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Christmas exposes atheist divide on dealing with religion
December 20th, 2012
06:00 AM ET

Christmas exposes atheist divide on dealing with religion

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.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Atheism • Christmas

soundoff (4,367 Responses)
  1. philoctetes45

    Atheists are unconcerned concerning the name or rites associated with the imaginary being. However in a country that defines itself as "christian" then it makes sense to criticise that prevailing faith, if for no other reason than said atheist has absorbed those cultural memes and can be intelligently critical. Equally the main job of the atheist in islamic countries is to target that country's prevailing faith. I think all faiths are rubbish and have no problem criticising them all, but I acknowledge that it takes more physical courage to criticise islam in a moslem country where the faith is so shallow and rocky that it has often been reinforced by imprisonment, abuse and violence including murder. In other words the same coercive conditions that existed in christendom until very recently and only changed by courageous opposition to the theocratic powers

    December 20, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Fantastic post and great points. I hope to read more of your replies.

      I wonder how we atheists in the US (somewhat lazy and complacent) can help atheists in other countries that are cannot speak as freely as we do?

      December 20, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • craniumthedumb

      Brevity will get me filer this time I hope.....

      This is not a problem for just atheists. This is a problem with the liberty afforded in these societies and governments which leads to brutal repricussions for not only atheist, but anyone with a divergent perspective.

      December 20, 2012 at 1:07 pm |
    • NoResistence

      So why does anyone have to be attacked for their beliefs? Why can't you just personally decide to not believe in any God or higher power, and leave us to believe what we want? You want tolerance of all things for everyone everywhere, except when it comes to a Christian wanting to believe in Christ. Christians apparently don't deserve the same tolerance as everyone else.

      December 21, 2012 at 8:16 am |
  2. craniumthedumb

    From my perspective a fairly good article that articulates the specific branches of the atheist movement. The only thing I would have like to see is what the breakdown of atheist vs agnostic vs religiously unaffiliated are in both the general population and the younger millennial, or more specific to this article, the percentage of people who identify specifically as atheist.

    I also find some exception with Silverman's approach to expanding the growing atheist movement. Encouraging discord, by its very definition does not bring us closer as a society. It tears us apart. There is room for all perspectives in our country; actively driving wedges between us only serves to increase acrimony and hatred. Borrowing Lincolns words, “A house divided cannot stand.”

    December 20, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      When they stop blaming atheists and others that they don't agree with the wrath of their god (hurricanes, school shootings, ect) I will be more sympathetic. Until then they are the one being truly devisive and they are the ones that need to tone it down.

      December 20, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • craniumthedumb

      @Blessed

      You make a valid point, far too many Christians blame atheists for the countries problem. Perhaps seek out the like-minded who are willing to accept differences and build from there. Those who are hateful will eventually see that they want to be a part of what the others have.

      December 20, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      cranium,

      Most people I know are reasonable Christians that don't agree with those sentiments, but they don't get their opposition heard because they don't want to rock the boat.

      December 20, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • Saraswati

      "When they stop blaming atheists and others that they don't agree with the wrath of their god (hurricanes, school shootings, ect) I will be more sympathetic."

      I think you are taking a small subset here and assuming it's the whole of Christianity. I know a lot of Christians, and to my knowledge none of them are that dumb. I certainly know those types of Christians exist, but I also know a lot of dumb atheists who think religion is the root of all evil in the world and don't hesitate to say it.

      December 20, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      You are absolutely correct Saraswati, there are misinformed people on both sides of the issue. But right now the one with far and away the most power, motivation and dangerous beliefs are the religious right. I don't see a lot of the reasonable christians opposing them.

      December 20, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • lionlylamb

      T h e r a p e u t i c memoirs in disparaged desperate accolades are of non-conformists all conforming to acts' and actions' denials. Their playbooks are self-centered parrot-along with me and I will sing you a tune scripts do get old. My being an 'old fart' has set value incentivized placements uncommonly held by neither the religious nor the atheists ergo, I shoot for the moon and bark incessantly at moon-pies being others' leveraged buy-outs of plagued synopses engendered with rudeness chimney's silt and soot

      December 20, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • .

      another post of drivel ramblings from the belief blog idiot LL

      December 20, 2012 at 1:44 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @cranium…

      "The only thing I would have like to see is what the breakdown of atheist vs agnostic vs religiously unaffiliated are in both the general population and the younger millennial, or more specific to this article, the percentage of people who identify specifically as atheist.

      http://www.pewforum.org/Unaffiliated/nones-on-the-rise.aspx

      Pew 2012:

