For its latest atheist-friendly billboard, Backyard Skeptics is unveiling in Midway City this afternoon a photo lineup featuring King Neptune, Jesus Christ, Santa Claus and the Devil himself, broken up with an orange text box with the words, "What myths do you see?" and under this ditty: "7 Million Californians know MYTHS when they see them. What do you see?" Below it all are the web addresses for the Fountain Valley-based group (Backyardskeptics.com) and Cranford, New Jersey-based American Atheists (AmericanAtheists.org).
American Atheists is putting up a similar billboard on the East Coast. Here's the one to be unveiled at 4:45 p.m. in Midway City, in the parking lot of the American Legion post between the 22 and 405 freeways at 14582 Beach Blvd.:
"It is hard for people who are indoctrinated in a religious belief with many superstitions to look at their beliefs as myths, but it's amazing that the same people look at the other religions and call them superstitions and myths. This seems like a perfect case of confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance," says Bruce Gleason, Backyard Skeptics founder and fearless leader.
"The billboard is meant to have others who believe to compare other myths to their own beliefs and to reflect on how myths can, thought a drawn-out legend-building process, come to be thought of as real," he explains.
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Backyard Skeptics is leasing the billboard for the next six months and will be changing the artwork to other secular messages, Gleason notes.
Blair Scott, communications director with the four-decades-old American Atheists, says in the joint statement with Gleason that the billboards are not intended to offend people, although he's pretty sure that will happen.
"When you question someone's long-held beliefs and doctrine they are going to be immediately offended and be on the defensive: it's a known psychological phenomenon," Scott says. "Regardless of one's theological views, we should all support freedom of speech. The truly offensive view comes from those who say we do not have a right to put up our billboards."
Both Scott and Gleason claim to be building power through numbers, pointing to surveys where 18 percent of Americans identify themselves as non-believers.