Irreverent: Atheists annual Christmas mockery begins

by Gregory Tomlin, |
The Freedom from Religion Foundation sets up its "freethinking" holiday display at Chicago's Daley Plaza, where several Christmas displays are set up. | FFRF/Facebook

MADISON, Wisconsin (Christian Examiner) – The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) and American Atheists are once again poking their collective finger in the eye of Christians across the United States at Christmastime.

Both organizations announced Dec. 1 that their annual campaigns lampooning Christmas had begun, with FFRF issuing a warm "Heathens' Greetings" and the American Atheists encouraging people to save their holiday by skipping church.

FFRF issued what it called its "Winter Solstice Survival Guide."

"It's the first day of December, which means the annual 'War on State/Church Separation' has begun, surely more so now with the Religious Right bolstered by its recent electoral triumph," FFRF said in its statement.

The Wisconsin-based atheist group then provides a list of ways atheists can help Christians and Jews have a less-than-merry Christmas "by creating a little controversy." Wherever Christmas or Hanukkah displays find their way onto public land, the group encourages atheists to also erect banners or displays to "provide some secular balance."

American Atheists

FFRF offers to supply the banners or its controversial Bill of Rights "Nativity" display – where the U.S. Constitution, instead of the baby Jesus, occupies the manger.

FFRF also offers a "non-tract" to supposedly educate the masses on the true meaning of Christmas – the winter solstice (the shortest day of the year). The solstice, they claim, was overtaken by Christmas as was the festival of Saturnalia, honoring the Roman god Saturn.

Atheist greeting cards meant to "inject a little irreverence or just keep it secularly professional" are also available, as are free downloads of tunes such as "Merry Fricken Christmas" and "Solstice Tribute," to the tune of "O, Little Town of Bethlehem."

American Atheists, known for their annual winter billboard campaign, has launched another ad campaign encouraging people to celebrate an "atheist Christmas" by skipping church. One of the billboards will go up in Georgetown, S.C., where the group will hold its "solar eclipse convention" in August 2017.

Others are strategically located in places like Colorado Springs, Colo., the national headquarters of evangelical groups like Focus on the Family, and Lynchburg, Va., home to Liberty University.

One billboard shows a text exchange between a young black girl and another party as her mother stares over her shoulder, eyes popping. The girl says she plans to skip church during the Christmas holiday. The other party asks if her parents will mind. "They'll get over it," she replies.

Another mocks the presidential campaign of Donald Trump (and perhaps those who voted for him) as it exhorts, "Make Christmas Great Again! Skip Church."

American Atheists

According to David Silverman, president of American Atheists, the billboards are intended to make people aware that "religion has nothing to do with being a good person, and that being open and honest about what you believe—and don't believe—is the best gift you can give this holiday season."

The group said the billboards are aimed at the growing population of "religious nones" in America – or those unattached to a religion. American Atheists claims that number stands near 25 percent, based on figures produced by the Public Religion Research Institute. Presumably, they believe a good number of that group is atheist. But they aren't telling the whole story.

The "nones" are comprised of those disenchanted with religion, those apathetic to it, and those who are "unattached" to a denomination or church. Among the apathetic and unattached, a significant number still claim to believe in God. The number of true atheists still hovers around 11 percent of the U.S. population.

Nick Fish, national program director for American Atheists, said the billboards will help them remove the "stigma" associated with atheism.

"This billboard campaign will be a starting point for that conversation in communities where atheists don't always have a voice," Fish said.