The War on Christmas Just Moved to Times Square

Anyone walking through New York City’s Times Square today, near M&M’s World, will be greeted by American Atheists’ latest billboard pitting Santa Claus against Jesus.

It reads “Keep the merry! Dump the myth!”

(I know, I know, Santa is also a myth, but you get the idea.)

David Silverman, President of American Atheists stated, “We know that a large population of ‘Christians’ are actually atheists who feel trapped in their family’s religion. If you know god is a myth, you do not have to lie and call yourself ‘Christian’ in order to have a festive holiday season. You can be merry without the myth, and indeed, you should.

… “We encourage people to be honest with themselves and their families this year. If you don’t believe in God, tell your family — honesty is the greatest gift, and they deserve it.

The billboard is a direct rebuke to anyone who believes atheists are trying to ruin the holiday season for everyone else. No one’s trying to do that. Atheists (on the whole) love this time of year just as much as religious people do. We just don’t put any stock into that whole Jesus thing. As Dan Barker said so eloquently:

The real “reason for the season” is the natural astronomical holiday. We all like to honor the shortest day of the year with lights, food, gifts, fun, music, and family gatherings, as it signals the return of the sun for another year. While everything in the upper northern hemisphere is dark and colorless, the evergreen signifies hope for a returning spring. None of this is supernatural. It has nothing to do with the birth of a god.

In America, Christians are welcome to celebrate whatever they want. We are happy to share the season with them. They just can’t use the government to privilege their party over everyone else’s.

Nobody should have to stay home for the holidays. We atheists love this time of year like everyone else, and we actually know what we are celebrating: the rebirth of the sun, not the birth of the son

The billboard, which was paid for by a donor who wishes to remain anonymous (and is undoubtedly one hell of an expense), will be up through January 10th.

It also marks the third year in a row that AA has put up controversial Christmas-time billboards. Last year, AA paid for a digital sign at the foot of the Lincoln Tunnel encouraging atheists to come out to their families:

They also had a similar billboard up prior to that one:

In 2010, AA began this holiday billboard trend with this image, also at the Lincoln Tunnel:

Their current billboard, though, may be the most controversial yet due to its location, message, and timing (right in the middle of the fake “War on Christmas”). It’ll be tough to ignore, both physically and conversationally. And no matter how much FOX News Channel anchors complain about it, the message is bound to reach a bunch of closeted atheists who didn’t know there were others like them out there. That alone is cause for celebration.

All those who say atheists are trying to ruin the holidays have no clue what they’re talking about.

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.

  • C Peterson

    It’s a clever sign, well designed. Maybe it serves some purpose, although I don’t really know what.

    The signs I really like are those that promote solstice celebrations. The cool thing about celebrating the solstice is that it’s purely secular, and doesn’t conflict with any religious beliefs. It is, therefore, a day that can be celebrated by anybody, and should be seen as entirely non-confrontational. It is just the sort of holiday that can re-hijack the season, and do so generally under the radar.

  • Gus Snarp

    It’s better than some of their previous signs. But I really do wonder what that costs, it’s got to be a small fortune. And I’d love to know who the anonymous donor was. My money’s on Bill O’Reilly.

  • GodVlogger (on YouTube)

    I think that this is FANTASTIC!

    Every time that we openly question the validity of gods, Jesus, etc., we *break the taboo* that religions try to impose against stating the obvious: that gods/jesus/etc. are man-made superstitions. 

    Enjoying the season requires no belief in bronze-age superstitions. 

    Merry Christ-myth!

  • cathouseumbrella

    Why are all atheist billboards such godawful pieces of design? 

  • Tony

    Another swing-and-a-miss by AA, I’d say. “Merry Christmyth” or “Happy Solstice” accompanied by a picture of a family enjoying the season’s festivities might have been better. It would’ve been a bit more subtle and a lot more attractive.

  • Sindigo

    I’m beginning to think it’s done on purpose. It’s the only explanation.

    Maybe, in time for next year a few designers (any takers?) should get some decent designs done and offer them for free to those who are interested.

  • chicago dyke

    it’s an interesting sociological question and i’d love to see it studied in depth by proper researchers.

     how many in america will answer to the label ‘christian’ simply because they don’t want to upset family at the holiday dinner table? i know a lot of people don’t go to church at all, but for whom xmas and easter dinner back home or whatever is very important as shared family ritual. but not one where they directly announce to fundie aunt myrtle and her bible school kids “jesus is myth” after the dinner prayer is said, or whenever.

    so in that sense this is an interesting campaign and i wonder if they did any research into the size of the population it targets. 

  • Kenneth

    I actually would live to fund a billboard or sign, it is a great way to reach people on a low budget. I wish there was a graph comparing how much atheists spend on advertising compared to religious folk, and I bet atheists would not come even close to the astronomical money spent by the religious. Also, anybody have an average price something like this would go for a month?

  • Sindigo

    Ricky Gervais.

    EDIT: That’s a guess, BTW.

  • Tainda

    My mom was talking to my aunt the other day.  My aunt said that my cousin’s son didn’t want to go to HIS aunt’s house for xmas because he feels “like an outsider”.  My mom told my aunt to send him over to my house.  I told her he’s welcome any time and he should have told me sooner and I know how it feels to be an outcast.

    Makes me sad that he feels that way but I’m proud that the boy I used to babysit has grown up (he’s 20) as a pretty smart cookie! :)

    Billboards like this should be up everywhere.

  • Debbie

    Does anyone really believe that there are closet atheists, our society as a whole is so liberal, do what you want to do, I doubt very seriously anyone who professes to be an atheist has not already told their family.  Waste of money why not spend that money to help folks that just had their lives wrecked by Sandy?

  • allein

    I kind of have to disagree with Dan Barker on the whole “reason for the season” thing. I’m an atheist, and while I don’t discuss it with my family I also don’t pretend to be religious. I don’t pray, go to church, or any of that. We have breakfast and exchange gifts at my parents’ house on Christmas morning, go to the big family dinner at my uncle’s (if someone says grace, I keep my mouth shut but I don’t bow my head or anything…at Thanksgiving this year I happened to be in the kitchen so I continued to fix my plate while my uncle [different uncle] said grace in the dining room; no one ever says grace at Christmas dinner)… but I’m celebrating Christmas, not the solstice or longer days or whatever. Because for me it’s a family holiday just like Thanksgiving, and it’s what we do and it’s nice. It’s not a religious holiday to me, but it’s still Christmas. If I didn’t celebrate it, I wouldn’t be celebrating something else in its place. So it may be the “reason” for some, but not for me.

