Religious Conservatives Freak Out Over Atheist Christmas Billboard

A billboard paid for by the American Atheists organization in Memphis, TN. (Source: WMC Action News 5)

A billboard paid for by the American Atheists organization in Memphis, TN.
(Source: WMC Action News 5)

It’s that time of the year again when all of the whining about the War On Christmas from religious conservatives and the pundits who cater to them starts. Right on cue, before the turkey has even cooled on Thanksgiving and people trample each other for toasters and TV sets, the usual suspects begin the usual kvetching about how their religious holiday is under attack.

So what’s the hullabaloo about in 2014? What evil, dastardly plot by President Obama and his horde of Muslim, atheist, Communist, fascist followers was cooked up this time around? Perhaps he finally got around to issuing an executive order that removes Christmas as well as all other religious holidays from the federal calendar? Maybe a horde of gay atheists took over the Salvation Army and now the bell ringers are absolutely fabulous gay couples and threatening the sanctity of Christian marriages everywhere?

Nope, this time they’re upset about billboards put up by the American Atheists organization in Memphis, Nashville, Milwaukee, St. Louis and Arkansas. Judging by the outrage from self-identifying Christians on social media, you’d think that these billboards depicted Jesus in a gay pride parade or perhaps just outright mocking Christians in general. So what could be on the billboard that would have these wonderfully tolerant followers of Jesus all up in arms and ready to do battle against the dark forces of atheism that are infringing upon their holiday that was co-opted from a pagan festival? Just a little girl writing a letter to Santa Claus that says, “Dear Santa, all I want for Christmas is to skip church. I’m too old for fairy tales.”

The reaction from the Catholic Diocese of Memphis has been relatively positive and actually respects the right of the American Atheists organization to put up a billboard, even if it is near their churches or schools. After all, if you really and truly have faith in something, someone having a belief that is different than your own shouldn’t be a threat – and kudos to the Catholic Diocese of Memphis for getting that right.

“We live in a pluralistic society and I’m grateful that we have freedom of expression,” said Suzanne Aviles, a spokesperson for the Catholic Diocese of Memphis.

Aviles says that same freedom given to American Atheists is awarded to Christians who freely worship. But she says she doesn’t mind the billboard or the discussion it begins.

“I think the discussion is wonderful. My one objection to this billboard is the use of a child. That if we’re going to have an adult conversation, it’s almost inappropriate to bring children in as the visual message,” said Aviles. (Source)

Unfortunately, the reasonable people are being drowned out by the intolerant ones in my skimming of social media. On the Facebook page for WVUE Fox 8 New Orleans, I found the following comments which I have transcribed with all spelling and grammar errors intact:

“Well, I don’t think it is cute or funny !!! As a matter of fact it offends me. My God is and an awesome God, I am so thankful for his love and care for me… Also I have several friends that this offends too! It needs to be taken down!”

“I refuse to like this post. Satin is alive and well and we as a nation need to stand up for Christianity. I agree with Jonah where is our freedom of speech?”

“well obamacare got rede of freedom of religion and the 5th.”

“I will go help u burn it down Olivia Weeks! I showed this to Tommy the other day and we said the same thing you did… our religion is so “offensive” to them…. well their lack of it is offensive to me! What’s good for us is good for them!! The way I see it, everyone should be allowed to believe what they believe, and if someone else doesn’t like it, that’s fine, ur not being made participate! If I want to pray in public… I will! If u don’t want to see it, look the other way… I have to turn the other cheek to things all the time, it’s call being ADULT”

These are just a few of the comments I found on just one local TV station’s Facebook page, and you could probably find just the same or worse on other pages throughout the country. Bear in mind that these are the same people who believe that prayer should brought back in schools, that there shouldn’t be any separation of church and state, and that atheists should just deal with their mistaken idea that the United States is a Christian nation. Freedom of expression? That’s lost on some of these folks who think the Bill of Rights only applies to white, heterosexual Christians.

As a person who was forced into religious services as a child and told I was going to suffer forever in Hell if I didn’t, a billboard like this would have been a glimmer of hope for me back then. Hopefully other kids who are dealing with the same doubts see these billboards and know that they aren’t alone. Please head over the Facebook page for American Atheists and let them know if you support their message. Please also consider contacting the Catholic Diocese of Memphis and thank them for their tolerance as well.


Facebook comments

  • raytheist

    Do they truly have no idea how offensive their own billboards are??

  • Keith

    I really doesn’t take much to freak out Fundamentalists, it is one of my favorite pass times.

