Atheist Billboard Sends Message To Drivers In Nashville
by Chris Cannon
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Motorists driving east on Interstate 40 in west Nashville cannot help but notice a new billboard. It is hot pink and shows the face of a local atheist.
The billboard, paid for by the Freedom from Religion Foundation, states "This is what an atheist looks like" and features Grace, an atheist from Clarksville.
"It wasn't something I just jumped at, I didn't question it because of the safety issue I had," Grace explained.
When she moved to Clarksville three years ago and came out as an atheist, Grace said she received death threats, hate messages and dealt with face-to-face confrontations with people who did not agree with her beliefs.
"Most of the time they just don't understand it. It just takes a while, they can't get past how someone can just go on with their lives not believing in God," Grace explained.
She joined the Freedom from Religion Foundation two years ago and has been an active member ever since.
Grace said she decided to do the billboard so people could associate a real face with atheists, and possibly change people's perceptions about atheists.
"Maybe (they will) think, well maybe atheist are just regular people, maybe they're not immoral beings, maybe they're just my neighbor," Grace said.
The 23-year-old grew up as a Catholic and moved to Clarksville from Houston three years ago. She said being in such a religious community has been difficult.
"I just believe this is my only life and I'm going to be good throughout it, not because I will be rewarded in some later life, but because it's the right thing to do," Grace said.
She moved to the area with her husband, who is in the Army and also an atheist.
Graces stated there are many people in the Clarksville who are also atheist, but do not come out about their beliefs because of the possible repercussions.
"There are some professors that I know that don't feel comfortable coming out in this community. So I think, yeah, people would be surprised," she said.
At Clarksville's Bethel Community Church, youth pastor Steve Nicholson does not judge Grace, but he also does not agree with her atheist beliefs.
"We should always reach out and love those that maybe don't believe the way that we do, but as far as I am concerned, Jesus is the way and truth of life and no many can go to the Father, except through Jesus," Nicholson explained.
The Nashville billboard is a prototype for a multi-city campaign the Freedom from Religion Foundation plans to launch.
Grace came up with the slogan on the billboard as part of a competition on the organization's website.