  • Sindigo

    I can assure you that there are plenty of people who are in the “closet” about their atheism and plenty more who feel isolated by their lack of belief. I know that feel myself. 

    You must care deeply about this issue as you’ve created an account specifically to say this though. Either that or I’m replying to another faceless troll. Again. As they say, D’oh!

  • OCRazor

     I would too.  Maybe for Hemant’s next birthday we can raise money for a sign for him – we can do a voting system on this website, and Hemant can pick the location?

    My way of saying thanks for all the work you do here!

  • NoCrossNoCrescent

    What have you been smoking Debbie? Ever heard of those ostracized by their families or seen their careers threatened unless they joined compulsory prayers (me included)? I know, hard to see from your position of privilege. Oh, as for that “waste of money” thing, are you going to have a word with the city about the festivities everywhere?

  • NoCrossNoCrescent

    Wrong. Subtle doesn’t get publicity.

  • Danny

    There’s a difference between celebrating and going along for the ride. If I exchange gifts on Christmas Eve, I’m exchanging gifts. I don’t believe that 2012 years ago a virgin gave birth to the son of a god that doesn’t exist, so I’m not celebrating it. My family then goes to church and “worships” and sings hymns and prays. That’s celebrating. Nothing I’ve done is mutually exclusive to the so called birth of christ.

  • Almighty Reason

    I say Seth MacFarlane :D

  • Meg

     I was shunned by my family for a year after I told them.  There are plenty of closeted atheists.  I”m willing to bet there are a lot especially in the bible belt.  If you come out as an atheist in the south, you could lose everything.  People have even lost their jobs because of it. 

  • Rich Wilson

    I wonder if AA gets more criticism from offended Christians, or from atheists who think the design is bad, or the message is too harsh, or it’s a waste of money, or …

  • Gus Snarp

    I think the billboard would be funnier if Ricky paid for it.

  • Debbie


    The waste by our cities on everything is pretty sad, we will never get people in government to see the waste they create, whether it is on festivities or overpaid staff.   However this person had a choice on spending money on something that disagrees with the traditional Christmas or make a difference in someone’s life that has lost everything.  If I had that kind of money, I hope I would be more moved by compassion than freedom of expression is all I am saying!

    I am so sorry that your family cannot love you even though you have chosen to believe different than them, there is nothing and I do mean nothing that would every cause me to reject on of my children! 

  • arensb

    (I know, I know, Santa is also a myth, but you get the idea.)

    True, but Daniel Dennett is real, whether he’s wearing a red suit and hat or not.

  • NoCrossNoCrescent

    So I guess you are going to tell all the businesses to stop running promotions during the season? And the churches? Or are you only bothered when atheists do it?
    It is nice of you to have empathy. But the suggestion that there are no atheists in the closet is either silly or malicious. I am pretty open about who I am and even now I am hesitant to post freethought material on my facebook page because my career will be affected.

  • Debbie

    What I care deeply about is people not being victims.  I have lived through much adversity in my life.  I too was quiet about the hidden part of my life, but one day I chose not to see myself as a victim any more.  I got peace about what I had allowed to happen in my life.  I took the power back into my life and stopped allowing the people who caused me pain to have that power.  What ever you choose to believe or not believe you have to have peace about.  So you have to stop giving the power of isolation a place in your life, either you don’t believe or you do believe.  Settle it within yourself and then you will not be angry, frustrated, isolated or intimidated.  You will own your decesion and people will have to respect that.   I just got tired of the mindset, it is always somebody else’s fault, no matter what their opinion of me was that did not defing who I was, so I did something about it.

  • Gus Snarp

    Three of the parents of kids in my son’s class are Christian preachers. His friends’ parents are all Christian and make comments about it, their kids talk about god all the time and go to church. Fliers for church festivals get handed out in school. There are two Catholic churches within a mile of my house, let alone other denominations. I worry every day that the other parents are going to say my kid can’t play with theirs anymore because he’s going to tell them he doesn’t believe in god. I worry that he will be completely ostracized from all his friends. And he goes to public school. Most of the kids in the neighborhood go to Catholic school, and when people ask me what school my kid goes to and I don’t name a Catholic school I get weird looks. I’m an atheist. I’ll admit it. But I don’t volunteer that information. I avoid the subject whenever possible, because I don’t want to tell my kids’ friends’ parents I don’t believe in god. I don’t want to tell my wife’s family, though I’m sure they mostly know.  Even the liberal parents are still religious. 

    And I’m pretty confident about my atheism, I’ve thought about it, I understand it, and I’ve chosen that label for myself. I have no doubt there are millions of people who mouth all the right words and don’t believe any of it, but don’t have a word for what they believe, don’t realize they’re not alone. If these signs help them feel a little less alone, then they’re worth it.

    But I think you’re conflating “liberal” with non-religious, and the two are not synonymous. Yes, non-religious people are overwhelmingly more likely to be liberal politically, and yes, conservatives have a stranglehold on evangelicals right now, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of liberal Catholics and Lutherans and Episcopalians who simply assume that everyone is a Christian and talk that way and unknowingly make many non-believers feel unwelcome.

  • John Kieffer

    Oh yea. That’ll get Jingle Bell Stormtrooper Bill O’Reilly’s attention.

  • arensb

    I wonder to what extent the qualities that make a person a good artist also make them susceptible to religion. Both artistic creativity and religion seem to be rooted more in emotion and feelings than in rational thought.
    A lot of atheists, on the other hand, were raised religious but came to abandon their religious positions because they couldn’t stand up to rational scrutiny.
    I’m not saying that there are no atheists with artistic talent, or that the two are at odds. But I suspect that people who want religious art have a larger pool of talent to draw from.

  • Jas.

    Wouldn’t it make more sense to contrast Santa with the nativity scene, not the crucifixion?   After all, it’s Christmas, not Easter.

