STOCKTON, CA - Theological billboards asking drivers to repent, remember, or renew their faith have been seen from highways and major intersection for decades, but several new signs going up in California are seeking non-believers.
"We want people to know there's a community of atheists and free thinkers that are out here," San Joaquin Valley Coalition of Reason member David Diskin said. "We want people to know they can come and join us, and for people who don't feel the same way as we do, we want them to know you can still be a good person without believing in God."
The Coalition of Reason is advertising nationally with its billboards: "Don't believe in God? Join the club."
Billboards have already gone up in Fresno and Orange counties. Thursday morning, Stockton's billboard went up on the southbound lanes of Highway 99, just before the Waterloo exit.
A second is planned for Modesto.
"What we are doing is no different than from what religious organizations do - try to build a community," Diskin said.
Diskin said an average of 340 members are in San Joaquin and Stanislaus counties.
The Coalition of Reason's billboards have a surprising amount of support from religious leaders in the valley.
"I think it's a great opportunity for folks to be in dialogue with whom they disagree and come to a clear understanding of where they are in their own journey," Central United Methodist Church Pastor David Bennett said.
"Who knows, it may bring people back to religion after they've been away from it after a period of time," Temple Israel Rabbi Jason Gwasdoff said.
"Thankfully in this country we have laws and we have principles and one of the greatest principles is freedom of speech," Islamic Center Imam Aziz said.
Aziz said he thinks it's distasteful if believers and non-believers attack each other in ads.
The Coalition of Reason members don't expect any hostility to come from the ads.
"Every once in awhile people will call or email to say they'll pray for us," Diskin said. "And they're more than welcome to do that."
Diskin said the main message the group wants to express is that you can be supportive of the environment and other people without having a God to guide you to do good deeds.