November 30th, 2010
08:24 PM ET

Dueling billboards face off in Christmas controversy

From Laura Dolan, CNN

'Tis the season to be jolly? Not entirely.

An atheist billboard that calls Christmas "a myth" has sparked a growing controversy near the Lincoln Tunnel, a 1.5-mile-long twin tube that connects New Jersey to New York.

The full message, which appears with a nativity scene, reads: "You know it's a myth. This season, celebrate reason."

Its $20,000 price tag was paid for by American Atheists, a New Jersey-based atheist advocacy group, David Silverman, the group's president, told CNN.

"We are addressing the 50 million atheists in this nation," Silverman said.

He said the group erected the sign in a high-traffic area in an effort to challenge drivers to "think hard about whether or not they actually believe in what is, in reality, an invisible magic man in the sky."

Silverman said he is uncertain if it will stay through Christmas or come down on December 21.

The sign, located near the tunnel's New Jersey entrance, has stirred controversy among Christian organizations, prompting one group to erect its own pro-Christmas billboard.

"We decided to counterpunch after a donor came forward seeking to challenge the anti-Christmas statement," said Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, a New York-based Catholic advocacy group.

The League's billboard reads: "You Know It's Real: This Season Celebrate Jesus."

It was erected at the tunnel's Manhattan entrance at a cost of $18,500, according to Donohue.

This is not the first time atheist billboards have called religion into question.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, a Wisconsin-based atheist advocacy group, has placed comparable billboards in some 45 cities and 30 states since October 2007, according to the group's co-president, Annie Laurie Gaylor.

In 2008, the British Humanist Association paid for buses in London, England, to be adorned with the slogan: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

But Donahue says such signs are antagonistic.

"I'm not Hindu, I'm not Buddhist, I'm not Jewish but I wouldn't go around denigrating other people's religions and their gods," he said. "[Silverman] ought to respect our religion. He doesn't have to join it."

Silverman says the holiday season has been co-opted by newer traditions.

"There is no flying reindeer in the Bible," he said. "This is not just about Jesus."

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Christmas • Holidays • New Jersey • New York • Unitarian Universalism

soundoff (2,418 Responses)
  1. mark

    The atheist murdered more people in the 20th century than were killed by all wars and conflicts in the past 2,000 years combined.

    The atheist murdered over 150 MILLION people in the 20th century alone. That's the world record for murder by proponents of an ideology.

    In Kim Jong-Ill of North Korea, we have a shining example of an atheist who takes his unbelief seriously. "There is no god. I have ultimate power. I can do what I want."

    We've already seen the outcome of atheist rule. Mass murder on a record setting scale.

    Murders committed by atheists (20th century):

    People's Republic of China 1923–2007
    76,702,000 murdered

    U.S.S.R. 1917–1987
    61,911,000 murdered

    North Korea 1948–2007
    3,163,000 murdered

    Khmer Rouge/Cambodia 1973–1991
    2,627,000 murdered

    Afghanistan 1978–1992
    1,750,000 murdered

    Vietnam 1945–2007
    1,670,000 murdered

    Poland 1945–1948
    1,607,000 murdered

    Ethiopia 1974–1991
    1,343,610 murdered

    Yugoslavia 1944–1980
    1,072,000 murdered

    Romania 1948–1987
    438,000 murdered

    Bulgaria 1944–1989
    222,000 murdered

    Angola 1975–2002
    125,000 murdered

    Mozambique 1975–1990
    118,000 murdered

    Spain (Republic) 1936–1939
    102,000 murdered

    Albania 1944–1985
    100,000 murdered

    Mongolia 1926–2007
    100,000 murdered

    Laos 1975–2007
    93,000 murdered

    Cuba 1959–1992
    73,000 murdered

    Czechoslovakia 1948–1968
    65,000 murdered

    France 1793–1794
    40,000 murdered

    Hungary 1948–1989
    27,000 murdered

    Greece 1946–1949
    20,000 murdered

    The numbers are horrific. Over 150 MILLION people were murdered by atheists and their regimes in the 20th century alone. The statistics are beyond coincidental. If G-d does not exist and humans are just soulless animals, random by-products of Darwinian evolution, then humans are subject to slaughter by other humans wielding more power (atheist Kim Jong-Ill, for example) and there's nothing wrong with it - according to the laws of nature. Could be a form of populatiuon control programmed into the organism. Is there anything morally wrong with stronger animals killing weaker ones? All life is survival of the fittest. The strong destroy the weak. Hedonistic pursuits of pleasure at the expense of others. Nothing to stop you from committing a harmful act upon someone else if you "know" you won't get caught or "know" you won't be punished. Now or in the hereafter...