  • TerranRich

    Design one yourself. Let’s see what ya got. :)

  • Keir

    “It is just the sort of holiday that can re-hijack the season, and do so generally under the radar.”
    Indeed, just as Christianity hijacked the winter solstice.
    The purpose of the sign is quite clearly to inform people that you do not have to be Christian in order to celebrate Christmas.

  • TerranRich

    Damon. Fowler.
    Try again.

  • Debbie

    I am not bothered by anyone who wishes to express their freedom of thought.  It is fine with me.  I also think that people who spend money to go on elaborate vacations and buy cars that cost a million dollars could find a better way to spend their money.   I am constantly amazed how how offendable people are which is why I look at this page some.  I am confident enough in my belief system that I am not bullied or ostracized for what I believe.  I just dont’ get offended and if I do, I realize that those are my feelings and no one can make me feel anything, I have a choice to accept what they are projecting onto me to accept or not.  I choose not.  

    Being a closet atheist sentences you to more misery that by telling people.  So for those people I regret that their life will never be easy.

  • Debbie

    Wow you choose to believe that people in the south could lose everything for avowing that they are atheist.  There are a whole lot of folks in the south who are atheist, because they live however they choose.  I don’t know if they say they don’t believe in God, but they certainly don’t live like they would believe he is real and able to do anything to them for how they do or don’t live.  That is more victim mentality, here is the threat “If I live in the south and I say I am an atheist I will lose everything”     Fear makes us victims, you must have enough belief in your self what ever you believe to move forward. 

     I am not saying that their would not be people who would do what you say but to label a whole part of the nation is not true.

  • Rich Wilson

    Part of my ‘Sandy’ charity giving this year was $50 to Covenant House, a Roman Catholic teen shelter (with a note of appreciation for their policy change to accept LGBT teens).

    Get back to us when every church in this country spends ALL their money on charity, and NONE on advertising or decorations or other ‘wasteful’ things.

    And do please hang around.  You might learn why so many atheists in America choose to hide their atheism from their co-workers, their family, their communities.  In some cases, from everyone.

    For a social animal like humans, being shunned by one’s own ‘loved ones’ can be a very deep cut indeed.

  • Michael

    I’m pretty sure the anonymous donor is Bill O’Reilly given how it reinforces the premise of his book and sales have no doubt dwindled considerably. And I just can’t believe any atheist organization could think up such incompetent marketing that seems to fail to understand what advertising is used for.

  • ActualFreethinker

     The sign is actually an expression of bigotry, and is not particularly clever.

  • Debbie

    I guess what blows me away and I live in the Bible belt is how few people talk or take a stand for Christianity, even those who are all up in the church and yet to hear  that you live in an an area where repeatedly religion is brought up.  There must be more atheist than I thought because they don’t say anything about religion.  But I think the main thing is they don’t care one way or the other, they are just living and to have to think that there  is or is not a God is just something they don’t bother with.   I don’t think they care if some of us choose to be  Christians  or Atheist.   Which means we all spending alot of time trying to convert people that really don’t care what any of us believe.

    When I say liberal I am not speaking about politics at all. I am saying we in the country believe we can say or do most anything we want.   There is no censer for the most part on anything we want try.  Like for instance the woman who wants to marry her dog, that should be all right because she has chosen to believe that it is alright. 

  • Sindigo

    Ah, blame the victim for being a victim. Nice.

  • Sindigo

    On would hope so.

  • Tainda

    Wow, you must have had a seriously nice life to not have experienced any kind of backlash for what you believe in (christian or atheist).

    I live in bible belt Missouri and have experienced many instances of prejudice against my atheism.  Some people can’t handle that and choose to keep their thoughts private.

    No one is trying to convert anyone.  The billboards, for the most part, are saying it’s ok if you don’t believe.  I know TONS of closeted atheists that are terrified of their families finding out.

    I realize, here in the US, that we have it so much better than some countries but it’s still hard to lose your family and friends just because you don’t believe what they do.

  • Debbie

     If I  knew that someone in my family was an atheist, it would not change my love for them.   I don’t agree but I don’t love any less.  So if someone in your family shuns you because of your choice, that is not right. I don’t agree with it in any shape.

    Someone said get the businesses to stop spending, now you say get the churches to stop spending at the holidays.  Never gonna happen, I was pointing out this person did not have to be like the businesses or the churches choosing to trumpet his belief  just cause everyone else did.  They could have asked  is this really how I want to spend this money to get my point across or would I rather do something that will immediately  affect the lives of people.

    I am glad you gave the $50.00 for whatever reason you chose.  The person that benefited from that gift will always be grateful and that is the most important thing.

  • Deb Fohringer

    I’ve been “openly atheistic” for quite a few years with family members, friends and co-workers.  Other than a few relatives who think my parents must have somehow “failed” me, I’ve never felt like there have been any negative consequences.  My husband is a believer, and we get along fine, allowing one another their own beliefs.  Admittedly, we live in the eastern part of the US, so I’ve rarely had bible-belt fundamentalists show up at my front door, but the few times I did resulted in a discussion rather than an argument.  With all of that said, I love this time of year.  For the most part people are kinder, more empathetic and giving.  I don’t care what the “reason for the season” is.  I just wish the “warmth” would last a little longer.

  • Debbie

    I was a victim, I chose not to be by choosing the way I saw myself not how somebody else saw me.  I knew I didn’t have to live the way I was living so I changed it.

  • C Peterson

    I don’t like the organization American Atheists. As an American atheist, I go out of my way to distance myself from them. In discussions, I often hold them up as an example of something irrational. I think activist atheism is harmful. I think these signs are a poor idea. That said, there is nothing remotely hateful or bigoted about them.

    It is not bigotry to have an opinion different from other people.

  • Rich Wilson

    There must be more atheist than I thought because they don’t say anything about religion.


    Here’s the thing.  You have an assumption about how nobody cares what you believe because nobody is going to treat you poorly for what you believe.  You are assuming that your own experience applies to everyone else.  Most of us have experienced being treated poorly JUST because someone knows we don’t believe in God.  It doesn’t require being ‘pushy’ or ‘trying to ruin Christmas’ or anything else.  Just being honest about the fact that you don’t believe in God WILL earn at the very least verbal abuse.  Did you happen to watch Hemant’s talk on being a young atheist?  Please, check it out

    And tell us all how Nicole was a ‘victim’.

