Like a four-year-old bouncing on the coffee table and shouting naughty words, atheists nationwide are doing their best to offend anyone who loves the reason for the season. "The most reliable annual 'war on Christmas' fodder in all the land has arrived," reports Abby Ohlheiser for the Washington Post. "A billboard, released by an atheist group."
“Dear Santa,” the billboard reads. “All I want for Christmas is to skip church! I’m too old for fairy tales.”
The American Atheists organization posted the billboards in Memphis, Nashville, Milwaukee, St. Louis and Arkansas. The signs are aimed at "in-the-closet atheists who are pressured to observe religious traditions during the holidays," reports Lauren Squires for ABC News in Memphis. "While previous billboards have been located in urban settings like New York City's Times Square, this year billboards are located in more residential areas near schools and churches."
"Atheists in Illinois are taking direct aim at Christmas," reports Billy Hallowell of the Blaze, "by posting numerous public displays in an effort to combat nativity scenes and other religious sentiment.
“Once again this year, the non-religious will have a voice in the Chicago area countering the religious symbolism widely present on public property during the the month of December,” reads a press release from the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s Metropolitan Chicago Chapter. "The group has posted a large, illuminated scarlet 'A' along with banners celebrating the winter solstice" in Chicago’s Daley Center Plaza.
The organization is also collaborating with the Chicago Coalition of Reason "to unveil a separate set of messages over the weekend inside North School Park in Arlington Heights, Illinois," reports Hallowell.
The atheist plan is to "outnumber religious symbols" commemorating Christmas, according to the press release from the the secular group’s Metropolitan Chicago Chapter. Among the messages will be a banner that asks, “Are you good without God? Millions are!”
But a few folks are fighting back -- including the thousands packing out theaters featuring Kirk Cameron's movie "Saving Christmas." It had been scheduled for a limited two-week run in select theaters -- but instead has has been held over nationwide. And more theaters are picking up the movie each week.
In fact, Cameron has unofficially put out the word that the only way to see "Saving Christmas" this year will be in theaters -- that no DVD will be released this Christmas season.
And in Redmond, Washington, signs proclaiming “It's OK to say 'Merry Christmas'” are popping up all over for the third consecutive year.
No one seems to know who’s responsible for posting the placards, according to the Redmond Reporter. The green signs include two Bible verses — one from Romans and another from Luke.
The text from Romans 1:16 reads, ”For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes; first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”
"The signs," reports Hallowell, "which are placed near the library, police department and a local church, appear to be an attempt to encourage citizens to abandon more generic season’s greetings like 'Happy Holidays.'”
“We live in a pluralistic society and I'm grateful that we have freedom of expression,” said Suzanne Aviles, a spokesperson for the Catholic Diocese of Memphis.
According to a Pew poll, many of the states targeted by the atheists this year have a smaller-than-average percentage of people who responded that they do not believe in God. In Tennessee, for instance, just 2 percent of respondents said they do not believe in God. But American Atheists told the Post it is bringing the campaign to the South not because of the quantity of atheists there, but because “discrimination and mistrust of atheists is especially pronounced” in the region.
In Mississippi, no billboard company would rent the atheists a sign.
"Overall, American attitudes towards atheists are not positive," noted the Post. "In a poll earlier this year, a majority of Americans said that a belief in God is necessary for individual morality. And a temperature-based rating system from Pew measuring how people in the United States feel about different faith groups found that Americans, by a wide margin, have the 'coldest' feelings for atheists."