You Know It’s a Myth

American Atheists is finally putting up their first billboard, and this one’s pretty blunt compared to the happy Humanistic ones we’re used to seeing:

The billboard will go up near the Lincoln Tunnel in New York City on November 23rd and it’ll stay there for a month.

Dave Silverman, President of American Atheists, said that the billboard will target people who “go through the motions” of celebrating the holiday but don’t believe in the Christ myth.

“Many people follow religions and observe rituals in which they do not believe,” said Mr. Silverman. “They go along to get along, which simply leads to more prejudice and bigotry. Closeted atheists hurt themselves and others like them by remaining silent about what they know to be true.”

Silverman added, “None of the traditional Christmas seasonal practices originate with Christianity. What we call Christmas has its origins in secular events like the Winter Solstice and the change of seasons, as well as Pagan holidays like Yule. This season was celebrated long before Christianity usurped it.”

The obvious question is: How effective will this campaign be?

Will it get attention? Absolutely.

Will it get positive attention? Not so much.

Will it change anyone’s mind? Doubtful.

Even if a closeted atheist “knows” it’s all a myth, how exactly would one “celebrate reason”? You all know I’m not a closeted atheist, but even I’m not sure how to do that. The meaning isn’t clear.

Not only that, even if people agree that the Nativity story is a myth, I don’t think anyone wants to change how they celebrate the holidays. Does celebrating reason involve giving up trees? Presents? Telling children about Santa Claus?

Good luck with that.

Dave Silverman can say the targets are closeted atheists, but it’s pretty clear that this is about getting the attention of Christians and letting the billboard pay for itself through all the media attention it’ll create.

I suppose he can’t say that out loud — and I don’t blame him — but I wonder if this type of billboard could be more effective with a slightly different message.

Any suggestions?

  • mkb

    While my first reaction to the billboard was negative, I’ll have to admit that the final straw for me as a former Christian was sitting in a Christmas Eve service where everyone was acting as if the nativity story was true when I assumed that at least a third of the congregation knew it was bunk. I walked out before the end of the service and have not been back. Maybe this billboard will prompt others to have a similar reaction.

  • gsw

    As an outspoken Atheist, I have no problem with the message, I just don’t think it will do any good.
    We all enjoy a celebration in the middle of winter and the ‘Birth of the Sun’ is as good an excuse as any.
    I think putting a tree, a yule log and maybe a Hanukkah candelabra into the picture as well would have made this message more potent – on the lines of:
    Whatever your myth, it is a time for good will

    Is that Mo on the middle camel?

  • Zac

    But I like Christmas!

  • http://www.stumpanatheist.com Rev. Ryan Benson

    I agree, Hemant. I’m going through the Rolodex of friends and family in my head, and I can’t think of one person this wouldn’t piss off, or at least annoy.

    If we want to be effective, we have to incorporate ourselves and our beliefs into the popular culture, we can’t try creating our own (Kind of like the pagan characteristics adopted by the early Christians)

    Ideal sign, in my opinion: “We may not believe he is the Son of God, but we can celebrate what he stood for: Merry Christmas everyone.”

    I know, Blasphemous!

  • http://pinkydead.blogspot.com David McNerney

    people who “go through the motions” of celebrating the holiday but don’t believe in the Christ myth

    Isn’t that most of us?

  • sean

    The message is a little on the pointless side to me. It will antagonize the sheeple and little-else. Another missed opportunity i think.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    Surely Christians accept that the nativity is a myth anyway. A myth is a traditional story that explains part of a world view of a group of people. It isn’t necessarily pejorative to say that something is a myth. I mean George Washington and the cherry tree is a myth but that doesn’t change the point of the story.

  • http://bella1104.blogspot.com Bella

    I still celebrate Christmas. A secular, materialistic Christmas, like most Christians do as well ;)

  • ACN

    Ideal sign, in my opinion: “We may not believe he is the Son of God, but we can celebrate what he stood for: Merry Christmas everyone.”

    I’d be on the fence about this one. I don’t really want to celebrate his standing for vicarious redemption of sins, because I don’t think it’s in anyway worth of celebration.

    I’m happy to celebrate being with my family, hoping for peace, exchanging gifts with my closest loved ones to let them know that I’m thinking of them, and eating delicious pie. In other words, the “secular” meaning of christmas that christians are often trying to remind me isn’t the true “reason for the season”.

    I like gsw’s idea:

    Whatever your myth, it is a time for good will.

    Something like that is a fine message from the AA.

  • http://inquiry-blasphemy-and-magic-missiles.blogspot.com/ Jeff

    I have some ideas actually.

    -Educate people about important people in science history
    -Visit a Museum or Zoo rather than a church
    -Gift giving can stay (but maybe give educational gifts?)
    -Donate some money to an international non-profit organization like kiva or a science research group
    -Instead of a fancy meal, donate the food you would have eaten in canned form to a local food pantry
    -Don’t bash religion, its not an anti-religious holiday, its a pro-reason holiday.

    I’ve posted it on my blog, if anybody has any ideas to add or change let me know, I think we should try to make this happen!
    http://inquiry-blasphemy-and-magic-missiles.blogspot.com/2010/11/celebrating-reason.html

  • Denis Robert

    I don’t agree, Hemant. What you are advocating is the Democratic Party strategy: be nice, and pray everything falls into place to your advantage. It doesn’t work.

    The Tea Party has proved one thing: even if an idea is utterly repugnant, repeat it often enough and it WILL become mainstream. That’s why the Four Horsemen have been so successful in mainstreaming Atheism the last few years.

    People don’t respect people who don’t stand up for what they believe. I think AA is making a stand here, and the message will ultimately resonate. We don’t have to be dicks; but stating clearly and honestly what you think is true is not being a dick, unless the thing you believe is itself dickish, and I really don’t think not believing in God is inherently dickish, now is it?

  • Claudia

    There a million times when it makes good sense to be critical of a religious belief. Christmas is not one of them.

    No matter what an atheist billboard says, we will be accused of “attacking” the religious. Even then, it matters to me that we aren’t, or that when we are we do so for good reason. I don’t count Christmas as a good reason or a good time.

    I’m not great at catchphrases, but there must be a million ways to give a positive message that simultaneously reminds folks that most people celebrate Christmas as a secular holiday, even when they have pretenses of Christianity. I like Solstice and I think it should be a time of coming together with family and loved ones. I think we can leave aside the “you know you’re wrong, don’t you?” messages for once.

  • Oliver

    Not a big fan of it though from what i’ve seen from the past billboards some people are willing to go to great lengths to get offended to atheist billboards no matter what they say

  • Claudia

    I don’t really want to celebrate his standing for vicarious redemption of sins, because I don’t think it’s in anyway worth of celebration.

    The holiday that celebrates that is Easter, which is far less universal than solstice celebrations. The upshot is that what Christmas “means” in the minds of people has very little to do with the Bible at this point. Ask a dozen people what Chrstimas means to them and I’d be surprirsed if more than 2 or 3 mention “Christ coming to forgive out sins”. Far more likely is that you’d get “It’s a time of harmony, a time for family, food and gifts etc.”

  • h.c.

    Maybe : “If God had created GPS first, they wouldn’t have had to visit Herodes”.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    I think it is fine.
    Although, it probably will make baby Jesus cry.

    I probably would have said
    “This Season, celebrate FELLOWSHIP, FAMILY, and REASON”.

  • Lewin

    Something about the phrase “celebrate reason” rubs me the wrong way. I think by suggesting that celebrating reason is substitution for celebrating Jesus it plays into the atheism=another religion meme.

  • Andy C

    One more line would have changed the tone considerably.


    You KNOW it’s a Myth
    This Season, Celebrate REASON.
    See atheists.org for ideas.

    Gives exposure to the website instead of hiding the URL in the corner. Points to ideas for HOW to celebrate reason.

  • Phoebe

    I like the billboard. So many people put up and shut up, go along to get along–why should we have to do that? We know it’s a myth and most of us are too scared to say so because it makes the scary Christians angry.
    And I NEVER lied to my kids, never told them that the ridiculous Santa Claus story is true. Lying is lying. I hated being lied to as a kid, some of us can spot bullshit immediately and we despise being lied to by people who are supposed to love and care for us.
    I don’t like the materialism of Xmas either. Too much “stuff”!! Too much spending of money on a lot of crap.
    For me, the Winter Solstice is a time to spend time with family and have a good meal together.
    Anyways, Great billboard!

  • David

    I always thought that we had Christmas to celebrate my birthday.

  • http://thishollowearth.wordpress.com/ Victor

    I think the billboard might have a positive effect simply because it will get people to talk (hopefully). As far as I’m concerned, the first part of Christianity anyone should throw away is the birth story. It’s cobbled together from pieces of Mathew and Luke, that don’t even agree with each other, and both are absent in Mark, John, and all the epistles. Hopefully, once people actually talk amongst themselves they will realize that there is a variety of different beliefs even in the same family and the same church.

  • JohnFrost

    I celebrate Christmas because I know it’s a myth. Same reason we sing songs about Santa and Rudolph! It’s fun!

  • Samiimas

    Well I see we’ve gotten the usual whining about how putting up a billboard 1/10th as blunt as the ‘accept Jesus or burn in hell’ billboards I drive past every day is mean, antagonistic and wrong.

  • Alex

    I always liked Robert Ingersoll’s Agnostic Christmas. I’m thinking about using it to make a holiday card.

    “This is the festival of the sun-god, and as such let its observance be universal.

    This is the great day of the first religion, the mother of all religions — the worship of the sun.

    Sun worship is not only the first, but the most natural and most reasonable of all. And not only the most natural and the most reasonable, but by far the most poetic, the most beautiful.

    The sun is the god of benefits, of growth, of life, of warmth, of happiness, of joy. The sun is the all-seeing, the all-pitying, the all-loving.

    This bright God knew no hatred, no malice, never sought for revenge.

    All evil qualities were in the breast of the God of darkness, of shadow, of night. And so I say again, this is the festival of Light. This is the anniversary of the triumph of the Sun over the hosts of Darkness.

    Let us all hope for the triumph of Light — of Right and Reason — for the victory of Fact over Falsehood, of Science over Superstition.

    And so hoping, let us celebrate the venerable festival of the Sun. –”"

  • Caba

    Yeah, I like it. I’m on Samiimas’ bench.

  • John

    I say good for American Atheists. There needs to be an organization that doesn’t pull punches. A bold and even righteous tone in delivering an atheist message gives shelter to all the “polite” people to make converts. There was room for Malcolm X as well as Marty King in the civil rights movement. There is also room for “hard” atheists as well as “soft” humanists in the freethought movement.

  • billybee

    The truth; …sometimes it can really be a bitch.

  • http://ehtheist.blogspot.com The “Eh”theist

    It might be useful to have ministers as the target of the ad so that the question could be asked of them why they don’t level with their congregation and tell them the truth about the veracity of the Christmas story.

