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Atheist group removes billboards targeting presidential candidates' religious faith
American Atheists says it took down billboards critical of the candidates' religions in Charlotte, North Carolina, after threats.
August 27th, 2012
09:55 AM ET

Atheist group removes billboards targeting presidential candidates' religious faith

By Dan Gilgoff and Dan Merica, CNN

(CNN) – An atheist group that raised a pair of billboards taking aim at the presidential candidates’ religion at the site of next month’s Democratic National Convention has pulled the signs after what the group called a “large volume of threats.”

The billboards, sponsored by American Atheists, took aim at Mormonism and Christianity and went up this month in Charlotte, North Carolina, which will play host to the Democratic convention.

Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney is a Mormon, and President Barack Obama is also a Christian.

The billboard targeting Christianity featured an image of Jesus Christ on toast and this description of the faith: "Sadistic God; Useless Savior, 30,000+ Versions of ‘Truth,’ Promotes Hates, Calls it ‘Love.’ ”

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The billboard targeting Mormonism lambasted and, Mormons would say, distorted specific Mormon doctrines: "God is a Space Alien, Baptizes Dead People, Big Money, Big Bigotry.”

The Mormon billboard featured a man in white underwear, a reference to special Mormon garments.

American Atheists said the billboards provoked a “large volume of threats” by phone and e-mail and that the group reported the threats to police.

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“It is with regret that we tell our members and all of those who treasure free speech and the separation of religion and government that American Atheists and Adams Outdoor Advertising have mutually agreed to remove the billboards immediately,” Amanda Knief, American Atheists’ managing director, said in a statement last week.

“No subject, no idea should be above scrutiny and this includes religion in all forms,” Knief said. “We are saddened that by choosing to express our rights as atheists through questioning the religious beliefs of the men who want to be our president that our fellow citizens have responded with vitriol, threats and hate speech against our staff, volunteers and Adams Outdoor Advertising.”

American Atheists had wanted to put the anti-Mormon billboard in Tampa, Florida, to coincide with this week's Republican National Convention.

When no billboard company in the city would lease the group space for such a sign, American Atheists President David Silverman said the organization decided to focus solely on the Democrats in Charlotte.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Atheism • Politics

soundoff (1,780 Responses)
  1. Mike

    I consider myself a "live and let live" atheist. The AA are basically Fundamentalists , they have the same mindset as a Fundamentalist Christian or Muslim. I am your right, you're stupid. I cannot agree with this stuff. I don't like pushing any beliefs and mocking others.

    September 1, 2012 at 9:14 pm |
    • timmuh

      Atheists don't have beliefs and do not make a claim about the material world. It's clear that you don't know the definition of atheism and are probably not one at all. If you claim to be one, learn how to define yourself first.

      September 1, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
    • Mike

      So in order to be a proper atheist, I must ridicule everyone and thing that does not agree with me? All I said was anyone pushing any point of view on some one is not right. Why are some people so thin skinned about this stuff. " I don't agree with You." Ooooohhh......

      September 1, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • niknak

      They were not pushing their view on anyone. They were pointing out the absurd beleifs of the various religions.
      All of which have zero evidence supporting them.
      As a life long atheist, I am tired as hell of fundies pushing their beliefs on me.
      And you don't sound much like an atheist at all. Because an atheist would not see any problem with what the idea behind those billboards.
      But don't worry, they had to be taken down. Because the jebus loving amoung us did what they always do when confronted with opposition to their bull; They threatend them with violence.
      Religious people only understand a clenched fist.

      September 1, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
    • Jay

      I'm with Mike. Atheism makes sense to me, but some atheists are just as religious as the other guys. They have their belief system - or non-belief system if you prefer - and behave just like the extremes on the other side.

      September 1, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
    • IkeNewton

      timmuh, atheists believe that God does not exist. They do not have scientific proof. Therefore atheism is a faith. A faith which holds that nothing created and designed everything that exists from nothing. You say that the laws of physics created everything from nothing? That has not been established (no, the possible discovery of the Higgs bosun does not establish that). But even so, as an atheist, you have to maintain that nothing wrote the laws of physics in such a way that they would bring forth matter which would randomly bring forth life and intelligence. To hold this faith is your right, but it's not science.

