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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. Serdar

    When one man is delusional he is insane, when the masses are delusional they are religious....

    Honestly as an atheist, I would like people to stay religious, them having fear of God is a great thing, it allows us to reap the rewards they choose to ignore. I also don't think most people have the necessary reasoning skills or moral compass to function without the fear of burning in hell. I for one wish your religions were true, it would be great for people to get their comeuppance, as most do not get it in their real lives. That sense of justice would be great, unfortunately I am not delusional, I do not have a single digit IQ, I can not believe in fairy tales with a straight face. Sorry guys, but as I said, keep the faith!

    December 1, 2010 at 4:14 pm |
    • Where can I donate?

      Are you the missing link?

      December 1, 2010 at 4:21 pm |
  2. Thomas

    If the Athiests are intent on informing the population, why not an anti Islam billboard? LOL.... they know better

    December 1, 2010 at 4:14 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      No need for atheists to put up anti-islamic billboards – the christians already have put up plenty. Don't believe me? – go google 'anti islam sign".

      December 1, 2010 at 4:25 pm |
  3. Guy

    As my license plate frame says, "If you're living like there's no God, You'd better be right!"

    December 1, 2010 at 4:13 pm |
    • whyohwhy

      Why? Why better I be right? I studied the bible all through college. And I think it's a book written by men, translated many times over hundreds of years by other men, and as far removed from the word of any actual god as can be. I also came away with this piece of knowledge.... If god is our parent and loves us and wants the best for us, then I can't imagine that he/she/it would take someone like me and make them burn in hell for eternity. I'm a pretty darn good person – help my neighbors, love my family, kind to animals, try desperately not to lie cheat and steal, and spend my time here on this planet just trying my best to be a good person. If god looks at me and puts me in the "eternal hellfire" line just because I don't believe what I'm being fed by a man-made book and self-centered religions, then that is a pretty messed up god you got there. A person like me and a person like Hitler will both go to the same place? Really? That makes sense to you?? Cause it doesn't make sense to me.

      If there is a god (and I am truly skeptical about that) then I believe he/she/it, being the loving parent, will take into account that all I did on earth was use my brain logic and reasoning (all things that were provided to me by this god) to NOT follow the words of man. I think I'll be okay. (You know, I bet there are people in Muslim countries that have license plate frames that say "If you're living like there's no Mohammed, You'd better be right"... just a thought.)

      December 1, 2010 at 4:40 pm |
  4. Alex

    sure, atheists have no proof that god does not exist. but there is also no proof that the loch ness monster doesn't exist. or bigfoot for that matter. or even UNICORNS!

    December 1, 2010 at 4:13 pm |
    • Where can I donate?

      Or apemen, or the missing link!

      December 1, 2010 at 4:19 pm |
  5. Jay

    I'm sorry but anyone who goes through the effort to evangelise atheism is not a true atheist. A true atheist could care less. What purpose does it serve to try and convince others to a life where rationality? None. In the end, there is nothing. So what's the point.

    December 1, 2010 at 4:12 pm |
    • Andy 666

      The point is "pain". Not believing does not mean one cannot recognize joy and pain, happiness and sadness. Everyone lives. Why bash religions? Because they cause pain, subdue people, and sometimes enslave others. Look at the stoning of people in Iran, or the oppression of women in Afghanistan. Look at kids in the US denied medial attention. That's just no good !

      December 1, 2010 at 4:17 pm |
    • Shawn

      I have to disagree. Teaching children they will spend eternity in hell if they don’t believe is morally wrong. I as an atheist will speak out against horrifying children to make them believe in ancient literature.

      December 1, 2010 at 4:24 pm |
  6. Alex

    LOL at atheists are liars. you realize everything you just said is a fairy tale?

    December 1, 2010 at 4:12 pm |
  7. Marty

    To the aethiests who are so full of "reason" , all I ask is that you offer the proof that God does not exist. And I'm not talking about antectodal evidence, I'm talking about the definitive proof that will allow no other conclusion. Until you can do that, then your atheism is just another religion based on faith. So get over your pompous selves and stop belittilng other religions, you bigots.