    With the exception of fundamentalists, most seminary trained ministers understand the lack of historical accuracy concerning the Christmas narrative in the Gospels and don’t consider the pop-culture version of the story to be true or accurate.

    By putting ministers on the spot and asking why a religion that claims truth as its main value allows people to go on believing falsehoods about its primary stories could have a much greater impact, especially if people show up at their church’s Christmas services asking the minister what the billboard means.

    Something like: “ASK your minister why seminary taught that the Christmas story was a MYTH.” or something like that.

  • http://everydayatheist.wordpress.com Everyday Atheist

    I’d like it better by simply changing it to “You know it’s a myth, right?” That would at least be recognizably cheeky. Using the declarative all caps frankly makes the intent a little confusing, and to my mind, more immediately invokes a defensive response. Plus I get so tired of religious people who KNOW things, just seeing that kind of puts me off.

  • http://www.bsu.edu/web/01bkswartz/xmaspub.html sc0tt

    JohnFrost says:

    I celebrate Christmas because I know it’s a myth. Same reason we sing songs about Santa and Rudolph! It’s fun!

    Correct! We’re not celebrating reason, we’re celebrating pretending.

    This season, celebrate pretending. But don’t kid yourself.

  • L

    It’s a bit antagonistic. There are probably less provocative ways of making the point, but I’m glad to see someone standing up to the farce.

    I love that the star is leading the ‘wise men’ to the ass.

  • SteveC

    Move that Overton window.

  • Alex

    They should have added “And the truth shall set you free”

  • Finbarr

    I love it! I think the message is aimed at ‘Christmas and Easter’ Christians who are pretty much de facto atheists in ordinary life. It is simple, to the point and slightly jarring, which is a good quality because it makes you do a double-take and then think about the message.

    As for Hemant’s criticism:

    I don’t think anyone wants to change how they celebrate the holidays. Does celebrating reason involve giving up trees? Presents? Telling children about Santa Claus?

    Where is this sign asking people to give up these things? Celebrations of light and life during the winter months pre-date Christianity, as do most of the ‘Christmas’ symbols such as the tree and the star. If we are celebrating reason, what could be more rational than celebrating a real, observable event such as the winter solstice for instance?

    Do you think there is something inherently ‘irrational’ about decorating one’s home, having family round and giving gifts to those you love? I must say, Hemant, you make reason sound very bleak if you think it involves giving up celebration.

  • muggle

    There is no way in hell that sign is going to get closeted Atheists to come out. Quite the opposite. It’s mean-spirited and designed to antagonize Christians. No one’s going to want to come out as one of the meanies after this stir’s up the controversary it’s gonna.

    Frankly, I’m a bit pissed at them. This makes me look mean. I’m defensive about it and I do know it’s a myth. How much more so are those who believe it’s literally true going to react? Thanks a lot, American Atheists, for “proving” the claim that we’re trying to outlaw Christmas. You just gave loads of ammo to the store clerks must say merry Christmas and not Happy Holidays crowd.

    Grrrr!!!!

    Yeah and I do celebrate secular Christmas and I think Santa Claus is the best damned lesson in freethought you can give a kid since they all invariably figure it out (by using their heads) before they reach the double digits.

    But got to say I do like Jeff P’s –which is very nice and all inclusive and still gets in a subtle message for freethinking — but not Rev. Ryan’s. I do not like what Jesus stood for. At all. Beating and whipping pharisees, dividing families, original scam artist and cult leader, forsake family and give all your riches to him. No, I do not like Jebus at all. And I cannot celebrate what he stood for. That one would probably piss me off even more than this one.

  • Alex

    For the past few years to battle the Xmas lights, I made a 6′ foot peace sign out of PVC pipe and wrapped it with Xmas lights. We always got positive comments from our neighbors and people that past by. I tried to get our local UU fellowship to erect one, but they thought it was too controversial.

  • Grimalkin

    Honestly, I’m all for it. Is it the message that I, personally, would put on a billboard? No. But it’s just one more piece of the giant puzzle that is getting atheism into mainstream discourse, and that is a positive (even if only a very long-term positive).

    I’m confused by your last bit, about celebrating reason meaning that we give up trees and presents. As Finbarr pointed out, there’s nothing irrational about either of these.

    In my family, we’ve given up Christmas (boohoo) because we’re atheists and it just didn’t make sense to be celebrating a religious holiday. Did we give up the tree? No. Did we give up the presents? No. We just moved both over to New Year’s. We still get to enjoy all the fun, secular traditions that have been grafted onto Christmas, without associating ourselves with Christianity (with the exception of my fondness for Christian kitch).

    The Santa Claus thing, I’m not so sure about. With our first kid on the way, we’re at the point now where we have to make a decision: To Santa or not to Santa? We’re both leaning towards “It’s fun, so let’s go through the motions while simultaneously being very clear that it’s just a make-believe game.” There’s nothing irrational about playing make-believe with children as long as it doesn’t cross that boundary into the territory of lies.

  • Ubi Dubium

    I’d like it better by simply changing it to “You know it’s a myth, right?”

    Everyday Atheist, I like that version better too. Questions are often better than blanket declarations.

    What’s the goal with billboards like this? I certainly prefer ones that open up a question for discussion, or remind people that not everybody shares their superstitions, or that remind people that nonbeleivers are still nice people. This one just comes across as a “poke in the eye”. It’ll stir up controversy, but I dont’ think it will accomplish much that’s positive.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    How about “Herod died in 4 BC” as a slogan?

  • Evelyn

    I am new to the site…I was intrigued by the title of being a friendly atheist.

    I look at this ad, and it reminds me of a key position I take on all things religion. The bill board, and “message” has the very same effect as any religious bill board does and that leads me to the idea that I see proclaimed atheists as the same as any other organized religion.

    The billboard is to send a message? that one thought over the other is right? Then with the outcome to perhaps sway people (indoctrinate?) others into the belief of atheism?

    I will add, that I do not subscribe to any organized religion. I do not believe in any being as God. That I lay all my beliefs in science for creation. But I do have beliefs, ones of cross breed of physicist meets neuroscience as the beginning and never ending idea, how we are all connected. I take this idea as moral structure as well, with silly statements I have of having all civil and social justice as the corner stone.

    But does that make me an Atheist? I have beliefs, and I feel that anyone who has beliefs isn’t, and don’t we all have beliefs?

    I am still intrigued in the blog though, so I will continue with the read…

  • NewEnglandBob

    I like it. Don’t be so negative about it and let it have its chance under the sun. I think it is a positive message.

  • dave

    I think this billboard, and all the other “atheist advertising” are, generally a good idea, and together they do one important thing: get people to think.

    Apart from bible-belt, fundie types, there seems to be a general belief/acceptance that religion is good, and belief in God is common/default.

    I say this, because I’ve noticed that when an atheist “comes out”, people seem to have the shocked response of, “Well… you HAVE to believe in SOMETHING!”. As if faith (belief without evidence) is a good thing. But people who hold this position:
    1) have simply not examined what “belief”, “faith”, “evidence”, etc. mean
    2) do not think critically
    3) are afraid of abandoning cherished beliefs

    The billboards may not help with 1 or 2, but they seem to make 3 less socially objectionable.

    I’m an atheist, and most of my family are non-practicing Christians. And we celebrate Christmas. And by this I mean, we get together, eat too much, exchange presents, etc. But for most of us, that’s it. And we do that, I think, mainly because we’re all able to get off from work, and we’ve been doing it forever. Inertia is a powerful thing!

    So… Yes, this billboard will piss some people off. And give Bill O’Reilly more fuel for his made-up “war on Christmas” fire. But getting people to think is a good start. And reasonable, friendly atheists like us can help spark conversations and guide them in positive directions.

  • frank

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. Yes “celebrate reason” is a little ambiguous, but so is “just be good for goodness sake.” If the point is to let fellow nontheists know that there is a movement out there, how is this any less effective at that than any of the other billboards? And if this signals that we can now be explicit about the fact that we think religion is false, rather than having to restrict ourselves to the feel-gooody atheists can be good people too message, I see that as progress. If we can ever take the next step and put up billboards that say we think religion is harmful, that would be even more progress. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the atheists can be good people too message of previous billboards, but why restrict ourselves to that?

  • ignoramus012

    @Denis Robert: I initially agreed with Hemant, but after reading your comment, I have to agree with you. I’m tired of being PC when it comes to my lack of belief. Few theists are when it comes to their beliefs. The difference between our kind of advocacy (at least by those “friendly” atheists out there) and theirs will be passionate, reasoned argument rather than simply screaming the loudest.

    I’ve never been a fan of Richard Dawkins. I’ve previously found him to be divisive and much too “angry” to be a positive influence on the freethinker movement. However, last night I was listening to “Point of Inquiry,” the podcast put out by the Center for Inquiry. On there they had Australian skeptic Warren Bonett. He made a good point when he said he was troubled that many atheists found Dawkins too “strident” simply because he argued “more forcefully.”

    So yes, I suppose this might upset and anger some Christians, but so what? The message is not for them.

  • Alex

    This sign also plants that little seed of doubt. It’s a little leak that grows in the fundamentalist dam thats trying to hold back all the REASON.

  • Judith Bandsma

    I think this one might work better:

    http://3harpiesltd.com/images/itsagirl.jpg

  • Sharklauncher

    Ugh, fix the kerning. The billboard itself is fine, but someone slap that graphic designer.

  • Evelyn

    @ dave

    I get what your saying, but don’t we all believe in something? to not believe in a god, is to believe in that.

    I do not believe in a god, but does that make me an atheist? perhaps. I am exploring that theory.

    I think most people get to hung up on labels. I have faith, I have faith that if I keep at something it will get done. I have faith, that good choices, and giving of ones self within a community is part of being a good human.

    Does the worth of faith and belief only lie within an organized religion?

    As for celebrating or not celebrating things is cultural and ritualistic. We go out to Chinese food on Christmas day as a family, just the four of us (parental units and children) most people think this is very odd but its our ritual and we love it. Is it wrong to have rituals?

    I think the idea of telling someone that their belief system is wrong, is wrong. I am perfectly ok with a religion based organized belief system as long as there is no indoctrination going on.

    I just feel that this ad has a lot of the indoctrination, you are wrong approach.

    Let them worship Ralph the head of lettuce as long as there is no trying to brainwash me into thinking it.

  • http://www.newbspeak.com Newbs

    Does celebrating reason involve giving up trees? Presents? Telling children about Santa Claus?

    The answer is yes. “Telling children about Santa Claus” is just as ridiculous as “telling” them about Jesus.

    This ad is really targeted at children, who might ask their parents what a “myth” is, and maybe take a step closer to escaping the mysticism and nonsense their religious parents have been shoveling into them since birth. I’m in favor of it.