      September 1, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
    • JWoody907

      Mike: I don't disagree with your sentiment about being a "live and let live", but I must disagree with the concept that AA is fundamentalist.
      AA is merely the inevitable "public face" of "organized atheism". Something like AA was bound to spring up to counter the constant bombardment that Christianity, Judaism and Islam hammer down on the masses, if only to offer an alternative. Personally I am happy to see that Atheism has finally grown a pair and come out swinging in this nation, I think religion is a dangerous thing, like a cult, that is being crammed down too many children's throats, keeping things the same.

      I think Atheism and Humanism with it's focus on science and technology is a far superior thing to instill in a child, for it teaches real morality (unlike the farce morality of religion) and does something to actually advance us as a species.

      September 2, 2012 at 7:47 am |
    • IkeNewton

      But atheism is a religion. It is not proved true or false by science. The horrors visited on humanity by atheism's most extreme believers far exceed the carnage of the Spanish Inquisition. The state religion of communism is atheism and communist governments were responsible for roughly 100 million deaths in the 20th century, including millions who were murdered for heresy (faith in a religion other than state-approved atheism). And tremendous acts of kindness have been committed by the countless millions whose lives have been truly changed by the teachings of Jesus.

      September 2, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  2. jack

    Atheists aren't too smart. I thought they were supposed to be smart? Well, I should know better, God tells us: The fool has said in his heart there is no God....Psalm 53:1 Obama is not Christian, he is a Muslim! Duh! About Romney, they are closer to the truth on him. Morminsim is indeed a Cult. Christians, do you want a cult member to be our President? Really? There is no choice for a Christian in this election. The dumbest part of this whole billboard nonsense is the statement that atheism is reasonble. lol It is just nonsense, nothing more. God made all things of course, how else could they have come about, and how else could they be sustained? Most people know this. But what we must know is that we need to receive Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior so that we can be forgiven of ous sins, and have peace with God, and go to heaven. Receive Him now, if you haven't yet done this. Turn away from this nonsense, and know His peace. God bless

    September 1, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      "God tells us: The fool has said in his heart there is no God...."

      Any good cult would argue the same way....

      September 1, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
    • timmuh

      The bible is true and correct because it says so in the bible, as you assert, speaks volumes about your own intelligence. You need to demonstrate the validity of that book of yours before any quotes from it will hold any weight.

      September 1, 2012 at 9:44 pm |
    • rick

      jack: the bible is only valid to those who accept it

      September 1, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • rick

      jack....your god is an impotent little punk

      September 1, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • JWoody907

      So Jack, here's your argument in a nutshell:
      Atheists point out the fallacy of the bible in that it is a 14th century book, written about events 1300-1500 years in the past, in the first person...
      The bible says it is the word of god
      The bible says those who reject god are idiots
      Atheists reject god

      Have you ever stopped to consider the idea that maybe the person that thought up the bible said:
      "some people are gonna see through this...we really need a way to make those that read this think that those that call this BS are idiots"
      and their friend said "So just put that in there!"

      A great quote applies here "The bible is right 100% of the time, I know this because it says so right in the bible"
      Oh, and I probably shouldn't bother to point out that some of the greatest minds in history, including Einstein, Bill Gates, Sigmund Freud, George Orwell, Thomas Edison, Warren Buffett, Mark Twain, Edgar Allen Poe and Susan B Anthony were all atheists?

      September 2, 2012 at 7:57 am |
  3. elijahi34

    The Roman empire tried to destroy Christianity, but failed. What remains of that empire lies in the dust of Italy. Those that come up against Christ will end up the same way. There are two Billion Christians in the world vs how many atheist. It looks like the Lord is winning this one.

    September 1, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      The Roman Empire embraced Christianity and the religion killed it like a cancer.

      September 1, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • JWoody907

      Atheism is currently the 2nd most popular "religion" having surpassed Islam in the last year or so...
      Considering Atheism is strongest in developed western European countries, and is rapidly catching on in the Far East, I'd say Atheism is doing just fine.

