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.
Christmas has roots in paganism and a lot of christians of varying denominations don't embra
God in Quran says, (holy Islamic scripture)
“They even attribute to Him sons and daughters, without any knowledge. Be He glorified. He is the Most High, far above their claims.” Quran [6:100]
“The example of Jesus, as far as GOD is concerned, is the same as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him, "Be," and he was.” Quran [3:59]
‘They said, "You have to be Jewish or Christian, to be guided." Say, "We follow the religion of Abraham – monotheism – he never was an idol worshiper." [2:135]
It does not befit God that He begets a son, be He glorified. To have anything done, He simply says to it, "Be," and it is. [19:35]
“No soul can carry the sins of another soul. If a soul that is loaded with sins implores another to bear part of its load, no other soul can carry any part of it, even if they were related. ... [35:18]
O people, here is a parable that you must ponder carefully: the idols you set up beside God can never create a fly, even if they banded together to do so. Furthermore, if the fly steals anything from them, they cannot recover it; weak is the pursuer and the pursued. [22:73]
They do not value God as He should be valued. God is the Most Powerful, the Almighty.[22:74]
If you obey the majority of people on earth, they will divert you from the path of God. They follow only conjecture; they only guess. [Quran 6:116]
“There shall be no compulsion in religion: the right way is now distinct from the wrong way. Anyone who denounces the devil and believes in God has grasped the strongest bond; one that never breaks. God is Hearer, Omniscient.” [2:256]
“God: there is no other god besides Him, the Living, the Eternal. Never a moment of unawareness or slumber overtakes Him. To Him belongs everything in the heavens and everything on earth. Who could intercede with Him, except in accordance with His will? He knows their past, and their future. No one attains any knowledge, except as He wills. His dominion encompasses the heavens and the earth, and ruling them never burdens Him. He is the Most High, the Great.” [2:255]
Thanks for taking time to read my post. Please take a moment to clear your misconception by going to whyIslam org website.
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Allah is an asshat
This type of drivel is exactly why atheism is growing in numbers. It's laughable.
The fine example of psychosis.
Atheists are not divided. They are all individuals linked only a common and quite reasonable an healthy skepticism of the existence of any kind of god.
If you want to talk about examples of "divided", see US hundred thousand plus, "religious belief" groups.
"I coulda had religion, but my baby wouldn't let me pray."
atheist: "You shouldn't pray to god!"
me: "Why not?...Is there one?"
Atheist: Oh...you are an atheist too.
Yeah, maybe..kind of. Occasionally I doubt that there "isn't" one. Agnostic maybe.
@Just my experience
Yeah... you sound more like an "agnostic."
Just my experience,
I am not suggesting you don't pray. I was raised Catholic and believed. I realized in my early adulthood I did not agree or support the Catholic church for various reasons. I then went on a quest to learn about other christian faiths in order to figure out what I believed. Through my search which consisted of reading the bible and learning the history of christianity (including the history that is not taught by churches) I realized I didn't by any of it. My suggestion is to learn as much as you can and make an informed decision, you will thank yourself for doing so no matter what you decide. Good luck.
Peace to all...peace back to you.
Blessed are the Cheesemakers..its actually pretty cool that you took the time to clear up what exactly it was that was bothering you about religion and why. I completely agree that it's good to read up on things. Personally I have found whatever religion peaked my interest I was better off reading up on it, by myself and without help. Less complicated.
Aquinas' Third Argument, Contingency
(1) Contingent things exist.
(2) Each contingent thing has a time at which it fails to exist (contingent things are not omnipresent).
(3) So, if everything were contingent, there would be a time at which nothing exists (call this an empty time).
(4) That empty time would have been in the past.
(5) If the world were empty at one time, it would be empty forever after (a conservation principle).
(6) So, if everything were contingent, nothing would exist now.
(7) But clearly, the world is not empty (premise 1).
(8) So there exists a being who is not contingent.
(9) Hence, God exists.
More flawed logic which only shows that Aquinas did not have a grasp of the concepts he was trying to use to justify his belief in sky fairies.
thomas aquinas was only good at reasoning things with skewed circular logic based on flawed presuppositions.
