FFRF Places Full-Page Ad in the New York Times

In case you missed it, the Freedom From Religion Foundation placed this full-page ad (read: $$$) appeared in today’s New York Times to mark the Winter Solstice:

The question is whether the donations and publicity resulting from the ad will make up for its cost. Knowing the FFRF, they wouldn’t do something like this unless it did.

Bill Donohue (a.k.a. The Catholic League) responds by calling FFRF “Parasites of Christmas“:

There is a silly full-page ad in today’s New York Times by the atheists from Freedom From Religion Foundation called, Reason’s Greetings. The “Solstice Tribute” is appropriately vacuous, but what got our attention was the caveat at the end of the lyrical statement: it says, “May be sung to ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem.’” In other words, “Rock Around the Clock” won’t suffice. Sorry Brenda.

The good news is that these secularists cannot survive without parasitically feeding off Christmas, thus giving us Christians a back-handed compliment. We’ll take it.

Yep. Back-handed compliment. That’s what that was…

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/matthew.c.pickard Matthew C Pickard

    Bill Donohue has responded to this ad stating that atheists are “parasites” in a press release that just came out.

    Here’s part of it:

    ” There is a silly full-page ad in today’s New York Times by the atheists from Freedom From Religion Foundation called, Reason’s Greetings.
    The “Solstice Tribute” is appropriately vacuous, but what got our
    attention was the caveat at the end of the lyrical statement: it says, “May be sung to ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem.’” In other words, “Rock Around the Clock” won’t suffice. Sorry Brenda.
     
    The good news is that these secularists cannot survive without
    parasitically feeding off Christmas, thus giving us Christians a
    back-handed compliment. We’ll take it.”

    Of course, history isn’t this organizations strong point. It was the Christians who “parasitically” grafted Jesus alleged birthday on preexisting pagan holidays.

  • Anonymous

    It looks like it my have been in relation to a memorial fund request, given the specific in memorial attribution.

  • Anataboga

    Er, here in the UK we (usually) sing OLTOB to a tune arranged by Vaughan Williams, he having adapted it from an old English folk song – a secular old English folk song.

    If Bill feels he has to bandy the word “parasite” around (he’s such a drama queen isn’t he) then the “parasites” in the scenario are the Christians for nicking a perfectly good non-religious tune in the first place.  FFRF are just claiming the tune back.

    • Erp

      And Vaughan Williams was an atheist/agnostic (even if he did arrange or create the music for many hymns).

  • Anonymous

    That is *delightful*!  Happy Solstice, all!  Longer days soon!

  • http://stochasticscientist.blogspot.com/ Kathy Orlinsky

    I can’t say I like this ad.  It sounds like a plea to theists that we atheists can believe in nonsense just like they can.  Yes, it asks for reason to prevail, but only after stating, “the evergreen is ever seen as hope we will survive”.  Raise your hand if you’ve looked at a tree and thought, ‘now I know the human race can continue!’

    I know it’s meant to replace the Star of Bethlehem song, but this one is almost as stupid.  Are freethinkers supposed to sing about sun worship instead of Jesus worship?  What’s the point?

    IMO, the ad would have been much better without the song.  It could have just read, ‘Reason’s Greetings–At this season of the Winter Solstice may reason prevail’.  

    • Anonymous

      Not at all.  It gives a evidence-based reason to celebrate instead of a supernatural one.  There is no devoting time to praising the sun, no ceremonies, no worship.  We are happy that the days are getting longer again, more sunlight will replace night, just the facts of axial tilt giving us a excuse to get together and be happy with friends and family.  As a species evolved to diurnal patterns, reason accepts celebrating the return of more daylight. 

  • Anonymous

    Bill Donohue is just a big bag of hot air looking to spew his nonsense on any group that doesn’t believe as he does.  He is the silly one here, for reasons already stated by others… parasite, indeed.  While the rest of us are living our lives, he spends his days looking for atheists to pick fights with.  Best to just nod and smile.

    Happy Solstice, everyone!

  • Anonymous

    The meter also fits quite well with the Star Spangled Banner, if you really want to freak some people out.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paul-Reed/692599362 Paul Reed

    It’s not a caveat, it’s a note on melody.

    Btw, who’s Brenda…..??

    • Mairianna

      Brenda Lee – she sang “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree”.  

  • PJB863

    As noted above, Donohue hates and disparages anyone who believes differently from him.  His favorite targets:  Atheists, the LGBT community, liberals – both theological and social, Madonna, anyone who mentions the child sex predator scandals in the catholic church, anyone who publicly disagrees with or criticizes the catholic church, Lady Gaga, jews, muslims, protestants and anyone who is allied with any of these.