  • Methodissed

    I support antagonistic messages that get people thinking, thereby causing them to question their beliefs (I’m not sure this one does). Try this instead:

    Worship me, or I’ll torture you forever – Love Jesus. Luke 12:4-5 (paraphrased)

    Holy cow – would that raise a firestorm. But, in one short sentence it illustrates a giant stinking turd in Christian theology. Christians would scream about the billboard, but they could not rationally deny that it accurately reflects their absurd beliefs.

    That could lead to a very interesting national debate, which might cause more people distance themselves from nutty Christian dogma.

    Though highly offensive, it’s a truthful statement. My mother always taught me to tell the truth.

  • BlueRidgeLady

    While I do think this billboard is somewhat aggressive, I don’t see it as any more offensive than all of us having to see xmas decorations EVERYWHERE for 2 straight months. (From Nov 1-Dec 31) in the United States. They can handle a few billboards.

  • Trixie

    I like the billboard, and would love to see one up in my city. I’ve given up the idea of a religious Christmas long ago, but we still have a tree and presents and go the whole glitzy nine yards. We even blare the Boney M. Christmas CD. It’s more of a Festivus for the Restivus thing. Not a single grace or prayer is said, even among the extended family. And we do the Santa thing too, the kids are going to eventually grow out of it. Beats telling them there’s a Jeebus.

  • Angel

    @David,

    I know that is why *I* celebrate it….

    @Trixie,

    It is a proven fact that no matter what you believe, Boney M’s holiday tape will make you happy. Also….I think everyone on the planet owns a copy. One year I polled my pals and every single one of them grew up with a tape in their house.

  • Robert W.

    Hoverfrog,

    Surely Christians accept that the nativity is a myth anyway.

    No we don’t accept that it is a myth. The vast majority of Christians do believe that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary in Bethlehem and that they were visited by wise men from the East. Beyond that any differences in the narrative are just minor details.

  • Stephen P

    Upvotes for Victor and Samiimas (though I like Everyday Atheist’s and Jeff P’s versions as well).

    Maybe it will annoy a few people. Well lots of advertisements (which aren’t even religious) annoy me, because they’re misleading, meaningless or just plain stupid. At least this is none of those.

    Advertising is about getting noticed; I think this might achieve that. We’ve had a year or so of billboards which bend over backward to be inoffensive. That’s fine, (and some people still make a fuss about how offended they are). But now it’s time to move the volume up a notch, and I think this does that.

  • Stephen P

    Oh, and I forgot to say: if this sort of advertising had been around long ago, I might well have admitted to being an atheist some years earlier than I actually did.

  • Arachobia

    Alot of people here mention that they still celebrate some sort of occasion over the so-called Christmas period.

    Just out of interest, what do you call that celebration, if anything? Last year me and some of my friends came up a a psuedo-celebration called the GFLF (Great Feast and Liver Fermentation) which started on the night of the 24th and officially ended on the morning of the 2nd, as that’s about how long we normally spend at this time of year eating and/or drinking :P

    Otherwise, in Christmas cards and such, I generally wish people ‘Happy Holiday’ which is perceived as non-dominational but also a subtle Pastafarian joke for me. I still hand out presents, have Christmas trees and, most importantly, spend time with family nd loved ones at this time, which has become the actual reason for maintaining a celebration for me as an atheist.

  • Steve

    I don’t think Christmas is the right holiday to use for something like this. For many people it has become pretty secularized as it is. We know what’s actually being celebrated, but what it’s really used for is gathering the family together, having fancy food and exchanging presents. You can do that without really emphasizing any of the religious aspects.

  • Daniel

    Yes it will annoy a few people.

    That’s okay.

    While I do think less aggressive signs probably help our image more, I do like seeing the more aggressive ones as well.

    I’m certainly going to have to see enough ridiculousness from various Christian groups this winter, I’d love to see just one thing flat out pointing out how absurd the entire thing is.

    I get they’re trying to turn around the “Jesus is the reason for the season”, but I think a nice scientific answer would have been better. Something like:

    “The 23.45 degree tilt of the Earth’s axis is the reason for the season”

  • Richard L

    I think the message is pretty clear:

    “Christians, even if you believe it is true, it’s still – per definition – a myth.”

    If people start treating it that way, as a personal belief instead of something that must be true, that would be Reason triumphant. As it is, a lot of people don’t realize that the presents, Santa, the family gatherings and all of those things can happen independent of the truth of the statement: “Jesus is the suicidal form of god”.

    Though, if you want a happier message, I suggest:

    “It’s a myth! Where’s my present?”

    It’s sort of about reason – and gifts are always fun!

  • http://www.meaningwithoutgodproject.blogspot.com Jeffrey A. Myers

    I would have preferred:

    “You know it’s a Myth, we know it’s a Myth, but we all still celebrate. Happy Holidays!”

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    Robert W.

    No we don’t accept that it is a myth. The vast majority of Christians do believe that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary in Bethlehem and that they were visited by wise men from the East.

    Sorry but I don’t believe you. I don’t believe that people are that gullible or stupid to take this story literally. Obviously some might be but they are the sort of people who still believe in Santa.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverFrog

    Bloody hell, I take it back. In 2007 Barna ran a survey and found that the percentage of Americans who believed in a literal virgin birth was in the upper nineties. Even given the low sample size I suspect a little jiggery pokery with the statistics and I also suspect that the questions were phrases to skew the results but even so this must be awfully embarrassing for citizens of the U S of A.

    I’m embarrassed for you.

  • Min

    As somebody who lives in the southern USA, I’m quite certain that if I were to walk up to the average Christian and suggest to them that Mary wasn’t a virgin, Jesus wasn’t born in manger, and he wasn’t visited by three wise men, their first inclination would be to punch me. With any luck they would be able to restrain themselves and not actually injure me, but I’d still be painted as a dirty heathen. People take their religion mythology seriously down here.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    The vast majority of Christians do believe that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary…

    I once heard a sermon at church by a guest pastor who basically said that Mary was an unmarried teenage girl who got pregnant (by some un-named man) and Joseph was kind enough to marry her so she wouldn’t be cast out of the society that didn’t tolerate having babies out of wedlock. The guest pastor wasn’t stoned by the congregation so the idea wasn’t that shocking. I think Christians just get defensive when a non-Christian says that about Jesus’ origins. When it is said internally by a Christian, then they can nod in agreement.

  • Susan Robinson

    I love this billboard. It is important to point out that a savior was not born on Christmas Day, but we can still celebrate while putting our faith in reason.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    @Hoverfrog,

    That study you hyper-linked also said that 15% of atheists and agnostics believed Jesus was born of a Virgin. The credibility of that study is somewhat diminished in my eyes. A lot depends on how you ask the questions and who is perceived to be asking the question.

  • Robert W.

    Hoverfrog,

    No reason to be embarrassed for me. I’m perfectly content in my faith.

  • Steve

    Well, there is that whole thing that the Hebrew word that’s translated as “virgin” (almah) doesn’t only mean “woman who never had sex”, but usually refers to a young woman in general. The common word for virgin is “betulah”.

    So it could be just one of those typical biblical mistranslations that has enormous consequences.

  • JSug

    @gsw

    I think putting a tree, a yule log and maybe a Hanukkah candelabra into the picture as well would have made this message more potent – on the lines of:
    Whatever your myth, it is a time for good will

    I love the idea, but here’s a better tagline:

    “Whatever your reason, celebrate the season!”

  • mikespeir

    Is it already time to start hating Christmas again?

  • Hammurabi

    First point: Like others have mentioned, all atheist bilboards generate more heat than light. It’s not as if we are trying to choose between this advertisement and some well recieved(by the pulbic), highly effective advert ran previously.

    Second: My suggestion for a better bilboard – “Drop the myth, keep the fun, Merry Christmas Everyone”

  • ACN

    Beyond that any differences in the narrative are just minor details.

    That is a courageous thing to say. Especially considering that Matthew/Mark claim Jesus was born in the days of Herod (who died in 4 BCE) while Luke claims he was born when Quirinius was governor of Syria (took office in 6 CE).

    Matthew claims Herod slaughtered all of the first born in the land to try and kill Jesus, but there is no historian during or later who bothers to mention the mass infanticide. The other gospels are silent also.

    The genealogies of Jesus are embarrassingly different. Luke traces Jesus back through 43 names from Joseph to David, while Matthew does the same with 28 names. Both are trying to prove that Jesus is of royal blood, but of course, since Mary was purportedly a virgin this would be totally irrelevant. It doesn’t matter what Joseph’s line was like since Jesus was nor born from Joseph! The kicker is that they aren’t even through the same line! Matthew traces him through Solomon, while Luke traces him through David’s other son Nathan. My own pastor (when I was a christian) already gave me the “oh well one of them clearly meant to trace his line through Mary” argument that is unsupported by anything in the texts. We could go on here, but suffice it to say the apologists for genealogy have made some extraordinarily convoluted arguments that include re-defining “cousin” to mean something like “countryman”.

    All these parts of Luke and Matthew have done, is betray christianity’s origins as a man-made religion who sought to make the leader at the center a divine king born of a virgin. Like Mithras, Hercules, Osiris, Dionysus and others.

    Minor details indeed.

  • Samiimas

    Sorry but I don’t believe you. I don’t believe that people are that gullible or stupid to take this story literally.

    I’ve noticed that it tends to be just an embellished story when they’re trying to argue with an atheist that their religion has some rational basis but when talking amongst themselves the virgin birth and all the other magic is completely real.

  • Oz Tilson

    I think I am going to put the best of these into a rewritten xian xmas carol

    Whatever your reason, celebrate the season
    Drop the myth, keep the fun, merry xmas everyone
    The 23.45 degree tilt of the Earth’s axis is the reason for the season
    This season celebrate fellowship, family and reason.
    no matter your chosen myth, it is a time for goodwill.

    I’ll let you know when it is ready!

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    This is the most idiotic atheist billboard I’ve seen to date.

  • heironymous

    You mean Easter – the Spring fertility festival named after Eostre?

    I like the sign. It expresses what I believe. I celebrate Christ’s mass on Saturn’s day this year. Sometimes it’s on Thor’s day, sometimes it’s on the day we owe our masters our “dues.” But it’s still a fun day which I celebrate with my family.
    The notion of “good will towards men,” “silent (peaceful) night” and “joy to the world” are human values which I strive towards – no fairy tales attached.

  • Stephen P

    Just noticed Robert W’s comment:

    No we don’t accept that it is a myth. The vast majority of Christians do believe that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary in Bethlehem and that they were visited by wise men from the East. Beyond that any differences in the narrative are just minor details.

    Minor details? Really? You need to study your bible a bit more carefully. Perhaps this will help: The Star of Bethlehem Identified

  • captsam

    I think the sign is great, and Denis Robert makes a very good point.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/atheist_tees The Godless Monster

    @JSug,

    “Whatever your reason, celebrate the season!”

    Well said…

  • CatBallou

    I don’t like it. The “You KNOW” isn’t just patronizing, it’s glaringly dishonest.

    Most Christians don’t “know” that at all—they genuinely believe.