    This is what atheism is all about.

    Mass murder. Congratulations atheists on setting the world record. Don't think it will ever be broken.

    December 1, 2010 at 3:16 pm |
    • Rebel

      Thank you, reality check much needed.

      December 1, 2010 at 3:18 pm |
    • Dan

      Dude, chill out. I can't believe how much time you wasted with that response... Truth is atheists don't share common beliefs, the only thing they share is they don't believe in a god. Saying atheists are all the same is like saying everyone that doesn't drive a chevy is all about committing mass murders because most mass murders were committed by people that don't drive chevys.

      December 1, 2010 at 3:20 pm |
    • SeanNJ

      Q: How many people died in "The Great Flood?"
      A: All of them, but sevenish.

      December 1, 2010 at 3:21 pm |
    • Jim (not that Jim, the other Jim)

      WOW, that is one of the stupidest arguments against atheism I have ever heard. You are talking about unstable individuals leading repressive, unstable regimes despertately trying to hold onto political power. It has nothing to do with atheism. Geesh!

      December 1, 2010 at 3:23 pm |
    • Mike

      Why I appreciate the breadth of your "facts," your general rationale is ignorant. You say that these people were killed by atheists but you make no mention of why these countries killed these people. War has been killing millions of people since its inception and the most brutal of these wars have centered around religious and political ideology. I would double check your facts before you go accusing "atheist" regimes of killing 150 million people. Or at the very least, supply some information about the massacres.

      Strangely, your god did not step in and save all the unfortunate believers during these times. Or at any time in recent history for that matter. You need to quickly realize that atheists aren't hateful or against god, they have just chosen logic and reason over fables and irrationality.

      By the way, quick question: do you feel that those cultures that do not practice the religion as you are going to be saved by your god or theirs? Or are they still screwed because they haven't taken Jesus into their hearts?

      December 1, 2010 at 3:32 pm |
    • Joe

      So what's your point?

      December 1, 2010 at 3:34 pm |
    • Reality

      The Twenty Worst Things People Have Done to Each Other:


      "Rank Death Toll Cause Centuries" Religions involved
      1 63 million Second World War 20C (Christians and Communists vs. Christians, Nazi-Pagan and "Shintoists")
      2 40 million Mao Zedong (mostly famine) 20C (Communism)
      40 million Genghis Khan 13C (Shamanism or Tengriism)
      4 27 million British India (mostly famine) 19C (Anglican)
      5 25 million Fall of the Ming Dynasty 17C (Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Chinese folk religion)
      6 20 million Taiping Rebellion 19C ( Confucianism, Buddhism and Chinese folk religion vs. a form of Christianity)
      20 million Joseph Stalin 20C
      8 19 million Mideast Slave Trade 7C-19C (Islam)
      9 17 million Timur Lenk 14C-15C
      10 16 million Atlantic Slave Trade 15C-19C (Christianity)
      11 15 million First World War 20C (Christians vs. Christians)
      15 million Conquest of the Americas 15C-19C (Christians)
      13 13 million Muslim Conquest of India 11C-18C
      14 10 million An Lushan Revolt 8C
      10 million Xin Dynasty 1C
      16 9 million Russian Civil War 20C (Christians vs Communists)
      17 8 million Fall of Rome 5C (Pagans)
      8 million Congo Free State 19C-20C (Christians vs pagans)
      19 7½ million Thirty Years War 17C (Christians vs Christians)
      7½ million Fall of the Yuan Dynasty 14C

      December 1, 2010 at 6:09 pm |
  2. K

    Merry Christmas! God Bless 🙂

    December 1, 2010 at 3:15 pm |
  3. think about it

    I'm agnostic and a scientist but I still respect other people's religion. I believe religion is more of a theory on historic events and a guideline on being a better person. Could Jesus have existed in the past? Possibly. Could people have gotten a few details wrong? Sure. Does all religion revolve around the idea of peace and making good choices in life? Pretty much. Yes, there are a few bad eggs who totally misinterpreted the bible and does stupid things in the name of their god, but can you imagine how much worse it can get if we didn't have religion at all? Not everyone is born with high moral judgement and some needs guidance once in a while (like the ones on these posts here wishing atheist would go to hell, can you imagine what they would be like without religion? eek). You can't prove or disprove God's existence, but then again you can't prove or disprove dark matter's existence either or that string theory is incorrect. So please stop using science as a reason for your hate and close mindedness because you most likely don't know anything about science yourself. This billboard is pretty arrogant and insensitive but then so are the people here attacking all atheist just because a few bad eggs decided to do something stupid in the name of science.