      Atheist ....... 2.3%
      Agnostic .... 3.4%

      ………………………………Pew-07 … Pew-12 … PRRI-12
      Evangelical Protestant ………. 26.3% … 19% ….. 19.9%
      Mainline Protestant ………...… 18.1% … 15% ...... 14.9%
      Historically black Protestant …. 6.9% …. 08% …... 08%
      Catholic …………………….… 23.9% .… 22% …... 22%
      Mormon ……………………...… 1.7% …. 02% …... n/a
      Atheist ……………………….… 1.6% .… 02.3% .... 06.7% (with Agnostic)
      Agnostic ……………………….. 2.4% …. 03.4% ... n/a
      Secular unaffiliated ……………. 6.3% ..… n/a …... 07.3%
      Religious unaffiliated ………….. 5.8% ….. n/a .…... 04.3%

      For millennials see:
      http://www.pewforum.org/Age/Religion-Among-the-Millennials.aspx

      December 20, 2012 at 2:02 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      The picture with the 'nones' aka unafilliated is complex.

      It spans atheists, agnostics, the 'spritual but not religious' crowd, deists and those who are religious but don't belong to a particular denomination. Those who identify with thinks like new age religions and wicca are counted separately and do not get counted in this group. It does include a 'secular unaffilliated' group that doesn't self identify as atheist/agnostic in surveys.

      In global analysis it can include things like traditional Chinese folk religions.

      December 20, 2012 at 2:10 pm |
    • craniumthedumb

      @Lionly

      I understand your point. I agree to some points but disagree to some aspects of it as well. Sorry, but I will not translate nor respond any further to it unless you choose to make it known to everyone.

      @.

      Lionly feels that his sentiments are too traditional for most people to accept.

      @I'm not

      Thank you for posting it. I knew I could go find it if I chose, but it was more pertinent to see the actual number of atheist (which the article was directly referencing) and not those who claim to be unaffiliated.

      December 20, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • Kelsey

      Cranium, Lincoln was quoting the Bible. Matthew 12:25

      December 21, 2012 at 9:17 am |
    • craniumthedumb

      @Kelsey

      He wasn't quoting it word for word but paraphrasing it. The particualar formulation of words he used are Lincolns and Lincolns alone (as far as I have ever been seen).

      Matt 12:25 (KJV) 25 And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand:

      December 21, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • jesus giron

      Jesus words (Mat. 12:25)

      December 29, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  3. Kev

    I'm not an atheist, but I never really much about this war on Christmas thing either. Whether Christmas is considered religious or secular really boils down how you celebrate it personally.

    I also find it strange about Silverman's claims about Christians stealing Christmas traditions from Pagan religions. You could incorporate traditions, but I don't see how you can really steal traditions. Also, why would an Athiest care about one religion taking traditions from another religion?

    December 20, 2012 at 11:56 am |
    • Huebert

      Silverman's views do not represent the majority of atheist. Personally I enjoy Christmas, and I think that these ads are ridiculous and rude.

      December 20, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Kev, it is because christianity wants to act like they came up with the whole idea themselves and any infringement on "their" holiday is an attack on them. Don't say "Happy Holidays"...."Keep the Christ in Christmas" and all that garbage. When you point out they are the ones who incorporated earlier traditions it puts their ignorance and hypocracy on display.

      December 20, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Saraswati

      I agree – traditions are in the public domain. My using a part of your tradition in my own shouldn't impact you any more than a gay marriage should impact a het'eros'xual one.

      December 20, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  4. JB56

    There are probably less than a 1000 atheists in this country who can actually reason out their thinking. Everyone else is a contrarian. The most knowledgeable atheist in history Anthony Flew believed in God and made it public knowledge before he died. Assigning the label atheist to people who don't have a clue is CNN's way of creating a story where there is none.

    December 20, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      "The most knowledgeable atheist in history believed in God"

      I hope you realize that that statement qualifies you as retarded. On the plus side though, better parking spaces.

      December 20, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • sam stone

      Well, I am glad some of us can please you, JB

      December 20, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      I disagree, although some atheists cannot logically explain their atheism, most can because they came by it in a very difficult process-–unlike other parts of the world where it is more "natural."

      I would state that probably less than 100,000 christians and god believers in the US can logically support their theism, and that it is merely an extension of their childhood training and a vestige of that immature comfort from ignorance.

      December 20, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Huebert

      By definition, an atheist is a person who does not believe in any sort of god.