  • Oz Tilson

    alright, I wrote one- but the only instruments I play use my mouth so I can’ sing and make music. I was going to put a video on youtube……..you’ll just have to live with the lyrics for now

    to God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
    winter is upon us now its time to celebrate

    in the door bring love and cheer and sweep out all the hate

    whatever your reason may be, celebrate the season here

    celebrate what brings you cheer, what brings you cheer. Celebrate what brings you cheer.

    The earth’s twenty three point four five degree axis tilt is the reason why

    we find this snowy season here and the leaves and flowers die

    all around you there are joyful things just open up your eyes

    celebrate what brings you cheer, what brings you cheer, celebrate what brings you cheer.

    You must decide for yourself to join in or not. If you’ll believe in Hanukkah or a babe found in a cot

    no matter what your chosen myth, put goodwill in your thoughts

    celebrate what brings you cheer, what brings you cheer. Celebrate what brings you cheer.

    You may believe no passed down story fits into your life.

    but Santa, Christmas trees and gifts don’t even hurt a nun.

    So drop the myth and keep the fun Merry Christmas everyone

    Celebrate what brings you cheer, what brings you cheer. Celebrate what brings you cheer.

  • http://www.twitter.com/jalyth Tizzle

    I think if the sign had a picture of Santa instead of the Nativity, it would be slightly less confrontational, and still make a good point.

    Is one allowed to say that where kids might see it? As I’m typing this, I think maybe that would be even worse…

  • Methodissed

    I don’t like it. The “You KNOW” isn’t just patronizing, it’s glaringly dishonest. Most Christians don’t “know” that at all—they genuinely believe.

    I agree. Mark Twain famously said, “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.”

    That quote has never made sense to be. Faith is, by definition, belief without evidence. If you believe something, then you think its true (or probably true).

  • Robert W.

    ACN and Stpehen,

    Nice try but you should really not just go to atheist websites for soundbites on alleged discrepancies or contradictions in the Gospels. All of these alleged inconsistencies are not contradictions and have been explained by biblical scholars for years.

    Matthew claims Herod slaughtered all of the first born in the land to try and kill Jesus, but there is no historian during or later who bothers to mention the mass infanticide. The other gospels are silent also.

    Historians such as Josephus are consistent that Herod was a evil guy who killed alot of people. There are general quotes in the texts about his atrocities. At the time of Jesus’ birth Bethlehem was a small town. The number of small boys under the age of two cold not have been that many and maybe not enough to mention in detail.

    The genealogies of Jesus are embarrassingly different. Luke traces Jesus back through 43 names from Joseph to David, while Matthew does the same with 28 names.

    Although you may not have liked your preacher’s explanation of the differences in the genealogies, he is correct. It is pretty clear that Matthew who was writing to Jews listed the chronology of Joseph (who adopted Christ and would have been his son in Jewish culture) to show his royal linage through King David. Luke, who was writing to Gentiles traces it further through Mary’s genealogy to show that Christ came for all men. And you don’t have to convolut anything, Mary and Joesph were cousins which was acceptable in that culture.

    All these parts of Luke and Matthew have done, is betray christianity’s origins as a man-made religion who sought to make the leader at the center a divine king born of a virgin. Like Mithras, Hercules, Osiris, Dionysus and others

    What evidence do you have for that speculation? The birth narratives of those gods aren’t even close to that described in the Gospels.

    Mithras- was born from a rock

    Hercules- was the result of an affair between Zeus and a mistress who bacame immortal after suckling from Zeus’s divine wife.

    Osiris- One of five children born between the God of the earth and the Goddess of the sky

    Dionysus- born from Zeus’ thigh

    I don’t see the similarites

  • Jeff Dale

    CatBallou:

    Most Christians don’t “know” that at all—they genuinely believe.

    Methodissed:

    Mark Twain famously said, “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.”
    That quote has never made sense to be. Faith is, by definition, belief without evidence. If you believe something, then you think its true (or probably true).

    I think the point noticed by CatBallou, and exploited to humorous effect by Twain, is the difference between believing something and believing that you believe it (first- and second-order beliefs).

    We all occasionally have conflicts between first- and second-order beliefs. If a mother says her baby is the most beautiful in the world, her underlying first-order belief is probably something like, “this baby appeals to me more than any other,” an objective reflection of her subjective feelings for her own baby. If she were thinking about it carefully, she wouldn’t really expect that her baby would surpass every other on objective measures of beauty (whatever those might be). But her feelings for her own baby make her believe that she believes her baby is the most beautiful.

    Someone might say to that mother, “you KNOW that other babies are just as beautiful,” to call attention to this conflict between first- and second-order beliefs. I think that’s essentially what the billboard is doing in the case of the Christian myths.

    Christians believe (second order) that they believe (first order) the Christian myths. But a first-order belief in the Christian myths doesn’t follow from an honest examination of the evidence. So Christians maintain the second-order belief while avoiding an honest examination of the evidence that would expose them to first-order disbelief.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    I’m neutral on the billboard. I like the image, but I’m not sure about the wording. I think it would work better with a little tweaking. Like others have said, I would choose “You know it’s a myth, right?” followed by something like “This season, celebrate family, friendship, and togetherness.”

    A lot of people here mention that they still celebrate some sort of occasion over the so-called Christmas period. Just out of interest, what do you call that celebration, if anything?

    I call it “Christmas.” I’m a lifelong atheist and have never believed in any gods, but my family always celebrated Christmas. I don’t see any reason to change the name. It’s the accepted name for the holiday in our culture. Calling it something else reminds me of when fundamentalists and evangelicals bend over backwards to pretend that they’re not really celebrating Halloween when they let their kids dress up and attend “harvest festivals.” Of course they’re celebrating Halloween; they’re just being weird about the name because they don’t like the connotations of the actual holiday. Halloween by any other name is still Halloween, and so is Christmas. There’s no need to relabel everything that happens to reference a mythical figure.

  • Guest Pest

    I’d wager to give it no more than 2 days from the time it is put up until somebody fucks with it. (vandalism)

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Jeff P

    That study you hyper-linked also said that 15% of atheists and agnostics believed Jesus was born of a Virgin.

    Based on the sample size of 1005 and lack of information on how many of the sample claimed to be atheist or agnostic this could equate to one chap who thought he’d wind up the surveyor. That or a couple of dozen who didn’t understand the question. Statistics eh? Not much use unless you actually have the raw data behind them.

  • Peter Mahoney

    Awesome Billboard! I agree with Samiimas that it is far far less confronting then the “accept Jesus or burn in hell” type billboards.

    I would like even better the idea of “You KNOW it’s a Myth, RIGHT?” [adding the ", Right?" at the end] to pose a question to the sign-readers and help them keep down their defenses… but hey since I didn’t volunteer to help American Atheists decide this in advance, I’ll settle for where I am which is thrilled with the sign the way it is.

    I agree with another reader who said signs like this decades ago would have helped him come out of the atheist closet sooner.

    Also, I was a christian who DID really KNOW intellectually that the whole christ story made no sense, but I didn’t spend the time/effort to think more definitively about it and I mostly went through the motions as if I believed it for more than another 20 years! Signs like this would have helped me realize that there were others also questioning the sanity of the bible stories.

    I say THANK YOU to American Atheists for being on the forefront. Thank you for picking a time (xmas) and place that will get LOTS of attention! Thank you for sharing sanity in a religiously insane country! News stations will carry this nationally, and kids watching tv will ask their parents: “Mommy, what’s a myth” and the initial crack will be placed in the wall of insular brainwashing that believers impose on their kids.

    Awesome Billboard!

  • http:www.gregorysams.com Gregory Sams

    25 Dec marks the Sun god’s birthday, hijacked as we know. We do get it all from Sun, a highly deserving candidate for Holiday-hood, in need of restoration to it’s rightful place in our calendar.

    Our body processes the energy of life but the life itself is energy, not matter. Sun’s body creates many complex energy fields. One holds the solar system in a protective embrace.

    The Sun behaves more like a life form than a dead ball of gas. Whether we choose to accord it any divine status or not is a personal decision. If you Googled sunofgod?

  • Richard Wade

    As it is, this billboard is a poke in the eye with a middle finger.

    gsw, the second commenter had something going in the right direction, but it’s still antagonistic. S/He suggested:

    Whatever your myth, it is a time for good will.

    That sounds like, “Whatever silly, stupid beliefs you have, it is a time for good will”
    That definitely does not set the stage for good will.

    Then further down, Jeff P suggested:

    “This Season, celebrate FELLOWSHIP, FAMILY, and REASON”

    I suggest we clean up gsw’s and combine it with Jeff P’s so it says,

    Whether you believe or not, this is a time for good will.
    We can all celebrate Fellowship, Family, and Reason.

  • Richard Wade

    Reading the AA website, the billboard’s purpose became clear:

    It is these two groups of people, the closeted atheist and the closeted doubter, to whom this web page is dedicated.

    Okay, it’s a call-out to those who are only “going along” with all of it just to fit in. It just seems to me that such an outreach could have been done without the collateral damage of pissing off people who still believe it, or believe in its value, or just get their warm fuzzies from it.

    Even adding the word “If” and changing “know” to “think” would have made a very good, positive outreach to the closeted non-believers and doubters, and would have been less antagonistic to the believers. See if this works:

    If You Think it’s a Myth,
    This Season, Celebrate REASON!

  • Richard Wade

    I have to take issue with the argument that the billboard is acceptable because some Christian billboards somewhere else are ghastly and revolting. That is a very juvenile way of thinking. You can’t make an insult into a wise thing to do by pointing at some other insult that is worse.

    If you base your level of conduct on the level of someone else’s conduct, yours will definitely deteriorate.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    It is these two groups of people, the closeted atheist and the closeted doubter, to whom this web page is dedicated.

    It seems like the billboard is aimed at true believers. Plenty of atheists celebrate Christmas without being closeted. Can’t an atheist enjoy a nativity play simply for the pageantry, while also recognizing that the story itself is a myth? I’d bet there are a lot of atheists who go to Christmas services because they like singing hymns and lighting candles and seeing the little kids dressed up as angels and shepherds. If you realize that it’s all pretend, IMO, no harm, no foul.

  • AxeGrrl

    This ad is annoying and adolescent, imo.

    I have yet to see ANY ad/sign that rivals this one put up by the Seattle atheists last year:

    In this holiday season

    let us remember

    that kindness, charity & goodwill

    transcend belief, creed or religion.”

    Pitch-perfect, as far as I’m concerned.

  • Methodissed

    Jeff Dale said:

    I think the point noticed by CatBallou, and exploited to humorous effect by Twain, is the difference between believing something and believing that you believe it (first- and second-order beliefs).

    Thank you Jeff for the insight. That’s an interesting perspective worthy of further study on my part.

    That raises an interesting point about the billboard and whether Christians will “get it.” As a lay person, I’m fairly well read on the psychology of belief. If I didn’t understand that distinction, can we really expect less informed people (the vast majority of Christians) to grasp the subtleties of the message?

