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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. Justahuman

    Seriously? I have to say something about this crap. First of all, why does this atheist organization feel a need to poo all over someone's beliefs at such a jolly (normally) time which holds a lot of "magic" for many, and with a billboard? C'mon....show respect. And why do so many religious people feel that they need to convert those who don't believe?

    Proof? Proof is in your heart.....and it's best to keep it there. You don't have to change others, to believe or not to believe. It is actually no one's duty to do so. And it's rather annoying to those of us who don't care how you, you or you believe or don't believe, and we just want to enjoy the traditions in our own happy ways.

    If people would learn respect for each other, THIS discussion wouldn't exist. Furthermore, this whole god thing to "make people behave" or whatever gets on my last nerve. Yes, that is why many do believe. But there is also this aspect of human nature called simply caring about others. I don't have to believe in a god and a heaven and hell to want to treat people with respect. I don't have to believe I will burn in some hell if I do something bad....all I have to know is that in the here and now, I respect other humans and THAT is what keeps me on the straight and narrow.

    Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Joyful winter solstice, Happy Holidays, etc. etc. etc. to ya'll.

    December 21, 2010 at 2:42 pm |
  2. Blessed Geek

    I am starting to believe that the anti-christmas movement was actually a liberal christian conspiracy.

    I remember a time when fundamentalist christians were burning harry potters and preaching against christmas as a paganistic practice. Liberal christians must have posed as atheists and started this anti-christmas campaign. Now they have the rock music loving pro-capitalism neo-fundamentalists solidly on the pro-christmas side, liberal christians can now comfortably sit back and enjoy christmas and harry potter without being accused of being irrelevant to their religion.

    December 18, 2010 at 5:26 pm |
  3. i feel smart in a dumb world

    how sad atheist aren't even smart enough to do their own research to prove that at least Jesus( and i know his true name is Yeshua ) exist. i bet u sad people could found out, if u took the time out of you pointless lives to check, that there is a %100 proof that he did exist, and if there is proof Christ exist then why?? marinate on that all of you illiterate incompetent ignorant sad sad people.

    December 16, 2010 at 2:42 pm |
  4. Caracticus

    Well, FAITH, there's the problem... that gibberish in the bible was just made up by "some guy" to keep the peasants behaving in a manner that whomever wrote it thought was a good way to behave... some of those guys were wise, yes, and there are benefits to following some of the 'guidelines' set forth in the Bible... but it's a circular argument to use the Bible as a reason to have faith, because you have to first BELIEVE in the deity, THEN believe that the deity inspired the writings, THEN you can take the writings as 'truth'... I'm two steps back, not believing in the deity at all (Yay, Atheists! with a Capital A!) so instead of quoting the bible, you might as well quote the back of a NyQuil bottle for all the good it will do me (sure, it probably makes YOU feel GREAT quoting bible verses, but for me? It's just noise.)

    December 14, 2010 at 11:03 pm |
  5. Bruce

    REASON cannot be defined without BELIEF. Bottom line, atheist have to connect their Christmas lights with the wires of belief. They are considered a religion even if they are their own god. That's not being different that just being like everyone else who wants a Christiless lifestyle while enjoying the presents of Christmas. Hypocrites!

    December 13, 2010 at 3:08 pm |
  6. NEONwhip

    hahaha more bible verses and NO logic. oh hey, you christians didn't do a good job "fighting" back your ad. Start replacing your reindeer, personalized snowmen, and santa to replace with HAYZEUS instead.

    December 11, 2010 at 4:23 pm |
  7. yankeedoc

    There is a Heavenly Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, and Holy Ghost. If you don't believe it read his Holy Words from the Bible. Don't you know God can take your life right now and you would end up in hell! Haven't you unbelievers ever heard of evidence where someone survives a terrible tragedy when the person should have been killed! Who do you think was responsible for that. Certainly not the Devil!!

    December 11, 2010 at 3:08 pm |
  8. Linda

    just a typo, SANTA=SATAN Celebrate yourself, not some fake god.

    Hail Satan!

    December 9, 2010 at 4:54 pm |
  9. P. Lee

    Throughout history, there is NO PROOFS that God exists. Yes, there are historical proofs that Jesus, a historical figure, like Buddha, also a historical figure did exist. That’s a huge difference in saying that just because Jesus existed, therefore God must also exist because all of these events really did happen because Paul or David confirm so and so w/ some out of this world stories!

    December 7, 2010 at 11:05 am |
  10. Beltane

    This sign is "antagonistic" apparently... interesting, considering what Christianity/the Bible say about others who believe in different gods.

    I think it's about time people actually do some research as to the other religions that predated Christianity that have the same stories... Maybe research why the birth of Jesus is celebrated this time of year...coincidentally on the solstice when all other pagan religions celebrate the "rebirth" of the "Sun of God".

    I can't get over home some people turn to Bible passages...when so much of it is obvious myth and allegory. My brother in-law actually thinks dinosaurs were put here to test our faith...and that there is no proof that carbon dating is anywhere close to accurate. Wake up people...

    December 7, 2010 at 10:27 am |
  11. s russell

    roman catholic took the pagans and tried to convert them from their evil ways. jesus of the bible. does not have anything to do with winter festival that took place around this time. jesus was born in a stable and has been proven. however Shepherds did see the star. but whats wrong about the birth of the bible jesus is he was not born during the winter he was born during nice weather sheep did not stay in the fields at night in the winter. the god mirtha was born dec 25. so leave my jesus out of this whole thing. suger coated I am a Christian and stongly advice other christians to do the research yourself. I did and glade I did. few know this many people do and don't care. I do. blessed be your name lord jesus and should not be abused in this manner. thats the truth.