    December 1, 2010 at 4:11 pm |
    • Andy 666

      That's easy, done already. Read "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins. Even if you think you won't agree, it should be an interesting read anyway. His answer is a lot longer and covers much more angles than I can possibly add here.You're welcome.

      December 1, 2010 at 4:13 pm |
    • edu

      @Andy666 And you should read the Holy Bible (also quoted 'The Human Delusion of no creator') by God.

      December 1, 2010 at 4:19 pm |
    • scienceman45

      Prove to me that there isn't an invincible monkey living in your closet. Can't? that must mean it is real. It is impossible to say that God exists, and it is impossible to say that God doesn't exist. But can we find logical inconsistency in the Bible and the nature of God? Yes! Should we put faith in something that doesn't have any evidence for it and runs into invalid or not sound arguments?

      December 1, 2010 at 4:22 pm |
    • Carina

      Great post, Marty. Truth is NO ONE can provide evidence of EITHER belief. Yes, belief. Both assumptions are based solely on FAITH. Atheists BELIEVE no god exists, while others believe god does exist. So, stop being hypocrites.

      December 1, 2010 at 4:23 pm |
    • scienceman45

      Prove to me that there isn't an invisible monkey living in your closet. Can't? that must mean it is real. It is impossible to say that God exists, and it is impossible to say that God doesn't exist. But can we find logical inconsistency in the Bible and the nature of God? Yes! Should we put faith in something that doesn't have any evidence for it and runs into invalid or not sound arguments?

      December 1, 2010 at 4:24 pm |
    • Marty

      666 – That's anctedotal eveidnce, not proof. Apparently, you don't know the difference.

      December 1, 2010 at 5:23 pm |
  8. scienceman45

    Get a bunch of ridiculous ideas together. Call it a religion. Suddenly you are protected by every angle by the public. It doesn't matter if you have so called freedom of speech. If someone get offended, you are silenced. This is the world we live in now.

    December 1, 2010 at 4:11 pm |
  9. Eric P

    It's pretty stupid...this whole Christian v Atheists thing. It's clearly the atheists attempting to prod and poke Christians to get under their skin and vice versa. Steadfast Christians truly are insufferable human beings, but atheists don't need to fuel the debate by doing this. Christianity will eventually come full circle and destroy itself because its a constantly evolving lie, it doesn't need American Atheists' help. Live and let live. This country is so pushy...everyone trying to convince everyone else of something.

    December 1, 2010 at 4:10 pm |
  10. GWS

    "Reasonable" is a relative term. Who says "Athiestic Reason" is fact?

    December 1, 2010 at 4:10 pm |
  11. Jon

    @Mark

    All those atrocities were not done in the name of Atheism. They were done in the name of Political Ideology. You said it yourself with the quote from Kim Jung Il. He thinks he is a living god, something that any normal atheist would or could (Yes, could) never say or do.

    As for Stalin, he didn’t murder millions of his own people in the name of Atheism. He did it in the name of Stalinism. Look at photos from that time period, there were posters all over the country of Stalin. He (like Kim Jung Il) replaced religion with a personal ideology where the leader is worshiped. If it was truly an atheistic society, there would be no ideology of any kind. The people worshipped their leaders and that is not Atheism.

    Don’t forget the Crusades and the Dark Ages where religion was responsible for the murder of millions. All in the name of belief.

    December 1, 2010 at 4:10 pm |
  12. Thor Worshipper

    Your god was nailed to a cross... mine has a hammer... any questions?

    December 1, 2010 at 4:09 pm |
  13. Lou

    When the jesus freaks stop invading our country and claiming it as their own THEN we'll stop telling them the truth.

    December 1, 2010 at 4:09 pm |
  14. DD

    Where the atheist have to do their religion, however do they have to make fun of other religion. I have to see what they happens when they make fun of Islam. Yes atheism is a religion. A region is the way you live, because what you believe in truth is the way you live. Very irresponsible. Is it better you just stat what you believe, instead of attacking other believes.