    I think not.

  • Methodissed

    Robert W. said:

    All of these alleged inconsistencies are not contradictions and have been explained by biblical scholars for years.

    Earlier in this comment section I suggested the following billboard idea (see my original post for my rationale):

    “Worship me, or I’ll torture you forever – Love Jesus.” Luke 12:4-5 (paraphrased)

    You seriously don’t see this glaring and incredibly absurd contradiction?

    Actually, I know the answer to that question. It’s explained by the concept that psychologists call cognitive dissonance. It’s a phenomenal testament to the fallibility of the human mind.

  • http://www.zazzle.com/briman232* Aristotle’s Muse

    Love it! Love everything about it! Not only is it visually appealing, it’s also much more straight forward than a lot of other billboard campaigns. Well done!

  • Stephen P

    Robert W:

    Nice try but you should really not just go to atheist websites for soundbites on alleged discrepancies or contradictions in the Gospels.

    So a 3500 word essay is a soundbite according to you? Given that the original nativity stories are shorter than that, what does that make them? Did you even bother to read the essay?

    All of these alleged inconsistencies are not contradictions and have been explained by biblical scholars for years.

    And the explanations for most of the actual inconsistencies (they are clearly present, whether you like or not) are pathetically bad, and acceptable only to those people who already want the story to be a historical event.

  • Kayla

    The billboard may make some people question their belief, but since faith is based on a belief in the unknowable/unseen, it will not sway hardened Christians.

    Christians don’t need proof of God or proof that Jesus was born of a virgin to believe.

    Have you all never heard of the motto: “The Bible says it and that settles it”?

  • Methodissed

    Kayla said:

    The billboard may make some people question their belief, but since faith is based on a belief in the unknowable/unseen, it will not sway hardened Christians.

    You’re absolutely correct. In fact it’s well understood in psychology that challenging people’s beliefs with strong evidence and logic can have the opposite unintended effect, i.e., they become even more certain.

    As you noted, billboards may sway some people. A key consideration then is how we can make the greatest impact. Even if there aren’t many converts, there’s the benefit of elevating awareness in the public psyche.

    Swaying (older) hardened Christians is not and should not be our goal. Trying to overcome a lifetime of neural wiring is nearly futile. However, very enthusiastic youth and young adults have potential from a biological standpoint. The less certain and less enthusiastic they are, the better our chances of positively influencing their plastic brains.

  • http://alemdozeitgeist.blogspot.com Marcio Nejaim

    I celebrate my family, my friends and love among each other. I find it rather rewarding. Even tough most of my family is very religious, they don’t pray and i always think that they don’t even remember Jesus in such a nice environment.

  • Robert W.

    Stephen P.,

    I did read the essay. It was the same arguments. Not so much evidence as questions from the author as to why he thought this couldn’t be true. In essence he is saying it couldn’t be true because I think it would be different. For example he looks at the stories from Matthew and Luke and claims that because one includes facts that the other does not then they both must be false. That is illogical at best.

    Methodissed,

    There is no inconsistency when you don’t paraphrase and take your comment out of context. Actually Luke 12:4-5 doesn’t even say what you have paraphrased. It is Jesus talking about not fearing what people can do to you in this life to the exclusion of God who is concerned with your eternal life.

    If you really want to get into a discussion about Hell and God’s plan for salvation through Jesus Christ and how that is loving I would be happy to do so.

  • Samiimas

    If you really want to get into a discussion about Hell and God’s plan for salvation through Jesus Christ and how that is loving I would be happy to do so.

    Here’s that discussion paraphrased: Well yes you are completely correct that god brutally tortures anyone who doesn’t worship him and that by this point the amount of people in his detention camp in hell must far exceed the number of people killed by Stalin, Hitler and Mao combined. You are also 100% correct that whenever a dictator starts torturing people on Earth for not following the right religion, which I admit my god does, he’s an evil fuck. However none of this in any way makes god evil or cruel because, um, god says so.

  • Methodissed

    Stephen P. said:

    There is no inconsistency when you don’t paraphrase and take your comment out of context.

    I disagree, but even if I didn’t select the right verses, the bible and most churches teach that very contradiction. A loving person (perfect in love, mercy, and forgiveness) who tortures his own children (never showing mercy or forgiveness) is a glaring contradiction. Omni-benevolence and eternal torture are incompatible concepts.

    If any human behaved that way toward his children, he would be incarcerated and vilified by society. Yet somehow it’s okay for the invisible man in the sky.

    P.S. Nice job paraphrasing the discussion Samiimas

  • Robert W.

    Samiinas and Methodissed:

    Not even close to Christian theology.

    You are conventionality forgetting about the grace of Jesus Christ and that salvation is open to everyone. If you choose not to believe that is your free will.

    Here is what i don’t understand about atheists who decry the concept of hell- You don’t believe in God anyway so you can’t believe in Hell and you don’t believe in souls. So why all the feigned outrage about it. It means nothing to you.

    Now if you turn out to be wrong and you have a soul and you do spend eternity in Hell then you won’t be able to say its because you never heard the gospel, it will be because you rejected it and whose fault is that? You want God to change the rules for you?

    If you want to find the love of God you have to look no further then the cross where Jesus Christ came down and sacrificed himself for all of our sins that whoever shall believe in him shall have everlasting life.

    You don’t have to believe it but you can’t say you haven’t been told.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Robert,

    Here is what i don’t understand about atheists who decry the concept of hell- You don’t believe in God anyway so you can’t believe in Hell and you don’t believe in souls. So why all the feigned outrage about it. It means nothing to you.

    We’ve explained it to you many times, but you apparently keep ignoring our explanations. Why do you continue to feign confusion? Go back and re-read the comments on this post for details. Of course we don’t believe any of it is true. That doesn’t mean we don’t find the idea morally objectionable. Why should we not express outrage that theists continue to justify such horrible things? It bothers me that people in the 21st century are fine and dandy with eternal torture.

  • Robert W.

    Anna, you are correct we have had this discussion before. I would agree with your moral objections if God did what you claim and didn’t provide a way to avoid the consequences.

    The one thing that I keep bringing up in these discussions and which keeps getting ignored is the grace of Jesus Christ and the effect that has on this concept of eternal damnation.Christians are not fine and dandy with people suffering in Hell. That is why they evangelize and preach the Gospel.

    And I still believe that the outcry about Hell from atheists is feigned outrage even if it is over the notion that people believe in it. The reason it is feigned is because you intentionally ignore the way given to you and everyone else to avoid Hell.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    The one thing that I keep bringing up in these discussions and which keeps getting ignored is the grace of Jesus Christ and the effect that has on this concept of eternal damnation.

    Robert, it hasn’t been ignored. Please read the comments I made on this post. I was quite clear that I don’t think your “grace” explanation makes the situation moral.

    Christians are not fine and dandy with people suffering in Hell. That is why they evangelize and preach the Gospel.

    No, but you’re fine and dandy with the concept of hell. You think that eternal torture is justified. Nathan even said he does not find the idea repulsive.

    And I still believe that the outcry about Hell from atheists is feigned outrage even if it is over the notion that people believe in it. The reason it is feigned is because you intentionally ignore the way given to you and everyone else to avoid Hell.

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but my outrage is not feigned. I really am disgusted by the concept of hell, not because I think it actually exists, but because I find it sad and disheartening that modern-day people would justify such a terrible thing. It’s basically the reason why I consider your whole religion immoral.

  • Robert W.

    Anne,

    I apologize. I didn’t see your post in the thread you link to. I would have answered it.

    The belief that Christians view themselves as sinners in need of redemption and as such have a bad self esteem is misplaced. The idea that we are sinners effects our eternal destiny that is remedied through the grace of Jesus Christ when we believe.

    There maybe some folks who have a bad self esteem based exclusively on the notion that they are sinners but I would believe that is rare. I would say most people who have self esteem problems is not from their idea that they are sinners but from the acts and omissions of their fellow human beings or through their own actions making them feel worthless.

    The basic premise of Christian doctrine is that we are all worthy of salvation even though we have all fallen short of the mark. That doesn’t make us worthless, it makes us precious in the eyes of God.

    If you can say that you have never done anything wrong, that you have never been angry, that you have never hurt somebody else’s feelings, that you have never acted unlovingly, that you have never been selfish, that you have never been hateful, then you would be the first (other then Jesus). If you have then you have sinned. Just like we all have.

    The concept of sin is that we miss the mark of God’s holy nature. It is not that we are horrible without him.

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but my outrage is not feigned. I really am disgusted by the concept of hell, not because I think it actually exists, but because I find it sad and disheartening that modern-day people would justify such a terrible thing. It’s basically the reason why I consider your whole religion immoral.

    The notion that Hell is eternal is consistent with Heaven being eternal. Our life here is just a small spec of time with great consequences. Not only for those that we share this time with but for our own eternal destiny. The fact that the reward is eternal and the punishment is eternal is moral in my view. The only way to view it not as moral is to disregard the notion of an eternal afterlife or to say that the reward should be eternal because it is pleasurable, but the punishment shouldn’t because it would hurt.

    If the rules are spelled out clear and you know the ramifications of breaking those rules as well as the extent of your punishment, how is it immoral for those rules to be followed? It is like a man who murders someone else knowing that if he is caught he will get the death penalty saying it immoral for him to be subjected to the death penalty.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Robert W.

    You are conventionality forgetting about the grace of Jesus Christ and that salvation is open to everyone. If you choose not to believe that is your free will.

    Grace? You are joking.

    You don’t believe in God anyway so you can’t believe in Hell and you don’t believe in souls. So why all the feigned outrage about it. It means nothing to you.

    It means nothing to me because it doesn’t effect me, is that right? I’m a straight, white male. I do not like how gay people are sometimes treated as second class citizens and have to fight for the rights that I enjoy for free. I don’t like how people of colour are sometimes treated as second class citizens and have to fight for the rights that I enjoy for free. I don’t like how women are sometimes treated as second class citizens and have to fight for the rights that I enjoy for free. Some of us see something that is unjust and are outraged by it. Why is that so difficult to understand?

    Now if you turn out to be wrong and you have a soul and you do spend eternity in Hell then you won’t be able to say its because you never heard the gospel, it will be because you rejected it and whose fault is that? You want God to change the rules for you?

    Pascal’s Wager? Really?

    I don’t believe in gods. I don’t believe in souls. I don’t believe in heaven or hell. I might be wrong, I don’t believe that I am but I just might be. If I am then I am in serious trouble because the god that you describe judges people not on our actions through life, not on how we treat others, give, respect or love those we come into contact with. No, your god would damn us for eternity because we didn’t bow down and worship him. Your god is a monster.

  • Robert W.

    Hoverfrog,

    I wasn’t mentioning Paschel’s wager and I’m not using that as a logical basis to believe.

