Members of the Dallas religious community are speaking up about a national organization's controversial plans to display an Atheist message on a prominent billboard, the Christian Chronicle reports.
The billboard was proposed by the national organization African Americans for Humanism as part of their country-wide Black History Month campaign aimed at encouraging African Americans to look critically at their faith, according to KDAF TV.
The message was scheduled to be posted Monday, but the billboard remains blank as community members continue to voice strong opinions on the plans, some of whom have even sent hate mail to African Americans for Humanism members.
David Lane, the pastor of a church about a mile down the road from the billboard site, told reporters he believes the plans will lead to important discussion in the African American community, where faith has long held a strong place.
"Traditionally African Americans come out of a tradition that is led and motivated by faith. We are where we are and we are who we are primarily because we've chosen to believe in a power that's bigger than ourselves," Lane told Fox 4 News. "It will create a lot of dialogue. There will be congregations of all kinds in this area who will be challenged by the fact that such a movement is at our door."
But other members of the religious community have not been so welcoming. After a similar billboard was put up in Chicago, a representative at African American for Humanism's headquarters there received a series of angry letters and e-mails, according to the Dallas Observer.
One such e-mail read:
.WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU.I have looked at your web cite [sic] and your billboards in Dallas. Your black Athiest Organizations make me sick. There is nothing worse than a bunch of blacks supporting Gays and Lesbians.. You are infesting are [sic] cities with your foolish beliefs! What is your reasoning behind your Athiest [sic] beliefs? It is groups like yours that are screwing up lives.
But supporters of the billboard argue that it's not meant to threaten religious beliefs, but rather provide a space for thought with people who may be in doubt.
Alix Jules, a member of the Dallas-Forth Worth Coalition of Reason, whose face will appear on the billboard, spoke to the Dallas Observer about the challenges many African Americans face when doubting their faith.
"When you wind up saying you don't believe, then you're walking away from a mating pool," Jules told the paper. "You're not going to be able to do that because now you're deemed unfit. And you wind up throwing back into your parent's face the belief they gave you isn't good enough for you."
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