  • DavidD

    What these Jesus Freaks want is to use the law to force their bigoted nonsense on the rest of us..
    I consider myself a person of faith and their smug self righteous bullshit is contrary to the techings of their founder.
    In a couple of generations the churches will be empty and they will only have themselves to blame.

    • athenap

      The church is already all but empty. the pews are just full of nonbelievers. Of course, as long as the money still rolls in…

    • Jeremy Allen

      The traditional Christian churches have falling attendance. Look at the non-denominational/evangelical mega-churches; those have lots of people filling the pews. Unfortunately, those same people are the ones who seem to be the least tolerant dissent.

  • Mimi

    Gee they use children in their messages all the time. “Look the other way?” Yeah You too!

  • Cyndi Phillips

    So the one comments says they want to burn the billboard down then says “everyone should be allowed to believe what they believe”. How ironic! How stupid! This is exactly what I’m fighting against, the uneducated.

  • Satin is alive and well…

    I love satin!

    • gil reyes

      I hadn’t noticed that typo(????) when I read it the 1st time.. Satin IS alive and well!!! I am laying on some sheets and pillow cases made out of the Fabric.. I am happy to here he is a Fan of Satin at least..

    • Benjamin Lieberman

      velvet is where it’s at.

      • rossbro

        No, velvet is where Elvis is at !

      • Rony Fachry

        Unless it’s blue, then you’ll find David Lynch

    • Brenda Smith

      I know what you meant. The truth is, freedom is still alive and well. Why would you have a problem with freedom of speech?

    • It’s so nice.

  • dz

    They say we are supposed to be accepting towards all people, which I 100% agree with. In what way is this not just mean towards christians? Basically making fun of them for their religion. I thought the whole point of this movement was to not make fun of people or treat them differently because of their race, religion or orientation. I just don’t understand why we are selectively accepting and selectively mean. If your going to be accepting and open, than be accepting and open. Its their right to post it, but don’t act like its not degrading towards a specific group of people based on their religion.

    • Jillz

      I agree with you. I would have liked to see a different message too but I still like the idea of such a billboard going up in the first place.

    • athenap

      It’s pointing out their own beliefs from a different perspective. Christians believe Odin and the Aesir are “fairy tales” and the Greek gods are “myths” while their god is real. The Atheists are just pointing out that, by their practices and beliefs, the Christian god is just as much of a “fairy tale” as Odin or Zeus.

      They don’t seem to be willing to mess with Santa, though… 😉

    • Jeremy Allen

      People who post these billboards aren’t the universally accepting types. This group is actually quite evangelical with their atheism. The irony of that always makes me smile.

  • jfo

    Call me crazy, but that billboard is extremely lame. That was the best they could come up with? I’d much rather have seen billboards that said “Jesus wasn’t born in December, but Saturnalia was…the true origins of Christmas” – it’s accurate, it’s informative and most importantly it calls into question the “fairy tale” of Jesus and GOD and the whole shebang, because if liberties were taken with when Jesus was born and thus a need for “celebrating his birth” – as Christmas supposedly is to most Christians, then it calls everything into question…and isn’t THAT the point? Or, was the point to just poke a stick at Christians by using a picture of a child who’s “bored” with Church and it’s “Fairy Tales” but apparently isn’t quite yet too old to believe in Santa? i mean, talk about a confusing message.

    • Jillz

      I personally don’t like the message they used in the billboard either, but I absolutely love the fact that they put such a billboard up – Conservatives need to learn what “freedom of religion” actually means and this is a great way to do it.

      I hope the point wasn’t just to poke sticks at Christians – I would prefer to see a peaceful, non religious (particularly non-Christian) holiday message, or as you said, a message about the truthful origins of Christmas, but for the purposes of making a point, I like it!

      Thanks for the great post!

    • gil reyes

      Just to poke a Stick.. It gets them going good..

  • Mike Perkins

    Every society has made up myths and legends to explain the origins of the world. What makes one any more “true” than any other? “Hi, we’re missionaries. We’ve decided that your religion is wrong, and ours is right, so we’re going to destroy your culture and “save” you.

  • Jennifer King

    If Jesus was alive today and had a Facebook page, you think Judas would report it as spam?

    • Gord S.

      Judas actually loved Christ and and would have liked the page and shared it . Judas is much maligned !

      • athenap

        But you can bet that most of the so-called “good Christians” would have reported it. For one thing, he would have friended a hooker, a couple of crooks, some tax collectors, annoyed the elders of his (Jewish) temple, and posted memes and/or selfies of him kicking out bankers from the temple steps. If Jesus were alive today and had a facebook page, he’d have been blocked by a whole buncha “good Christians” in the first five minutes!

