Christian Living

Spiritual Life

Godless Advertising

This Christmas, along with ads promoting the new must-have children’s toys, the hottest consumer electronics and family-themed holiday movies, advertisements promoting atheism will be found on the streets of several cities. The posters, signs and billboards are efforts by groups who promote atheism and humanism to connect with what they see as a growing sect in American society—people who don’t believe in God.

Much like last year, a campaign from atheism groups to promote their beliefs (or lack of beliefs) is seeing signs erected around the world. Stories like this from New Zealand show how some local communities are reacting this year.

The campaigns first started popping up last year around Christmas time.

According to this story, in Colorado from last Christmas, 11 billboards with the phrase “Don’t believe in God?—You are not alone” were placed around the city Denver. The Billboard campaign is an effort by COCORE (an umbrella organization consisting of 11 Humanist and atheism groups) to draw in more skeptics. More of the billboards went up in cities including Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Kansas City.

In Washington D.C. and New York, The American Humanist Association sponsored a $40,000 campaign that has its own, holiday theme. The slogan “Why believe in god? Just be good for goodness’ sake” appears next to a guy in a Santa Claus costume shrugging his shoulders. All of this came on the heels of a series of ads that were displayed on the sides of buses in London, that read, “There’s Probably No God. Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life.” This one was organized by the British Humanist Association and has the support of best-selling author Richard Dawkins, known for his book The God Delusion.

The spokesperson for the group behind the Christmas-themed ads told told Fox News, “Our reason for doing it during the holidays is there are an awful lot of agnostics, atheists and other types of non-theists who feel a little alone during the holidays because of its association with traditional religion."

But reading between the lines of the ads, despite their jabs at faith, they seem more interested in stirring discussion than inciting hostility. And, despite being a time of celebration, the holidays can actually be pretty combative—especially for someone struggling with faith.

Along with many Christians' self-imposed “war on Christmas”, non-believers (some of whom may be wondering what being a Christian is all about) are faced with the dichotomy of widespread consumerism and Christ’s message of simplicity and warnings to the rich. (After all, Jesus talked more about money [see section 3 of this link] than He did about heaven and hell). If anything, Christmas is the perfect time to ask questions—and offer answers. Just look at the ads themselves:

“Why believe in god?”

For people who claim non-belief in a higher power, this is a great question, especially when they see the actions of some Christians. What messages are we—people who call ourselves Christians—sending unbelievers at the holidays? As they look at our lifestyles, our actions (and our spending habits), what reason do we give them to believe in God? Ultimately, the Holy Spirit convicts and can change someone’s heart to God, but it is our job as the Body of Christ—His hands and His feet—to show people (not just tell them) why believing in God is important.

“Don’t believe in God?—You are not alone”

Though a vast majority of Americans claim belief in a higher power to some capacity, this ad also contains truth. One of the most basic human sociological needs is to connect with people who are similar to us—to feel a sense of affirmation and belonging. If anything, this ad shows Christians why it is important to reach out to non-believers in compassionate ways—not overly combative ones.

If a person is legitimately struggling with the concept of faith—or is outright abandoning it—Christmas can be a difficult time, and it would be easy to feel isolated in your disbelief. Instead of further isolating a group that is already claiming to deal with loneliness, we should find common ground with non-believers, and let our message of Christ’s love be based in a genuine relationship, not a hard-nosed mantra.

“There’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”

According to The Christian Post, these ads were originally conceived as a reaction to Christian advertisements that warned of eternal consequences for a life without God. Atheists in the U.K. had such a strong initial connection to this ad, that thousands of dollars were raised to expand its reach across London. And though there is an element of tongue-in-cheek attitude with the slogan, the word “probably” is an interesting way to phrase it.

The ad doesn’t concretely proclaim “There is no god”; it says, “There’s probably no god.” The syntax seems to suggest that they are more interested in creating discussion about the existence of an all-powerful God, than making bold absolute statements about what other people believe.

When dealing with people who questioned Him, Jesus never watered down truth, but he always found a way to answer people in a manner that connected with them.

Just before His crucifixion, Jesus was arrested and taken before the High Priest and then Pilate. Even to the face of His most fierce accusers, Jesus answered questions with grace. Here’s John’s account:

Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching.

"I have spoken openly to the world," Jesus replied. "I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said."

When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby struck him in the face. "Is this the way you answer the high priest?" he demanded.

"If I said something wrong," Jesus replied, "testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?" (John 18:19-23, NIV).

Jesus could have called down a legion of angels to avenge the assault. He could have retaliated. But Jesus decided that was not the best way. When He was questioned and attacked, His reaction was not to fight back. He did not even get angry. What’s our reaction to people who publically question our faith? Do we get mad when we encounter public displays of disbelief? We shouldn’t.

At Christmas especially, many Christians seem to want to fight the world. But unbelievers don’t see God through how we wage war on culture. They get a glimpse of Him when they see how we don’t fight back.

Even though the tone of these ads seem to disarm their premise—not believing in God—many Christians will see them as a smack in the face. But before you strike back, remember, how you choose to react can answer more of their questions about Jesus than your words ever will.


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