NEW YORK (CBS 2/1010 WINS) – An atheist group struck first. Now the Catholic League is counterpunching.
Approach the tunnel from the Jersey side and you’ll see it – a billboard from an atheist group saying of Christmas: “You know it’s a myth — this season, celebrate reason.”
On the other side of the tunnel sits the other side of the yuletide tussle — a Catholic League billboard proclaiming “You know it’s real — this season celebrate Jesus.”
“Ninety-six percent of Americans celebrate Christmas. Somebody on our side needs to put down a cultural marker, and that’s what we’ve done,” Catholic League President Bill Donohue told CBS 2’s Tony Aiello.
Donohue said the billboard is a “counterpunch” against what he calls militant atheism.
The big billboard cost some pretty big cash — $18,500. The Catholic League said it came from an anonymous donor who put up the cash because he was offended by the atheists’ message.
The atheists said they did not intend to offend — but to provoke debate about religious beliefs.
“Bringing the differences out is what’s important, and that’s why we put the billboard up in the first place, to get people talking to each other,” said David Silverman, President of American Atheists.
In the shadow of the Catholic billboard people were talking.
“If it wasn’t for Jesus Christ, I wouldn’t be here! I love [the billboard],” James Bennett said.
“I’m scared of most organized religion and I think a lot of it is based on myth,” Mike Flannery said.
“I support what the Catholic people are doing, and kind of, the atheists, eh …” Joe Cippolone added.
The billboards, part of a Christmas culture clash, will stay up through December.
American atheists also paid big money to make their billboard statement — $20,000.