American Atheists, a national non-profit advocacy organization for atheists, launched a new digital holiday billboard in Manhattan’s Times Square on Tuesday asking the provocative question, “Who needs Christ during Christmas?"
The 40′ x 40′ billboard displays a series of motion graphics that begins with that query before an animated hand crosses out the word “Christ” and the word “NOBODY” is displayed below the question. The ad then promotes alternative “true” meanings of Christmas as an array of words, including “family,” “charity,” “human life” and “friends,” each of which appears on the screen before the message ends with “Happy Holidays!”
“This season is a great time of year for a hundred reasons -- none of them having to do with religion,” said American Atheists President David Silverman in a press release. “This year, start a new tradition: Don’t go to church. You hate it, it’s boring; you probably only go because you feel guilty or obligated. Instead, spend more time with your family and friends -- or volunteer. There are better uses of your time and money.”
The organization’s public relations director, Dave Muscato, argued that the majority of people care more about being with family and friends and “giving presents and food and having fun” than the religious aspects of the holidays. Muscato also said that many Christmas traditions associated with Christianity pre-date the religion itself.
“For example, the North Pole and Santa traditions come from Nordic and Germanic pagan traditions, and caroling, yule logs, mistletoe, holly wreaths all pre-date Christianity,” Muscato said in Tuesday’s press release.
Silverman echoed those sentiments, adding, “Christianity has been trying to claim ownership of the season for hundreds of years. But the winter solstice came first and so did its traditions. The season belongs to everybody.”
In November, American Atheists also introduced six “disaster victim” billboards in New Jersey promoting tangible aid and relief supplies over prayers and bibles in response to Typhoon Haiyan’s destruction in the Philippines.
“While at least $300 million has been pledged by nations around the world to help survivors of Super Typhoon Haiyan, the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines, a billion-dollar non-government organization, has responded to the disaster by sending 1,000 bibles and 12,000 rosaries to survivors,” an American Atheists November press release explains. “Additionally, the Pope tweeted for Catholics to pray for the typhoon victims. His message was retweeted 30,000 times.”
“Imagine if the Pope had asked for people to send money to victims or to send needed supplies. How much more useful would that have been to the people of the Philippines?” said Silverman in November's press release.