By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) – The Christmas season is revealing a growing rift among American atheists when it comes to the question of how to deal with religion.
Some atheist activists are trying to seize the holidays as a time to build bridges with faith groups, while other active unbelievers increasingly see Christmas as a central front in the war on religious faith. With the dramatic growth of the nonreligious in the last few decades, more atheist leaders are emerging as spokespeople for atheism, but the Christmas rift speaks to growing disagreement over how atheists should treat religion.
On the religion-bashing side, there’s David Silverman, president of the group American Atheists, which raised one of its provocative trademark billboards in New York’s Times Square last week. “Keep the MERRY!” it says. “Dump the MYTH!”
The sign features a picture of a jolly Santa Clause and another of Jesus dying on the cross – a not-so-subtle attack on Christianity.
“Christianity stole Christmas in the first place and they don’t own the season, they don’t own the Christmas season,” Silverman said, pointing to pagan winter solstice celebrations that predated Jesus Christ. “When they say keep Christ in Christmas, they are actually saying put Christ back in Christmas.”
The New York billboard, which will be up until early January and is costing the group at least $25,000, is the latest in a long line of provocative American Atheists signs, which attacked then-Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s religion during this year’s presidential campaign.
It’s not the only way Silverman is using Christmas to attack Christianity. In a recent TV interview with Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, he said the American Atheist office be open on Christmas Day and called for an end to Christmas as a federal holiday.
O’Reilly, in turn, called Silverman a fascist.
Despite Silverman’s knack for making headlines, however, other prominent atheists are putting a softer face on the movement, including during Christmastime.
“I just think the whole war on Christmas story is bizarre” said Greg Epstein, the Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University, who has emerged as another spokesman for the burgeoning atheist movement. “I think that any atheist or humanist that is participating in that story needs to find better things to do with their time.”
From his point of view, atheism and religion can happily coexist, including at the holidays.
At the chaplaincy, Epstein has reached out to local religious groups, packaging holiday meals and breaking bread with believers to discuss their similarities and differences.
Sponsored by the Humanist Community at Harvard, evangelical Christians, Jews, Buddhists and Zoroastrians, along with a number of atheists, were among those represented at a recent meal packaging event for hungry kids in the Boston area. Around 250 people participated and over $10,000 was raised – including donations from local Lutheran and Methodist churches.
Epstein calls this sort of inter-religious dialogue “healthy.”
“We as a community need to be about the positive and we have so much positive to offer,” he said. “I think that we really can provide a positive alternative to religious holidays that are not meaningful because of their religious content.”
Silverman, for his part, is more than comfortable being negative when it comes to religion.
“We should look at the results - people are listening to us because we are shouting,” he said. “They don’t hear you unless you shout. … Sometimes you have to put political correctness aside. We need to get louder. I believe we are seeing the fruits of that volume.”
As proof, American Atheists points to the way their donations skyrocket after every billboard campaign. “We get donations and memberships because we are taking the stand that we do,” said Silverman, who would not give specific numbers on fundraising. “The donations are flowing in right now. People are loving it specifically because of the billboard.”
Epstein would rather see more emphasis on volunteerism, though he acknowledges that some atheists are drawn to Silverman’s vocal model. Both men said they appeal to different parts of the atheist movement.
“We are GOP and Dem, man and women, black and white – the only thing that holds us together is atheism,” Silverman said. “A movement like ours needs all sides. It needs people who are working to be conciliatory and it needs people who are willing to raise their voices.”
Religious “nones” – a combination of atheists, agnostics and the religiously unaffiliated, have been growing their ranks in recent years. According to a Pew Research study released this year, the fastest growing "religious" group in America is made up of people with no religion at all as one in five Americans is not affiliated with any religion.
The survey found that the unaffiliated are growing even faster among younger Americans. According to the poll, 34% of “younger millennials” - those born between 1990 and 1994 - are religiously unaffiliated.
Though not monolithic, younger atheists, according to Jesse Galef, communications director of the Secular Student Alliance, are more prone to celebrate a secular version of Christmas than to ignore the holiday.
“I am very much in favor of celebrating the secular Christmas,” Galef said. “It is a celebration of the spirit of giving and I think religious divisiveness goes against that effort.”
Other atheists celebrate Festivus, a December 23 holiday meant for atheists looking to celebrate during the winter without participating in a Christian holiday. The holiday, which entered into popular culture through the television show “Seinfeld” in 1997, has gained popularity in recent years.
At the Secular Student Alliance office in Columbus, Ohio, the staff will play Secret Sagan, a nod to the famed scientist, instead of Secret Santa. And instead of Christmas decorations, they put up a Winter Solstice Tree with ornaments from the movie “When the Grinch Stole Christmas.”