      December 20, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • philoctetes45

      The reverse is likely more true; that very few believers in the supernatural can give a rational explanation for their beliefs. I can though, well for some of them. The overwhelming number of believers follow the faith of their parents which is presented as true and normal from even before they reach the jesuitical defined malleable age of seven.

      December 20, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • Saraswati

      There are probably a couple of million who are technically atheists who are quite rational...the difference is those aren't the people hung up on going around telling everyone they are atheists. They are too busy getting on with life and doing their own thing. The banner carrying "atheists" are mostly those that don't have much else to do, and so, like Christian protesters at planned parenthood, aren't a very good example of their kind.

      December 20, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Antony Garrard Newton Flew (11 February 1923 – 8 April 2010[1][2]) was a British philosopher. Belonging to the analytic and evidentialist schools of thought, he was notable for his works on the philosophy of religion.

      Flew was a strong advocate of atheism, arguing that one should presuppose atheism until empirical evidence of a God surfaces. He also criticised the idea of life after death,[3] the free will defence to the problem of evil, and the meaningfulness of the concept of God.[4] In 2003 he was one of the signers of the Humanist Manifesto.[5] However, in 2004 he stated an allegiance to deism, more specifically a belief in the Aristotelian God, stating that in keeping his lifelong commitment to go where the evidence leads, he now believes in the existence of God.[6]

      He later wrote the book There is a God: How the World's Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, with contributions from Roy Abraham Varghese. This book (and Flew's conversion itself) has been the subject of controversy, following an article in the New York Times magazine alleging that Flew had mentally declined, and that Varghese was the primary author.[7] The matter remains contentious, with some commentators including PZ Myers and Richard Carrier supporting the allegations, and others, including Flew himself,[8] opposing them.

      Flew taught at the universities of Oxford, Aberdeen, Keele and Reading, and at York University in Toronto. He was also known for the development of the no true Scotsman fallacy, and his debate on retrocausality with Michael Dummett.

      December 20, 2012 at 12:35 pm |
    • HarryJames

      I've never actually met any Christian who could rationalize why they believe in God any better than anyone could rationalize believing that they were experimented upon by aliens.

      December 20, 2012 at 1:52 pm |
    • Mack

      Your 1,000 number is clearly a blank reach. You can try to dismiss the issue all you want but it's not going away. Look at the post on top of yours with the stats. Godlessness is an increasing trend. Period.

      December 20, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  5. Reality

    And some final words from Thomas Jefferson, :

    "And the day will come,
    when the mystical generation of Jesus,
    by the Supreme Being as His Father,
    in the womb of a virgin,
    will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva"

    December 20, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      For reference, Jefferson thought that gay men should be castrated.

      December 20, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Reality

      Please provide a reference supporting your statement.

      Here mine for:

      "And the day will come,
      when the mystical generation of Jesus,
      by the Supreme Being as His Father,
      in the womb of a virgin,
      will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva"

      - Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)
      Letter to John Adams, from Monticello, April 11, 1823.

      December 20, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • Mack

      Rational Libertarian = Non Sequitur Master

      December 20, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  6. Quote from

    Pope lights Christmas tree and says abortion, gay marriage are threats to peace

    December 20, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      But banging little boys is A OK.

      December 20, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Christianity is a form of mental illness- FACT

      Rational Libertarian

      But banging little boys is A OK.
      .
      It is the Catholic way

      December 20, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      A time tested tradition of stealing a child's innocence and dignity and condemning them to a lifetime of psychological torture. Good ol' Catholics.

      December 20, 2012 at 11:57 am |
  7. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    @Dan Merica,

    well done sir. This is a well-balanced piece.

    Thank you.

    December 20, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  8. The truth from a skeptic

    I went to atheists years ago honestly hoping science had discovered some new information about life after death. I was disapointed (but not surprised) to find out that science hadn't. So I went back to picking through religions (old and new) just to see some other schools of thought on the subject. I still haven't found anything factual of course but the point was the search. I chose not to join a group of atheists because all that was being offered was the same absence of information I came in with. It seemed an excercise in futility.

    December 20, 2012 at 11:08 am |
    • Huebert

      The reason that there is no information on life after death is that no dead person has ever come back to tell us what it is like. I imagine that the time after you die passes exactly the same as the time before you were born.

      December 20, 2012 at 11:11 am |
    • SEND BARNS

      @skeptic

      You simply asked the wrong question to the athiests. They don't really have much religious thought about the end of life. If you really want to get into their fables, myths and fanciful stories, ask them how everything began. You'll be amazed at their level of blind faith.