    If God based his judgment of us on our actions alone he surely would be a monster, because he would have set an impossible standard and then judge for failing to meet it. But he didn’t do that. you may think grace is a joke and that is your free will to do so, but grace is what Christianity is based upon. And it is what saves us for actions would always fall short.

    That is no excuse not to treat people nice. Just the opposite. We are to treat people with the same grace Jesus showed us.

    It means nothing to me because it doesn’t effect me, is that right? I’m a straight, white male. I do not like how gay people are sometimes treated as second class citizens and have to fight for the rights that I enjoy for free. I don’t like how people of colour are sometimes treated as second class citizens and have to fight for the rights that I enjoy for free. I don’t like how women are sometimes treated as second class citizens and have to fight for the rights that I enjoy for free. Some of us see something that is unjust and are outraged by it. Why is that so difficult to understand?

    When you are talking about real suffering according to your beliefs of course I understand. But you don’t belief there is anyone suffering in Hell so its not the smae thing to you.

    Of course I feel for when others are mistreated. I’m not saying you don’t. But if you think that Hell is a mythical place, then people believing in it don’t effect you, nor are there really any people suffering in it. So why the outrage. It isn’t real suffering according to you so don’t compare it to suffering here on Earth that you see is real.

  • http://Religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    I think that if there is a God, He/She/It would prefer the company of atheists/agnostics over all the religious people that put so many words in His/Her/Its mouth.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Robert,

    The belief that Christians view themselves as sinners in need of redemption and as such have a bad self esteem is misplaced. The idea that we are sinners effects our eternal destiny that is remedied through the grace of Jesus Christ when we believe.

    Yes, I know you keep claiming this, but I’ll just copy and paste my response from that previous post:

    I do get the whole story. It doesn’t make it any better. In your worldview, people are absolutely worthless without Jesus. On their own, they’re broken, weak, sinful, etc. Just listen to the lyrics of Amazing Grace. “A wretch like me,” indeed.

    I understand that you believe Jesus absolves you of your terrible (IMO, non-existent) sinful nature, but that doesn’t cancel out the fact that you feel humans are horrible creatures. You don’t hold yourself in high esteem. You only esteem your deity. It’s only through your deity that you have a sense of self worth. Without the “grace” of Jesus, you believe you are wretched, disgusting and vile. That’s what I mean by terrible self esteem.

    I’m not even talking about you as an individual. Probably you think your self esteem is fine because you believe you have been redeemed by Jesus. But you hold yourself in utter disregard without your deity, and you hold humanity as a whole in utter disregard. I don’t know how to make my objection to that kind of thinking any plainer.

    If you can say that you have never done anything wrong, that you have never been angry, that you have never hurt somebody else’s feelings, that you have never acted unlovingly, that you have never been selfish, that you have never been hateful, then you would be the first (other then Jesus). If you have then you have sinned. Just like we all have.

    As I tried to point out many times, “sin” is a purely religious concept. It has nothing to do with hurting others; it has to do with offending a god. I explained that in my comments on this post. I don’t really want to type the whole thing out all over again, but you can go back and read it if you want.

    If the rules are spelled out clear and you know the ramifications of breaking those rules as well as the extent of your punishment, how is it immoral for those rules to be followed? It is like a man who murders someone else knowing that if he is caught he will get the death penalty saying it immoral for him to be subjected to the death penalty.

    It’s not okay to kill or torture people. It’s not moral when a government does it, and it’s not moral when a god does it, either. Your god doesn’t get to create an eternal torture chamber without decent people speaking up against it. Any god that would do such a thing is a monster. The fact that you keep justifying it just makes me want to weep for humanity, and I’m not being hyperbolic. I just can’t consider anyone who thinks torture is a good thing a moral person. Heck, I have a hard time even thinking of them as a normal person. Normal people feel empathy and compassion. It’s only sociopaths who don’t. I’m not saying you’re a sociopath, but I do believe your sense of morality has been incredibly warped by the religion you were exposed to.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Robert W.

    I wasn’t mentioning Paschel’s wager and I’m not using that as a logical basis to believe.

    Sure you were. You were saying “if you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.”

    you may think grace is a joke

    I think it is a joke but it isn’t a very funny one.

    grace is what Christianity is based upon.

    Here is a simplified model of Christianity. The concept of “sin” puts people into debt. Jesus pays off that debt. We should all worship Jesus or he’ll foreclose on the payment he has already made with infinite interest. The problem is “sin” which only exists to justify the payment of this debt. Some of us just don’t feel guilty about being human.

    you don’t belief there is anyone suffering in Hell so its not the smae thing to you.

    More than this I don’t even believe that your scripture supports the idea that anyone is suffering in hell.

    Of course I feel for when others are mistreated. I’m not saying you don’t.

    I should think not.

    if you think that Hell is a mythical place, then people believing in it don’t effect you

    Really? I suppose that Fred Phelps picketing the funerals of soldiers or gay people with messages that they are in hell doesn’t effect anyone. I suppose that the fear indoctrinated into people so that they strive for heaven through martyrdom doesn’t effect me. I suppose that being told that I (and indeed everyone) is worthless and deserves eternal torture in hell doesn’t effect me. It effects me. It makes me angry.

    It isn’t real suffering according to you so don’t compare it to suffering here on Earth that you see is real.

    Emotions are real. Self-esteem is real. Being judged on what you believe rather than what you do is real.

  • Methodissed

    Robert W. said:

    You are conventionality forgetting about the grace of Jesus Christ and that salvation is open to everyone. If you choose not to believe that is your free will.

    Robert, you’re ignoring the contradiction (someone who is perfect in love, mercy, and forgiveness who tortures his own children – never showing mercy or forgiveness).

    Your retort that we can think and behave in a certain way to avoid torture is irrelevant – the contradiction remains.

  • Robert W.

    Hoverfrog,

    Sure you were. You were saying “if you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing.”

    Paschel’s wager is typically mentioned as a logical basis to believe. That is not why I mentioned the effect of you being wrong in your beliefs. I was just mentioning the effect according to biblical principles not as a “wager”.

    Here is a simplified model of Christianity. The concept of “sin” puts people into debt. Jesus pays off that debt. We should all worship Jesus or he’ll foreclose on the payment he has already made with infinite interest. The problem is “sin” which only exists to justify the payment of this debt. Some of us just don’t feel guilty about being human.

    Wrong. Sin exists because man is imperfect and has missed the mark of God’s holiness and righteousness. That would mean constant separation from God but for grace through Jesus Christ.

    There is no reason to feel guilty just because you are human. But as a human you are not perfect. I am sure you would agree to that. And when you look at the history of the human race, we clearly have evil in the world. So where do you think that comes from? It certainly didn’t come in being because Christians call that evil sin. It exists because humans engage in it.

    Really? I suppose that Fred Phelps picketing the funerals of soldiers or gay people with messages that they are in hell doesn’t effect anyone. I suppose that the fear indoctrinated into people so that they strive for heaven through martyrdom doesn’t effect me. I suppose that being told that I (and indeed everyone) is worthless and deserves eternal torture in hell doesn’t effect me. It effects me. It makes me angry.

    Emotions are real. Self-esteem is real. Being judged on what you believe rather than what you do is real.

    Fred Phelps will be judged for his actions by God. I’m sure he will not like the results of that judgment. Terrorists who believe they will get to heaven by killing others are not mainstream Christians much less mainstream Muslims. They will be judged as well.

    The bible is clear- Judge not lest yea be judged. I will agree that is one of the most ignored and violated passages in the Bible.

    I a not judging you when I say that if you don’t believe in Jesus Christ as your savior you will not go to Heaven and the only other alternative is Hell. That is just the consequences of that decision based upon my belief system.

    Methodissed,

    Robert, you’re ignoring the contradiction (someone who is perfect in love, mercy, and forgiveness who tortures his own children – never showing mercy or forgiveness).

    Your retort that we can think and behave in a certain way to avoid torture is irrelevant – the contradiction remains.

    Of course I don’t view it as a contradiction at all. God, who gave us free will gives us the choice to be with him or not. If we choose not to be with him he won’t make us. Since we have souls, we must go somewhere for eternity. Heaven is with God and all that that entails. hell is without God and all that entails. Because of free will it is completely consistent with his loving nature and all righteousness. You have the choice, it is your’s entirely to make. I don’t view that immoral. Since the souls that are there don’t want to be with God and have rejected him, they are there by their own free will.

    By the way, there is a significant school of thought in Biblical studies that Hell isn’t a torture chamber at all. It is separation from God. If that is so, would that change your view that is is immoral?

  • Methodissed

    Robert W. said:

    Of course I don’t view it as a contradiction at all.

    Ignoring contradictions won’t make them go away — it’s merely a way to pretend to have rational beliefs.

    There is a significant school of thought in Biblical studies that Hell isn’t a torture chamber at all. It is separation from God. If that is so, would that change your view that is is immoral?

    That’s another way that Christians try to avoid admitting this glaring contradiction. Yet they’ll quickly point out that even without torture, you’ll be miserable forever and ever and ever (hence the need to accept Jesus).

    Modifying your concept of hell doesn’t resolve the contradiction. The parent who is perfect in love, mercy, and forgiveness is rejecting his children for being bad, and refusing to ever show mercy or forgiveness, i.e., No matter how sorry his kids are, or how much they beg for forgiveness, the prodigal sons and daughters can never return home, ever.

    Talk about shitty parenting! Ignore and re-frame the issue all you want. The contradiction remains.

  • dave

    @Evelyn

    I get what your saying, but don’t we all believe in something? to not believe in a god, is to believe in that.

    I’m not sure what you mean. Of course “we all believe in something” (I believe the Earth orbits the Sun, I believe my name is Dave, I believe I’m a good singer). Or do you mean “we all believe in something supernatural”, or “we all believe in something religious”. If you mean something, as in anything, then you’re not saying much. Please let me know if I’m misunderstanding.

    I do not believe in a god, but does that make me an atheist? perhaps. I am exploring that theory.

    Yes it does. Atheist = One who is lacking in a belief in god(s). As opposed to claiming God (gods) does not exist. Those are two different things.

    I think most people get to hung up on labels. I have faith, I have faith that if I keep at something it will get done. I have faith, that good choices, and giving of ones self within a community is part of being a good human.

    I don’t get “hung up on labels” either. And I don’t want to get all semantic on you, but… the words we use have meaning, and we need to be clear (or at least in agreement) on what they mean. What do you mean by “faith”? In general, I take the word faith to mean, “Belief without evidence”. In that respect, I think that faith is not an especially virtuous thing. So, I would challenge your “good choices” statement is not faith, but a belief backed up by evidence – past experience, knowledge of social interaction, etc.

    Does the worth of faith and belief only lie within an organized religion?

    I don’t know what you mean by “the worth of faith and belief”. As I’ve defined them above, I do not see “faith” as a good thing. And actually, somewhat of a bad thing. If you can believe one thing (e.g. a supernatural creator) without evidence, what is to stop you from believing other things without evidence? As for “beliefs”; these are simply those concepts/propositions we hold as true. And I would also say that “belief” is different than “faith” – we hold/have belief for reasons (good, bad or indifferent). Therefore, I disagree with your statement that faith and belief only lie within organized religion. But I may be missing what you’re getting at.

