The “War on Christmas” appeared to be heating up yesterday (Dec. 16) as the Freedom From Religion Foundation announced it had put up two new billboard ads in Denver, Colorado. One, which resembles a stained glass window, bears the words “Reason’s Greetings” above the FFRF’s name and web address. The other has mistletoe and Santa Claus giving a “thumbs-up” to the message “YES, VIRGINIA… THERE IS NO GOD“. It’s a play on the famous editorial “Yes, Virginia. There is a Santa Claus” which the New York Sun newspaper published in 1897 as an answer to a question by 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon. The billboards, which will be up for two weeks, are located at 6th Ave., via Mariposa and 6th Ave., and Viaduct.
The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation has about 16,000 members nationwide, with about 500 of them in Colorado. The “Yes, Virginia” sign was designed by Pulitzer prize-winning cartoonist and former Mormon, Steve Benson. It was first used last year for bus ads in Seattle. The “Reason’s Greetings” design has also been used before.
From the FFRF press release:
Annie Laurie Gaylor, Foundation co-president, said the greeting is a reminder of the real reason for the season — the Winter Solstice, which takes place this year on Tuesday, Dec. 21 and is the shortest, darkest day of the year. The date has been celebrated for millennia in the northern hemisphere with evergreen displays, feasts, festivals of light and gift-exchanges, since it signals the return of the sun and the natural new year.
“We nonbelievers don’t mind sharing the season with Christians,” Gaylor added, “but we think there should be some acknowledgment that the Christians really ‘stole’ the trimmings of Christmas.”
Dan Barker, Foundation co-president, a former minister-turned atheist, said Christians tend to think “they own the month of December. We don’t agree. No month is free from pagan reverie!”
Speaking to Denver Channel 7 News, local FFRF member David Dvorkin said, “I wish it were about 10 times bigger and easier to see. I’d like something more aggressive, personally. I’m kind of an outspoken, aggressive, obnoxious, in-your-face atheist myself. I think atheists have been too nice for too long.”
Other atheists have mixed feelings about the billboards, particularly the more provocative “Yes, Virginia” sign. Today, this reporter spoke with Bobbie Kirkhart, president of the Los Angeles-based Atheists United, about it and was told, “This is not the billboard I would have put up but it pales in comparison to much of the Christian advertising that condemns people who disagree with them to Hellfire.”
Atheists United usually puts up a holiday display in an area set aside for them in Santa Monica, California’s Sunset Park. Charlie the Gnome, who looks like one of those lawn gnomes (but with the face of Charles Darwin) is AU’s contribution to what would otherwise be mostly a series of creches from various churches. He’s a far cry in tenor and style from the billboards that FFRF has put up but sadly, Charlie won’t be joining the other Christmas displays this year. He was pretty badly mangled last year, the only display in the park that was vandalized, and poor Charlie’s in no condition for a return visit.
Visit the slide show in the left column for pictures of the FFRF’s billboards as well as before and after photos of Charlie the Gnome.
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