      Also, the Romans did away with polytheism and accepted Christianity, and then withered. Ironic that your assessment is chock full of holes in it's oh-so-very-basic premise, much like the bible you quote and flaunt.

      September 2, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • Athy

      Truth is not determined by popular vote.

      September 2, 2012 at 4:51 pm |
  4. Neal

    Nope Gordy I have! But YOU obviously haven't! You're just a sore loser since you know your Jesus is simply part of the Judeo Christian MYTH!!

    September 1, 2012 at 6:13 pm |
  5. Clint E

    There are two kinds of Atheists in this world, Tuco: Those who don't care what others believe as long as it does not hinder them.
    And the other kind: screaming crybabies who are still mad at their figurative daddies and want to push their "lack of belief", LOL, on everyone else.

    September 1, 2012 at 6:12 pm |
    • JWoody907

      Humorous, that you're description of atheists who do not simply take a silent stance is somehow more immature than the proselytizing that is done by religious groups.
      Why must religious constantly send people to my door to recruit me? Why must they send missionaries to foreign lands to attempt to convert them? Why are religions threatened when another group speaks out against them?

      Perhaps it is religion that is immature, and atheism is attempting to counter this with a balanced and reasoned approach called the scientific method, but is being shouted down (or having our lives threatened) by the religious zealots.
      Last I checked it was Christians who threatened AA over the billboards, not the other way round.

      September 2, 2012 at 8:48 am |
  6. Neal

    Gordy, can't handle the TRUTH can you? Bible garbage was spread by FORCE since Constantine said "Convert or DIE"!

    It's ALWAYS been myth which is why they had to spread it by FORCE! Looney ChristNUTS realize that when they start to blackout at the time of death and realize there the mythical Jesus is just a delusional in their minds!

    September 1, 2012 at 6:05 pm |
    • Gordy

      You have never "done it" with a girl, Have you Neal?

      September 1, 2012 at 6:07 pm |
    • elijahi34

      have you ever read the bible? or are you degrading something you know nothing about. You can not comment on something you never read.

      September 1, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • elijahi34

      in all your getting, get understanding. take a look at what your saying, it does not make sense.

      September 1, 2012 at 8:24 pm |
  7. Neal

    The truth hurts doesn't it?

    Jesus and bible mythology is all based on the Judeo Christian MYTH! Looney ChristNUTS will eventually die now that their crazy religion is not spread by force anymore like it was for 1,700 years!

    September 1, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
    • Gordy

      Gosh, Neal, you sound like a very mature and well balanced individual. How is junior high school treating you these days?

      September 1, 2012 at 6:00 pm |
    • elijahi34

      1700 years later and the Word is still here. Think about what you said Neal. The Word of God is still here saving lives. it looks like we are here to stay.

      September 1, 2012 at 8:27 pm |
    • JWoody907

      Neal, I agree completely. Looking merely at the way the bible came into existence should cast doubt on it's validity and meaning as any sort of text, much less as the word of any god.

      And Elijah, as someone who has read the bible, the torah and the koran (and am an Atheist) I can tell you, nothing is more solidly based in mythology than the bible. It is in the same vein as the polytheistic writings of the ancient Greeks, without the prose, flair, or generally good writing of the Greeks. It is filled with hypocritical teachings, leaves massive plot holes, and outright counters itself on many turns. For something claimed to be "the word of god" seems he needs a new fax, because seems like from page to page they keep getting confused.

      September 2, 2012 at 8:55 am |
  8. Gordy

    Why are so many Atheists crying about the lack of "religious freedom"? Is Atheism a religion or something?

    September 1, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  9. Superior informed all-knowing and most honest TRUTH KING of all the lesser-informed

    REPOSTED: WHAT THEY SAID:

    Sane Person
    There is a large difference between "backlash" and threats. There are religious billboards put up all the time. Simply because atheists dont believe in space people and invisible cloud fairies shouldnt make them a target of violence from "loving christians"

    September 1, 2012 at 5:53 pm |
  10. Superior informed all-knowing and most honest TRUTH KING of all the lesser-informed

    '
    '
    TRUTH HURTS
    and people lash out when truth hurts.
    Religion is invented and harmful in the end.
    How can a lie not be harmful?