    As for celebrating or not celebrating things is cultural and ritualistic. We go out to Chinese food on Christmas day as a family, just the four of us (parental units and children) most people think this is very odd but its our ritual and we love it. Is it wrong to have rituals?

    No. I never said it was wrong to have rituals.

    I think the idea of telling someone that their belief system is wrong, is wrong. I am perfectly ok with a religion based organized belief system as long as there is no indoctrination going on.

    When did I say someone’s belief system was wrong? Or were you referring to the billboard? It doesn’t say that either. And, I should admit, if someone’s belief system is demonstrably wrong, why would it be wrong to point that out? I understand that in American culture, religion tends to get a free ride – discussing is OK, but criticizing is not. And I disagree with that. Why should religion be above criticism? But personally, any disagreement I express is (usually) done respectfully.

    I just feel that this ad has a lot of the indoctrination, you are wrong approach.

    I very much disagree. How is the billboard indoctrinating? As I see it, it is simply stating what seems to be the opinion of the group – that the Christmas story is a myth.

    Let them worship Ralph the head of lettuce as long as there is no trying to brainwash me into thinking it.

    All well and good. But I think the majority of this “Christian nation” very subtly does exactly that. In my experience, when the average Christian is told by an atheist that he doesn’t believe in God, expresses a reaction similar to your “faith” position, like (as I said earlier), “What? Well, you have to believe in something!” What about the pledge of allegiance? What about “In God We Trust” on money? Need I go on?

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Robert W.

    Sin exists because man is imperfect and has missed the mark of God’s holiness and righteousness. That would mean constant separation from God but for grace through Jesus Christ.

    No. “Sin” doesn’t exist. It was made up, a “just so” story to explain a myth. As for being separated from God I think I have explained what I think of your god. Why would I want to spend eternity with a monster like the one you’ve described?

    when you look at the history of the human race, we clearly have evil in the world. So where do you think that comes from?

    A lot of it comes from religion. Some from ignorance. Some from greed or ideology.

    Fred Phelps will be judged for his actions by God.

    I doubt it.

    I’m sure he will not like the results of that judgment. Terrorists who believe they will get to heaven by killing others are not mainstream Christians much less mainstream Muslims. They will be judged as well.

    I doubt it.

    The bible is clear- Judge not lest yea be judged. I will agree that is one of the most ignored and violated passages in the Bible.

    Then why do you do it? Why do you judge others so much?

    I a not judging you when I say that if you don’t believe in Jesus Christ as your savior you will not go to Heaven and the only other alternative is Hell.

    I doubt it.

    That is just the consequences of that decision based upon my belief system.

    That is why your belief is so horrible.

  • Steve

    If hell means being separated from god, hell sounds infinitely preferable to heaven. Good thing I don’t believe. So in the unlikely event that hell exists, I’ll be happy there.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Robert,

    But if you think that Hell is a mythical place, then people believing in it don’t effect you, nor are there really any people suffering in it. So why the outrage. It isn’t real suffering according to you so don’t compare it to suffering here on Earth that you see is real.

    I don’t know how much longer I can go on with this conversation, but I wanted to try once again to convey why atheists are outraged at the concept of hell. Even though hell is a mythical place, the people who believe in it are not mythical, and their beliefs have real-life consequences.

    Let’s take a totally heinous example that (I hope) we can both agree on: stomping kittens to death. Now, I’m sure we both believe stomping kittens to death is immoral. However, let’s suppose that there was a group of people who went around justifying kitten stomping, who made assertions that kitten stomping was a moral thing to do. Let’s assume that no actual kittens were being killed; it’s just that this group was very outspoken about kitten stomping being fair and just, and what all kittens deserved to have happen to them. Would you just sit around and say nothing if you believed that was this group was full of garbage? I sure wouldn’t. I would be outraged and very outspoken about why exactly I think stomping kittens to death is a terrible thing to do.

    Let’s further suppose that two or three kitten stomping justifiers decided to hang out on a cat lovers’ blog and make comments about why kitten stomping is a good, moral, necessary thing. Would you not expect the cat lovers on that blog to respond? To just ignore it and say “Oh, well, they’re not actually stomping kittens, so who cares?” I don’t think you would expect the cat lovers to just remain silent. And I don’t think you would feign confusion over why exactly the cat lovers were so offended.

    It’s the same thing with hell. Obviously I don’t think hell is a real place, but the concept offends me, just as much as the concept of kitten stomping offends you. I believe it should offend anyone with a sense of empathy. I’m saddened that people make attempts to justify it, and I’m not going to be silent about my opinion. I’m not barging into anyone’s church and telling people there that they’re immoral, but if those people were to express those ideas to me personally, they would get my honest opinion on the matter. I’m not going to hold anything back.

  • Robert W.

    Anna,

    Understood. I can see your point.

    Now to finish the analogy, those same people who are talking about stomping kittens tell you how to keep kittens from ever being stomped again. That is the Gospel.

    Hoverfrog,

    No. “Sin” doesn’t exist. It was made up, a “just so” story to explain a myth.

    What you call bad behavior I call sin and bad behavior. Bad behavior with consequences here and a “sin” against God.

    A lot of it comes from religion. Some from ignorance. Some from greed or ideology.

    And some of it comes from pride, arrogance, hate, selfishness, etc.. But that doesn’t really answer the question.
    If humans are basically good, why is there any evil?

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Robert,

    Understood. I can see your point.

    Oh, good. See, I knew it wasn’t hopeless! :-)

    Now to finish the analogy, those same people who are talking about stomping kittens tell you how to keep kittens from ever being stomped again. That is the Gospel.

    But this is the part you still don’t seem to get. It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter if there’s an “out.” The very idea of kitten stomping is what horrifies us. Whether there’s a way for kittens to avoid getting stomped on doesn’t matter. The group is still trying to justify the act itself. It’s saying that if some kittens get stomped, those kittens deserve it. But we’re saying that no kittens deserve to get stomped on, ever. We’re opposed to the very concept of kitten stomping, and we’re opposed to anyone who tries to justify it.

  • Robert W.

    Anna,

    That is where we will have to differ. I see hell as a natural consequence of mankind’s sins not as something that God wants. So when I see that God, true to his nature as a God of justice and mercy gives us an out, then that is not immoral or unjust.

    I know you won’t agree but I have enjoyed our conversation.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Robert W.

    What you call bad behavior I call sin and bad behavior. Bad behavior with consequences here and a “sin” against God.

    Exactly. You add another level to bad behaviour where one isn’t necessary.

    If humans are basically good, why is there any evil?

    Who said that humans were basically good? For the most part good and evil are black and white concepts put forward and bolstered by people and organisations with an agenda. You see it in the abortion debate, debates on capital punishment, on how to deal with sex offenders, etc, etc. Things really are a bit more complicated than that.

    I see hell as a natural consequence of mankind’s sins not as something that God wants.

    Why did he create hell then? Why did he do such a poor job of creating humans? If he is so all knowing, all loving and all powerful why couldn’t he have done a better job?

  • Methodissed

    Robert W. said:

    I see hell as a natural consequence of mankind’s sins not as something that God wants. So when I see that God, true to his nature as a God of justice and mercy gives us an out, then that is not immoral or unjust.

    In the eyes of Christians, God always gets the credit, and never gets the blame. These dialogs clearly illustrate what psychologists call cognitive dissonance and belief perseverance, i.e., you’re unfounded beliefs are immune to logic, reason, and evidence.

    As an imperfect being, you’re ignoring your own fallibility, i.e., you may well be wrong. This is normal and natural, and an extremely unfortunate byproduct of our unintelligent design.

    The study of human fallibility is a humbling exercise that few people can genuinely pursue, because psychologically, the rational conclusions are too painful to bear. As a result, mythology and superstition persist.

  • Robert W.

    Hoverfrog,

    Why did he create hell then? Why did he do such a poor job of creating humans? If he is so all knowing, all loving and all powerful why couldn’t he have done a better job?

    He created humans with free will. It is that freedom which causes problems, but it is also that freedom which allows us to love him by our free choice. When humans take that free will and choose to separate themselves from God, they end up in Hell.

    Methodissed,

    These dialogs clearly illustrate what psychologists call cognitive dissonance and belief perseverance, i.e., you’re unfounded beliefs are immune to logic, reason, and evidence.

    What a wonderful description of the atheists on this site. For example, when after being presented with evidence they claim that it must be extraordinary in order to convince them.

  • Methodissed

    Robert W. said:

    What a wonderful description of the atheists on this site. For example, when after being presented with evidence they claim that it must be extraordinary in order to convince them.

    You don’t have evidence Robert, and you certainly haven’t presented any here. You have an old storybook that says your invisible friend is real.

    And yes, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. It is irrational to think otherwise. Your comment suggests that you value the notion of accepting extraordinary claims based on weak evidence. That’s a recipe for gullibility.

  • Robert W.

    Methodissed,

    You don’t have evidence Robert, and you certainly haven’t presented any here. You have an old storybook that says your invisible friend is real.

    Of course there is evidence and I have presented it multiple times on this blog. I have even directed folks to the writings of William Lane Craig, C.S. Lewis and Norman Geisler among others for a more detailed discussion. You can choose to ignore that evidence all you want in order to continue in your belief perseverance, but you can’t be intellectually honest and say that there is no evidence.

  • Methodissed

    Robert W. said:

    Of course there is evidence and I have presented it multiple times on this blog.

    Not strong evidence, and certainly not extraordinary evidence to match your extraordinary claims.

    So does it trouble you that you embrace a recipe for gullibility, i.e., accepting weak evidence to support extraordinary claims? What could you not believe on faith and/or weak evidence?

  • Robert W.

    Methodissed,

    Not strong evidence, and certainly not extraordinary evidence to match your extraordinary claims.

    You calling the evidence weak doesn’t make it so. I disagree with your characterization of the evidence.

    So does it trouble you that you embrace a recipe for gullibility, i.e., accepting weak evidence to support extraordinary claims? What could you not believe on faith and/or weak evidence?

    Not what I am doing in the slightest.

    Does it bother you that you accept that there is no God, despite the evidence that exists and instead accept the irrational view that we are here as the result of a cosmic accident with a extremely improbable chance of being successful based upon randomness?

  • Methodissed

    Robert W. said:

    You calling the evidence weak doesn’t make it so. I disagree with your characterization of the evidence.

    Disagree all you want. Science has done a wonderful job of demonstrating what constitutes strong evidence, and you don’t have it.

    You rely on unsupported presuppositions (your old storybook is factual), anecdotes (more stories), and weak and invalid logic (demonstrated above by your unwillingness to acknowledge a glaring contradiction).

    Further, you’ve admonished people for wanting extraordinary evidence to support your extraordinary claims.