    Other potential targets of his wrath:  left-handed people, electricity, education, certain types of trees, applesauce, astronomy, physics, education, tree sloths, canned sardines packed in oil,  people with a birthmark on their butt (left cheek only), armadilloes, breakfast cereals (cold only), scratchy toilet paper, green ink pens, The Clapper, underwear that rides up on him, socks that won’t stay, and squeaky shoes, just to name a few.

    I think he needs more fiber in his diet.

    • PJB863

      Oh, I forgot to add three things:  Hamburger Helper, chili without beans in it, and those Danish cookies that come in a blue tin in different shapes that all taste the same (I hear he might be organizing  a boycott and pickets against any stores that carry these – a press conference will be scheduled at a later date).

      • http://bigthink.com/blogs/daylight-atheism Adam Lee

        Does this remind anyone else of the god Nuggan from Discworld?

        • PJB863

          Never heard of it.  I just walked around the house and looked at stuff – except for the birthmark thingy……

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    The good news is that these Christians cannot survive without parasitically feeding off the Yuletide, thus giving us Norsemen a back-handed compliment. We’ll take it.  - Baldur Donohueson, 736 A.D. 
    The good news is that the Cult of Skora cannot survive without parasitically feeding off the Festivus, thus giving us Pasterifians a back-handed compliment. We’ll take it.  - Bill Donohuebot 11011 A.D. 

    The birth of Sasquatch Jesus

  • Anonymous

    Christians somehow never ask about the background of these shadowy figures who appear suddenly in the Jesus story and disappear just as quickly. Christian tradition assigns them the title of kings, but the Matthew writer never hints at them being of royalty. 
    Also the bible never says there were three wise men, only that there were three gifts. And if Jesus actually been recognized as the Messiah in infancy, as the adoration of the Magi implies, it seems strange that no one took notes about his life (except for one brief mention of his experience in the Temple as a youth) until he reached adulthood.

  • SJH

    At the bottom of the ad the FFRF explain that the purpose of the organization is to educate and keep religion and government separate. So how does this serve to educate or keep religion and gov separate?

    It does not educate at all and has no bearing on public policy. All it is basically doing is raining on the parade of those celebrating Christmas. As far as I can see, the only educational value is to suggest that we use reason in our analysis of various issues. Is this not common sense? Do you need to pay a bunch of money to inform people to use reason?

    Perhaps a better way to phrase it is that they believe that people do not use reason frequently enough. We are all guilty of allowing our emotions to make judgements at times. Is there a line to be drawn which defines those that use reason most of the time and emotion rarely? Are people on one side of the line more advanced then the others? I guess I am trying to say that I do not think that it is that black and white.

    • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

      Hi SJH, I hope your shortest day and longest night are filled with human warmth and reason’s light. (Oops, sorry for the rhyming.)

      You asked several questions:
      “So how does this serve to educate or keep religion and gov separate?”

      It promotes membership. A positive message about reason prevailing over ancient superstition is perhaps more attractive than always saying “mixing government and religion sucks.” Most organizations have to raise funds and attract members in order to be able to work for their primary goal, whatever it is, and the way they do that might not have a direct bearing on their primary goal. Your question is like asking “What do church bake sales have to do with saving souls?”

      “All it is basically doing is raining on the parade of those celebrating Christmas. As far as I can see, the only educational value is to suggest that we use reason in our analysis of various issues.”

      Christians do not OWN the month of December. There is no fence around it with signs saying “Private party, all non-Christians keep out.” This is a time when all humans in the northern hemisphere organically yearn for more warmth and light, and so even if Christianity had never existed, people would be doing things to express that primal yearning. The verse is quite educational, illuminating the pagan roots of the desire to call back the sun, and to take inspiration from living things that endure winter’s hardships the way evergreen trees do. Because that longing has become encrusted with superstitions that have co-opted and hijacked each other over the centuries, and have perpetuated the general mentality of magical thinking, it is perfectly reasonable to appeal to reason at this time of heightened celebration of superstition. 

      Is this not common sense? Do you need to pay a bunch of money to inform people to use reason?

      Yes, we do. It’s money well spent. Look around at the world in general. Common sense is not very common. Superstition and self-protecting ignorance, and the fear and hatred that they foster definitely prevail. Reason actually lived rather than just talked in cafes and labs is very rare.

      “Is there a line to be drawn which defines those that use reason most of
      the time and emotion rarely? Are people on one side of the line more
      advanced then the others? I guess I am trying to say that I do not think
      that it is that black and white.”