“We celebrate the holiday season, just not the religious holiday,” Galef said.
Many patriotic atheists, such as myself, are reformed Christians. I was raised in a Southern Baptist home, and Christmases were a sweet family celebration, although the corruption of materialism – which is the very opposite of Christianity – had begun even in the early fifties. I hope all Christian families have a sweet family Christmas.
My wife is also a reformed Christian. She is currently exploring the Wiccan beliefs. I must say that Wicca is a sweet collection of beliefs and witches like my wife are the most harmless people walking among us. 'Do no harm' is their commandment. She celebrates the mid-winter festival, whose name I cannot now recall.
I claim the right of every Atheist to celebrate all of the religious holidays of every religion – except for the ones I don't like. Ramadan, for example, is very inconvenient, so I don't observe it. However, no matter what your faith is, if you want to invite me to your house to a feast, I will be happy to celebrate your feast day with you. If your wife is cute, all the better.
... cute and ethnic ...
El Flaco is a swinger! Let's get this party started!!
I admire the wives of my friends discreetly. I ask them about themselves mostly just to enjoy their presence. I swing not.
That's good...you would enjoy my wife. She is a Philippino!
When I say "enjoy" her of course I mean getting to know here LOL and she is very pretty.
Regarding the bill board. I think there is a big difference between "I do not have a belief nor want one" (where I am now) and "I want to take someone elses belief away." (where I do not want to be)
I think that it targets one specific religious demographic is also problematic.
Asking you to discard something and forcing you to discard something are not the same.
I only have one idea in my head. It is to taunt atheeisists about their belief that froggs can turn in to Prince. Now we Christians all know that no frogg ever has been able to sing "Raspberry Beret", so evilution is wrong. Thefrog turning into Prince just destroysz them. Kase closed. Winning.
I am on a drug. It's called Jesus. It's not available. If you try it once, you will die. Your face will melt off and your children will weep over your exploded body.
I'm tired of pretending I'm not a total bitchin' christianrock star from Mars, and people can't figure me out; they can't process me. I don't expect them to. You can't process me with a normal brain
I'm not bi-stupid; I'm bi-winning.
English cannot be your first language.
Spell check, please.
Evolution is development of a matter over time, not the initiation nor the end, a word in hinduism, limbo, every hindu ignorant atheist self centered, propagates it as a noun, a fact, one has to be hindu, ignorant or a hindu, criminal Magi' trickster to play this game of word's.
Pedro, I think your drug is Boonsberry Farm Strawberry. Sober up pal!
Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill.
Takes me back.
TJ Swann's Easy Nights, too.
How about some Mad Dog 20/20? Man I got fucked up on that in high school (among other things).
Ah, Boones Farm! Screw top bottles and pricing even a high schooler can afford!
Good times! Good times! I think . . .
Oh, apparently Poe's law is true
does anyone know Pedro jokes? it's gotta be funny.
This is the best post I have ever viewed!!! Pedro understands, lol.
that's right your fairy tale bible book. keep believing and tell me why innocent children are dying all over the world. processed that in your pea brain.
Poes law again. Damn. I tought the irony was just too obvious.
Okay, ready for a giggle? Santa Claus comes from the Dutch Sinterklaas, and Sinterklaas has a helper, the predecessor of the elves. Are you ready for this? Google Zwarte Piet, and click "images." You are going to laugh your derriere off.
Yup, Santa gots hisself Sambo for a helper. And Sinterklaas dresses like the Pope. The pope and his pickaninny.
And how did Sinter get himself a black man? He caught himself a devil. Yes, blacks are frickin' demons to Christians!
No wonder the Klan was Christian!
Your language is offensive, and I don't offend easily.
Word santa is hinduism, corruption of word sanatan, hindu, pot head shaman, god's of hindu pagan Europeans, i adopted byfollowers of hindu Mithra sim, pagan savior ism called Christianity.
Hey Akira, what is up?
Hey, Apple, nothing much...starting to snow here.
You are right, Akira. I was trying to make the language match the astounding prejudice of the image, but you are right; it is too much.
But look at the picture. I am amazed the Dutch haven't gone for Piet 2.0.
It is 56 degrees right now, But I will NOT go long sleeve. Never!! Kids are excited for Winter break. Stockings are hung by the fire with care.
I think it's a Dutch thing; I do not think it would go over so well here, lol.
St. Nicholas was always portrayed in that get-up; also red and white, like our modern-day Santa.
It's weird how traditions evolve, isn't it?