    Nobody is trying to convert you.  American Atheists is trying to let closet atheists know they aren’t alone- that’s it.  Yes, the sign is provocative, but their real goal is to advertise, not to convert.  Be happy with who you are, but be careful describing other peoples’ shoes if you haven’t walked in them.

  • Tainda

    And that’s good for you but some people haven’t reached that point yet.

  • Rich Wilson

    You score an A+ on sympathy.  But an F on empathy.

  • JRB

    I fully admit that I don’t know if I could design a better billboard or not.  So you know what I’d do if I was asked to?  Hire a designer, with an established portfolio of billboard work.

    And I know lots of people are all “but it’s the message not the design that matters” but the truth is that amateur hack jobs might get people’s attention but they don’t exactly say “this is a well organized and professionally run organization that I should take seriously and trust with my donation” to most people.  I mean, the organization is already spending a lot of money to put the message up, why not spend just a little bit more to make it look like they took more than 15 minutes to figure out how to present it.

    (I will also say that based on their previous billboard designs, AA is at least heading in the right direction when it comes to billboard design, even if they haven’t got it quite right yet.) 

  • John Kieffer

    Jingle Bill O’Reilly sez …

  • JRB

     Please, do go on…

  • ganner918

    I think a bigger number claim the label because even many who don’t really believe still buy that Christian=good and moral, atheist=selfish and immoral.

  • ganner918

    Well when people follow your advice and just out themselves with no concern for what may happen, and people get disowned or harassed or teenagers get kicked out of their homes as a result of their honesty (these happen, many cases are documented) the victims (and yes, they’d become victims then as a result of doing what you suggest), I’m sure they’ll take comfort in knowing that Debbie disagrees with the people disowning them.

  • Yoink

    I’ve read every definition of bigotry I can find, and none of them line up with what you’re saying about this sign.  Call it classless or in poor taste maybe, if you have issues with calling out Christians during one of their two most important “days” of the year.  But bigotry?  No.  Sorry.  Wrong.

  • David Kopp

    When you’re 12 and your parents are willing to throw you out, or going to college and dependent on them, you can’t always afford to be completely honest and remain safe. I’m glad you had that opportunity. Your experiences are not everyone’s, unfortunately.

  • Thackerie

     You is wrong. How to come out to religious friends and family members is a constant source of discussion at and just about every atheist forum I’ve ever checked out. If that seems strange to you, I guess you are totally unfamiliar with the vast region known as the “Bible Belt.” Lucky you.

    BTW, you’re also wrong about our society being “so liberal.” Europeans laugh at Americans who claim our country is in any way liberal.

  • Thackerie

    You don’t know who paid for the sign. How do you know whether or not he or she gave an equal or greater amount to a compassionate cause that would meet with your approval. You don’t. So, unless and until you have information the rest of us don’t, kwitcha bitchin.

  • Thackerie

    I will continue to take the word of people who have actually been there and know what they’re talking about above yours.

  • Jake

    Because this is exactly what we need during the Christmas season, more people telling others what to believe.

  • Gus Snarp

    They don’t say it, or you don’t hear it? Most talk about religion isn’t people out trying to proselytize, it’s a standard part of the background noise in America, and if you believe in it, you don’t necessarily notice it. You don’t notice that when people are telling a small child about someone who’s dead they say they’re in heaven. Or when a child asks why someone is left handed they say that’s just the way god made them. I honestly find it hard to believe that you can live in the Bible belt and not hear about religion regularly. I hear it all the time, and forget about Facebook, where all my friends from high school are deep in the Bible belt. Every other post has God or Jesus in it.

  • Sindigo

    Can I quote you when I’m convincing a potential client to hire me as a designer?

  • Debbie

     I guess I am short on empathy, I lived a very closeted life as a victim of being beaten at least once a week.    You didn’t tell anyone, you didn’t let anyone see the bruises,  You didn’t say how mean your husband was,  who drank all the money away and then beat you because their was not more for him to spend on beer. You did beg the power company not to shut off the electricity because you did not have money though.  You didn’t say a word when people would say “if my husband hit me I would leave” cause you knew you would not leave because where would you go.  You didn’t dare think any vacation, celebration or any day was going to go by without some blow up that resulted in you being the brunt of insults, cursing and beating.  You just knew that the peas would be too salty or not salty enough.  That the kids were too loud or didn’t move fast enough and it was your fault.  You didn’t cry too loud when you were beaten because that would bring more beating.  You did not get to tell anyone that you were beaten so badly that you lost a baby.  You agreed when you were told it was your fault you got beat.  I was the queen of hiding for 20 years.  I hid the broken noses, the black eyes, the belt marks from head to toe and I did it all because I was afraid of what people would think of me for staying for all those years.   And then one day I decided it did not matter.  I was not going to live that way one more moment and I did not.  I got out alive!  So I know a few things about hiding stuff from your family and friends.   I just don’t choose to be angry, mad, frustrated because of what happened to me.  I forgave the man.  I don’t hate men because one man chose to treat me so wrong.  I was  grieved that I stayed way too long and then I forgave myself.    I live in a country where there are just lots of men that think it is ok to hit women,  there is not nearly enough people concerned about that issue I promise you.   There are also women who think that it is ok to hit men lest you think I am just pointing out the men. 

    So empathy, yea I can identify with living the secret silent life.   But see I don’t see it as me against the world because there are people who would not agree with my staying, or those who probably would not have agreed with me leaving.    I had to live what was right for me.  I did not need the world to validate what I did.  I did it for me.  Trying to get the world to validate your choice is not every going to happen either.  You must get peace about it and stop worrying why the world doesn’t see things the way you do.   I don’t have to tell everyone that I was an abused woman, I don’t need anyone to validate that he did me wrong.  I don’t need billboards that speak of how sorry people are that beat their spouses.   I know who I am, I know what I have lived through. 

  • The Other Weirdo

     Society is, as a whole, but not necessarily individuals, and for young people it’s especially troublesome.

