Thursday, October 29, 2009

Nashville Gets Secular

Welcome Crooks & Liars!

An update on this post is here and offers audio clips of local reaction to the billboard.


Christian fundamentalists looking for signs of the apocalypse might want to head to my part of town next week to see this new billboard:
Secular Life, a Nashville-area social network for atheists, agnostics, seculars and other nonbelievers, will unveil a new electronic billboard at 4102 Hillsboro Circle in Green Hills on Sunday.

It's aimed at the so-called Nones — the growing number of people with no religious affiliation.

The billboard, which coincidentally launches on All Saints Day, reads "Not religious? You are not alone,'' along with a phone number and Web site for Secular Life.

Now, this wouldn’t be newsworthy in a city like New York or Los Angeles. But here in Nashville, where religion is crammed down your throat at every turn--including on numerous billboards scattered all over town--a billboard advertising atheism and secularism is definitely an anomaly.

As a sidebar to this story, I am very familiar with this particular electronic billboard; when it first appeared (in place of an old-fashioned non-electronic kind) it raised a huge outcry among neighborhood folks who don’t like the increasing prevalence of these electronic thingamajigs. They are quite controversial irrespective of their advertising content, mainly because they are too bright, too loud, and too obnoxious for anyplace not Times Square (blogger S-Town Mike has given a lot of coverage to the issue.)

This one shows us the weather report and sports headlines in addition to advertisements. Personally, if I want to know the weather forecast I'm not looking at a freaking billboard. Thank you for turning what is a quiet retail/residential area into something that resembles downtown Tokyo. How sensitive to the neighborhood. Not.

This particular one, as I recall, doesn’t meet the existing code for where electronic billboards can be located. It was snuck in under the dead of night under the outdoor advertising industry’s favorite “let’s do what we want now and deal with the consequences later” ploy. Outdoor advertising companies like Lamar are huge bullies, in my opinion.

As I recall, Councilman Sean McGuire was supposedly working to get it removed, though that was a few months ago and I never heard any more about it.

Anyway, I’ve digressed far from the main topic. But it's interesting that a message advertising secularism has been placed on an electronic billboard supposedly destined for removal (though who knows ...).

So come on down and check it out while it's still there.