Ad Campaign Promoting Atheism Across U.S. Draws Ire and Protest

The American Humanist Association's ads seek to balance religion-fueled season

ByABC News
December 4, 2010, 6:51 PM

Dec. 5, 2010— -- This holiday season, after the marathon of shopping and stressful travel comes to a close, the masses will finally gather to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas. But one group says it is using the most religious time of the year to call attention to the plight of an often forgotten group: non-believers and atheists.

Advertisements paid for by the American Humanist Association -- an organization of non-believers -- have been popping up on television, radio and on billboards in cities across the country.

The organization has spent more than $200,000 to get their campaign out into the public this season, with the hope that it will encourage atheists across the country to step out of the closet.

The campaign approaches the topic from a variety of angles. One of the association's television spots highlights passages from the Bible that indicate women should be subservient to men, while saying that humanists believe in gender equality.

"The Bible: 'A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach authority over a man; she must be silent," sayss one of the ads. "Humanism: 'The rights of men and women should be equal and sacred ...'"

The group has also launched a billboard campaign, which have gone up in cities across the country, including Seattle and Madison, Wis. One of the billboards reads "Yes, Virginia, there is no god," playing on the line from an 1897 editorial in the New York Sun, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus," that inspired a popular Christmas story.

The association said it chose to launch the campaign at the end of the year to promote its agenda and counter the religious overtones of the Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah holiday season, .

"Us doing these ad campaigns during the holiday season shouldn't be any different than doing them any other time of year, except for this idea that criticizing religion is taboo," said Roy Speckhardt of the American Humanist Association. "Well, we'd like that taboo to be set aside."

Atheists tend to agree that religion is oppressive and far too intrusive in American society and politics, and liken their situation to that of homosexuals 20 years ago, he said.