Atheists Rent Billboard in Times Square To Dub Jesus a 'Myth'

Thursday, 13 Dec 2012 03:28 PM

By Megan Anderle

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Much of Times Square in New York City is adorned with huge colored ads of beautiful models or other flashing and spinning images that pull your attention to must-have Christmas purchases, but there’s one billboard message in this sea of happy holiday consumerism that jars you:

Jesus is a myth.

An atheist group purchased the billboard in the heart of midtown that has an image of Santa Claus at the top with the phrase “Keep the MERRY!” and an image below it of Jesus suffering on the cross with the words “Dump the MYTH!”

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Passers-by have been outraged, but the billboard company said it hasn’t received any complaints.

American Atheists President David Silverman said a private donor paid $25,000 to perch the billboard above a nightclub across from the popular M&M store for a month, so it will be there through Jan. 10.

Silverman said he stood by the message.

“Most Christians are really atheists who feel trapped in their family’s religion," Silverman told "They need not be Christian to enjoy the holiday season.”

Teresa MacBain, the atheist group’s communications director, said that the holiday season is about “family, friends, and love” and that its beauty has “nothing to do with the gods of yesteryear.”

Lamar Outdoor, the advertising giant that leased the billboard to the group, told Fox it wasn't the company's place to censor the message.

"We felt as long as it's not misleading that it's their First Amendment right," Lamar spokesman Hal Kilshaw said. "We think it's their right to have their message heard,”

Kilshaw added that Lamar has yet to receive any complaints over the Times Square billboard.

American Atheists is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization with more than 2,200 members. The group is based in Cranford, N.J. The group is nationally known for spending thousands of dollars a year on controversial billboards that depict Jesus, the Devil, and other religious figures. The billboards are aimed to inspire people of faith to “come out” as atheists rather than offend them, Silverman has said.

In March, a Jewish landlord blocked the American Atheists’ attempt to place a billboard in a heavily Jewish area of Brooklyn, which Silverman called “reverse discrimination.” Catholic groups have sponsored their own billboards in an attempt to counter the atheists’ messages, like one placed in December 2010 near the Lincoln Tunnel exit.

Catholic League spokesman Bill Donohue said Silverman went too far this year.

"This year it's different," he said. "This is vile. When you depict Jesus on the cross with a crown of thorns, this is exploitative. We as Christians never harass, intimidate or insult atheists. But they can't seem to say, 'We simply disagree with you.' They have to insult us."

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Here are some reactions to the billboard from people on Twitter:

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