      December 20, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      The null hypothesis is that there is no god. Ditto regarding the afterlife. If you can't find evidence either way, you go with the null hypothesis. All religions do is offer bullpoop speculation. Scientists admit they know next to nothing about what happens after we die. That is the strength of science, acknowledging how little we actually know.

      December 20, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • Huebert

      @ Barns

      Boring, obvious, and unoriginal. Please improve your trolling technique.

      December 20, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Barns

      Please enlighten us as to your opinion on the origins of the universe.

      December 20, 2012 at 11:23 am |
    • ???????????????

      @the truth
      twit the pope the question, see if he answers.

      December 20, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • SEND BARNS

      @RL

      Why don't you go first. How did it all begin?

      December 20, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • ????????

      What does brain dead mean in a court of law ???? figure it out...your are dead...

      December 20, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • PaulB

      The truth from a skeptic
      You appear to have made up your mind that some kind of afterlife must be real if you're not satisfied with the atheist answer. What convinced you of that?

      December 20, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Really??

      Wouldn't you need a good description of life to determine if there is life afterward? Since no one knows exactly what life is, you cannot try to determine what happens after.
      It would seem that there is no life after death since death is the end of life. That is not to say the enrgy that is life discontinues, but certainly that energy leaving your body should be obvious to anyone that you ( and all that makes you you) are in fact dead.

      December 20, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I believe a unicorn farted into a bowl of fairy dust and that's how it began. Your turn.

      December 20, 2012 at 11:35 am |
    • SEND BARNS

      @RL – sounds as plausible as most answers I've heard from people like you. Actually, I'm quite satisfied with your best effort. Chalk one up for your team.

      December 20, 2012 at 11:36 am |
    • The truth from a skeptic

      I don't worry about believing (as you guys said that's futile). I trust science with the origins of the universe but I tend to think that there might be some larger consciousness. The closest thing I've found is the stuff on throught the wormhole with Morgan freeman (when they did the death show). Since you asked.

      December 20, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • Moby Schtick

      Fallacies:

      1. You don't go to an "atheist" to ask a question about "science," because not all atheists are well-versed in science. An atheist simply doesn't believe in god. Go to a scientist to ask a "sciencey" question.

      2. You don't insist that there must be some "state" just because you want to. If you want to imagine a certain state (afterlife) without evidence, then don't expect all other groups to have a position on something you are merely azzuming.

      3. You don't "shop around" for truth. If the scientific community says that it doesn't know about something, then looking into the answers provided by ancient myths isn't an equally valid endeavor.

      4. Most of the time, the correct "answer" is: "We don't know." Get used to it. If the correct answer is "we don't know" then don't pretend that it's not good enough and go create opinions for yourself not based in reality. Do unicorns with magical powers exist somewhere in the universe? We don't know. Not liking the answer doesn't have any bearing on its validity.

      If you're not a troll, and genuinely interested in the logical process, then you'll appreciate this reply. Be intelligent.

      December 20, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Huebert

      @ The truth from a skeptic

      Why do you believe that there is some sort of larger consciousness?

      December 20, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • Reality

      What we do know: (from the fields of astrophysics, nuclear physics, geology and the history of religion)

      1. The Sun will burn out in 3-5 billion years so we have a time frame.

      2. Asteroids continue to circle us in the nearby asteroid belt.

      3. One wayward rock and it is all over in a blast of permanent winter.

      4. There are enough nuclear weapons to do the same job.

      5. Most contemporary NT exegetes do not believe in the Second Coming so apparently there is no concern about JC coming back on an asteroid or cloud of raptors/rapture.

      6. All stars will eventually extinguish as there is a limit to the amount of hydrogen in the universe. When this happens (100 trillion years?), the universe will go dark. If it does not collapse and recycle, the universe will end.

      7. Super, dormant volcanoes off the coast of Africa and under Yellowstone Park could explode catalytically at any time ending life on Earth.

      Bottom line: our apocalypse will start between now and 3-5 billion CE. The universe apocalypse, 100 trillion years?

      December 20, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • SEND BARNS

      @Moby Schtick

      Essentially, what you are saying on #4 is, if the scientific community cannot definitively answer your question, then NO ONE can – then there is NO ANSWER to your question at the present time. What a bunch of arrogant baloney. I know it's good for job security and all, but really!

      December 20, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      @SEND BARNES

      No, as I never mentioned "the scientific community" or "science" at all in my fourth point. Are you a moron?