    December 1, 2010 at 3:15 pm |
  4. pitiful people....

    tsktsktsk those atheists have no shame and pitiful. doing it out of insecurity.
    oh well, i'm still waiting for the day of judgment and when they will stand in front of Jesus. they going to get owned.

    December 1, 2010 at 3:15 pm |
  5. guitarharry

    What is the big deal? This is a country based on the concept that one can believe (or not believe) whatever he/she wants. If you don't like it, ignore it.

    December 1, 2010 at 3:14 pm |
  6. Harvey Wallbanger

    At least the authors of this billboard will not be stoned to death; unlike attacks on certain religions in other parts of the world

    December 1, 2010 at 3:14 pm |
  7. Billie Pederson

    Why is it alright for any religion to celebrate and advertise their religion and when Christians do so, it infringes on other religions? This country supposedly grants religion freedom so why do other religions, as well as no religion, think it is their right to try to belittle the Christian religion?

    December 1, 2010 at 3:14 pm |
    • Jim (not that Jim, the other Jim)

      What are you talking about? No one says that Christian can't advertise on billboard or other places. I see them everyday in my part of the country. However, it is a differnet story if you expect public funds, resources, or land to be used in the promotion of your religion. That is not okay.

      December 1, 2010 at 3:19 pm |
  8. Richard

    The holy prophet of the Qur'an (BBOH) states that the Fire has been prepared for disbelievers (in Allah) 3:131.

    It's not just the Christian Bible that makes such a statement. Jesus came to save us from that.

    December 1, 2010 at 3:13 pm |
    • Mike

      All religions provide a clause for retribution against those that are less "faithful" than others. That way you can not only feel wonderfully proud of your life choices BUT you can also feel sorry for those that were "unfortunate" enough to been born into a logical and rational world, or a different religion altogether.

      December 1, 2010 at 3:38 pm |
  9. rplat

    This poor sick Republic is rotting from the inside out. Unity, trust and allegiance are things of the past . . . now it's every pulsating organism for themselves.

    December 1, 2010 at 3:13 pm |
  10. Jared Roussel

    Both science and spirituality are the essences of the truth. If there was no way to create science, how would science exist? And if there was no means by which to create, how would something be created? Look within yourselves to find the answers. The question produces the answer.

    December 1, 2010 at 3:12 pm |
  11. jasonbig

    "You Know It's Real: This Season Celebrate Jesus."
    that's a really lame punch back

    December 1, 2010 at 3:12 pm |
    • edu

      Better yet: "You KNOW science can't have all the answers and it will probably never will, much less prove the universe decided to appear in a moment as a Big Bang. God is logic and common sense, not atheism."

      December 1, 2010 at 3:19 pm |
  12. Sara

    I've always believed in God, but when I started to feel my first baby moving and kicking inside me, my faith deepened. Yes, there is a God.
    When my second daughter was born with a very rare type of congenital heart disease. We almost lost her. We can still lose her because her condition is incurable. But you know what? My faith became even stronger after learning about the complexities of the human heart.

    December 1, 2010 at 3:12 pm |
  13. METrpt

    Why do atheists spend so much time talking about God? They spend far more time talking about religion than the Christians and Muslims I know.

    Why is atheism always anti-Christian? Why not anti-Islam? Anti-Hindu? Anti-Buddhism? even Anti-shinto?

    Maybe all atheists are just mild-moderate paranoid schizophrenics – the other group that seems to worry about religion all the time.

    December 1, 2010 at 3:11 pm |
  14. preston

    to all,
    i am a religious person but also a political. this country was founded on freedom of religion and this billboard is their right to have. agree or disagree is up to you not anyone else. to the athiests, even though i dont agree with your beliefs or stands, i respect them. i would hope that you would respect mine. this billboard being posted doesnt offend me at all, not when this country has bigger issues to worry about wether a billboard offends someone or not. i respect all and thats my choice. if you dont respect mine that is yours. that is the joy or freedom of will, which both athiest and christians preach. for all involved i hope the holiday season is all that you make it to be and even though you dont believe athiests i will pray for you and your families to have a safe holiday just like i will pray for everyone else. i dont judge at all. hope everyone has a great christmas.

    December 1, 2010 at 3:11 pm |
    • guitarharry

      Thank you for your comment. You are one of the only Christians in this discussion who seems to actually understand the teachings of Jesus. Peace to you and your family during this holiday season.

      December 1, 2010 at 3:24 pm |
    • preston

      thank you GuitarHArry. have a great and safe holiday season

      December 1, 2010 at 3:35 pm |
  15. HeIsGod

    Oh boy, here we go again with these whiners, complainers, and cry baby Atheists! Bahahahahaha!!!!!! They are paid $20,000 for this bulletin board and for what.....NOTHING!!!!