    September 1, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
  11. jholland27

    “Everything about Christianity is contained in the pathetic image of 'the flock.”
    ― Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22: A Memoir

    September 1, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  12. stormsun

    You can post billboards anywhere in America promoting Christianity, Catholicism, Mormonism, probably Judaism...but let one or two billboards go up promoting Rationality and the disbelief in established religion, and the threats pour in. So much for religious "freedom," huh? What are you afraid of? That if other people don't believe as you do, your faith is compromised? How pitiful, and how cowardly. Apparently your God is threatened by a few humble humans expressing questions and perfectly legitimate doubts.

    September 1, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • Guest

      They're afraid that the billboards will actually prompt someone to think.

      September 1, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Marc

      You understand the difference between Pro-Christian billboards and ant-atheism billboards, right? Christians don't slander atheists in their appeal to the public. This specific line of ads is an ad hominem. It's not pro atheism. It's Anti religion. it's hate rhetoric.

      September 1, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • Marvin

      There's a difference. Religious billboards promote their specific religion, they don't attack atheists and say that atheism is stupid or attack scientists that believe in or started the evolution theory such as Darwin.

      Atheists on the other hand directly attack other religions instead of promoting evolution.

      so sorry but you guys are just as crazy as those nuts on tv promoting "christianity" and doing just that screaming this person did this and this person did that.

      September 2, 2012 at 4:30 am |
  13. John

    I'm an atheist, and the billboards are totally true. But "useless savior" is a little harsh. We should do a better and more polite job at showing that religions are a waste of time and misguided.

    September 1, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • Dean Gullberry

      Yes, this is where I sometimes become disappointed with AA... when they choose to deliver the message in a harsh and mocking way. It's arguable that a little bit of this is necessary, but I agree that "useless savior" does not serve the cause well when it is delivered this way without context.

      September 1, 2012 at 7:39 pm |
    • Marvin

      Agreed. Some of their billboards are ok, they promote evolution etc. Others on the other hand promote hate and intolerance. (just like some christians do)

      September 2, 2012 at 4:32 am |
  14. Ed

    I live in Charlotte. I don't know anyone who called in threats over these signs. I do know folks who were considering this 'hate speech'. Someone in the Charlotte Observer posted this comment when the story first ran. I think it's very well said:

    CLT4Me

    If these were about Gays - it would be called Hate Speech.
    People would march in the streets and demand they be taken down.
    Tolerance.... Indeed.....

    September 1, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  15. spacecat5000

    The article quotes Amanda Knief of AA as saying "...No subject, no idea should be above scrutiny." I would challenge AA to explain to us just how opinionated labels such as "sadistic," "bigotry," and "useless" could ever qualify as "scrutiny." I won't hold my breath waiting for an answer, since extremists are incapable of reason anyway. These people could learn a lot from a simple billboard design like "Don't believe in God? You're not alone." No insults and no debates in that one.

    September 1, 2012 at 10:00 am |
    • John

      Sadistic: How many people does God kill or instruct someone to kill in the Old Testament?
      Bigoted: Exactly when did the Mormon accept black people as equals? The 70's?
      Useless: Pray really really hard, but your amputated limb will never grow back.

      September 1, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
    • spacecat5000

      So why didn't that information appear on the billboard? Surely AA would know to provide evidence to back up the claims appearing on their billboards, wouldn't they?

      September 7, 2012 at 12:54 pm |
  16. Bill

    Exactly how does "Christianity" I.E. the teachings of Jesus, promote "hate"? Now I agree that some who "claim" to be Christians promote hate and are hateful. But if you read the teachings of Jesus there is not an ounce of hate there. Not at all. As for 30.000 versions of the truth? Most of the differences between Christian denominations have to do with Church structure and worship style. Basic truths are pretty consistent. Jesus is The incarnate Son of God. Lived, died for the forgiveness of our sins and rose from the dead to provide eternal life to all who seek it.

    September 1, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • Aud

      "Basic truths?"