  • The Other Weirdo

     It worked for you. Maybe you had understanding friends and relatives, or may be you weren’t financially dependent on them. It’s not that way for many people. Be thankful for what you have, and don’t judge others you know nothing about.

  • The Other Weirdo

     There’s a reason it’s called the Bible Belt. They’ve all got belts, and there’s a bible strapped to each.

  • Artskibeach

    Actually, the myth of santa IS based upon a real person!  … unlike the OTHER myth lol… good job american atheists!!!! poke ‘em in the eyes!!!!

  • The Other Weirdo

     Please spare an iota that monstrous ego of yours for those in less fortunate circumstances, for those with less enlightened families and friends. Your situation is not universal; your experiences do not apply equally to everyone.

  • Debbie

     I see what you mean, but I am around men at work most of the time and have been for 12 years and I very rarely hear them say anything about religion. My boss does but not daily.  One of my son very rarely speaks of religion.     So I don’t know, I don’t say about my faith because I figure if they wanted to hear they would come ask me.  Now there are of course people that I am in relationship with that we do speak of  faith and God, but out among the masses.  I just don’t hear it.  There are people in my family that never talk about God.    Interesting……

  • abb3w

     Depends how you define “atheists”. However, there’s on the order of 1-3 percent or so of the country who have a religious affiliation but say they don’t believe in god, which is suggestive.

    As others have noted, the demonstrated tendency in family for upset or even occasionally severing the family ties leads to an understandable reluctance. I suspect if you asked leaders of local atheist groups, most would probably know of at least one person still “in the closet” even from family.

  • Gus Snarp

    What Meg said was: “If you come out as an atheist in the south, you could lose everything.” not, as you said, “If I live in the south and I say I am an atheist I will lose everything”. These are two very different things. That some people who live in the south may lose everything for admitting to being an atheist does not imply that everyone who lives in the south will lose everything for admitting to being an atheist.

    Now “losing everything” is a common expression, it doesn’t have to literally mean every single possession down to the clothes on your back. There are certainly cases where admitting to atheism could cause your spouse to divorce you and get custody of the kids. To me, that would be everything. Your spouse could also get your house and you could lose your job. All of that could happen. It’s fairly rare, but there are cases where it becomes more likely, and it can happen anywhere, but it is more likely to happen if you live in a community that is dominated by evangelical Christians, which is more likely in the south.

    And then you say that people must be atheists because they live however they want. This is a misconception, and one that leads me to believe that you are likely a believer in an evangelical Christian denomination, where this mindset is common. There are many people who believe in God and behave in ways you and your church disagree with. This does not make them atheists. I even have a friend who is a devout evangelical Christian, who says grace at every meal and who makes Christian comments regularly. He is one of the most immoral human beings I know, and if those immoral actions were the only part of his behavior you ever saw, you might think he was not a Christian. But Christians are as likely to behave unethically, immorally, and “sinfully” as anyone else, and atheists are as likely to behave ethically and morally as anyone else.

    Perhaps you’ve also been told by a pastor that most people aren’t real Christians, that you’re in the minority. Your specific denomination may be a minority, but the vast majority of Americans are Christians of some variety, whether you or your pastor agree with them or not.

    Of course, I do think there are many who don’t believe or simply don’t think about it who consider themselves Christian. But they’re not troubled by people teaching their children that God is responsible for everything, they’re not troubled by the constant assumption of religious belief. But some are. Some need some acknowledgement that there are others like them, and while I believe that number is bigger than any survey will reveal, it’s still a minority.

  • Rich Wilson

    ok, some common ground is a good start.  I used to volunteer at a family violence center, mostly working in groups with men who were either court ordered or volunteered.  The goal of OUR part was to give them tools to help them stop their physical abuse.  Completely understanding that physical abuse was the tip of the iceberg, we were frontline.

    You know what it’s like to live a secret life.  And living as an atheist in America is NOTHING like living as an abused spouse in terms of degree.  Nobody on here (I hope) would say that.

    But if you thought someone else was being abused, would you try to help in any way you could?  Would you lend an ear?  Offer advice?  If you heard someone say “Any woman who stays in an abusive relationship wants to be hit”- would you speak up?

    Because that’s pretty close to what you’re saying to closet atheists.

  • Baal

     I’m fairly open about my atheism but I will not be wearing it on my sleeve around the folks that set my performance review.  I’m happier for being out where I can (and that’s growing over time) but I really don’t want to risk income betting against xtian bias.

  • Baal

     I’m sorry you had to live that life for a time.  Consider that the solutions that worked for you can’t necessarily work for others in different situations even if they share the similarity of ‘hiding in the closet.’  This is the message I’m getting out of the (many!) comments directed to you.

  • cathouseumbrella

    Well, I’m a professional designer and also an atheist so we certainly exist. And most other designers I know are pretty non-religious people if not outright atheists. What I think it is that people involved in atheist activism are not as likely to be artistic than non-activists for some reason. For the record, I also think the same is true of religious activists. Fundamentalist billboards/websites/etc. are generally just as ugly as atheist ones.

  • cathouseumbrella

    It’s what I do for a living so I’d be more than happy to. I’m just not connected in any way to the people putting up these billboards and I have a strong suspicion they’d be averse to good design.

  • Tainda

    Seems we have lived a similar life.  Crazy how two people can see things totally differently.

    And if you have lived that life, I don’t understand how you can vilify people who are still afraid to be treated with disrespect and hatred.

  • Debbie

    I wrote a whole long thing and then deleted it because I know you and I see this different.  To me the billboard is trying to hurt those who believe different.  You don’t believe it is hurting anyone,  You believe it is getting a message out.  Not that it will change anything but that billboard makes me feel like somebody hit me. 

  • Debbie

    I get that many do not have the ability to change there situations I did not for 20 years.  I just know that it can happen.  That is the message!

  • Tony

    I get what you’re saying, NoCrossNoCrescent, but I said “It would’ve been a bit more subtle” not “It would’ve been subtle”. There’s a big difference, and there’s something to be said for subtlety. I find the graphic design itself could unappealing. It just misses the mark for me, like a lot of the other AA billboards. It’s not a huge deal to me though. It’s in the ballpark though.

