Such groups have made an extra effort during the holiday season, placing 270 ads on city buses and trains in the Washington, D.C. area and more across the country. According to the New York Times, a similar campaign last year sparked significant controversy:
The head of the Catholic League linked secular humanists to figures like Hitler and the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. The publisher of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” complained about the signs. In Cincinnati, a billboard that said “Don’t believe in God? You’re Not Alone” had to be moved after the owner of the billboard property said he had received threats. In Moscow, Idaho, a sign that said “Good without God. Millions of humanists are” was vandalized twice in three weeks.
Others took a different approach:
After signs went up last year in Washington, religious groups took out their own ads. One featured the famous Sistine Chapel image of God’s finger reaching out to Adam along with the words: “Why Believe? Because I created you and I love you, for goodness’ sake. — God.” Pennsylvania Friends in Christ placed an ad reading: “Believe in God. Christ is Christmas for goodness sake.”
Recently, the New York City chapter of American Atheists began reaching out specifically to the Spanish-speaking population in the city.
But the Rev. Lorenzo Ato, assistant director for Hispanic media at the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York, told the Times that he wasn’t worried.
“I do not believe this group is problematic because, first, those who believe in God and those who do not believe in God can live in the same city without difficulty,” Father Ato explained. “Since the beginning of time, atheists have been in existence, and the teachings of the church is to pray for them, respect them and live in peace, because we share the same dignity and the same esteem for humanity.”
Father Ato added that he thought the group might even partner with the church in doing good works. “I feel we can work together and provide a partnership in order to improve society,” Father Ato wrote.
Perhaps, a church that demonstrates respect, peace, dignity and love is the best sign of all.