There will always be an unknown unknown, therefore no one can speak with 100% acuracy on what does not exist. We can only assume improbability. We only assume what exists exists because it is all we know.
Logic based on false premises is faulty.
Aquinas' Second Argument, Causality
(1) Some events cause other events.
(2) If an event happens, then it must be caused by something outside of itself.
(3) There can be no infinite cause/effect chains.
(4) So, there is a first, uncaused cause.
(5) Therefore God exists.
people who believe he provided intelligent logical arguments are dumber than he was.
Number three is a non-proved hypothesis as difficult to ponder as the "uncaused cause" hypothesis. Neither hypothesis can be assumed.
If there can be no infinite cause, then god does not exist.
Skipped an unnecessary step- a false premise (conservation) and proved through Aquinas that god does not exist. WHOOHOO!
Aquinas' First Argument, Motion
(1) Objects are in motion.
(2) If something is in motion, then it must be caused to be in motion by something outside of itself.
(3) There can be no infinite chain of movers/movees.
(4) So there is a first, unmoved mover.
(5) Therefore, God exists.
More correctly gravity exists and aquinas did not understand about gravity, so he naturally turned his ignorance into god did it.
jumping from "how" directly to "god did it" is the pinnacle of dumb
jumping from "how" directly to "god did it" is the pinnacle of dumb.
how do you make the logical leap from the possibilty of a creator to the certainty that this creator is a "God"?
The essence of prayer is not the effort to make God give us something. Prayer, then, is not just informing God of our needs, for God already knows them. Rather, the purpose of prayer is to give God the opportunity to bestow the gifts He will give us when we are ready to accept them
If it knows what you want and knows when to bestow – why pray?
Because I makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside. And we actually think it does something.
I must admit I used to have much more respect for atheism as a philosophy, until I started reading the comments on the web. I'm sure it's the same for atheists concerning Christians. Do atheists have more respect or less for Atheism than say, 30 years ago? Or are your heros and ideas worn and fading as well?
See Hero cults. They are antichrist intermediators accepting of worship. Just ol' man trying to rise to the level of an angel, the fallen type. It's ironic because Christians will judge angels with their status of bride realized at the wedding supper. The two are one.
atheism is not a philosophy. it is merely a lack of belief in imaginary men in the sky... nothing more.
I have more respect for atheism because most of the arguments atheists use are reasonable and sound. Most of the god believers just don't follow the logic because of their emotional stance. Believers look away from their cognitive dissonance rather than justify one reason/theory over another.
Considerably more respect...after spending several months as an observer here and "listening" to the believer's co mments and responses on various blogs and posts, my decision to abandon the faith is only reinforced.
I wonder how the universe came into being without anyone or anything to create it.
Ted- Energy which is Eternal was transposed(reverse it's order) to start our Universe. This is not with standing the FACT that God created everything.
you say fact so show proof that your god theory has any merit.
Really- It's because Energy is govern by Properties(Motion, Heat and Light) that we know have Laws. Now how did these laws come into existence, call it what you may, I call it God.
And we know that once we get very close to the planck time that these laws actually break down due to the density of all the matter and energy in an extremely small area. These laws are not eternal constructs, and merely stating that "someone" brought them into being is useless.
Hawaiiguest- The laws of Matter breaks down not Energy.
"Call it what you may." I call it "mystery" which means "we don't know," which is a much better answer, I think, than "big invisible sky wizard did it with magic spellz."
And where did you find that? As far as I've read, the gravitational forces involved break down all the laws of time and space the closer you get to the event. Indeed the very concepts as we know them break down.
Whatever the source...if there is a "source"...and if there is a so-called "first cause," the monotheistic God in any of his incarnations is not bright enough, mature enough, or worthy of the complexity of the universe as we understand it via scientific inquiry. Just consider the petty obsessions of the followers of these monotheistic variations.
matter is made of energy, and the "laws" of physics break down equally
Hawaiiguest & Really- The Laws return to the Eternal state of Energy which is zero(0), Now they are 3 types of zeros, zero ( 0) which is Nothing, Zero (0) which is Eternal and the zero which some say represents GOD. Our number line runs from Nothing (Zero)____________________to Eternal (Zero). Which is what the equations does. In order for our Universe to come into existence Energy was transpose (reverse the order) from an Eternal state to a state of Nothing.
