The group American Atheists is once again campaigning to keep people out of the pews on Christmas.
After featuring an image of Santa on their billboards last year, urging passers-by to “Go ahead and skip church! Just be good for goodness’ sake,” American Atheists is doubling down.
This year, the group has debuted not one, but two signs, which will be up for the entire month of December in cities such as Colorado Springs, Colo., Lynchburg, Va. and Shreveport, La. The group has even been so kind as to provide a map of their billboard’s locations (see below).
The first and more widespread billboard depicts a young girl texting a friend there’s “no way” she’s going to church this Christmas because she doesn’t “believe that stuff anymore.” And her parents? They’ll just have to “get over it.” Charming young lady.
The second billboard takes its play right out of Donald Trump’s signature campaign hat — or, one could say, right off of it. “Make Christmas Great Again,” the sign declares, “Skip Church!”
American Atheists announced the billboards last Thursday in a post on their website.
“In what has become an annual holiday tradition, American Atheists launched two billboards nationwide urging viewers to celebrate an ‘atheist Christmas’ by skipping church,” the release said.
Following the announcement, the group took to social media to share coverage of their billboards as well as to counter their critics.
“‘Anti-Christian?’ Nah,” the group tweeted in one response to a Fox News video. “Anti-church, anti-being-forced-to-do-things-you-don’t-believe, maybe. We’re happy to discuss.”
This journalist could live under a rock, but I’ve never heard of someone being forced to attend a church service before. On the contrary, I’ve come across many a parent who have regretfully informed me that their son or daughter had decided not to come to church — usually with a prayer request attached. But never “forced.”
No Belief in God? No Consistency of Message Either
Also, a quick scroll down the Twitter page finds this tweet from just last week, in response to Donald Trump tapping Rep. Tom Price, Ga.-R, for Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.
“Price is a co-sponsor of the disastrous ‘First Amendment Defense Act’ that lets people break civil rights laws they think their god apposes (sic),” along with the follow up tweet, “The re-definition of ‘religious liberty’ by people like Price has eroded the rights of women, LGBT people, and all Americans. We must fight.” That doesn’t sound very “anti-being-forced-to-do-things-you-don’t-believe” to me.
In another response to the same Fox News clip, American Atheists said, “Also: ‘War on Christmas?’ We’re literally saying that it’s fine to celebrate Xmas w/out the religious stuff. Not sure how that’s a ‘war.’” This tweet came after the group’s original billboard announcement on Twitter, which was gleefully accompanied with “#WarOnChristmas”.
— American Atheists (@AmericanAtheist) December 1, 2016
The ChristianExaminer, in their report of the billboards, called American Atheists out on their misleading use of a statistic in the billboard announcement.
According to the announcement,
A recent survey from the Public Religion Research Institute shows that a quarter of Americans and almost 40% of young people are atheist or non-religious. This billboard campaign is specifically aimed at that growing population, especially those who no longer believe but still occasionally attend religious services or call themselves religious despite their lack of belief.
“Presumably, they believe a good number of that group is atheist. But they aren’t telling the whole story,” the ChristianExaminer writes.
The “nones” are comprised of those disenchanted with religion, those apathetic to it, and those who are “unattached” to a denomination or church. Among the apathetic and unattached, a significant number still claim to believe in God. The number of true atheists still hovers around 11 percent of the U.S. population.
The American Atheists billboards came right as the Freedom From Religion Foundation released their own December activism plan, dubbed “Heathens’ Greetings — FFRF’s Winter Solstice Survival Guide.” In the release, the FFRF announced the beginning of its “annual “War on State/Church Separation” and called for activists to “create a little controversy” — possibly with the group’s Bill of Rights “Nativity” displays. (For more from the author of “‘Make Christmas Great Again. Skip Church!’ Says New Atheist Billboard” please click HERE)