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Conventions leave atheists asking: What political party represents me?
A voice vote to change the DNC party platform turned to chaos Wednesday night.
September 6th, 2012
03:24 PM ET

Conventions leave atheists asking: What political party represents me?

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – This convention season has not been good for atheists.

The word "God" was reinserted in the Democratic platform after it had been removed. A plan to raise atheist billboards in the convention cities was stymied by opponents. And though there were preachers and rabbis and other religious leaders opening and closing each day of each convention, there wasn’t an avowed atheist talking up unbelief on either convention’s speaking list.

The political lockout has left many nonbelievers asking, “What political party represents me?”

“We are deeply saddened by the exclusion of a large number of Americans by both parties,” said Teresa MacBain, a spokeswoman for the group American Atheists, in an interview on Thursday. “It amazes me that in modern-day America, so much prejudice still exists.”

After word spread Wednesday that Democrats left God out of their platform, atheists rejoiced. “Truly amazing news,” wrote Loren Miller on Atheist Nexus, a popular atheist blog. “The Republicans remain in the firm grasp of right-wing Christian religiosity, and I really don't know what it's going to take to free them from it.”

But the convention committee immediately received huge pressure get God back in the platform. Even President Obama, according to CNN reporting, said, “Why on earth would that have been taken out?” when he first heard of the omission.

In an awkward session that required three voice votes on the convention floor, the Democrats opted to add “God” back to the platform.

For atheists, the Democrats were seen to be taking away a hard-fought victory. “We had 24 hours of joy as we felt (that) finally our government values all people,” said MacBain. “But that was short-lived. The vote last night angered many atheists and left them feeling excluded once again.”

Online, atheist websites and Facebook pages went from upbeat to downcast as news spread of the platform revision.

“Obama was the first president to acknowledge non believers,” Mark Musante wrote on the American Atheists’ Facebook page. “I wish he would stick to his guns.”

Musante was referring to Obama’s 2009 inauguration speech, when the president said, “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers.”

Beverly Sitherwood, on the Friendly Atheist blog Facebook page, accused the Democrats of “Pandering for power.”

Some atheist leaders used the platform defeat as a rallying call.

“I guess a tiny step was too much to ask for,” David Silverman, president of the American Atheists, told CNN. “This was a clear message to the 16% of the voting population we don’t count. Well, guess what, Dems we do. And we vote.”

Silverman says that 16% of the voting public identify as nonbelievers. According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 12% of the electorate in 2008 was made up of people with no religious affiliation, though experts say the number of avowed atheists is much smaller.

While acknowledging atheists, Obama has given platforms to high-profile religious leaders, including Rick Warren, a megachurch pastor who prayed at his inauguration, and Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who is giving the final prayer of the convention on Thursday night.

American Atheists’ plans to raise billboards ridiculing the presidential candidates’ faith ended in failure. After the group put up billboards in Charlotte, North Carolina, the site of the Democratic National Convention, last month, it quickly removed them due to “physical threats to not only our staff, but the billboard company as well.”

American Atheists had also planned on a billboard in Tampa, Florida, to coincide with the Republican National Convention there. But American Atheists said that all the billboard companies in Tampa rejected a sign taking aim at GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith.

Perhaps because of the Republican Party’s ties to conservative Christianity, atheists tend to be Democrats. According to a 2012 Pew study, 71% of Americans who identified as atheist were Democrats.

“The Republicans who spoke at the RNC seemed more like televangelists than politicians,” MacBain said. “The message was clear from the RNC: Get God, or get out.”

The Republican’s 2012 platform mentions God 12 times, many of which describe the “God-given” rights that the Republican Party says are inherent to the American idea.

Though most atheist groups claim that there are closeted atheists serving as representatives and senators, only one has come out as such.

In September 2007, Rep. Pete Stark, Democrat of California, affirmed his atheism in a speech at the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard University.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: 2012 Election • Atheism • God • Politics

soundoff (3,922 Responses)
  1. Realist

    Gotta love it.. Athiest billboards removed because of physical threats to staff and the billboard companies. Religious people are so peaceful. :-/ This is yet another example of how RELIGION IS THE PROBLEM and .. and how clueless, selfish, dangerous, angry and prejudiced the average ham-and-egg American "believer" is.

    There is no god, only moronic, insecure, people who cling to religion because they are unwilling or unable to think for themselves. If I'm wrong and there IS a god, you religious zealots who run around hating, shooting, and threatening. . will be judged very harshly by your god. In fact, I'm convinced that if there is a hell, the lowest rungs of it are reserved especially for you.

    September 7, 2012 at 7:34 am |
    • Pragmatist

      Of course the billboard in my community encouraging people of Northern European descent to join a local political organization fared about as well as the Atheist's billboards did. The reactions were predictable in both cases. In both cases you should ask why they wanted to generate ill will in the first place.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:16 am |
  2. Claudia

    It is not a question of measuring how much society likes or dislikes atheists; it is a question of secularism. God should be left out of politics. I don't understand why all these religious people are showing off their hatred for atheists here. Atheists are a minority and as so, are trying to explain why religion sounds weird to them. As they do not have "holy" issues, they just explain what they find weird in religion. It is not mocking religious people; it's about mocking their arguments.

    September 7, 2012 at 7:33 am |
    • ahumanbeing

      Claudia, it seems to me that a lot of atheists are showing their hatred of Christians. it doesn't sound like they're trying to explain why religion is weird to them. It sounds more like they do not want Christians to have their religion.

      September 7, 2012 at 7:45 am |
    • Nope

      As an Athiest for over 25 years, I can concede that many other Athiests belittle religion. Unfortunately, that is the result of the popularity and mainstream release of Athiesm cerated by Darwin. In "The God Delusion," which is one of the biggest new age mainstream Athiest books, he quotes Thomas Jefferson: "Ridicule is the only weapon which can be
      used against unintelligible propositions." A lot of Athiest take this to the extreme, hence the Flying Spaghetti Monster mockery.

      September 7, 2012 at 7:45 am |
    • