Sunday, November 28, 2010
Atheist Billboard Calls Nativity A Myth, People Get Angry by Jaya Saxena - Gothamist
In a holiday season driven by Black Friday deals, ostentatious house lighting and stories about jolly men with tiny helpers and flying reindeer, it's sometimes easy to forget that Christmas actually has something to do with Jesus. But a well-placed billboard from American Atheists is arguing that the story of Jesus's birth is just as fantastical as a story of a fat man in a red suit shimmying down a chimney. The billboard at the entrance of the Lincoln Tunnel in New Jersey reads, "You KNOW it's a Myth / This Season, Celebrate REASON!" And wouldn't you know it, it's making some people pretty angry.
American Atheists insist they're not actually trying to convert anyone, but are merely encouraging other atheists to stop celebrating the holiday, however secular it has become. They write on their website, "Millions of atheists are closeted, choosing to go along to get along, and feigning religion to their friends, family, and coworkers." But to many, the billboard conveys an attack on Christianity rather than support for "closeted" Atheists. One woman told CBS 2, “I don’t think it’s any good for the kids. I’ve got a 7-year-old daughter — she believes in Christmas." Good, then she probably won't be so easily converted by a billboard.
Another man said, "I don’t think that’s right. We don’t go around telling them what we think about [atheists], so why should they put up something like that." But some city Christians are just as open about their beliefs, and are expressing them in an equally public venue. The fifth annual live nativity scene in West Brighton will return on Friday, which attracts thousands visitors to the Salem Church. Rev. Eddie Cole told the Staten Island Advance, "We believe it is a great opportunity for the entire family to celebrate the true meaning of the season." And it's statements like that that American Atheists say are insensitive. American Atheist president David Silverman said, "Nobody has ever cared if we would be offended."