      December 20, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • sam stone

      "You'll be amazed at their level of blind faith." – Send Barns

      Which, of course, is negligible compared to that of theists

      December 20, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • SEND BARNS

      A distinction without a difference. You comment is still arrogant and wrong.

      December 20, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • craniumthedumb

      I find it intriguing that hordes of people shout someone down for being non-logical or non-factual when someone clearly is stating an opinion. If there are no arguments (which there are no true argument statements here), there is no fallacy. Divisive and combative engagement may have its time, but not here as someone shares a personal story and an opinion. This is attacking the individual not the topic and does not advance the discussion in any meaningful way.

      December 20, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      @SEND BARNS

      My fourth point was that many times the best answer we can come up with is: "We don't know" and that there's then no point of going to old stories about magic for other answers.

      Instead of "arrogant and wrong," it's obvious and fundamental.

      December 20, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      @craniumthedumb

      You're jumping to your conclusions that are wrong.

      December 20, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • philoctetes45

      There are facts and when they are exhausted there is speculation. Fact: the elements were created in stars, our bodies comprise of these elements. We will die, the specific combination that is us will fragment and in a few billion years all those elements in our solar system will become a star again and disperse again. Atoms that were once part of me may become part of a mountain or perhaps part of another life form. Statistically we all have a few atoms that were once Julius Ceasar (or if you prefer: Jesus or Mohammad). As to how the universe began, no one knows but Lawrence Krauss and others argue more plausibly that it started from nothing rather than something

      December 20, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
    • craniumthedumb

      @Moby

      Let’s examine…

      Sentence 1 starts with… I went to… detailing what he as an individual did. He then gives his opinion as to what was valid reason to do so. No assertion made here.
      Sentence two is the closest to an actual argument he makes, but it is a fact that science has little to no information on what happens after we die, as you pointed out yourself, we do not know (in the sense of having empirical proof). Reguardless, only a fact here and no assertion that needs to be tested beyond what you have already agreed to.
      Next he says, “So I went back” again signifying what he did as an individual and provides his opinion as to what justified that action. No assertion here.
      Next he says “I still haven’t found…”, same argument as sentence two. No real assertion other than the already conceeded point that he still can’t find empirical fact. He did make the comment, ‘of course’ here which indicates he is very aware that there is no way to find empirical truth on what happens after death.
      He then again gave a statement of what he did and his justification as to why. Again, since his justification is only framed as an opinion, there is no assertion.

      He makes no assertions; he only provides his opinions as to why he acted in specific ways. There are no valid arguments in his statement only opinion. A fallacy can only be present where there is a valid assertion presented. There are no fallacies.

      December 20, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I like the way you think Cranium

      December 20, 2012 at 1:43 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      @cranium

      I apologize for not clarifying what I meant by "fallacies." Clearly, the fallacies are in the logic used by the individual, not in any sort of formal argumentation. I had thought that was obvious, since everyone with an understanding of logic would correctly notice that there was no formal arguments put forth. (My stated position and even the tone I used make this clear as well).

      To clarify: The individual used fallacious reasoning for making his own determination and "opinions." He did not use fallacious argumentation because he did not logically assert anything.

      December 20, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • craniumthedumb

      @Moby

      Again, I would have to disagree. We have no evidence of what the logic is, only what the conclusion is. Since you have no evidence there is a fallacy, the best you can do is say "I disagree with the conclusions."

      Another side point, if I had understood by your wording that it was meant to say you find fault with the logic of his opinion I would have addressed it from a different perspective and made the simple statement that I made in this post. That being said, there is a possibility your wording wasn't sufficient to pass that meaning (not saying I am the end all say all of what is understandable or not, but usually I get people's meaning).

      December 20, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • akismet-b4ab7b289dd7afe2eee333893c298cac

      @Rational Libertarian – best response ever. Hilarious.

      December 31, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
  9. tallulah13

    There is nothing to be gained from these signs. They won't change anyone's mind, and serve only to make atheists look bad.

    December 20, 2012 at 10:59 am |
    • Huebert

      The fact that it is next to an ad for the show Shameless is just priceless, though.

      December 20, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • New Alias

      I think the real point of these advertisements is to let people with declining faith know they are not alone.
      A lot of people who are raised in religious families and communities need to know you can think and believe differently and still be normal.

      December 20, 2012 at 11:12 am |
    • Saraswati

      Extremists often make the moderates look better. People like to say things like "I have no problem with .... it's just those crazy .... I can't take." I don't really think these people are doing much good, but there could be some positive fallout as a side effect.

      December 20, 2012 at 12:36 pm |
  10. Observer

    If I might suggest something...