    So, a sign on a Forth Worth bus is going to convince billions upon billions of people in America that we are good without God? REALLY???

    Open up your eyes!!! See all of the evil crimes and destruction that is taking place every where, everyday because of the disobedience of people turning from God!!! And you are trying to say that "America is good without God?" LOL!!!! No doubt, Atheists are the biggest FOOLS on earth, for the very Word of God says it, "The Fool says in his heart, there is no God". How are you going to convince Jews, Catholics and Christians that there is no God? Ha, ha, ha!!!!! America is a nation "UNDER GOD" and "IN GOD WE TRUST". DON'T LIKE IT, LEAVE, MOVE, AND BUILT YOUR OWN COUNTRY! WHO CARES IF YOU DON'T BELIEVE? STOP SPEWING YOUR LIES!!! THANK YOU FOR MAKING IF CLEAR FOR THE WHOLE WORLD TO SEE THAT YOU ARE INDEED THE BIGGEST FOOLS ON EARTH!!!! Just as you refuse God, I reject your ad.

    BTW, Dart rejected this ad on their bus….PRAISE THE LORD JESUS CHRIST!!!!!

    • Why do atheists celebrate Christmas and Easter since both of these holidays is to honor Yeshua (Jesus)? Why are most people (including the atheists) going into debt to buy "Christmas" presents? Why not totally ignore this holiday by going to work and carrying on, as usual? Don't you think it's a bit hypocritical to join in the festivities when you clearly abhor their very reason for being? The excuses that "everybody else is doing it" or "I have no other choice because my place of employment is closed on Christmas" aren't valid....The fact is, if you in any way partake in the festivities, then you are a hypocrite because you're catering to the Christian belief. Take action at your place of employment and INSIST on your right to work during Christian holidays, because you, by God, are atheist!


    December 1, 2010 at 3:11 pm |
    • John

      You worship a Zombie On A Stick who was even rejected by his own people. You're in no position to call anybody else a fool.

      December 1, 2010 at 3:14 pm |
    • Allan

      @ John, your the one to talk!!! Your parents probably gave you your name from the Holy Bible (Book of John). Bible not only teaches us"A zombie on a stick" it teaches righousness and forgivemness. I don't even want to know how many enemies you made "JOHN".

      December 1, 2010 at 3:21 pm |
    • Yeah


      If this "God" picked YOU to be a spokesperson, it seriously discredits that whole 'infinite wisdom' claim.

      December 1, 2010 at 4:50 pm |
  16. Peter

    Atheism has become a religion. They have gone from just not believing, to believing that there is nothing. There is faith and conviction in their words just like those they argue with. I suppose they don't pick on Muslims as much as Christians because Muslims will occasionally fight back with bombs and rockets and planes and stuff, whereas Christians stopped killing people for not agreeing with them a while back.

    December 1, 2010 at 3:11 pm |
    • John

      Way to generalize against all Athiests. Here's one for you – Protestants are all inbreds who marry their cousins.

      December 1, 2010 at 3:13 pm |
  17. Andres

    After looking at all these comments debating whether or not God is real, I think It'd be kinda nice if he just let himself be known to all mankind (if he is real). It would certainly settle a lot of disputes. O and if he would tell us which religion is the right one. I mean for what purpose does he keep his existence "secret"?
    If he loves all of mankind and wants them all to be saved, why won't he reveal ourselves.
    Surely he can't expect us to just "believe" because some 2000 year old book says so...
    if a crazy man walking on the side of the street told us to "believe" in him as the savior, would you?
    Supposedly he gave us a rational mind and free choice so that we can believe what we want, so why didn't he foresee that maybe, some people were going to choose not to believe in an "invisible magic man in the sky"?

    December 1, 2010 at 3:10 pm |
    • Richard

      God HAS revealed Himself to the world in the person of Jesus Christ.

      The problem is NOT a lack of evidence.

      The problem is SUPPRESSION of it.

      December 1, 2010 at 3:16 pm |
  18. Richard

    The holy prophet of the Qur'an (BBOH) states that the Fire has been prepared for disbelievers (in Allah) 3:131.

    December 1, 2010 at 3:10 pm |
  19. Tiglath

    "Mutations are random ERRORS which almost never benefit the animal."

    Such a grand parade of ignorance... get thee to a library... Oh my God, sorry, Oh my nothing.

    December 1, 2010 at 3:09 pm |
  20. Brutaltruth

    Also, Jesus wasn't white.. he was a mad from the middle east, the same type of people millions of americans discriminate agaisnt on a daily basis and call them terrorists.

    Christians protray jesus as a white man.. give me a break.

    December 1, 2010 at 3:09 pm |
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About this blog

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.