In recent memory, atheists have found some unique ways to catch Americans' attention. In addition to well-publicized lawsuits against the Ground Zero cross, among other religious relics, non-believers have flown airplane banners, hijacked polls, posted billboards, and used a variety of other means to ensure their faith-less message reaches the masses.
So, when a billboard that reads, "There is no God. Don't believe everything you hear," began popping up in Mansfield, Ohio, most people instantaneously began to credit it to atheists. However, the local community was in for quite the shock, as it wasn't non-believers who were behind these seemingly anti-faith messages. As it turns out, the billboard space was purchased by the McElroy Road Church of Christ.
Why, you ask?
Pastor Frank Moore explains that the church decided to post Christian billboards back in mid-July. Rather than posting overtly Christian messages, he claims the church decided to follow in atheists' footsteps:
"I was using their (atheist groups) format. I got the idea from them. We have had a lot of feedback. Most of it has been negative. Some Christians were asking us to take it down. But it's the kind of sign designed to make you think."
While the church has put up six billboards, it was the "There is no God" message, in particular, that has spawned discussion and caught a great deal of attention. The controversial message was posted, Moore says, to try and drive traffic to the church's web site.
Not all of the messages are so discrete, though. Another billboard reads, "Don't believe in God? He believes in you," clearly highlighting the faith-filled intentions behind the church's billboard campaign.
Despite the fact that a Christian church was actually behind the messages, a local atheist group, Mid Ohio Atheists, has been receiving messages of congratulations from individuals who thought the group had purchased the billboard space.
Ron Stephens, the group's president, made it clear that his organization wasn't behind the billboard, but he did, indeed, thank the congregation for its support, saying, "We earnestly thank the McElroy Road Church of Christ for advertising our thoughts."
But forget the local chatter. Stephens claims that the billboards have gained national and international attention, as atheists are abuzz about a Christian church that is seemingly advertising non-belief. In the end, the entire controversy is truly a misunderstanding.
The church, looking for ways to branch out, thought it would be intriguing to do a play on a common atheistic message in order to attract supporters. At the least, the message has started a conversation.