American Atheists are doing a billboard campaign in Albuquerque, New Mexico as well as Texas and Oklahoma. The Albuquerque campaign calls for people to skip church and says that it is fake news. Some Christians are upset over the billboard campaign. I think the campaign by atheists is helpful and necessary, and in the post I explain why.
“Everyone knows that the stories we’re told in church aren’t the truth,” said David Silverman, president of American Atheists. “People ignore that fact because they enjoy the community, the friendship, and the traditions that go along with religion. But we’re here to tell them that churches don’t have a monopoly on any of that. There’s a fantastic and vibrant community of atheists all across the country creating their own traditions and lifelong friendships.”
David Silverman of American Atheist
“I think they’re trying to give a slap in the face to not only the Christian community but people that have faith and people that have hope”
Richard Mansfield of New Beginnings Church
The Christmas season is always a time of conflict between the religious and non-religious. With Christmas being prominently displayed there will be times that conflict will bubble over. I believe some of this conflict and questioning is good and I will explain more about it. But before we look at the billboard campaign taking place in Albuquerque, New Mexico, as well as Texas and Oklahoma let’s look at the American Atheist moment.
What is the American Atheist Movement
American Atheist was founded by Madalyn Murray O’Hair in 1963. O’Hair had successfully filed a lawsuit to get organized school prayer out of public schools. Her case is known as Murray vs. Curlett. It was consolidated into another case later. Madalyn O’Hair was a firm believer in the separation of church and state. Madalyn’s son Jon Garth succeeded her as president of American Atheist. O’Hair disappeared in 1995 along with Jon Garth Murray and Robyn Murray O’Hair (Madalyn’s grand-daughter) They were murdered by David Waters, Gary Carr and Danny Fry. Danny Fry was subsequently murdered a few days later. The FBI and the IRS were involved in the investigation and found the remains five years later. After this sordid tragedy Ellen Johnson became the president of American Atheist. Other presidents who succeeded her are Frank Zidler, Dr. Ed Buckner, and David Silverman. David Silverman has been leading American Atheist since 2010. You can read more about the history of the organization here. While the organization was originally founded in Austin, Texas it moved to Cranford, New Jersey where it remains today. This organization has approximately 392,000 members and 172 affiliates.
A Billboard Campaign in New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma
American Atheist has a history of running billboard that create controversy during the Holiday season. For 2017 American Atheists targeted Dallas, Texas; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and Albuquerque, New Mexico. One Oklahoma City billboard states that like Santa Claus the American Atheists are coming to Oklahoma City for their national convention. There will be a total of five in Oklahoma and two in Dallas. The billboard in Albuquerque is along the I-25 which is a key transportation artery in the area. This billboard says “Just skip church its all fake news!” The billboard is getting a lot of press and coverage from local television station KOB, to NBC News to the Albuquerque Journal. Nick Fish from American Atheist has been fielding many questions about the billboard campaign. In addition American Atheist also wrote about the campaign at their blog. This campaign will be active all December.
Why are Christians Insecure and Easily Offended?
Richard Mansfield is the senior pastor of New Beginnings Church commented on local Albuquerque media. I have the quote up above, but basically they are trying to slap Christians in the face and insult those of faith. As I watched the above video and read articles I had one question that kept popping up in my mind. Why are so many people offended? Could it be that their reaction reveals that many Christians struggle with faith and are deeply insecure? For example in the articles and one video if Richard Mansfield thought about it these billboards are an opportunity to discuss faith and what it actually is. Richard has an opportunity to talk and share and instead he’s getting outraged. That reaction I would suggest is wrong. In the end it reveals his own personal insecurities. The right way to look at this is to be grateful to have a discussion with a segment of the population that Richard Mansfield doesn’t interact with. It writing this blog I have opportunities to sit and interact with atheists and secular humanists from time to time. I even hung out at the Reason Rally on the National Mall here in Washington, D.C. I have never understood why so many Christians get nervous or feel threatened when atheists ask hard questions or make provocative statements. Yes I know some can be fundamentalist in some ways but Nick Fish from American Atheist is correct. These are times to discuss and share different feelings. These discussions are important and in that context I am grateful that American Atheist is making these discussions come about. After all its good to question. Its good to doubt. Its healthy to ask the hard questions. Feel free to chime in below.