@kenrick: you just beautifully articulated the "god of the gaps" theory. If you can't explain any phenomenon, claim god did it; the only problem with that is when new scientific explanations are found for those phenomena, your god shrinks.
Sqeptiq- Not for me, it just confirms my believe in God.
Some of these Christian bashing Atheist groups sound like hate groups, like some of the very groups they criticize...
@ concerned. Are you concerned that we will tear down and expose all religion for what it is? It is nothing more than falshood, and trying to keep the "flock" deluded enough to numb them of their thought process, so they will believe anything that is told to them This is why the cults want the young childre, so the can be indoctrinated. Tje RCC literally used that term back in the 50's and 60's. I know it for a fact. I lived through it. I escaped.
@ concerned. Are you concerned that we will tear down and expose all religion for what it is? It is nothing more than falsehoods. They are trying to keep the "flock" deluded enough to numb them of their thought process, so they will believe anything that is told to them. This is why the cults want the young childre, so the can be indoctrinated. The RCC literally used that term back in the 50's and 60's. I know it for a fact. I lived through it. I escaped.
I understand the concern, concerned. I don't think anybody ever thought of religion as science or a fact
There may be a few I guess. I have had Christians over the years help me with everything from flat tires to places to stay, and though I found some of their beliefs a little goofy I can't say I think the average church reminds me of the same thing as say for example "Heaven's gate". None of them were ever offended by my non belief.
I think it's better not to label and to take people as individuals.
Atheists don't hate religious people, they hate their irrationality.
Sort of like the one christians use:
"Christians don't hate the sinners, only the sin."
Concerned, yeah, there's a lot of anger here. The atheists who post here know what they don't want to believe, and they want to tell everyone else not to believe it too. The big question is why they feel so passionate about it. I would suspect that for many of them, not all, they have been hurt or disappointed by religion, and I empathize with that. I was raised Catholic, and left the church early, but I kept a deep anger at all religion, and deep-seated fear of the Catholic Church in particular, for decades. Then I discovered that there is a God (not a guy on a cloud, not up in the sky, not a fairy in my garden, not a Spaghetti Monster) who had been helping me my whole life, still helps me, and who I know will always help me. No need to jump on this, atheists, I know I can't prove it to you. If God does not want His/Her/Its existence to be proven, nobody will prove it.
"Rom 3:12 They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one."............The A&A's are together in their hate. When is the last time an A&A called out another atheist for ahem, misspeaking, on CNN's belief blog? Science hahaha. Peer review?????? Nah.
You quote from the holy book of bullschitt to back up your statements? Fooish person. The book has no relevance except to the deluded.
WG, "Luk 11:35 Take heed therefore that the light which is in thee be not darkness."
"When is the last time an A&A called out another atheist for ahem, misspeaking,"
I do it quite often, if and when anyone get facts wrong. I want them to look sharp and spiffy when representing things with which I agree.
I think the last time was when someone said that The Bible was "written" in the 4th century A.D. and I tried to get them to revise it to "was compiled from a biased selection of ancient writings".
@lol?? The luke quote you are using is meant to be applied to christians, and a self check. Make the 'light' you are trying to spread, is not actually 'darkness'.
"Rom 3:11 There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God."
I suppose I'll just have to read the bible finally and find out for myself I guess...crap.
That thing is about as much fun to read as stereo instructions.
I struggled with it for years. Then it started to click. I started seeing myself and my life situations represented in the stories. I think the suggestions to calm your mind and say a little pray asking for understanding are helpful as well. Don't try to read it as a scientific manual. Think of it more as a letter from someone who knows you.
Read it without presuppositions of truth. Read it objectively.
Athiest here, don't care about about nativity seens or horrid images of a mans execution. What ever. If it works for you. Your beliefs really arn't that important to me, I have yet to be made to pray or attend mass. Christ in Christmas, eh, I do not feel threatened by seeing them, Why the need to "shun" a belief system in order to promote yours. Why do some people in this country feel they have a right to not be offended. Bring it all out next year. A nativity scene over here and a dino wearing a santa suit over there. No need to bash one for the other to gain credibility. If it is true to you then an outside influence isn't going to make you lose your belief system.
