Can You Be an Atheist and a Jew at the Same Time? David Silverman Says No.
The activist behind those anti-Christmas billboards says Judaism is incompatible with the views of nonbelievers—like himself
’Tis the season when Fox News starts running stories about the alleged “war on Christmas.” And once again, as in holiday seasons past, one of the people accused of leading the charge is David Silverman, the brash frontman ofAmerican Atheists. Sarah Palin rails against Silverman and his group in the first chapter (“Angry Atheists and their Lawyers”) of her new book on Christmas, claiming that they “threaten to destroy every last bit of Christmas cheer we have left.”
Each year, Silverman’s organization deploys a flurry of strategically placed anti-Christmas billboards from New York City to San Francisco featuring unapologetic slogans like “Keep the Merry, Dump the Myth!” and “You Know It’s a Myth. This Season, Celebrate Reason.” “We fight for the secularization or the equalization of the holiday and of the season,” Silverman told me recently at the American Atheists office in Cranford, N.J.
But while he’s still putting up Christmas-related billboardsand arguing with the talking heads on Fox News, this season he has started to focus his atheist activism on a new target: Jews. Silverman wants Jews who don’t believe in God to assert their atheism and stop identifying as Jews. He believes that nonbelievers should “come out” to their families and friends and in some instances their work colleagues, identifying themselves as atheists. He argues that when religionless Americans avoid the word “atheist” to describe themselves for fear of sounding exclusionary, they are being dishonest. “Atheist is the correct word that has simply been made into a bad word by bigots,” he said, arguing that only the word “atheist” accurately conveys the proper meaning to people who are believers, “and telling the truth benefits everyone.”