Really, Atheists? You can do better than this.

Really, Atheists? You can do better than this. December 6, 2013

Earlier in the week I wrote a now viral post on the origins of the word “Xmas” and came to the defense of some of our atheist friends who often get incorrectly blamed for trying to take “Christ” out of “Christmas”. While I was correct in my explanation of the history of the term, this morning it seems that the folks over at American Atheists are seriously complicating my hopes at promoting inter-faith harmony and goodwill during the holidays.

As originally pointed out by my Patheos colleague, John Shore (thanks for the aneurysm, John), folks over at American Atheists have taken out a digital billboard in Times Square which appears to have no other purpose than to antagonize Christians. The press release from their website reads:

“American Atheists launched a major billboard display on Tuesday that declares Christmas is better without the Christ. The huge 40′x40′ digital billboard is located in Times Square in Midtown Manhattan. Using motion graphics, the billboard proclaims, “Who needs Christ during Christmas?” A hand crosses out the word “Christ” and the word “NOBODY” appears.”

The billboard animation can be seen here:

My only response to this is: really?

I can’t think of one positive reason to take out a billboard like this– it is no different than some of the obnoxious behavior that happens on our side of the fence, and only serves to stir up trouble. Don’t like over-the-top militant Christians? Well, this really isn’t the way to get them to be quiet— stuff like this is only going to make them louder.

While many of us are trying to promote goodwill during the holidays, signs like this simply play into the hands of those wanting to fight a culture war and remind me that we not only need less Christians like Robertson, we also need less atheists like Dawkins.

I would love to see my atheist friends denounce this unnecessarily antagonistic behavior with the same force that I critique loud voices in my own movement– because this, is not helpful.

I’m trying to help you guys, but I can’t in good conscience tell my people that there isn’t a “war on Christmas” when you guys are pulling stunts like this. If you guys think that your worldview is the correct view, there’s a better way to communicate it.

But stuff like this? This doesn’t accomplish anything positive, but only drives us further apart from the place where we can listen and reason with one another.

I work hard to encourage my side to do better, and I hope you’ll do the same.

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