    Isaac Newton was born 12/25/1642 (Old calendar). Perhaps they could just put up a picture of Newton..with a fact about Newton and then step away from it.

    Just a suggestion.

    December 20, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Isaac Newton believed in virtually every hocus pocus you could imagine. His wouldn't be an appropriate visage to promote atheism (be it normal atheism or American Atheists brand of atheism).

      December 20, 2012 at 10:57 am |
  11. starts at home

    A pope (leo) said!!! The bible is the biggest pro_fit-able SUPERSTI_TION the church has had!!!

    December 20, 2012 at 10:53 am |
    • Current

      Sort of like the current pope saying biggest threat to PEACE is Abortion and Gay Marriage. Go Figure.

      December 20, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Not only have you misquoted, you've taken what was said out of context. Hilarious, except you then use it to reinforce your own delusions.

      December 20, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • from google

      Pope lights Christmas tree and says abortion, gay marriage are threats to peace

      December 20, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Primewonk

      @ Bill – here is the quote –

      "How well we know what a profitable superstîtion this fable of Christ has been for us and our predecessors."

      You can find it in the diaries and records of both Pietro Cardinal Bembo (Letters and Comments on Pope Leo X, 1842 reprint) and Paolo Cardinal Giovio (De Vita Leonis Decimi, , op. cit.), two associates who were witnesses to it.

      December 20, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Yes Prime and again, no context is offered only the bald quote. The context of the remark is a response from the pope to a detractor of the inerrancy of scripture. The pope was responding in a way that turned the "fable" on it's ear based on the fact of the ascendancy of Christianity in the world. The meaning of profit being the wealth of the Church and the nations under Christiandom. Not merely in monetary terms, which were and are certainly significant, but in terms of broader values which you and I are recipients of today. Such values have been elaborated in other posts but include, the sanctiity of individuals, rights of the oppressed and minorities, free markets and democratic governments. I'd say he got it right even if his wit is lost on some who would take his comments at face value.

      December 20, 2012 at 1:58 pm |
  12. Bill

    Wow. That is one ugly bill board.

    December 20, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • Huebert

      Agreed, they need a new graphic designer.

      December 20, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • New Alias

      I'm also wondering why they show an Anglo-Saxon on the cross.
      Jesus was not white.
      You would think the Atheists would be more historically accurate.

      December 20, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • tallulah13

      Some christians wouldn't recognize a non-anglo Jesus.

      December 20, 2012 at 11:00 am |
    • New Alias

      then they wouldn't recognize thier savior.
      not sure if that is sad enough to be pathetic, or pathetic enough to be funny.

      December 20, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • Akira

      Oh, I don't know...he's not as white as Santa...

      December 20, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • John

      New Alias
      If Jewish, socially liberal Jesus actually did return without some kind of weapon in his hands millions of Christians in America wouldn't recognize him as their Savior either.

      December 20, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Talluhlah13,

      "Some christians wouldn't recognize a non-anglo Jesus." ;)

      A fair point, though usually the nails, crown of thorns and the death agony is a bit of a giveaway.

      December 20, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  13. New Alias

    FTA: "Epstein calls this sort of inter-religious dialogue 'healthy'"
    It is healthy for people, but not for organized religion. Any religion is strongest where a vast majority of the local population has one common belief. It is easier to accept the bible, or koran, or whatever the wickans, mormans, scientologists etc. read when everyone around you believes it too. It forms a cultural norm, and it can be difficult to get young people to believe these books without a social network to support it. When we associate with people who have different beliefs we sometimes question our own, and that can make blind faith difficult.
    That is why religions like the mormons and scientologists are growing. A part of thier doctrine isolates people from the rest of the world. They have a culture to overcome, and thier entire social life and ususlly thier career can be in trouble if they try to question the faith or leave the religion.
    Social media is saving the younger generation.

    December 20, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • biobraine

      Good points

      December 20, 2012 at 11:49 am |
    • TheGreatestCommission

      Well first, I'd ask that you learn to spell those various religions correctly. Having said that, I'd like to point out that despite the growing number of religions in the United States, Christianity is still the world's 2nd fast growing faith group. Additioally, your theory fails because of this – Christians do not separate themselves from different groups of people, yet their numbers are still rising.

      December 20, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
  14. Apple Bush

    @Reader

    I have read some of your posts. Are you mentally retarded? What do you read exactly, cereal boxes?