Oh and I use Christmas as a day to spend with my family, so FU for trying to take that away from me.
No one's trying to take anything away from you, Mason. We just don't want that bullshit in our common public areas.
There is no war on Christmas. Religion is crushing itself under it's own weight. Atheists don't need to do much but stay out of it's way. People are smart. If they can get away from their parents for 10 minutes as kids they'll ask some questions and the seed is planted. Then years later they will 'go-through the motions' to recreate some memories around a religion they don't follow to much but at that point the die is cast. Another generation or two and they aren't even indoctrinating their children properly. Presto.
Its, not it's'
Too much, not to much
Other than that, I agree
1. When I say 'support your claim" I am refering to the claim that "because the universe had a beginning, the cause was god". You don't support THAT claim.
2. I do understand what the term means. Are you therefore claiming anything beyond our scientific understanding is therefore automatically supernatural? I hope not because that isn't true. If a mutiverse is true than it is therefore a PART of nature and the laws of nature and NOT supernatural.
3. You are making a claim you have no support for, the laws may be different in another universe but that would not make the unnatural or supernatural.
4. Theism would require that there would be nothing prior to your god existing, if material always existed your god could not have made it and your god would not therefore be necessary, a precondition for Kalam.
5. Having not observed infinity is not the samething thing as saying it is not or could not be true. It is at this point unknown.
What this comes down to is simply this: even bad boys and girls don't want a lump of coal in their stocking! See Blessed are the cheese makers said that our God is a blankety blanker–that proves he believes in Him but, he's like nanny nanny boo boo I don't believe in you. What a fraud atheist! I was an atheist once, the real kind that just honestly doesn't believe not the angry kind that has to keep up the rage 24/7 or admit to myself that I believe Gid is real and I better change.
If you are an atheist I think you can still celebrate Christmas if you want, it's one of the few bright spots in your dark life, I know I have been there. I just don't understand all of the angry atheist these days. We all know that the most important belief to an Atheist is–nothing! Life is meaningless, LOL! Aren't you comforted by that? Well neither was I. Seriously though, God loves you. I used to say if God sent lightning down when I asked I would believe. Here's to 2013, blessings and peace, may you all get your lightning bolts.
The Christian god is an immoral pri.ck. Me saying so does not mean I think he is real, as a matter of fact the reason I don't think he is real is because he is an immoral pri.ck. I can call Zues an immoral pri.ck that does not mean I think Zues is real. A god may exist but the Christian god by definition is absurd. If you are going to call me a fraud I would like to know why? I am angry at christianity (not christians) and for good reason.
You may not have believed in a god but that doesn't mean you had examined the claims and did not believe for good reasons, I can guarentee I have. Life is what one makes of it, if you can only derive meaning from supersti.tion I feel sorry for you.
A belief system is subject to individual interpretation.
A belief system is subject to the whims of the believer, not the truth.
"one of the few bright spots in your dark life"?
you know nothing about our lives
get back on your knees and beg your punk god for salvation, slave
"We all know that the most important belief to an Atheist is–nothing! Life is meaningless, LOL! "
Not atheism, sadness. You sound like an angry Christian. "Bright spots in a dark life", again with the sadness. Are you sure you were an atheist and not a nihilist? (Nihilist: one who believes existence has no objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value)
Life has plenty of meaning; children,family, friends, personal joy and accomplishment. You only have a short bit of life before "nothingness" and you had better make it count !!!
When it's done it's done, no second chances.
I'm glad the God thing worked out for you,..... you can talk most suicidal people down, nihilist are the most depressing.
@john: "We all know that the most important belief to an Atheist is–nothing! Life is meaningless," Please don't put words into the mouths of others. I have never heard any atheist say that life in meaningless; to the contrary, atheists value life much more highly than believers in an afterlife. You don't hear atheists minimize a death by saying, "it's alright, he's gone to a better place," or "God has called his children home." Christians are the ones who ultimately find life meaningless...just an infinitesimal sojourn on the way to eternity.
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.