  • Debbie

    You are right but the hope is one day things will be different for each one.  I hate to see people just live without hope.  Please know it can change someday

  • Tainda

    You need to rethink how you preach (for lack of a better word) your message.  It’s seriously flawed.

  • Sindigo

    I don’t think I can add anything that hasn’t been said to you already on here. Empathy is a rare quality and a quality that we all could do with more of. Here’s your starter for ten. Imagine yourself in the middle of your situation, did I read somewhere that it took you 20 years? So at the 10 year mark try telling that person that all you needed to do was stop being a victim. How much help would that have been to you?

    Kudos to you for sorting your situation though. I hope it works out for you.

  • Debbie

     You are right I am flawed. I totally get that.  But I know if my situation changed so can others for whatever that belief system is.  There has to be hope. 

  • Rich Wilson

    The other day my uncle posted Psalm 14 on his facebook wall.  I felt like I’d been hit.  What made it worse is that when I tried to explain that, he dismissed it.  Nobody should have to feel that way, but I see a long road ahead.

  • JRB

     Go for it.  Having experienced the joy of a designer taking my vague and inarticulate “vision” and turn it in to something spectacular on a couple of occasions, I really have a lot of respect for the profession.

  • Debbie

     So I guess we get prepared for the long road, don’t look like it will be better for any of us, any time soon on where we disagree.      I guess nobody gets a perfect world

  • Rhms

    for non Jewish white Americans Christmas is an important part of their cultural heritage.   This is true whether they believe Jesus really existed  or not.     The ones who accept that Jesus is a myth are no more offended by his being a part of Christmas than they are offended by the three wise men or by any other characters in the story.   
    The war on Christmas is a symptom and a symbol of the dispossession of the historic American nation.   It is far from a trivial matter 

  • Anna

    I’m a lifelong atheist, and I’m certainly celebrating, not just going along for the ride. I don’t participate in any religious rituals, but otherwise my Christmas is pretty much just as traditional as can be.

  • Kari Lynn

    What do you define as an elaborate vacation? I don’t think that it is a bad thing to be well traveled.

    Also, there is no universal human experience. You do not have the same experience as, say, Damon Fowler or Jessica Alquist. Stop saying that your experiences apply to everyone.

  • Sindigo

    That makes two of us.

  • Janet Holmes

     Maybe they figure that people are so used to crappy Xtian website design that they will feel more at home with crappy billboard design. ;-)

  • Sindigo

    That’s an interesting question. I’m a professional designer and have been for nearly fifteen years. Of the designers I’ve got to know well enough to find out their religious affiliation in that period, which is a fair few, I’ve only met one religious one. And she really isn’t very good.

    I’m in no way suggesting that my experience is typical though and I’m in the UK so I tend to meet fewer religious folks anyway. Wikipedia has a list of prominent atheists by profession:

    Obviously it’s a woefully incomplete list but there are some creative types on there.

    The thing about religious art is that people will often toil over it for free for the glory of their god(s) or for their church. Me, I tend to need a payday at the end.

    As an aside, as far as rational thought goes, I can work  perfectly well with a spoken word programme like the Atheist experience or Cognitive Dissonance in my ears as long as I’m doing artwork. But as soon as I have to code anything, which thankfully isn’t very often I have to un-plug or listen to music. Different part of the brain or something I guess.

  • Sindigo

    Wow, high praise indeed. I don’t think I’ve ever heard what I do be called a “profession” before. Usually people assume that I’m doing it in my spare time as a hobby. :)

  • newavocation

    Great billboard! I’m thankful for AA and other outspoken atheists that are making it easier for non-believers to come out. 

  • cathouseumbrella

    Heh. Could be. :)

  • wmdkitty

    Dude. *hugs*

  • RobertoTheChi

    You have got to be kidding about there being no closet atheists. Have you been living in a bubble?

  • Digital Liberty

    I wish they would have used Buddy Christ instead, it would have kept it more lighthearted.

  • allein

    Thank you. I am not “along for the ride,” either. I celebrate the secular holiday that is also Christmas.

  • Peekaboo

    What’s with the ” marks?

  • Peekaboo

    Purely secular? Doesn’t Wicca celebrate the solstice?

  • Peekaboo

    Aren’t you clever!

  • C Peterson

    In modern society, Wicca has no impact. Fringe cults may arbitrarily celebrate various days in some religious fashion, but that doesn’t mean those days have any religious significance to our culture as a whole.

    The solstice is an astronomical event, which can be celebrated simply for its historical significance and for the return of longer days. It is secular, and as such, can be celebrated by Christians or people of other religions without conflict.

  • Bellj

    I don’t care for it. Personally I would rather see a picture of normal, happy, smiling people, maybe wearing Santa hats, and a simple message like “Happy Holidays! from American Atheists.”

  • Tainda

    We are all flawed, that’s the point.  Tell them there is hope don’t berate them for not realizing it yet.

  • Jnjmiles

    Why can’t you just leave us alone.? If you don’t believe, that’s your business. If I believe, that’s my business! How is my belief hurting you. You work very hard to destroy something you say doesn’t exist!
    Oh, BTW Saint Nickolas was a real person. He was a Bulgarian bishop who had a heart for the poor. He gave $ to girls whose families could not afford a dowery. He snuck in & put $ in their stockings, & left.
    The devil is real also, you are playing right into his plan.
    What this boils down too, is it makes you mad that I Believe. Well, I’m feeling no animosity toward you. I don’t like what your group is up to, so instead of erecting a huge campaign against you….I am going to love you & pray for your soul.

  • Bellj

    I don’t like the billboard either. It feeds into the stereotype that atheists are assholes. Many feel it is ok to be that way because they have been badly treated by Christians. I don’t . To me, American Atheists is in need of a good PR department.

  • Antinomian

    “I am going to love you & pray for your soul.”
    With a smirk on your self righteous mug as you’re sure that we are
    going to burn for an eternity in H – E – DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS.
    Speaking for myself; save your prayers and ‘christian love’, I don’t need or desire  it.

  • Grinch

    As a resident of the South… Yes, they  can and do. You’re naive if you think otherwise.

