The American Atheists annual anti-Christian Christmas billboard has attracted it’s annual outrage. The Catholic League, as expected, issued a response, focusing on the use of iconic imagery of a crucified Jesus.
This has to be the gift that keeps on giving for both groups.
The Atheists can’t be winning many converts to their non-religious religion; their messages are muddied and non-persuasive. Christmas and Easter tend to be times of year where people identify more with religion, so it isn’t the time to try to take a crowbar and peel off the less devout. Further, using Christmas images like Santa Claus while arguing against the celebration of Jesus Christ sends a mixed message.
The Christmas season is replete with Christian imagery, which likely cheeses off the hardcore atheists who would write checks to an outfit like American Atheists. Making a public statement during Advent is the messaging equivalent of letting off steam. It’s great timing for media coverage, too.
Getting some press attention and giving donors something to write checks for is probably plenty for the enterprise to be called a success. But it sure isn’t effective for advancing their organization if the idea is to create more atheists.
In so many ways, Christmas is a season of guilt; you may feel guilty about not keeping up with old friends, or that you don’t do more for the less fortunate. Have you ever been in a Catholic Church in the weeks before Christmas? It’s packed to the gills with good folks whose lives got away from them and who are trying to slip some extra pew time in before the close of the fourth quarter. Maybe American Atheist reasons that people would like to shed that guilt; they are incorrect.
We do it because we want to go to church for 52 weeks, but it’s easy to skip a week – just like we give to homeless shelters and food drives and Toys for Tots now because we know we should have earlier, but didn’t.
Christmas is a time when we’re all a bit closer to the people we want to be. You might be a religious person who has disagreements with your church’s stance on something or other throughout the year, but Christmas is rarely one of those points of contention.
That makes it pretty easy for a group like the Catholic League to stand up, draw support, and win some favorable coverage. Who knew they’d get such a nice Christmas gift from an atheist?