The way humans experience the world is limited by our evolved faculties. We can “see” light waves but not x-rays for example (without technology). What else are we missing? Just because we can’t experience something doesn’t mean it is not there. There may be many more dimensions we simply don’t have the mental or physical tools to perceive.
The reason I am an Atheist is because I don’t how it all started or where it is going and likely never will. I accept that. I don’t need to fill that gap with gods and goblins. Whatever is “behind the curtain” of the Big Bang is probably not possible for us to know. I don’t believe in the “Super” natural. If something exists, it is natural.
This is a simplistic post for a large subject, but the moral of the story is, it is ok to say, “I don’t know.”
It is okay to admit your unknowable thoughts but inaction upon that which is found to be known and therefore knowable is the crux of wisdom's domains in foretelling appraisals of that which is known to be. Eat therefrom drink till you're filled and made full!
I am a Christian and I agree it is ok to say "I don't know"
I research topics and analyze data but also don't believe that gaps should lead me to 'if I can't explain in it, it can't be true'. That is the easy way out. Never follow blindly, but don't give up blindly either.
Apparently the tone of my post was misleading. There is nothing I enjoy more than scientific discovery! Give up blindly? Never! Good science is very exciting and I am a huge fan.
How do you account for your own existence? What caused the universe to come into existence?
A.B., "Good science is very exciting and I am a huge fan."
Google then "Fractal Cosmology" and become a fan of today's fledgling "Good science". (Look for Robert Oldershaws site)
mutual respect, did you even read my post?
The only answer to both of your questions is "God". Our bodies were of God's husbandry and in blueprinted fashion might God build up our bodies as being conceptualized formularies in legendary obligations not of this world's capabilities as yet is the case.
As for the creation of this universes section of the grand cosmos goes, God might well have breathed it into existence much the same way we breathe but a more regulated type of breathing. The grand scale of our side of this universe is of a cosmos containing unknown numbers of universes. Likewise it may be fathomed that there are untold numbers of cosmos spread about in the allness of outer space!
lionlylamb, wait, what?
I hope we get more Christians on this site next year. This blog has become 90% atheist. We need some articulate, well reasoned Christians or other theists with whom to debate.
We're down to Chad and a couple of other ill-equipped combatants. As Kennedy said, "the fruits of victory are ashes in our mouths".
If they are bible thumbers, the discussion always starts and ends with the bible so there is no hope there. Non-mainstream faithful can discuss God but there just aren't any of them on here. We are stuck woth Gopher and Chard.
There's a few more than those; there are a couple who change their handles and background stories periodically to spread their brand of love.
At least Topher and Chad are consistently Topher and Chad.
(Don't forget about Robert Brown and Bill Deacon.)
How do you account for your own existence? What caused the universe to come into existence?
@mutual: I thought you said you were comfortable with saying "I don't know".
I am, are you? just curious how an atheist might attempt to answer my question, that's all.
I would answer with "I don't know."
Religions were created by hinduism, corruption of truth by hindu's, atheist, criminal denier of truth with help off hindu crook king's and spread with sword to divide humanity in to hate each other, all religions today follow hindu Mithra ism, savior ism, a branch of hinduism, racism invented by hindu atheist sanatans, filthy secular shamans of Egyptian and Persian origin, such as Zoroaster, Plato and Aristotle, few to be mentioned. One has to be a hindu, stupid to follow hinduism, corruption of truth religion's,
because They were never commanded by Truth absolute GOD and never mentioned by HIS messengers, but Theen Allah, Ellah, Ellohim, con sti tutuin of truth absolute, or way of truth absolute, truth recognized by founding father's of USA.
A blizzard in the upper Midwest is proving potent enough to cut power to tens of thousands of homes and force schools to call it quits from Nebraska to southern Wisconsin.
Dar, you are back!!! when did you come out, goon?
and......had these people not created Religions, your name would have been Apple Bush (no offense to my AB friend), not Mohammad A Dar, say thanks them brother Mohammad
I have been kicking hindu's, deniers of truth on another web site, besides being paying attention to my business, this is my first post since I was gone, By the way it is nice to be back.
you missed fun over here lol! I met couple of bigots, nasty ones
Mohammad is not a name but a designation, hindu's, crooks messed up the language and human are lost, majority of the word human speak, they have no clue of true meanings of those word's. very hindu sorry state for humanity.
I will keep tab, and deal with those hind's, bigoted hindu filthy hind's, by the way, were you able to kick their hind.
I mean to say, if these guys hadn't started religions, world would have been flavorless, look at hundreds and thousands of different types of people around you!
oh yeah, I hit them back, you know when I am in fighting mood!!
