(CNSNews.com) – The American Humanist Association is expanding its “Godless Holiday” advertising campaign to five major American cities this Christmas -- taking its message of a holiday season without religion nationwide for the first time.
The ads read: “No God -- no problem! Be good for goodness’ sake. Humanism is the idea that you can be good without a belief in God” and feature several people in red and white Santa hats. The new ads come on the heels of an AHA campaign last year which asked “Why believe in a God?” and featured ads on public transit in Washington, D.C.
Previously, the atheist campaign had been confined to the Washington, D.C., area, with signs and advertisements featured prominently on the city’s Metro subway trains and buses.
The expansion to four new cities – New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco – marks the first-ever national atheist advertising campaign and the first time the Humanist group has taken its anti-religious holiday message outside of the nation’s capitol.
However, the atheist group claims its campaign is designed to reach out to fellow atheists on what is normally a religious holiday.
“Our campaign's purpose is to speak out to like-minded individuals -- people who don't believe in God -- and let them know they're not alone, that there's a community out there for them,” AHA spokesman Karen Frantz told CNSNews.com.
Frantz said that while the campaign was not trying to do away with religion entirely, it was trying to break the “stranglehold” religious institutions have on public policy.
“We're not trying to convert anyone who does believe in God, nor are we anti-religious in the sense that we want to do away with religion,” Frantz explained. “However, we do want to lessen the stranglehold religion has on public policy because such matters are best decided upon by reason, not by dogma.”
The ad campaign, which emphasizes that people can be morally good without being religious, aims at stopping religious people who “enforce” their views on others, she said. “Too often religion is used to enforce a narrow version of morality onto others who don't necessarily share it.”
A pro-Christian conservative group, meanwhile, told CNSNews.com that despite the AHA’s anti-holy day message, religious Americans shouldn’t be intimidated – and have every right to continue to celebrate Christmas proudly. But Christians also shouldn’t treat the atheist campaign with contempt.
“People of faith should view the Humanist displays at this special -- even holy -- time of year, with compassion,” said Kristi Hamrick, president of the Campaign for Working Families and spokeswoman for Gary Bauer’s American Values.
“Because of the blessings of liberty we enjoy as Americans, they certainly have the right to their strident displays of antagonism to faith. But at this time of year when so many of us are thanking God for our blessings, especially the blessing of his only Son come to earth for us, we need to pray for them.”
Hamrick pointed out that the “eternal truths” of Christianity do not require validation by atheists and Christians especially should feel “empowered” to celebrate the Christmas holiday openly and proudly.
“I hope people will take a moment to pray for others when they see the (Humanist) displays,” Hamrick said. “Eternal truths are not dependent on the permission of the Humanists to be (true.) And I hope that people of faith will feel equally empowered at this time of year to express their own beliefs.”
Christmas, which commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, should be a joyous time of year for religious Americans, she said, even if the Humanists don’t want to join in.
“Christians are often told to hide their Merry Christmas greetings behind the blander ‘Happy Holidays.’ But a Merry Christmas it truly is, even without the Humanists joining in our celebration.”