A group of humanists announced this week plans to plaster over 200 buses in Washington D.C. with ads bearing its "godless holiday" message.
Ads proclaiming, "Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness' sake," will appear on the outside and inside of DC Metro buses starting next Tuesday and will run throughout December. Newspaper versions of the ads ran in The New York Times and The Washington Post this week.
The advertising campaign is part of an effort by the American Humanist Association to reach out to like-minded individuals around the nation's capitol and elsewhere who might be interested in humanism. The atheistic group espouses the belief that one can live a moral life apart from a belief in a god or the afterlife.
"Humanists have always understood that you don't need a god to be good," said AHA executive director Roy Speckhardt. "So that's the point we're making with this advertising campaign. Morality doesn't come from religion. It's a set of values embraced by individuals and society based on empathy, fairness, and experience."
One version of the ad features a black Santa shrugging under red and green-colored text with snowflakes appearing in the background. Posters of the ad will be mounted on the side of DC Metro buses, between the taillights, and behind the driver's seat.
Fred Edwords, spokesman for the humanist group, said the campaign seeks to connect with "non-theists who feel a little alone during the holidays because of its association with traditional religion," according to Fox News.
The move by the American humanists comes one month after the British Humanist Association said it will run ads declaring, "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life," on London buses in January.
British author Richard Dawkins, an activist for a more outspoken and aggressive brand of atheism, which some refer to as "militant atheism," had pledged to help fund the London ads.
While one U.K. Methodist church thought the "no God" ads would have the opposite intended effect and instead stir an interest in God, Christians in America aren't amused at AHA's "godless holiday campaign."
For many Christian groups, the campaign signifies that the cultural war to divorce Christ from Christmas is intensifying.
"It is the ultimate 'grinch' to suggest there is no God during a holiday where millions of people around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. It is insensitive and mean," remarked Mathew D. Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel, a conservative Christian legal group that has defended the rights of cities and schools to display nativity scenes and Christmas decorations.
"Christmas is a time of joy and hope, not a time for hate," added Staver. "Why believe in God? – Because Santa is not the only one coming to town."
Tim Wildmon, president of American Family Association, which has encouraged its 3-million member base to boycott businesses that censor Christmas, described the ad as "stupid." He couldn't understand the logic of the ad's message telling people to be good apart from a belief in God.
"How do we define 'good' if we don't believe in God? God in his word, the Bible, tells us what's good and bad and right and wrong. If we are each ourselves defining what's good, it's going to be a crazy world," said Wildmon, according to Fox News.
Roberta Combs, who heads the Christian Coalition of America, said the campaign's attempt to ban God and Christmas from the public square will not sit well with many Americans.
Unlike Britain, where six in ten people admit they have no religious affiliation, according to a report by the United Nations, the United States is a nation that still overwhelmingly professes a belief in God. Earlier this year, a poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that 92 percent of Americans believe in God.
"Although a number of humanists and atheists continue to attempt to rid God and Christmas from the public square, the American people are overwhelmingly opposed to such efforts," said Combs.
She also cited a recent poll published by NBC that found 86 percent of Americans in favor of keeping "In God We Trust" as the nation's motto and the reference to God in the Pledge of Allegiance.
A spokeswoman at the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority said the agency accepts ads that aren't obscene or pornographic, reported Fox News.
But Combs said her organization plans to mobilize its 2.5 million supporters to contact city officials and Congress to stop the "un-Godly campaign."