No, They divided humanity, rest assured with help of truth absolute GOD, one can pin point differences and the way hindu's crooks played their hand to rob humanity of peace. Teachings of truth absolute GOD were for peace among humanity, but billions have perished because of their hinduism, illegality. Glad to hear, you kicked hind of hindered bigoted hindu's, self centered, an insult to be called human.
seasons greetings to everyone!!!
there are no gods.
cha cha zip!
Evolution is a myth. atheists believe in fairy tales. Can a frog turn into a prince?
there are unicorns in the bible! and dragons and satyrs and c.ockatrice. also talking snakes and donkeys (like in Shrek!) a guy lives in the belly of a whale for 3 days (like in Pinocchio!)
there are mountains of evidence for evolution. try thinking for yourself - it's great!
@Pedro, How is evolution mythical? Or do you believe that all science is also a myth?
Pedro, there is exactly the same amount and quality of evidence for frogs turning into princes as there is for any god.
Pedro, can a troll like you turn into a sentient being?
pedro yes frog can turn into prince like water in to wine in your bible and Frankenstein rises like lazarus.
God doesn't believe in atheists
that is a true statement – primarily because there are no gods.
you're almost there!
Fairies don't believe in those who do not believe in them.
I was just sitting here wondering if symbolism might not be atleast "some" of the communication breakdown between religious persons and non religious persons.
For example. If I were speaking with my new age mom I'd say, "Wow that man had an awful vibe about him, I really don't the he had a clear aura".
If I were speaking to an atheist I'd say, "Wow that man made me really uncomfortable, he was giving me a dirty look."
I'd actually mean the same thing but I'd use less symbolism in speaking with an atheist than with a new age person.
I know there is more to it than that one issue but that issue got me thinking about miscommunication between groups.
I think it is more the giant divide in common sense.
yeah – if you want to communicate clearly and intelligently – it's a good idea to drop all the imaginary spirit energy jargon.
you'll be better understood and look a lot less delusional.
Former New Age,
Symbolical euphemisms of mental attributes are generalist idealisms coming to thought fruitions of mentalities psychic variations being dependent upon solipsistic eulogies of individualized commonalities thought progressives.
Wait a minute.... there is no god? Then who writes my check twice a month?
The store manager at Mc Donalds
The Universe ceases to exist at the moment of your death. Likewise, the Universe springs into existence at the moment of comprehension. “Reality” is personal. It is not universal. What I believe, is true. What I perceive, is real. The reason physics becomes unrecognizable as we get close to death is because we realize at that point that WE are the God we seek. We create our reality only to destroy it and start again for all of eternity.
Nothing can be proven beyond the existence of the self. No perception felt by the mind can be regarded as truly verifiable, and so its existence is not certain. Hence, nothing outside the mind of the observer can be rationally confirmed.
You could percieve it that way like schrodinger's cat is alive and not alive at the same time until it is proven otherwise.
HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS
Relativism? Atheism? Conceptualism? Deism? Spiritualism? Just how many 'isms' are there in English vernacularisms?
to Apple Bush: good one!
God has you in his book. He has a plan for each of us. He knows when you will be born and when you will die.
He is therefore responsible for all death, murder and destruction for all of history including every abortion ever performed, every rape, every murder, every miscarriage, every atrocity.
He is perfect. He is omniscient. He is omnipotent. So how could this not be so? It is God’s will.
God is omnivorous. He consumes everything and everyone.
God is OmniGraffle. He diagrams the shit out of stuff for the Mac.
small correction AB, God has you in his computer.
Thank you MAD.
God has you in his computer. He knows when you will compile and when you will render.
As of the inst!tuion of the Anno Domini system in 525 CE, new year's day in Europe was moved from the Roman new year of January 1 to March 25. This aligned well with the pagan year and allowed the church to coopt pagan holidays like Samhain and Yule.
The Pagan Year
Date ............................ Solar cycle ........... Pagan .........................Christian
March 20/21 ................ Vernal Equinox .… Ostara ........................ Annunciation (3/25) also Lady Day
April 30 (Eve) /May 1 .................................. Beltane (Mayday)
June 20/21 ................... Summer Solstice .. Lithia (Midsummer) ..... St. John the Baptist (6/24)
August 1 ..................................................... Lughnasadh
September 22/23 .......... Autumn Equinox ... Mabon ....................... St. Michael (Michaelmas) (9/29)
October 31 (eve) / November 1 .................. Samhain .................... All Saints/Hallows Day (11/1) All Souls Day (11/2)
December 21/22 ........... Winter Solstice ..... Yule .......................... Christmas (12/25)
February 1/2 ................................................ Imbolc
Easter largely replaces Beltane – even though it moves around a lot in the solar year.
