Tuesday, November 30, 2010

New Atheist Billboard

Rt. 495 @ Kennedy Bvd (on the NJ side of the Lincoln Tunnel). November 27th.

The American Atheists website claims that:

The purpose of the billboard is threefold:
1) To address those atheists who “go along to get along”, and to encourage
them to come out of their closets
2) To attack the myth that Christianity owns the solstice season
3) To raise the awareness of the organization and the movement.

Predictably, the Christian reaction was swift and indignant. The Catholic League placed a billboard on the New York side of the tunnel on Novebmer 29th. Stating "You know it's real"

League President Bill Donohue announced a campaign in reaction to the American Atheist billboard. The league has sent "Hold Family Nativity Scene" creches to the 50 US governors along with a letter requesting that the creches be displayed in the capital rotundas.

American Atheists President David Silverman: "The fact that the League is paying for the crèches does not automatically make them constitutional. The governors will also have to welcome in a variety of secular displays -- and American Atheists feels that it is appropriate that they also have the opportunity to include something from Atheists and other non-believers."

OK, who is bored already? Anyone? I have been a non-believer for about 14 years now and I considered the Nativity story to be a myth long before that. When I was a Christian, I would have looked at the atheist billboard, chuckled, and went about my business. I would never have called it a "war on Christmas" or any other kind of war. It is simply a display of (unpopular) ideas. This is America and we have a few documents that protect that sort of thing. The Catholic Charities tactic of throwing money at the problem exposes their fear that they are loosing this struggle with reason. Maybe they are.

The American Atheist campaign does not accomplish they're stated goals either. Other than raising awareness, this sign does not attack the myth that Christianity owns the solstice season or encourage closet atheists to come out. I don't believe that it conveys the ideologies of atheists. It pokes the bear with a stick. It perpetuates the concept that atheists are smug and rude. Also, it does not account for the "Cultural Christians" who celebrate the holiday the same way most of us just celebrated Thanksgiving without a thought for the betrayal of the Indians. Sure we KNOW its a myth. I don't know a single closet atheist who plans to come out to their family over Christmas dinner. That's a tall order for a billboard, but these things do not occur in a vacuum.

I'll admit that I get a little satisfaction from the Christian outcry when their beliefs are openly questioned. It begs the question: If you had the market cornered on reality, why so serious?

As an atheist, I am not the least offended by religious iconography when the myth is the source of the holiday that also promotes goodwill. The term "Happy Holidays" was not our idea, but it is verbally economical since there are several holidays this time of year.
Really, who cares if faith is a crutch. Can't we all just relax and eat a candy cane?


Steve said...

Personally I want to poke the bear with the stick.

I appreciate the "You KNOW it's a Myth" campaign since I would hope that closeted atheists are at least beginning to think about becoming more open and active. They are out there and think they have no power. You don't have to sit at the Xmas table with friends and family and start banging the table while screaming "YOUR BELIEFS ARE A HALLUCINATION!" I actually like my family so I generally don't want to be that much of a dick. I try to be more subtle in my subversive way. It tends to work better.

We do need to poke the large dangerous animal that we share the cage with when that animal is a threat. Otherwise what is the point of this site?

BTW: I put up Xmas lights last night. They're pretty.

Adam said...

Maybe I should hae said "throwing a rock at a tank."
Or, how about "shooting Goliath with a sling-shot."

I just think that the entire argument over the holiday is tiresome.

BTW: there is an angel on top of my Xmas tree. My kid likes it.

Steve said...

David beat Goliath. TRUE STORY!

You should print our your Angelic Mythology post and read it to him Xmas eve before bed.

Unknown said...

We're putting up a Festivus pole this year.

Bill Donohue did have one good point in his article; that we shouldn't limit criticism to Christianity. Next Ramadan there should be big billboards proclaiming, "Eat, Drink and be reasonable."

Steve said...

That's...that's actually a really good idea!

"Eat, Drink and be reasonable."

Steve said...

PZ Myers' response to the sign as a "dick move." I agree with PZ. http://tinyurl.com/25wnv9d