    December 20, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • Reader

      GIve me an example please

      December 20, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • Apple Bush

      1. "Most scientists will tell you theories are not facts" > Incorrect
      2. "Atheism is a faith" > Incorrect

      December 20, 2012 at 2:26 pm |
  15. Nightmare before Christmas

    Sally: [examining Jack in his newly-finished Santa suit] You don't look like yourself, Jack. Not at all.
    Jack Skellington: Isn't that wonderful? It couldn't be more wonderful!
    Sally: [holds up the clipboard sketch of him] But you're the Pumpkin King!
    Jack Skellington: Not anymore!

    December 20, 2012 at 10:04 am |
  16. James

    Although Silverman isn't the softer side of atheism, this article seems to portray American Atheists as only an angry group of people. This is not true. Also, American Atheists do plenty of charity work that seems to not have been mentioned in this article. American Atheists supported victims of Hurricane Sandy and recently are supporting the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting. Silverman's tactics might not be what every atheists feel when it comes to the imaginary war on Christmas, but the organization American Atheists does very great work that should be recognized.

    December 20, 2012 at 9:59 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      That's superfluous to the fact that their general operation and demeanor is quite douchy.

      December 20, 2012 at 10:04 am |
    • Jamie

      Many local atheist groups also do charity work. Atheists of Maine is currently raising money for Camp Sunshine, a lakeside retreat for terminally ill children and their families. Members of AoM, myself included, are going to take a plunge into the Atlantic in February, in Maine, and so we're looking for people who want to sponsor our team in this Polar Dip.
      If you'd like to sponsor our group through a donation, go to: http://www.crowdrise.com/aofmaine
      All of the money goes directly to Camp Sunshine, none of it goes to our group.

      December 20, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      That is because the public image that David Silverman chooses to portray for American Atheists is that of the 'angry atheist' who wants to destroy religion rather than live by example and let others live their own lives.

      Fox News has their stupid 'war on Christmas' narrative, so American Atheists has decided to buy into this premise and escalate it.

      December 20, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • rocketscientist

      I'm glad to hear AA does charity work, but why oh why do they have an angry bigot like Silverman as their head? And I really don't think their ad campaigns do much in the way of membership. All they do is anger and most people, atheist or religious, I believe.

      Silverman is as bad as some of the more militant religious leaders. I'm all for the "softer" interreligious, coexist, tolerant approach. That's what I was raised to believe and it's one of my core beliefs as a Christian (although I know some other Christians feel differently about that, of course).

      December 20, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Silverman and AA probably are a bit angry. No one here probably knows about it, but AA formed and existed in the time when atheists were seen as exceptionally evil without the rights of other human beings or American citizens. They experienced mass groups of christians calling for the deaths of all atheists and laws that would prohibit atheists from enjoying the normal rights of every person. They lived through years of being told that they should not be allowed to buy or sell or own businesses or employ others or collect benefits or vote or own property.

      AA and Silverman were told they should be killed and subjected to eternal torture of the worst kind, and now we criticize a snippy adjective on a poster?

      Lest we forget.

      December 20, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • George

      I wonder how the American Atheists are "supporting" the survivors of Sandy Hook?
      6-year old: "Well at least my friends are in a better place."
      AA: Nah, there is no better place, suck it up, little theist!
      6-year old:"I can't wait for Christams, Santa will be bringing presents!"
      AA: "Wrong again. There is no Santa! What, are you some kind of miniature idiot?"

      Hopefully, they are just handing out food and stuff (commendable) – and not pushing an agenda.

      December 21, 2012 at 10:52 am |
  17. Huebert

    I don't deal with Christmas, I celebrate it. So what if the holiday has religious roots. It's also a part of our culture and I intend to celebrate it with my family, a tree, a giant ham, and presents. The only difference between my Christmas celebration and a traditional christian celebration is that we don't have a nativity scene, and we watch The Nightmare Before Christmas, instead of The Greatest Story Ever Told.

    December 20, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • Saraswati

      Same here. I don't sacrifice any animals at Easter either, but I do enjoy the bunnies and chocolate.

      December 20, 2012 at 9:54 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      That pretty much describes my Christmas also, although we usually watch some variation of A Christmas Carol, with me being the only person cheering for the miserly Scrooge and always being disappointed every time he becomes a do-gooder.

      December 20, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • Apple Bush

      I celebrate the holiday because it is fun for the kids. That is the only reason. And I like to eat. Those are the only two reasons. And I like to drink. Three reasons.

      December 20, 2012 at 10:01 am |
    • Huebert

      @Saraswati

      I'm from a farming family. We actually do kill a calf a little before Easter every year. Those are some good stakes and burgers. Does this make me a pagan?

