florida Atheists and Secular Humanists.
Curry said the billboard could generate negative reactions from Lakeland’s religious community but possibly not wholesale condemnation.

“We expect a variety of reactions, but we know there are many religious people who support our freedom to our beliefs,” he said.

2 Responses

  1. gator roberts

    Yes you have your beliefs and many people have there beliefs but they don’t put them on a billboard.

  2. EmongeSen

    Is social media going to kill SEO?

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