Billboard by atheists targets holiday season - Albuquerque Journal

Billboard by atheists targets holiday season

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

President Donald Trump isn’t the only one making claims of “fake news.”

The American Atheists organization is also sounding the alarm – but its Christmas season target is religion.

Earlier this week, a large billboard went up next to Interstate 25, south of Montgomery. Located on the west side of the interstate but facing northbound traffic, the billboard contains a Nativity scene with a crescent moon and star above it. Large lettering to the right reads: “Just skip church. It’s all fake news!” Along the bottom of the billboard, in smaller lettering, is the message, “Happy holidays from American Atheists!”

Nick Fish, national program director for American Atheists, which has headquarters in New Jersey and Washington, D.C., told the Journal on Friday that he understands some people believe the billboard message “is a slap in the face of people of faith.” That, however, is not the intention.

People are “rightly skeptical” about some of the news they see on social media, hear from family or friends, or are told by elected officials. “But too often, they don’t extend that skepticism to their religious views and what their religious leaders are telling them,” Fish said.

“Fake news has been a topic of conversation for two years now, and the best way to fight against fake news is to think critically and look at the evidence. We want people to do that in all aspects of their lives and not shut off that part of their brain that does critical thinking for two hours when they attend their houses of worship each week.”

Critical thinking is not what’s being advanced by the billboard, said the Rev. Richard Mansfield, senior pastor of the New Beginning Church, which is less than a quarter mile from the highway billboard.

“They’re not promoting conversation; they’re just saying Christianity is false, the Nativity is a farce, the church and everything we stand for is fake, the Bible is a lie and we are all liars.”

The billboard is “mocking everything that Christians around the world believe in and they’re saying ‘skip church because it delivers fake news,’ ” he said. “They are attacking the church.”

The billboard will remain up through December. The Nativity scene and the reference to church were used because this is the holiday season and because most Americans who profess to be religious are affiliated with a Christian denomination, Fish said. However, the message of the billboard is meant for all religions, he added.

Rabbi Harry Rosenfeld of Congregation Albert said he was offended by the billboard.

“If it said, ‘There is no god; happy holidays,’ I would not be offended, because that’s an issue of free speech and freedom of religion,” he said.

Because the billboard uses the Nativity image and tells people to skip church because churches promote fake news, “the message is, ‘None of this is real; you’re all being fooled; don’t do it.’ That’s a different message than think critically.”

Further, Rosenfeld said, the term “fake news” is a pejorative that is now being used “to put others down and shut off discussion and debate.”

The billboard demonstrates a lack of sensitivity to people of faith, particularly coming at this time of the year, said Mostafa Amini, general secretary of the Islamic Center of New Mexico. “At the same time, we support freedom of speech and recognize that atheists have the right to express themselves as they will,” he said.

The Islamic faith “also supports, in fact commands, critical thinking,” Amini said. “Islam tries to argue rationally for the existence of God, and that is not fake news to people of faith.”

Richard Wood, a University of New Mexico professor of sociology specializing in religion, says he detects a type of dishonesty in the billboard’s message.

“I have deep respect for principled humanism,” he said, “but that billboard expresses a certain kind of secular fundamentalism that’s a mirror image of religious fundamentalism in that it denies all truths except their own.”

That kind of secular fundamentalism “is just as ethically bankrupt as religious fundamentalism,” he said. “If the message is ‘think critically about everything,’ I’m on board. But that’s not what the billboard says, which is, ‘Religion is fake news.’ ”

Home » News » Albuquerque News » Billboard by atheists targets holiday season

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email

taboola desktop

NM expands help with filling court forms
ABQnews Seeker
Court-scribe program helps people understand and ... Court-scribe program helps people understand and complete documents
He faces 33 years in prison for raping a ...
ABQnews Seeker
A man who is facing up ... A man who is facing up to 33 years in prison after being convicted of raping a child has cut off the GPS monitor ...
NMSU basketball player involved in fatal shooting suspended from ...
ABQnews Seeker
New Mexico State Aggie basketball player ... New Mexico State Aggie basketball player Mike Peake has been suspended indefinitely for his involvement in the Nov. 19 fatal shooting on the University ...
Some retired educators are, slowly, returning to classrooms.
ABQnews Seeker
New Mexico's plan to entice retired ... New Mexico's plan to entice retired educators to come back to the classroom is working — even if only by a little. As of ...
Speaker Brian Egolf resigns from PRC nominating panel, ending ...
ABQnews Seeker
Outgoing House Speaker Brian Egolf has ... Outgoing House Speaker Brian Egolf has avoided an ethics hearing by resigning from the state nominating committee he had appointed himself to earlier this ...
Father earns life sentence in toddler’s death
ABQnews Seeker
Fatal injuries to a 2-year-old boy ... Fatal injuries to a 2-year-old boy in 2018 resulted in a sentence of life in prison for the child's father, who was convicted by ...
Under PNM's new rate case, utility plans to charge ...
ABQnews Seeker
Public Service Co. of New Mexico's ... Public Service Co. of New Mexico's residential customers would pay just 75 cents extra per month if state regulators approve a proposed rate increase ...
An APD officer's law enforcement certificate was revoked in ...
ABQnews Seeker
The officer had been fired in ... The officer had been fired in May 2021, and another officer who was involved was fired but has been reinstated
BioPark welcomes first-ever penguin hatchling
ABQnews Seeker
Love is in the frosty air ... Love is in the frosty air at the ABQ BioPark Zoo's Penguin Chill exhibit, where the first ever penguin chick hatched last month. In ...