During the Christmas season, there are often a huge number of seasonal advertisements on display for all to see – but for the people in Bible Belt cities of the U.S., a rather different billboard has appeared compared to recent years.
The American Atheists group has funded a series of billboards to be put up in December that encourages people not to attend church over the Christmas season, and they have drawn quite a lot of attention for their controversial message.
In full, the first billboard reads: “Dear Santa, All I want for Christmas is to skip church. I’m too old for fairy tales.” The billboard in Milwaukee was funded in part by the Southeast Wisconsin Free Thinkers, which is an atheist organization that supports those who do not have a religious faith. A spokesperson from the group called Rob Moore has said that, “the message is ironic and it’s sarcastic and it’s clever.”
The billboard’s message has been seen by some as a hilarious Christmas joke, but Moore instead believes that it can also be read as a very serious suggestion that people do not go to church this Christmas. Moore believes that there are many people that do not actually believe in Christ, but go to church out of tradition.
On the other hand, there are others that do not believe that the billboard was the best choice for this Christmas season – or even that it is working. The Archbishop of Milwaukee Jerome Listecki believes that many people will look at the billboard, and consider it a waste of money. “I wonder why so much energy is put into that billboard,” says Listecki. “It would have been nicer if the organization maybe put more time and effort into maybe collecting gifts for the needy at that time than to spend it on a billboard.”
On Friday, new artwork replaced the billboards in Memphis and Nashville and reads “Dear Christians, I share my toys. Why won’t you share the season? Happy Holidays for all!”