Journal

Dispatches From the War Over Christmas

Outdoor advertising moguls love a good pissing match between Catholics and atheists. (Photo: David C. Clark)

It wouldn’t be Christmas without a war between true believers and nonbelievers. This year, the American Atheists fired the first shot, dropping $20,000 to rent a 14-by-48-foot billboard on I-495 in New Jersey, en route to the Lincoln Tunnel, with the following message: “You KNOW it’s a myth. This season, celebrate reason!”

David Silverman, president of American Atheists, told the New York Times that the billboard serves two purposes: “The first was to get the many people who do not actually believe in God but practice religious rituals to ‘come out,’ in his words.” Second, he said, the billboard takes a stand against preemptive strikes on atheism: “Every year, atheists get blamed for having a war on Christmas, even if we don’t do anything,” he said. “This year, we decided to give the religious right a taste of what war on Christmas looks like.”

As planned, American Atheists’ billboard raised the ire of true believers, most notably the Catholic League, which struck back with a billboard of its own on the New York side of the Lincoln Tunnel: “You know it’s real. This season, celebrate Jesus.” And, not surprisingly, they also issued a statement: “Our approach is positive, and services the common good. Theirs is negative, and is designed to sow division. It’s what they do…So after Christian motorists have had their sensibilities assaulted as they exit New Jersey, they will experience a sense of joy, and satisfaction, as they enter New York City.”

American Atheists president David Silverman found the League’s billboard amusing, as he told NorthJersey.com: “They stole our scene and copied what we’re doing, and that’s fine. Once again, the Catholic Church is co-opting something that isn’t theirs, just like they did to Christmas. It’s a great analogy, and I love it.”

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