Billboard causes a stir

Written By komlim puldel on Jumat, 06 Februari 2015 | 20.01

An atheist organisation has erected this sign on the M4 motorway at Homebush West, in Sydney's inner west. Source: Supplied

A PROVOCATIVE billboard that is likely to ruffle the feathers of religious Australians has been erected on one of our busiest motorways.

A group of nonbelievers, Sydney Atheists, put up the giant sign on Sydney's M4 motorway on Wednesday. It reads: "Have you escaped religion? We have!"

The organisation's president, Steve Marton, told news.com.au the billboard wasn't designed to offend, but to provoke thought.

He said Sydney Atheists was largely made up of people who had "suffered" under organised religion and included members who had "escaped" the Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Mormon and Jewish faiths.

The group believes that all religions are false belief systems that deny the realities of the universe and humanity's place on Earth.

"This world suffers so much at the hands of religion; it doesn't make any sense to believe these stories. It's just fantasy," Mr Marton said.

Sydney Atheists aim to promote the separation of church and state. Source: ThinkStock

He said religions were man-made structures designed to indoctrinate.

"Every religion has an agenda, and those agenda are to control people. Most religions have an end goal and usually that involves power and money," Mr Marton said.

"Most of us have found a lot of fallacies in religion. If you read the Bible or the Koran, as I have, there's so much contradiction, inconsistency, and hate and anger that's all directed for a purpose."

Mr Marton said when people escaped religion, they were often ostracised from their social groups.

"All of a sudden, the people that you've held close often take a distance from you," he said.

"When one no longer belongs to their faith, coming along to an atheist group is a meeting of the minds. It's like an oasis where you can find people who share the same values you hold.

"We've escaped religion, we've been there, we've suffered it but we've escaped. It's OK to escape.

"Being religious, you are trapped by religious beliefs but we offer a way to escape the bonds and strictures of religion to gain freedom of thought, deed and a better life, governed by morals that are determined through rational, humane and sceptical thinking. It's a better life because you are not having to think what your rabbi, minister or imam wants you to think."

An atheist group has plastered its anti-religion message on a billboard on one of Sydney's busiest motorways. Source: ThinkStock

Mr Marton declined to disclose how much the provocative billboard cost, but said it was "many thousands of dollars".

"There's no intention to demean, to be derogatory in any way. We just want to ask a question. It's an invitation to people. If they are offended by the billboard, I find that sad and unfortunate. What we're really trying to do is to free yourselves of the bonds, of the chains that enveloped you. If you are offended, by that, we are very sorry," he said.

Mr Marton said the billboard was no more offensive than a sign outside of a church that "damned you to the fires of hell" if you didn't follow God.

Mr Marton said the billboard was also designed to provoke thought among our leaders, given the high number of Australians who didn't follow religion.

"We would hope that governments take into consideration the number of nonbelievers there are in the country when think about giving funds to chaplaincy and scripture in classrooms, and for institutions that train priests, rabbis or imams.

"A rational, critical approach to these things is far superior to accepting centuries-old doctrines," Mr Marton said.

Christian leader Simon Smart says Jesus Christ also spoke out against oppressive religion. Source: ThinkStock

Simon Smart, director of the Centre for Public Christianity, said he respected the group's right to articulate its ideas and "welcomed their engagement with an important question in our society".

But he stressed that Jesus Christ also spoke out against oppressive religion.

"I think there are versions of religions that can feel oppressive and intolerant and restrictive, but the Christian faith is about finding the fullest life imaginable," he told news.com.au.

"You've got to get to the heart of the Christian faith. Jesus's voice was a call to true freedom and a connection to God and, through that connection, to other people, such that you would find meaning, purpose and, in fact, joy.

"The expression (of that message) has not always been a good one, but we need to keep going back to what he said, and getting to the heart of what he was on about."

What do you think of the billboard? Does it offer an important message or is it disrespectful? Comment below or join the conversation on Twitter @newscomauHQ.


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