    You can feel proud knowing that your irrational beliefs remain untarnished.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Here is my observation about religion.

    1. If you have difficulty understanding the current cosmological theories, or have a psychological need for easy definite answers, then the God hypothesis is convenient.

    2. In order to fit in and be part of the dominant group, it is also convenient to accept and believe the religious narrative of one’s own culture.

    3. One then kind of convinces themselves that one’s own religious narrative is true and a logical extension of the “God hypothesis”. You then view the different religious narratives of other cultures as wrong but still in support of the God hypothesis.

    4. Since it is human nature to form sub-groups and have membership requirements, religion becomes convenient to re-enforce certain prevailing attitudes and prejudices within society like not liking gays or considering that atheists are consciously (or sub consciously) working for the devil (who is also a useful construct).

    I think the recent tendency of being spiritual but not religious is a healthy trend. Yesterday, believers in the Christian narrative. Today, believers in crystals and homeopathy. Tomorrow, taking the next steps towards a more rational outlook and embrace humanistic principles. It is becoming better all the time.

  • Robert W.

    Methodissed,

    You rely on unsupported presuppositions (your old storybook is factual), anecdotes (more stories), and weak and invalid logic (demonstrated above by your unwillingness to acknowledge a glaring contradiction).

    Not so. Have you studied the works of William Lane Craig or Norman Geisler? Have you examined the archeology evidence that confirm a good portion of the events in the Bible? If it wasn’t contained in the Bible, would you routinely simply disregard eyewitness testimony?

    The Bible is held to a higher standard of proof in every respect by those who don’t want to believe it.

    You may not want to answer it, but I did see that you ignored my last question to you.

  • Methodissed

    Robert W. said:

    Have you studied the works of William Lane Craig or Norman Geisler? Have you examined the archeology evidence that confirm a good portion of the events in the Bible?

    Craig and Geisler make the same evidential and logical errors that you’re making.

    As for archeological evidence, you’re arguing that since some things in the bible have been confirmed to be factually accurate, therefore all things (or the things you believe) are accurate. Logically, that doesn’t follow, i.e., it’s a non sequitur. Your logic is invalid.

    If it wasn’t contained in the Bible, would you routinely simply disregard eyewitness testimony?

    Anecdotal evidence is a weak form of evidence, regardless of the context – that’s science 101.

    …the irrational view that we are here as the result of a cosmic accident with a extremely improbable chance of being successful based upon randomness?

    That is not evidence for your beliefs – it’s a criticism of the scientific consensus, which, unlike your claims, is supported by an enormous amount of hard scientific evidence. You can’t just point your finger at prevailing scientific theories and pretend that you’ve offered positive evidence to support your extraordinary claims.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Robert W.

    He created humans with free will. It is that freedom which causes problems, but it is also that freedom which allows us to love him by our free choice. When humans take that free will and choose to separate themselves from God, they end up in Hell.

    I doubt it but if you’re right then that has to be about the stupidest plan ever. I mean at least make yourself apparent so that “free willed” people get to make an informed decision rather than say “I can’t see any gods here, I’m not about to believe in some old stories”. Also what makes you think that you have free will?

    when after being presented with evidence

    Hang on. Evidence? Are you suggesting that you have evidence for gods? How can this be when you haven’t even defined what you mean by “god”? How can you provide evidence for something that eludes an honest description? No, I think you mean “justification” rather than “evidence”. If you have evidence then lets examine it and assess it against competing hypotheses.

  • Jeff Dale

    Robert W.

    Of course there is evidence and I have presented it multiple times on this blog.

    If you’re the same “Robert” as was here a few months ago, I think I’m one of the people to whom you offered what you consider to be evidence in support of your belief. And I gave a rather lengthy summary of the reasons why that evidence is faulty or inadequate, here. You can easily check out those reasons for yourself with a little outside reading. For example, I could recommend Why I Became an Atheist by John Loftus.

    If you’ve done any outside reading, you should give us a summary of your reasons for persisting in Christian belief in the face of such reading. I want to know if my worldview, and the facts and reasoning presented in books like Loftus’s, are fundamentally mistaken. You’d be doing me (and the rest of us atheists) a valuable service.

    But if you haven’t done any outside reading, then merely repeating, or repeatedly referring to, your supposed evidence is a waste of everyone’s time.

  • Robert W.

    Yes I am the same Robert and we are having the same discussion. And it appears we have reached the same point. The evidence and reasons I have to believe is what I consider to be strong and compelling. You all dismiss it. That is fine. We will not change each others mind but we will speak again.

    As we ended the last time. I give you my sincere prayers and wish God’s blessings upon you.

  • Methodissed

    Robert, our minds will change if the reasons offered for belief are more compelling than competing explanations. To be compelling, those reasons must be grounded in sound logic, rational argument, and strong evidence.

    You expect us to change our views, yet the reasons you offer are grossly inferior. If that’s all you have to offer, then you are correct in saying that our minds will not change.

    There is a fundamental difference in our approach to belief. Our minds can change, yours cannot, because you’re unwilling to consider your own fallibility, i.e., your mind is immune to the possibility that you might be wrong.

  • http://annainca.blogspot.com Anna

    Robert,

    That is where we will have to differ. I see hell as a natural consequence of mankind’s sins not as something that God wants. So when I see that God, true to his nature as a God of justice and mercy gives us an out, then that is not immoral or unjust. I know you won’t agree but I have enjoyed our conversation.

    True, we will never agree on morality, but at least I hope I have helped clarify why atheists find the concept of hell immoral. I do hope that it is sufficient so that you won’t be commenting a few weeks/months from now about how perplexed you are that we are so offended by something we don’t think exists.

  • charles

    religion is the biggest load of nonsense ever concocted. it can’t be true or false.

  • Jeff Dale

    Robert:

    Yes I am the same Robert and we are having the same discussion. And it appears we have reached the same point. The evidence and reasons I have to believe is what I consider to be strong and compelling. You all dismiss it. That is fine. We will not change each others mind but we will speak again.

    I have a suggestion. Next time we speak again, let’s start at this point. We’ve told you why your reasons for belief are unsatisfactory. You’re smart enough that the weakness of your position should be obvious. So next time, instead of just continuing to argue as though you had a leg to stand on, how about offering some kind of response to our counter-arguments? How about a little outside reading to inform your opinion?

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Robert says:

    As we ended the last time. I give you my sincere prayers and wish God’s blessings upon you.

    I say “I wish you and yours well and may you always have the optimism to recognize good fortune”.

    See, its possible to be civil without drawing god into things.

  • http://miketheinfidel.blogspot.com/ MikeTheInfidel

    Robert:

    He created humans with free will. It is that freedom which causes problems, but it is also that freedom which allows us to love him by our free choice. When humans take that free will and choose to separate themselves from God, they end up in Hell.

    Here’s the problem. According to your theology:
    1. God designed the mind of man, to the minutest details.
    2. God knows the future.
    3. God created a place of everlasting suffering for those who become separated from him (originally Lucifer and his angels, but eventually man as well).
    4. It is not the will of God that any should suffer.
    5. Everything that happens is in accordance with God’s plan.

    From 1 and 2, it follows that God knew mankind would rebel, since he had to put the ability to rebel into our minds in the first place when he designed them – after all, where else would we get our abilities from, before the fall?

    If rebellion leads to separation from God, then from 1, 2, and 3, it follows that God knew even before making mankind that some people would wind up in hell.

    However, if 4 is true, the only way that 1, 2, and 3 could all be true is if 5 is not. Either it is God’s plan that some will suffer, and thus 4 is not true, or it isn’t God’s plan that some will suffer, and thus something outside of God’s plan has superseded his will and 5 is not true.

    This theology is internally contradictory, and it’s just the basic outline. Once you throw in more details about God’s personality and attributes it becomes even more impossibly muddled. Either the type of god you believe in does not exist, or it is able to transcend logic (and therefore utterly immune to any sort of investigation and incapable of being trusted).

  • http://www.atheistrev.com vjack

    I like it. Not only is it a myth, but I suspect quite a few of those who call themselves Christians realize this.

    Then again, I’d also like one that said something like, “Hate the holidays? Try atheism.”

  • Mary Leroy

    Listen,I am a church goer and this sign is descrimination against believers. Lord Jesus Christ the only son of god is real.I believe i will have some followers.If you do not believe in the most powerful thing there is then you are a speck of dirt and the Lord is not appreciating every minute that sign is up.No you are not friendly you probably did something to convince the person who allowed this untrue sign to put it up.All i am saying is TAKE THAT SIGN DOWN ! i am demanding it.
    -Mary Leroy

  • http://bastionofsass.blogspot.com/ bastion of sass

    I like the billboard. It’s about time that Christians wake up to the fact that there are atheists in their midst. Oooooh! Scary!!!

    And, we have evidence to back up our statements that the Nativity story is a myth, just like almost everything else in the Bible. Oooooooooh. Evidence. Really, really, scary!

  • Joe Parkmoor

    Believe what you will. This sort of thing gives me excellent material for my Sunday school class. But still, I always make sure to emphasize to my students that Jesus taught tolerance and forgiveness. Peace, everybody. Enjoy whatever you are celebrating – or not.

  • Alan

    Please keep in mind, “If there were no God, there would be no Atheists.” G K Chesterton

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  • http://thefourprecepts.com Wayne Ferguson

    Those who understand a myth to be a story which is true on the inside, but not (necessarily) on the outside, are free to celebrate both “reason” and “the reason for the season”— the logos and the logos made flesh (whether or not all the stories surrounding the life of Jesus are historically accurate—and whether or not Darwin was on the right track with regard to the origin of the species). Merry Christmas to all, in any event! :)

    http://www.thefourprecepts.com/propublish/myth-3.jpg

  • Dan

    As a christian clergyman, I am amused by the billboard made by “reasonable” people. This billboard did more to increase attendance at Christmas services than anything I could have invented. The age of “reason” is but another myth that in my opinion leaves us disillusioned and broken. Reason tells me that there is something more to me than this! Keep up the good work. Look forward to next year.

  • Meg

    i just spent the last hour reading this blog post, and the comments. thanks for a great post, and a lively conversation in the comments section. it further cemented my belief that religious people are incapable of reason and logic. i’m glad i’m an atheist. cheers, and more power.

  • Nicholas

    Let me state right off, I’m agnostic. Ok, with that out of the way, putting up the billboard was at best, a waste of time and money. At worse, just plain stupid.

    Does anyone at “American Atheists” possess common sense?

    No one who believes the “myth” is going to have their beliefs changed from seeing a billboard. The atheists of course, already don’t believe. So what’s the point?

    Oh yes, the secret atheists?? This will make them proclaim their true beliefs? Right?

    Uh no……

    They don’t care. Because they don’t believe. It’s a myth, and as such, it’s meaningless to them. If it did, they would be more vocal in their “not believing.”

    The billboard does prove one thing. That even atheists can believe something stupid.