LOCAL ATHEISTS PUT UP KITTEN BILLBOARD
Springfield, MO – Commuters on Glenstone Avenue may be surprised by a new billboard with an unexpected message.
The advertisement, created for the Skepticon atheist convention, features the innocuous tagline “Kittens are cute,” framed by several inquisitive-looking tabby cats.
“Atheists are among the most despised minorities in the United States,” said Skepticon organizer Jeffrey Markus. “We want to set the record straight: we’re not evil, and we’re not scary. We’re part of this community.”
A 2007 Gallup poll showed that 53% of Americans would refuse to cast their vote for an otherwise well-qualified atheist candidate. The following year, another Gallup survey found that only 13% of Americans have a positive view of atheists as a group.
Skepticon’s director of development, Katie Hartman, says that last year Skepticon attendees were briefly barred from a local Gelato shop after the owner discovered the conference’s irreligious content. “The ‘Skepticon not welcome’ sign was up for only a short time, but we got the message – and it doesn’t have to be this way moving forward. We’re a friendly, playful bunch of people. The billboard is an olive branch.”
Billboards raised by atheist groups in other parts of the country have sparked public outrage and been subjected to vandalism. Hartman says the Skepticon organizers don’t anticipate any setbacks. “They’re kittens. Who could possibly be opposed to kittens? They’re intended to make people smile. I can’t imagine this offending anybody.”
Skepticon has been held in Springfield since 2008, when it was created by the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster at Missouri State University. The organizers anticipate an audience of about 1,500 at the 2012 event, which will be held November 9th-11th at the Springfield Convention Center.
The billboard will remain in place through July.