      This is not about drawing lines between people or black-and-white thinking; it is the exact opposite. Religion is the most divisive thing ever invented by man. Nothing divides people more instantly, deeply, and permanently as does religion. It divides nations, communities, families, lovers, and even individuals, cleaving them down the middle like a sword’s stroke.

      People who are more reasonable are not more “advanced,” they’re just more helpful to society. This is not about using reason to put more emotionally-based people down, it’s about coaxing them to venture into clearer thinking and more constructive behavior.

      Yes, you’re right, we’re all guilty of letting our emotions make our judgments at times.  That does not mean there is some acceptable level for that. We all should respectfully and patiently encourage each other to continually move in the direction of reason.  As Sam Harris has famously said, “There is no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable.”

       SJH,  I thank you for these past few months of your earnest and sincere questioning and challenging of people’s thoughts and ideas here. You have been able to remain respectful in your disagreement, and I think that approach promotes better mutual understanding. In addition to a happy winter solstice today, I wish you a very merry Christmas in three days.

      • Ben

        “There is no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable.”

        And I think it’s appropriate to add that there are many societies in human history that suffered because its people became too religious (including ours, right now, at this minute).

      • SJH

        Thanks for the thorough reply. It is good to see that there are many people out there that are looking for constructive conversation.  I appreciate the positive discourse.
        It lends to my hope in humanity.

        As for the rest of your post:
        “It promotes membership”
        They can promote membership without potentially hurting others. Though this ad is rather tame compared to some, I think many have grown ultra sensitive as the country has become more polarized.

        “Christians do not OWN the month of December ”
        Yes, this is correct we do not. And most would not be bothered by an atheist group seeking members but again, they don’t have to do it in a way that may hurt others.

        “We all should respectfully and patiently encourage each other to continually move in the direction of reason”
        I think common sense is plentiful. Most people use reason to make decisions. Using emotion, however, in my opinion is not necessarily an inferior method. Its how we have compassion for others. It is what brings us to love others and treat them with respect. Its the feeling we get when we realize that we have been a blessing to someone else’s life. I truly believe that many of us are meant to make decisions based on their emotions.

        Making judgments based on emotions is not the problem, nor is it a problem that some have an unwillingness to use reason. The problem is how we act upon those.

        I can just as easily reason that another person is spiritually evil and therefor should die as I can reason (as many throughout history have) that there is no God, morality is a myth, and that some people are inferior and therefor are a burden and should be killed.

        Both reason and emotions, religion and atheism can be used for evil. It is not about whether or not we use reason or emotions, it is how we act upon them.

        “There is no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable.” 

        There is no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became too loving. (Even if they were ignorant and had little ability to reason)

    • Parse

      SJH,
      Do you raise similar concerns when other charities spend money on fundraising and membership drives?  Or how about when churches put up billboards in response to the CoR billboards – I’d wager those aren’t directly advancing the primary purpose of a church.  I’m sure that the FFRF isn’t the first nonprofit organization to take out a full page ad in the New York Times, and it won’t be the last, either.  

      • SJH

        There is nothing wrong with membership drives for any organization, however this organization, by the nature of the ad, implies that it pits itself against something that is inferior by making fun of it. I have a sense of humor and this ad does not bother me personally but it likely bothers many because of its implication. Why choose to insult so many on a day that is so important to them. 
        For those that have a close relationship with Christ and feel that they know him as well as they know their own children, it may be like making fun of the day that their own child was born or perhaps even died. It is sacred and beautiful to them and ads like this diminish it and are hurtful to them.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

     The verse is very positive as well as informative. I like it a lot better than hardened hearts and enslaved minds.

  • Lurker111

    My only concern here is overall timing:  By the time I get to this point in December, I consider any beg for money (practically) a physical threat.  I hope they at least make up the cost of the ad.

  • oambitiousone

    This has been a tight year, but I going to take the 50.00 bonus I received from a generous client and buy a year’s subscription. Imagine all the money I could give if it weren’t for tithing through my teen years (at minimum wage, no less).

  • Anonymous

    That was beautiful. The FFRF once again excels in true positive, celebratory not-shitting-on-other-people messages.

    Donahue is such a blowhard. If you’re not making him mad you’re probably doing something wrong.

  • Sue Blue

    Speaking of parasites….Bill Donohue, the Catholic tapeworm, feeding off the lifeblood of the faithful, spewing out nasty little segments that cling around the anus of the church.   Not that I think the church is worth deworming.  


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