  • Tainda

    Atheists: Gee, Oh Fiery Master, what are we going to do tonight?

    Satan: The same thing we do every night.  Try to take over the world.

    Atheists: Narf!

  • Anna

    Why can’t you just leave us alone.? If you don’t believe, that’s your business. If I believe, that’s my business! How is my belief hurting you. You work very hard to destroy something you say doesn’t exist!

    You don’t keep your beliefs to yourself, so why should we? Christians are allowed to erect huge billboards that say “God exists” and “Hell is real,” but we’re not allowed to do the same thing? Talk about a double standard! If evangelicals stopped trying to convert everyone in sight, maybe you would have a point. But you want special treatment for your beliefs. You want to be able to tell us our beliefs are false without anyone telling you your beliefs are false. But that’s not how free speech works. In the marketplace of ideas, everybody gets a say, and no viewpoint is immune from criticism.

  • John

    Atheists are the ones who believe in a myth, not the rest of us. Let’s pray for them, especially during this season.

  • Rich Wilson

    What about the Hindus?  Is Ganesh a myth?

  • Kody Stenzel

    How about let’s pray to Zeus or Thor, I don’ t think they get enough prayers anymore. Or better yet, let’s pray to The Moon Goddess! John, don’t pray for us… your magical mind connection to your ‘creator’ scares none of us.

  • Kody Stenzel

    Don’t worry Anna, he’s praying! So… he’s doing nothing.

  • bernardaB

     I don’t pretend to be religious either, but my elderly mother(in good health)is a fervent believer as are some of her friends and some of my family.  I try to avoid the Bible reading they usually do, but sometimes I don’t see it coming and get trapped for a few minutes of boredom. My sister is better at this than I am and she always manages to be outside the room at that time. She has more experience of knowing where not to be. As my mother lost her husband two years ago and is more thinking about her end, I try not to do or say anything to upset her, but I don’t lie to her. I just avoid the topic or respond vaguely.

    I live far away, so fortunately she is always glad to see me and to have me stay for as long as I can. It is only a few hours on Christmas Eve that I have to be especially careful. Otherwise she usually doesn’t bring up religion and I have a good time with her and I see my sister and brother who are also atheists.

  • Keir

    I’ll agree that it’s not “clever”, but it’s certainly not bigotry. If this is bigotry, why is it not bigotry for Christians to put up signs telling you how Jesus is your saviour?

  • Mary C. Kirchhoff

    This ad is a disgusting and disgraceful attack on Christianity, equating Jesus with Santa Clause. I think I’ll go to Times Square with a large ladder and several cans of paint. No, I’m not normally a law breaker, but could do so in this case. I’d be happy to go to jail for it too.

  • Mary C. Kirchhoff

    Unlike others, I have no problem posting my REAL and full name. I’m not hiding behind unbelief like the rest of you. You’re all pathetic.

  • Rich Wilson

    Are the theists who post here under pseudonyms pathetic too?  Or are you hypocritical in your ad homanims?

  • Rich Wilson

    That’s ok.  We’ll turn the other cheek.  Your billboards threatening us with hell are safe.

  • Mary C. Kirchhoff

    Good point. Now that you brought it up, Christians should not be ashamed to boldly proclaim their faith. So, yes, they should be posting their full name. Are they pathetic? No, just uninformed.

  • Chris Porter

    Mary, earlier you called atheists pathetic IN THIS SAME THREAD. Constantly complaining about it and talking about how much you’d love to vandalize something you don’t agree with is not only hypocritical, but is also against your own “Christian beliefs” when not loving thy neighbor. You are part of why a large number of atheists dislike religion an religious people.

  • Bran Chesterton

    I couldn’t agree more.  As a progressive, free-thinking Christian, I dislike all billboards telling people what to believe or not believe.  Telling me that my religion is a myth is just as hurtful to me as telling non-Christians that Christ is waiting for them to repent must be to non-Christians.  I just don’t see the point of it.  

    Actually, I do see the point of this… athiests are an under-represented minority and they sometimes view themselves at war with the dominant religion which happens to be Christianity here.  They have more reason to put up billboards than Christians do.  They have cause to trumpet their message if they want to.
    But I wish that message was less blaming or attacking than it seems to be.  Religious folk aren’t all stupid, and some of us really are polite and intelligent.  I don’t call science a myth (that’s not polite – people believe in it and I shouldn’t tell people that what they believe isn’t right).  

  • Pmjolls

    This exactly what it says in The Bible. I am sorry for you people. When The Lord comes YOU will be in for a real tribulation. But I ask The Lord to pour Blessings on your head as we are not to judge.  A true beliver in Jesus Christ.

  • Mary C. Kirchhoff

    I said I would like to do it. Am I going to do it? NO. You ever hear of tongue in cheek, or humor? As a Christian, obviously I know it’s wrong to vandalize. The bible says be angry but don’t sin. I love how atheists pick parts of the bible and then say, “aha!” you’re not following your own beliefs. What you really hate about Christians like me is I am outspoken, and therefore a threat to you. Wishy washy Christians who sit back meekly and let atheists posts disgusting billboards like the one in Times Square are useless for our cause. And I’m not trying to make nicey-nice with militiant atheists using Rodney Kings famous words, “Can’t we all just get along?” NO, we can’t. And we never will.

  • Mary C. Kirchhoff

    We are merely trying to warn you of what the future holds. We are commanded to do so in the bible. If you dont’t accept the message, fine. We tried.

  • Mary C. Kirchhoff

    Why did the donor remain anonymous? Come out, come out, wherever you are! Isn’t that what AA and FFRF tell you? What’s Mr./Ms. Militiant Atheist afraid of?

  • Rich Wilson

    I love how atheists pick parts

    I agree.  Picking parts of the bible is a problem.  People should read the entire thing to get a sense of how confused this god is.

    let atheists posts disgusting billboards

    I don’t suppose you’d consider asking fellow Christians to stop putting up their disgusting billboards would you?  No?  Only your point of view should be allowed?  That’s David’s point.  You see your offensive messages as “warnings” and “commanded by God”.  But when we speak back, suddenly it’s something you would like to vandalize.

