(Photo: American Atheists via The Christian Post)
NEW YORK – American Atheists, the leading secular organization in the U.S., has launched its Christmas billboard campaign in New York City, urging people to abandon the Jesus Christ "myth."
"Keep the merry! Dump the myth!" the billboard reads, which features a jolly image of Santa Clause above a solemn wooden figure of the crucified Christ. A press release shared with The Christian Post by Teresa MacBain, Public Relations Director at American Atheists, notes that the billboard is strategically placed at the popular Times Square tourist location.
"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," said David Silverman, President of American Atheists.
Silverman continued, "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."
MacBain, a former Methodist worship and teaching pastor who served in ministry for 20 years before becoming an atheist, said that Christmas might actually be more enjoyable without the religious connotations attached to it.
"The true beauty of the season – family, friends, and love – have nothing to do with the gods of yesteryear. Indeed, the season is far more enjoyable without the religious baggage of guilt and judgmentalism," the Communications Director said.
American Atheists puts out a number of billboard campaigns every year, seeking to spread the message that non-believers are not alone and that people do not need religion.
During last year's Christmas campaign, the secular organization released a billboard in New Jersey that compared Jesus to Satan, Santa Clause, and the Greek god Poseidon.
A New Jersey mainline congregation pastor who chose to remain anonymous told CP that the ad was "ignorant and vulgar" and lacked knowledge about the conventions of world literature, among other things.
"Jesus is different. Only the most dense and simple-minded person would put him in the same category as the other three. Clearly, even those who lack a personal commitment to Jesus recognize that there was in fact some historical figure by this name – religious leader and teacher – around 2,000 years ago," the pastor said.
American Atheists said that its new Christmas billboard will remain at Times Square until Jan. 10, 2013.