Discussing the “War on Christmas” with Bill O’Reilly

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to appear on to the Fox News program “The O’Reilly Factor” to discuss a new Christmas-themed billboard put up by American Atheists. I’ve expanded on my thoughts about this issue in a new piece for CNN Belief:
The “War on Christmas:”  what —or who—is it good for? In recent years, one organization, American Atheists, has claimed the mantle of prime atheist promoter of the tired “War on Christmas” narrative. This year, they ushered in the season with an electronic billboard in New York City’s Times Square carrying the message: “Who needs Christ during Christmas? Nobody.” The word “Christ” is crossed out, just in case their message wasn’t clear enough.

American Atheists logo

Does American Atheists agree with this offensive LGBTQ comment?


American Atheists is perhaps the most visible atheist organization in the United States. As such, it’s not unreasonable for atheists to hold the organization accountable for accurately representing our aims and values. But earlier today, Dave Muscato, the Public Relations Director for American Atheists, made a problematic and offensive comment about LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) activists. Responding to a post on Columbia Faith & Values by atheist activist Tony Lakey concerning recent American Atheists billboards, Muscato left a comment signed with his name and title in the organization. Near the end, he made this point (emphasis added):
[T]here are different types of atheist activists and we are not the kind that you seem to wish that we were or want us to be.

Pope blessing gay marriage is not ‘offensive’?

Apparently not in New Zealand, where the Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that a four-and-a-half story billboard depicting Pope Benedict XVI blessing the marriage of a male couple “is unlikely to cause widespread offence.” The billboard was put up in December in central Auckland and Wellington by an electric company, Powershop, to show support for a same-sex marriage bill before the legislature. Contrast that outcome with the decision last spring by the outre’ outfitter Benetton to end its controversial UNHATE campaign ad showing a photoshopped image of the pope smooching a prominent Egyptian sheikh. The Vatican had sued Benetton, which is known for provocative ads, and the clothier “publicly recognized it had hurt the faithful’s sensitivity,” and that “the pope’s image must be respected and can only be used with the prior authorization of the Holy See.” I’m still not clear whether it was blasphemy or copyright fears that prompted Benetton’s reversal.

Defaced billboard

Newest front in the Christmas wars: billboards

(RNS) A billboard bearing a positive message about atheism has been vandalized — again. A billboard posted in Chico, Calif., that originally read “Don’t believe in God? Join the club” was defaced on Dec. 12, less than a week after it appeared, with vandals removing the word “don’t.” The billboard was one of 12 purchased this month by a local chapter of the United Coalition of Reason (UnitedCoR),  a national organization that works to unite small, local groups of atheists and other freethinkers. They are the latest in a long line of billboards erected by atheist groups to draw ire, both locally and nationally.

RNS photo courtesy Carl Silverman.

Atheists’ slavery billboard raises tempers in Pa.

HARRISBURG, Pa. (RNS) The billboard is down, but the issue's not gone. The billboard featuring an African slave with the biblical quote “Slaves, obey your masters” was intended as a critique of state lawmakers, but some say it was a racially charged insult. By Diana Fishlock.