“Where nonbelievers can meet . . . Forty-Second Street”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is sending “Reason’s Greetings” to New Yorkers, placing two of its seasonally irreverent greetings in New York City. A jaunty 18 x 30 foot sign saying “Reason’s Greetings from the Freedom From Religion Foundation” is on an illuminated wallscape in the heart of the Theatre District on 42nd Street at 7th and 8th near Times Square.
A 14x48 foot billboard, also illuminated at night, went up this week on Bruckner Expressway and 149th Street facing north in a position to greet southbound vehicles heading toward Manhattan and Queens via the Triborough Bridge. Both messages will be up for a month.
FFRF had its eye on a flashy 3-panel wall in Times Square, but the owner refused permission for any of its messages.
“Think of the sexual imagery, the liquor ads, the very vulgarity which Times Square is celebrated for! Yet any billboard bearing even the mildest message from the Freedom From Religion Foundation was too hot to handle?” asked Annie Laurie Gaylor, Foundation co-president. “The censorship we continue to encounter shows the continuing ostracism of freethought — a respectable intellectual position simply advocating the use of reason to evaluate religious claims.”
Added Dan Barker, FFRF co-president: “Where would Broadway be without the contributions of nonbelievers? Great Broadway composers who did not believe in a god include Irving Berlin, the Gershwins, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Yip Harburg, Burton Lane, Jay Gorney, and today’s Stephen Sondheim and Charles Strouse.” In fact, Strouse, composer of “Annie” having a spring revival, accepted an Emperor has No Clothes Award, which is reserved for public figures who make known their dissent from religion from FFRF, at its 34th annual convention in Hartford in October.
FFRF, the nation’s largest association of freethinkers (atheists and agnostics) has more than 17,000 nonreligious members nationwide, with more than 300 members in the New York City proper and nearly 1,000 in New York State.
Gaylor says the greeting is a reminder of the real reason for the season — the Winter Solstice, which takes place this year on Thurs., Dec. 22, and marks the shortest, darkest day of the year. The date has been celebrated for millennia in the northern hemisphere with evergreen displays, feasts, festivals of light and gift-exchanges, since it signals the return of the sun and the natural new year.
"We nonbelievers don't mind sharing the season with Christians," Gaylor added, "but we think there should be some acknowledgment that the Christians really 'stole' the trimmings of Christmas.”
Barker noted that Christians tend to think "they own the month of December. We don't agree. No month is free from pagan reverie!"
A special thanks to Markie Hancock for the photo.