      December 20, 2012 at 10:05 am |
    • Apple Bush

      I killed a lamb with my bare hands once. True story.

      December 20, 2012 at 10:13 am |
    • Huebert

      How did you kill the bear to get the hands?

      December 20, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      I petted a lamb once with my bare hands. Then I tore him asunder with my bear hands.

      December 20, 2012 at 10:15 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      Huebert

      Beat me to the bear joke I see.

      December 20, 2012 at 10:16 am |
    • PaulB

      Where I live, most nonChristians still celebrate Christmas and I usually think of myself as just another nonChristian. I look forward to putting my lights up on my house because it's winter, and Christmas lights cheer up the neighborhood. I've been to a few other "cultural" celebrations in my city and I didn't have to be Chinese to enjoy Chinese New Year, or say Gong Hey Fat Choy, so why be so antagonistic towards our Christian friends and neighbors?

      December 20, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • Saraswati

      @Huebert, I imagine you'd have to follow the right rituals of sacrifice to win Easter's favor.

      December 20, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • rocketscientist

      Actually, I don't find this recent AA billboard as bad as the one from last year or their anti-Christian and anti-Mormon signs they had for the Democratic and Republican conventions, respectively. Maybe I've just gotten used to their tactics by now.

      December 20, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
  18. Apple Bush

    The billboards seem kind of childish. It will never accomplish any political goals. One positive is that my kids see there really are other sane people in this country.

    December 20, 2012 at 9:45 am |
    • Saraswati

      Or it may make them ask why atheists are so much ruder than other groups. I think secularization is occurring despite these people, not in anyway as a result of their work.

      December 20, 2012 at 9:47 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      To be fair, being told I'm going to burn for eternity is a little bit ruder than telling somebody that their religious beliefs are a load of bullpoop.

      December 20, 2012 at 9:53 am |
    • Saraswati

      @RL, I agree that's rude, but in fairness to the Chrisians, they are trying to save your immortal soul. As a non-believer we can certainly argue that society as a whole is better off without certain religious beliefs that, for instance, contradic science, but for the most part the billboards of the Atheists are self-serving.

      December 20, 2012 at 9:56 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      They could be nicer about it though. Scientologists are just trying to free my thetan and they manage to do that in a friendly way (y'know, minus the brainwashing).

      December 20, 2012 at 10:08 am |
    • tallulah13

      Saraswati:
      Christians don't get a pass on rudeness just because they want to save our "immortal soul".

      If they want to threaten, first they have to prove that humans actually have "immortal souls", then they have to prove that heaven, hell and their god exist at all. Otherwise, it's just dogmatic bullying.

      December 20, 2012 at 10:55 am |
    • Akira

      Don't they realize that Santa is a myth?

      December 20, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • Jamie

      No matter what sort of atheist billboard they put up, people get offended. One atheist group put up a billboard that just had a sunny sky background and the word, "Atheists." That's it. There were still complaints.
      I guess I don't see how atheist billboards that tell other atheists that they're not alone are offensive....but Christian billboards that say that people are going to burn in hell for all eternity are not offensive.

      December 20, 2012 at 11:07 am |
    • PaulB

      Jamie
      Nobody ever said that winning acceptance would be easy. Many men were taken completely by surprise when their att itudes towards women were shown to be demeaning and hurtful, and many whites hadn't realized that the names they used for other races were offensive to them. With time, more and more Christians will come to realize that their signs about salvation and hell aren't converting anyone, but just hurting them.

      December 20, 2012 at 11:38 am |
  19. felix navidad

    Cheap bas.tards dodge the Christmas shopping season. It isn't reason, it is they are too tight and greedy to part with anything for anyone.

    December 20, 2012 at 9:43 am |
    • HarryJames

      Or too smart to get caught up in a commercial season designed to goad people into spending more money than they can afford to.

      December 20, 2012 at 10:28 am |
  20. lunchbreaker

    I like how the article distinguishes between American Atheists and American atheists.

    December 20, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • Rational Libertarian

      There's a gargantuan chasm of difference in my experience.

      December 20, 2012 at 9:42 am |
    • Saraswati

      Yep, a huge difference. I also refer to "Capital C Christians."

      December 20, 2012 at 9:48 am |
    • lunchbreaker

      RL, mos def.

      December 20, 2012 at 10:02 am |
    • Val

      Yup, I'm an American atheist, not a member of American Atheists.

      December 20, 2012 at 10:26 am |
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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.