Cranford, NJ—In what has become an annual holiday tradition, American Atheists launched two billboards nationwide urging viewers to celebrate an “atheist Christmas” by skipping church. Several of the locations are in southern states to start promoting the solar eclipse convention the atheists will be hosting in Charleston, SC, in August 2017.
The first billboard shows a text message exchange between two young women. One tells the other about her plans to skip church this holiday season and that her parents will “get over it. This billboard will be up the entire month of December in Colorado Springs, Colorado; Lynchburg, Virginia; Augusta, Georgia; Shreveport, Louisiana; and Georgetown, South Carolina, a short drive from the site of the upcoming convention in Charleston.
“It is important for people to know religion has nothing to do with being a good person, and that being open and honest about what you believe—and don’t believe—is the best gift you can give this holiday season,” said David Silverman, president of American Atheists. “More and more Americans are leaving religion, but we still have work to do when it comes to fighting the stigma many atheists face.”
The second billboard is a parody of President-elect Donald Trump’s campaign slogan. The message calls on atheists to “Make Christmas Great Again!” by skipping church. During the campaign, Trump repeatedly pledged that stores would say “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays” if he were to win the presidency. That billboard will be up the entire month of December in Lynchburg, Virginia, and Shreveport, Louisiana.
A recent survey from the Public Religion Research Institute shows that a quarter of Americans and almost 40% of young people are atheist or non-religious. This billboard campaign is specifically aimed at that growing population, especially those who no longer believe but still occasionally attend religious services or call themselves religious despite their lack of belief.
“The only way to remove the stigma is to show our friends and family that we are the same kind, loving and compassionate people they’ve always known us to be,” said Nick Fish, national program director for American Atheists. “This billboard campaign will be a starting point for that conversation in communities where atheists don’t always have a voice.”