Our friends, the Atheists

NYC Subway adAtheist groups are reaching out, advertising their beliefs on billboards, buses and subways in recent months, with slogans such as, “No god? … No problem.”

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.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
Patrick Molloy
8 years 3 months ago
A suggestion from London for a Buddhist bus advertisement:
“At this stage in proceedings, it seems to me that there’s no reason for Buddhists not to pitch in and join the fun. My proposal is for a Madhyamaka bus bearing the following well-known verse from the M?lamadhyamaka-k?rik? of the philosopher N?g?rjuna:
Neither an entity nor a nonentity Moves in any of the three ways. So motion, bus and route are nonexistent.”
Eric Stoltz
8 years 3 months ago
“Do not be too quick to condemn the man who no longer believes in God: for it is perhaps your own coldness and avarice and mediocrity and materialism and selfishness that have chilled his faith.” —Thomas Merton
Livia Fiordelisi
8 years 3 months ago
Thanks for the quote, Deacon Stolz. I was thinking that same thing. A loving Christian is the best billboard for the existence of God.
James Lindsay
8 years 3 months ago
What most religionists don't consider is that God does not need us, we need God. Even when we worship God or do good works in His name, it is for our benefit, not His.

Natural law ethics, if it they really derive from reason, must have the well-being of humanity, both individually and collectively, at heart - or else the basis is not natural reasoning. Again, God cannot have a "personal stake" in the outcome other than love for humankind. Anything else is the kind of pietism that Jesus condemned.

We truly have nothing to fear from those atheists who condemn religion out of love for mankind, since once they are guided by love, they are prompted by the Holy Spirit, who is Love, whether they profess belief or not.


Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Xavier High School students fill West 16th Street during the National School Walkout Day. (Credit: Shawna Gallagher Vega/Xavier High School)
Our student body generated dialogue around a topic that we did not all agree on.
Devin OnMarch 23, 2018
Protesters gather near the Manchester Central Fire Station in Manchester, N.H., Monday, March 19, 2018, where President Donald Trump madee an unscheduled visit. Trump is in New Hampshire to unveil more of his plan to combat the nation's opioid crisis. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
To suggest the use of the death penalty as a way to address the opioid epidemic ignores what we know already to be true: The death penalty is a flawed and broken tool in the practical pursuit of justice.
Karen CliftonMarch 23, 2018
(Images: Wikimedia Commons, iStock/Composite: America)
An angel whispered in my ear: “Fred, ‘Be not afraid.’”
Fred DaleyMarch 23, 2018
(photo: Music Box Films)
“Back to Burgundy” is about family tensions boiled up by both the financial and artistic challenges of the wine business.