      September 1, 2012 at 9:40 am |
    • TheyNotHim

      Jesus did not exist. Your religion is a myth. Prove otherwise with facts and evidence or just please shut up okay?

      September 1, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • RobDog

      @TheyNotHim: .....the scientific community constanly changes their "facts" on a daily basis by using the term "theories" as a justification

      September 1, 2012 at 2:35 pm |
    • JB

      @RobDog – Well, it's just not very scientific to use terms like, "we're not sure, but here's a really good guess..."

      September 2, 2012 at 4:39 am |
    • Chad

      @TheyNotHim "Jesus did not exist""

      interesting bunch those "Jesus deniers"..

      Virtually all modern scholars of the New Testament and Christian origins agree that Jesus existed, and see the theories of his non-existence as effectively refuted.[5][6][7][8][9] Scholars generally agree that Jesus was a Galilean Jew who was born BC 7–2 and died AD 30–36.[10][11] Most scholars hold that Jesus lived in Galilee and Judea[12][13][14] and that he spoke Aramaic and may have also spoken Hebrew and some Greek.[15][16][17][18][19] Although scholars differ on the reconstruction of the specific episodes of the life of Jesus, the two events whose historicity is subject to "almost universal assent" are that he was baptized by John the Baptist and was crucified by the order of the Roman Prefect Pontius Pilate.[20][21][22][23]

      September 7, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
  17. Pravda

    Time to ban the religion of Atheism from our schools and government.

    September 1, 2012 at 8:02 am |
    • Bill

      Here here!! LOL! No, we shouldnt ban any world view or opinion. But then again, atheists should not try to take away our freedom to pray and worship openly.

      September 1, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • sam stone

      Atheism is not a religion.

      September 1, 2012 at 12:39 pm |
    • sam stone

      bill: what atheist is trying to take away your right to pray and worship openly?

      the vaunted christian persecution complex rearing it's ugly head?

      September 1, 2012 at 12:41 pm |
  18. appalled

    Like Henry Fonda said in the movie: "Just because it's writ down don't make it so."

    September 1, 2012 at 7:53 am |
  19. Really?

    This group insults and demeans religious people, then cries foul when there's a backlash? Shocking.

    September 1, 2012 at 5:03 am |
    • Mikej

      Not backlash...threats. Religion is just so transparently silly...and mormonism takes it to new hights of stupidity!

      September 1, 2012 at 5:34 am |
    • Sane Person

      There is a large difference between "backlash" and threats. There are religious billboards put up all the time. Simply because atheists dont believe in space people and invisible cloud fairies shouldnt make them a target of violence from "loving christians".

      September 1, 2012 at 6:39 am |
    • Frank

      Last time I checked, the religious billboards didn't say atheists were stupid or silly. They only talk about what they believe in and didn't demean the fact that others don't. THe atheist billboards were direct, targeted attacks. Let's face it, atheism, though perfectly within its rights to exist, is an antipode. It couldn't exist without religion.

      September 1, 2012 at 7:47 am |
    • Phil

      Frank: Billboards all over the country proclaim that atheists will burn in pain unimaginable for time immemorial, this strikes me as rather worse than calling someone stupid or silly. If you're undecided on this may I suggest an experiment:
      First ask a child to insult you; 'poo-poo head' or something. Next douse yourself in kerosene and light a match. You can spend the time in hospital considering which experience was worst and contemplating the meaning of infinity.

      September 1, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Frank,

      perhaps you are thinking of Kirk Cameron's (or his buddies') lame efforts.

      Try putting 'christian billboard' into Google images. You will get treats like this:

      "Why Do Atheists Hate America?"

      "Attention: Lunatic Atheists & their Lawyers
      Anti-God is Anti-American
      Anti-American is Treason
      Traitors lead to Civil War"

      So Christians don't "attack" atheists on billboards??

      September 1, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
  20. daniellenewyork

    The idea of the American Atheists being threatened over their billboards, presumably by people directly addressed in said billboards i.e. Mormons and Christians, is kind of poetic. I think better than the billboards, whomever was making the threats just boosted the American Atheists visibility from a couple of signs to a national news story. #epicfail

    September 1, 2012 at 1:47 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.