  • Mary C. Kirchhoff

    Our billboards are not disgusting. Degrading Jesus and reducing him to someone mythical like Santa Clause is. Yawn, same old arguments. Have a Merry Christmas, I have better things to do than argue with you.

  • cecilia FXX

    I agree. This time of year is supposed to be about family and friends.

  • cecilia FXX

    well, science is NOT a “myth”. Any billboard with that comment is a lie.

    religion is mythology and that’s just the truth. That said, it doesn’t bother me one bit if someone wishes to enjoy their particular mythology.

    All I ask is that it is kept out of politics and away from my civil rights

  • cecilia FXX

    ‘I magically enchant you too’

  • Ryan Cook

    Hey. thus sign is offending me. I’m a Christian. You see all these school shootings.I mean they take out God in everything.  That’s the reason of these killing I hope your happy your to blame. THEY ARE ON YOUR HANDS ATHEIST FAULT SCREW THIS SIGN. If I did not live in South Carolina I would egg this sign . You guys say we are trouble makers , but this just to make us mad screw you and the atheist of America can kiss my butt

  • Ryan Cook


  • Cguiton

    nd ppl wonder why 20 little kids got killed.. Because God isn’t welcome in America maybe we should invite God and not push him away..

  • Bran Chesterton

    Okay, so not a “myth” but certainly not understood in its entirity or proven beyond any shred of questioning.  I love science and history and I often marvel at how presumptuous humans are to think they understand everything about how the universe works… when just a couple hundred years ago, the world was flat and blood letting was totally legit.  

    That’s all I mean, that no matter what religion or non religion you are, there are things we don’t know for sure, so why be mean to people about it or insist you are right?  Respecting people shouldn’t need a REASON, but if people need it to have one, that’s a good one for me!

  • T

    @  Hemant  Mehta,
    FRIENDLY, You got to be joking,
    Are you sure you are not muslim and got a chip on your shoulder against Christians, If you are a true atheist like you say then you would not care about religions.
    So keep your atheist crap to your self ,
    Or I might come over there and hit you with a damp squid,( nothing against sea life ).
    Time waits for no man , Every 4 years we have a leap year  so the date of Christ birth will be didfferent but that does not stop us from celebrating , so does it matter if we celebrate Christ birth on a day that has been picked for hundreds of years. Any way the calender of today is based on the Christian time, and if you do not l;ike it go make your own calender.
    When I start to critiscise atheist for not believing then you can stand on my doorstep, untill then go away.


  • Kathy from Bethlehem

    I have just read through some of the comments about Christmas. I am a Christian – I am a Christ follower. I am not religious – I just love my LORD. And I am in love with human kind! Christ’s message is one of love and mercy and grace and that is how i want to live out my life.. Offering unconditional love, mercy, and grace. I know i need that from others too :)

    I am just pondering something though —- is the Bible really offesive to you? I have read that many of you cringe or leave when the BIble is read at family Christmas gatherings. I have always found that fascinating. It is an excellent book — probably the most widely printed and certainly an example of excellent literature. Why do you find it necessary to not listen to a brief part of it? We listen to and watch amazingly offensive literature all the time — movies, magazines, bilboards, books for example that are offensive – no matter what your belief system, I think you would agree with me that we are bombarded with literature that is offensive and does not help our psyche. So, i am still genuinely interested as to why it is “wrong” to just listen — you don’t have to believe it — but it is good literature — and it is tradition in many families…. many of your families……

    Just curious —

    and just offering a bit of grace, mercy and unconditional love….

    Blessing to all!

    Kathy from Bethlehem

  • Rich Wilson

    Speaking only for myself, I have no issue with the bible as a work of literature. Or even, in select areas, as a work of moral teachings. What I have a problem with is other people assuming that rules in the bible are divine, and hence apply to me. “God said so” is not a valid reason in and of itself, because some other god said something else. So it’s not the bible itself- it’s what people use it for.

  • memeandalwaysme

    The problem is that there is contemporaneous evidence that Jesus did exist (Flavius Josephus, Tacitus etc). As for highjacking: thank you (not) to Coca Cola for the monstrosity that is Santa Claus created out of St Nicholas (especially for you dim Americans). You can celebrate winterval, if you want to, but please don’t belittle the celebratration of Christmas. 70 years of communism tried that and failed; I’ll wager that you will go the same way. (Christian, academic research scientist)

  • memeandalwaysme

    Your common law (legal) heritage has its foundations in Judeo-Christian teaching and the rules from it are the ones you abide by. The enormous arrogance to think you are not touched by this is simply astonishing.

  • Rich Wilson

    I didn’t say I wasn’t touched by any biblical laws. I don’t drink alcohol, but I’ve always thought it was kind of silly that even if I wanted to, I could not in some counties on Sunday. What secular reason is there to allow the purchase of alcohol on Monday, but not Sunday?

    And I think you overstate the degree to which our current set of rules relies on Judeo-Christian teachings. For one, the actual phrase ‘Judeo-Christian’ is a rather recent invention. Sure, many of our rules coincide with rules in the bible. Just because the bible says “don’t steal” doesn’t mean we toss the rule. But there are many biblical rules we have tossed. It’s not against the law (in the USA) to blaspheme, or covet. In fact, our very capitalist system pretty much depends on people coveting.

    And for that matter, the bible itself has its foundation in earlier systems of laws.

  • R Alexander

    I have to say, as a Christian, I find this sign insulting and offensive to my faith. I do not conduct myself in such a way towards anyone of another faith, or none. This sign is clearly meant to insult and to demean and, to me, it is illustrative of the character of the donor, and perhaps of the sponsoring organization. If you really want people to view your option as desirable, try treating people well, try serving, feeding and housing the poor. Try treating others as you would like to be treated. Hum, I think I heard Someone say that before. . . .

  • sandon cyril

    celebrate REASON? you mean Atheists are capable of that? hah!

  • sandon cyril

    you can’t see God with your natural eyes…you can’t even see your brain with your natural eyes…that doesn’t mean your brains don’t exist. there are a lot of things you can’t see that exist…for example…LOVE is metaphysical….and that’s who Christ is…and that’s why He gave His life for you…to save a wretched pervert like you from the penalty of your sins. and you know you have sinned.