INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — A monthlong billboard campaign set to begin in Indianapolis on Monday will tell motorists they "don't need God" to live fulfilling lives.
A secular humanist group, the Center for Inquiry, has bought space on four billboards targeting the Interstate 465 loop around Indianapolis. The Amherst, N.Y.-based group said it selected Indianapolis for its location in the nation's heartland. A similar multimedia ad campaign already has begun in Washington, D.C., and one is set for Houston, the largest city in the Bible Belt.
According to a spokesman for the organization responsible for the ad, one billboard will go up on I-45 North -- another on the Southwest Freeway at Beechnut.
The messages will read: "You don't need God — to hope, to care, to love, to live."
"With this campaign, we are aiming to dispel some myths about the nonreligious," Ronald Lindsay, the center's president, said in a statement. "One common myth is that the nonreligious lead empty, meaningless, selfish, self-centered lives. This is not only false, it's ridiculous. Unfortunately, all too many people accept this myth because that's what they hear about nonbelievers."
The center says about 16 percent of Americans have no religious affiliation, according to the American Religious Identification Survey, and about 10 percent reject belief in God, based on surveys conducted in association with the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.
The Center for Inquiry says it wants to reach out to the non-religious in a positive way.
"We're not trying to get other people to give up their religion. We're just saying that there's a misunderstanding that some people think if you're not religious, you can't even be a good person," the center's Indiana director, Reba Boyd Wooden, told WTHR-TV.
Edward Wheeler, president of Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis, said he disagreed with the message but that people who believe in God should accept others' opinions.
"Part of what allows us to get our message across is the freedom to allow other people to have their messages across," Wheeler told WRTV-TV.
At New Harmony General Baptist Church on Indianapolis' south side, not far from one of the billboard sites, Courine Lyles said she disagreed that a person could live a fulfilling life without God.
"If I believed that message, I wouldn't be sitting in church right now," Lyles told WTHR.
Fellow church Mark Graves said the ad campaign was "a crying shame for the religious world."
"Our nation's supposed to be founded under God and you got people trying to take it away," Graves said.
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