      • Jennifer King

        And you have a very good point as well! I love that point too! 😀

      • Jennifer King

        You have a very good point. I’m just tired of this argument and wanted to throw something random out there. Good call though 😉

  • Gord S.

    what is needed is to put the Christ back in christian!

  • surfjac

    Comments like the ones above must be coming from America-haters who not even aware of the rights they enjoy.

  • JRocky

    The whole concept of jesus is truly stupid. those who believe it are moreso

  • Jim Bean

    When you put a message on a billboard you are creating a display intended to reach an audience that is on public property – the highway.

    So how is that different from putting a nativity scene on public property?

    • Pipercat

      The billboard is private property.

      • Jim Bean

        But nothing is done to prevent the public from seeing it. Shouldn’t sideboards be put on it to make sure only those on the private property can see it?

        When atheists object to a nativity set on public property they are not trying to protect the public property, they are trying to prevent the public from being exposed to it. Hell, they make no bones about flat out telling you that. And yet here, they engage in the same sin (small ‘s’) that they claim to be morally opposed to.

      • Gary Menten

        Okay Jim,
        Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Start by removing ALL the church billboards praising Jesus (or whomever) that are visible from public roads and highways. Trust me…there are a lot more of those around. Knock yourself out.

      • Jim Bean

        I’m content to let atheists and religious people alike display their messages anywhere they want whether it be public land or private. After all, public land belongs to the public and the public includes both groups.

        My grievance lies with those (atheist and religious alike) who would apply one standard to others while exempting themselves from it.

      • Gary Menten

        Unfortunately the Supreme Court doesn’t quite agree with you on that point. It’s not a question of public land belonging to everyone, it’s a question of government not being allowed to promote one religion over the other or religion over non-religion. There isn’t anything anyone can do about what is put on private property that is visible to the public.

        I do think however that sometimes people go a bit overboard with their complaints about temporary displays like nativity scenes etc. which don’t especially bother me, regardless of where they are. I don’t however live in the US, and my home city (Montreal) is built around a mountain (Mount Royal) which sports a huge, illuminated cross visible for many miles around. It’s not that this doesn’t irritate some people around here, but frankly, I have much more important things to worry about. The culture war, as it exists in the US, is almost a non-issue in Canada.

      • Pipercat

        The billboard’s function is to advertise. Preventing the public, or a portion thereof, to view would be a contradiction. The difference between a billboard and a say a courthouse’s grounds is a matter of function. The billboard is an engine of commerce; the courthouse grounds are there for aesthetic and functional reasons.

  • red7eric

    I’m an atheist, and I won’t be going to church on Christmas either. And, that billboard *does* mock anyone who is religious or does worship a deity. It’s silly to be offended by the fact that religious people were offended by the billboard, as it was clearly designed to make fun of people and therefore piss them off.

    As a non-believer, I want to be respected as a citizen who is capable of just as much moral character as a churchgoer, and (more importantly) the freedom to lead the secular life I choose, unencumbered by religious practice. Any desire I have to poke Christians in the eye is ultimately not helpful.

    • Gary Menten

      Correct, however free speech is covered under the 1st Amendment and that includes mocking other people’s beliefs. The other guys do it too.

  • Guest

    Personally I wouldn’t waste my money on something like that, but it does show that we at least have some freedom left. Regardless of what you believe as look as you express it in a peaceful way, you should be free to do so.

  • Brenda Smith

    Personally I wouldn’t waste my money on something like that, but it does show that we at least have some freedom left. Regardless of what you believe, as long as you express it in a peaceful way, you should be free to do so.

  • From the article:
    “I think the discussion is wonderful. My one objection to this billboard is the use of a child. That if we’re going to have an adult conversation, it’s almost inappropriate to bring children in as the visual message,” said Aviles

    Except, they indoctrinate children into religion, so it is absolutely relevant.

  • Gary Menten

    Faith does not require a billboard, I think. People either have it or they don’t. I don’t. No billboard saying “Jesus Saves” or any other message will make a believer out of me. The same goes I suppose, for the other side. No billboard promoting non-religion will convince a true believer. So at best, people put them up to make themselves feel better.

    It would be a better use of our time and money I think, to dedicate ourselves to interesting young people in the sciences than trying to ridicule the beliefs of adults who won’t be converted at any rate.

  • rossbro

    The religious nuts are the worst. Disagree with their ideas, and they wanna kill you.