    December 1, 2010 at 4:08 pm |
  15. Zeus

    Didn't see or hear any hate in the story, but there sure is alot on this board from 'christians'. Bet their against unemployment insurance and healthcare too. Religion, the party of 'do as i say, not as i do'

    December 1, 2010 at 4:08 pm |
  16. infomebaby

    The three kings look like they are riding baby llamas , not camels. Atheists scientists can't even get their proportions in order. Happy holidays to you my friends. While your calendar still revolves around the life and death of this one MAN. I believe.

    December 1, 2010 at 4:08 pm |
  17. Mike Jones

    Atheist don't wan't the catholic church scorning them and they will try to use the law to prevent them however they want to attack the catholic church which is against the bill or fights in freedom of religion to do so publicily. If the catholic church did a billboard attacking them they would forcibly take it down.
    atheist put a bunch always a bunch of lies. The only reason most have empowered and spread in number is because ot protestants or related to protestants which shows protestants is a fake religion because it teaching are false. Protestants tried to undo what the catholic church did which was covert barbaric pagan europe, people who used to whorship idols made of stone, wood, etc.. into catholics.
    Since someone keeps deleting what I post I will repost this. Atheists, Pagans, Jews, Muslims, Protestants are fake regilions made up for sin, money, adultery, fame, politics they also know that God, the Catholic, God exists but want to deny it because they don't want to hear what Jesus said so their is no exuse for your sins. We catholic know this thats why we say this, its not because you can't believe. To anyone read the catholic Bible written by God thru his followers which God, the Catholic God, has made sure it will stay perserved and unforged.
    The two last popes aren't doing what Jesus told them to do. If they are not do what God told them unintentionally than God has a punishment for them or anyone else corrupt in the Catholic Church.
    To all who disobey and sin God says "Vegeance is mine and mine alone" only a specific day will he punish each person until they repent but the stubborn will suffer not only in this world by the next eternal hell.
    Thru natural disasters, diseases, famine, your enemies, war, etc.. he will punish everyone.

    In this so called present his enemies think they have prevailed against God with their sins but God for the time being has let this occur for their are times in the world when the harvest is left alone but when the harvest is full he shall say to his angles the harvest is full pick the harvest and pull the weeds and throw the weeds into the fire. The angel had previously asked master why don't I seperate the weeds to throw them into the fire from the harvest. God said if you do it know you might pull the good wheat along withe weeds. Meaning their will be some that come to believe and repent the rest will be thrown in the fire.

    Turst a devoted catholic church and devoted priests who are their to guide you esp. to give confessions and communion to liberate you from sin and give you God's grace. "The Lamb and the bride which is the church, say come let the hearer come and from you shall pour living bodies of water. I'm knocking at the door of your heart. If anyone listens he will let me in and I will dine with him."
    "I the lord God do not change".

    December 1, 2010 at 4:07 pm |
    • ijreilly

      You should apologize to anyone who can read for butchering the English language so badly.

      December 1, 2010 at 4:16 pm |
  18. mark

    According to science, only life creates life, intelligence creates intelligence, sentient thought processes create sentient thought processes. Always and without exception.

    The atheist holds the opposite view in each case.

    Indeed, the atheist is a person of faith - faith in the impossible. Like random errors (mutations) in dinosaur DNA transforming its descendents into human beings. Um yeah, just as random mutations in Komodo dragon DNA might transform its descdents into intelligent bipedal Na'vi.

    December 1, 2010 at 4:07 pm |
    • Tom

      "According to science, only life can create life"

      name me one scientific theory or even one peer reviewed scientific paper tthat says this

      December 1, 2010 at 4:36 pm |
  19. John

    T'is the season! To make Jewish bankers and atheistic Communists filthy rich by running up your credit cards while buying loads of cheap Chinese crap!

    December 1, 2010 at 4:06 pm |
  20. Sampada

    Read Vivekananda's Complete Works. You will know who is God.

    December 1, 2010 at 4:06 pm |
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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.