    December 4, 2010 at 9:27 am |
  12. Susan

    I am laughing at these silly comments. Thank you all for proving prophecy is indeed real.

    December 4, 2010 at 8:17 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Please provide a few specific and concrete examples to clarify and support your claim that prophecy is real. Someone else (Kara?) claimed in this blog something like there are 2000+ fulfilled prophecies in the bible, but has not yet replied to a request to list them. I'm sure she(?) is busy compiling an exhaustive list, else would have replied by now. Please do not go to similar lengths – 3 to 5 crystal clear examples should suffice. Thanks in advance.

      December 4, 2010 at 9:14 am |
  13. Ariel

    I don't see why it's such a problem. If you know it's real, then you're a lost cause anyway. Religious people need to stop being so sore and getting offended at the drop of a hat. This is to reach out to people who question their faith, not to antagonize, and if you are offended by the sign, well, quite frankly, you're a tool. I don't get offended when I see a Christmas tree or a church because they conflict with my beliefs. No, Bill Donahue, it's time you learned to play nice with atheists rather than call their cause "antagonistic."

    December 4, 2010 at 12:43 am |
  14. ciao2u

    The fact that atheists exist, prove to me their is a God, why else would anyone pursue a dead end? So, there must be something to it, because they live atheism as a religion and hate Christians. If I don't believe in aliens from outerspace, I don't identify myself as a anti-alienist and bust a vein in my neck to try to prove they don't exist. Not to mention having hatred for aliens. Come on. Get real. God is real, atheists prove it by their very existence.

    December 4, 2010 at 12:19 am |
    • Yeah

      When/if 'alienists' start to want to run non-believers' countries and their lives, you will hear from them plenty.

      The idea of "God" is real. Period.

      December 4, 2010 at 12:36 am |
  15. ChristiansResigning

    If God really exists, then he should be detained.

    God has admitted to planning mass murder around the globe by killing every single man, woman, and child on earth on judgment day. God is not as good as christians think he really is. What kind of God would plan to murder and kill billions of people around the world including the annihilation of every plant and animal on the planet and declare the event "judgment day"?!

    God has committed these crimes in the past during the time of Noah. God killed EVERY man, woman, child and creature on earth with the exception of Noah and anything that could fit in his ark. And now God plans to repeat the insane massive murder spree across the globe during judgment day!

    God must be stopped from committing such evil atrocities and crime on a global scale against mankind! God is mankind's enemy.

    December 3, 2010 at 7:36 pm |
  16. ChristiansAgainstGod

    If you believe in the bible and believe in God, perhaps you should steer away from loving this God. This God plans to destroy you, your family, and your children, including every mankind and animal in this world on judgement day. Go ask your minister or preacher to confirm this awful plan from God.

    You must protect yourself, your family, and your children from this God of evil who wants to wipe us all out instantly! God's strategies is no different than the way invaders conquer and pillage villages; kill most of the inhabitants and give the remaining a judgment and an opportunity to join their army (heaven) or die (hell).

    Or better yet, don't believe in the Bible just as Albert Einstein, the greatest and smartest scientist and philosopher in our world history, would tell you. The bible was simply written by man 2000 years ago who had no clue how to cover all of the loose ends in their made-up stories for you to believe and follow. Don't be scammed by religion.

    December 3, 2010 at 5:39 pm |
  17. Andrea

    This is such a stupid argument. All those who refuse to believe in God, just go on about your business not believing, and don't try to shove your disbelief down people's throats. All those who do believe in God read your bibles, pay attention to the love and kindness that is being taught in it, and stop trying to shove hell and damnation down non-believer's throats. Get a grip people, just because you argue over something doesn't make anyone right.

    December 3, 2010 at 4:54 pm |
  18. Paul

    you say that their is know Christ, Jehovah,God,or Jesus because there is no fact. For me the fact i need is in the Bible. the other question we should be asking is their any physical fact of evolution,Big Bang,macro evolution, or the just "Pop" idea. once you question my beliefs and the beliefs of many Americans, then you should also question some of the ideas or beliefs of the "Religion" of atheists for it takes more faith to believe all those other explanations then what Christan 's believe. use some real science and start questioning the what "faith" you have. also go to Back to Bethlehem at Los angles, Rocky Peak Church and see what did happen on Christmas day.

    December 3, 2010 at 1:05 pm |
  19. true beliver

    Would the real belivers please stand up! because all i read on here is a bunch of foolishness.....i mean honestly we see miracles every single day and you claim you dont believe in God.. i know without a doubt in my mind there is a God he woke me up this morning and started me on my way and was with me protecting me as i rode to work. All you ppl that claim you dont believe in God would be the first to drop to your knees and pray if your child or spouse got sick. And oh yea, DO NOT DISRESPECT THE HOLYSPIRIT THAT AINT NO JOKE. > just so you know im not on here trying to persway anybody to believe in christ because i beliveve we all choose by ourselves where to spend eternity <

    December 3, 2010 at 12:48 pm |
  20. Veronica Brutosky

    Have you read Bill Weise's testimony in his book 23 minutes in hell?
    Do you know about Sister Josefa Menendez's experiences in the book Way of Divine Love?
    Do you know about Sister Faustina and the chaplet of mercy?
    I invite you to investigate these three people.

    December 3, 2010 at 12:23 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.