’Tis the season for a metaphysical confrontation, said Ashley Strain in The Jersey Journal. The “battle of beliefs” began when a giant billboard sponsored by the American Atheists appeared recently above New Jersey’s Route 495, en route to the Manhattan-bound Lincoln Tunnel. A message over a nativity scene read, “You Know It’s a Myth. This Season, Celebrate Reason!” The outraged Catholic League responded with its own billboard on the New York side of the tunnel, depicting a nativity scene below the words: “You Know It’s Real, This Season Celebrate Jesus.” Atheists are getting feisty all over the nation, said Laurie Goodstein in The New York Times. They’re funding billboards in Colorado protesting public crèches, and sponsoring bus-shelter ads in 15 cities that say: “Don’t Believe in God? Join the Club.” The American Atheists’ president, David Silverman, said millions of non-believers are now standing up. “Every year, atheists get blamed for having a war on Christmas,’’ Silverman said. “This year, we decided to give the Religious Right a taste of what a war on Christmas looks like.’’
If one religion attacks another, it’s called “bigotry,” said John W. Kennedy in Beliefnet.com. But when atheists slam religion, it’s considered “a breath of open-minded fresh air.” Atheists apparently feel entitled to this “gratuitous assault’’ on the holiest day in the Christian calendar because they occasionally see a nativity scene or hear children singing Christmas carols. And “why do atheists think they have a corner on reason?” From a purely logical standpoint, “the concept of an intelligent creator” isn’t any stranger than “imagining the emergence of something out of absolutely nothing.”
Whatever your beliefs, imposing them “on other people is just plain rude,” said Mary Elizabeth Williams in Salon.com. As a “practicing, questioning Christian,” I firmly believe in the separation of church and state, but the American Atheists’ “snotty, oh-just-face-it-you-idiots” campaign reeks of the same, narrow-minded certainty often attributed to religious conservatives. “Faith and reason are not always in direct opposition,’’ and someone who embraces religious beliefs—or even just likes the comfort of Christmas traditions—“is not automatically a myth-embracing moron.’’ The holiday season is supposed to be a time of “kindness, compassion, and empathy.” How about a billboard promoting that?