St. Ephraim the Syrian (ca. 306 – 373) taught that the date of the conception of Jesus Christ fell on 10 Nisan on the Hebrew Calendar, the day in which the passover lamb was selected according to Exodus 12, setting the Annunication at March 25.
It seems more than coincidental that the date on which the word was made flesh is at the vernal equinox.
Note that the pagan holidays divide the year into eight equal parts of the solar year instead of our 12 months.
I should have noted that here I am using 'pagan' to specifically mean Gaelic traditions.
Imbolc is St. Bridget's day (2/1)
12/21/12 news from around the globe: For $1,500, a museum is offering salvation from the world's end in former Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's underground bunker in central Moscow — with a 50 percent refund if nothing happens. The bunker, located 65 meters (210 feet) below ground, was designed to withstand a nuclear attack. Now home to a small museum, it has an independent electricity supply, water and food — but no more room, because the museum has already sold out all 1,000 tickets.
Like I said: While the monkeys descend from the trees to the ground, the atheist descended even lower than the monkeys, then ended up in the other place that is not Heaven.
Another MP reference.
Gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, spider monkeys etc. are above the atheist. That's because of the atheist's own choice of placing himself below the level of apes.
Hello again troll. Did you run out of self-righteousness and needed to restock?
NO I'm not a troll YOU ARE! And there is more hope for a monkey than for an atheist. At leas the monkey descend only from the trees to the ground. But the atheist descend lower than that, then ends up in the other place that is not Heaven.
Salero, go away. Don't you have better things to do, like polish your foil hat collection?
Sounds a lot like 'Im rubber and you're glue'
Salero21, did you just refer to monkeys as apes again? Are you retarded?
I hope you understand that Atheism is simply the lack of belief in God, and nothing more. It is not synonymous with evolution. Evolution is a scientific theory that describes the evolution of, or changes in,species over time. The two have nothing to do with each other.
You atheists are a whole lot more fun to watch than a barrel full of monkeys. At least the monkeys descends only from the trees to the ground. But you atheist descend lower than the monkeys and then end-up in the other place that is not Heaven.
Wow. Now it all makes sense to me! There is a God! Thank you Solero21 !! All these years as an atheist. What a waste. I can see God now! Oh shoot. I spilled the syrup on him.
Again you don't get a C in class, but an F+ not a 10 or a 100 but you're a Zero to the left.
Salero21: Can you answer a question? Do you know what Evolution is? Do you know what Atheism is? They have nothing to do with each other.
Whoa, I'm getting dizzy. Now an F+. A zero to the left. Would that be an F-? To the left? Again, are you retarded?
Salero21 do you know what a monkey is? Do you know what an ape is? Do you know who you are? Do you know where you are? Are you the dock your dong troll?
Troll is obvious troll.
You could try for a little more subtlety, but you wouldn't be nearly as effective...or as entertaining.
I am pretty sure it was the dock your dong, 666, potty mouth troll.
salero21 god believers like u are no different than a pickled minded person. to your god is like alchol that it pickled your and don't see the truth. tell me then why eye for an eye tooth for a tooth in the old testament then your prince jesus said if the slap you on the right cheek offer your left cheek that's pure contradiction coming from your god or you don't see because your mind is pickled of your false belief' if your god is real i dare him to do something about the senseless death of children forget the adults just the children
salero21 its fun to watch god believers like. they don't even think anymore like retards. ooops. at least monkeys descend from from a tree not like you who goes to heave of make believe just like fairy tale
I look forward to when religious believers are as embarrassed to admit their silly beliefs in public as astrologists are. Astrology is religion's predecessor on the evolutionary tree of myths. If believers don't like having their nonsense mocked, they merely need to produce some evidence for their myths and alleged supernatural beings. It woud be fascinating if the RCC (for example) took Silverman to court (for spreading falsehoods, or whatever charges might be applicable). . .
Heck, the AA should be embarrassed for putting that billboard up. Like a bunch of spoiled children looking for attention because no one cares what they think.
Any relative of the tree of fractal cosmology? You know? Inner and outer cosmos with the cellular cosmos running around like chickens scratching for this and for that?
It's obvious that you are wrong. Clearly, people, believers and nonbelievers, do care what AA thinks else there wouldn't be a fuss over their message and communication methods. The nonbeliever message is taking hold and religions are losing power, although I must admit it is early days.
Oh honey. I grew up in a world of astrology, spirit guides and all of that. I dont find it anything to be embarassed about. I know darn well I can't prove it and for me it was just an existential perspective. I don't think anybody should have to be embarassed about having thoughts on what "might" exist...we all have thoughts even if we think nothing other than what we know exists.
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.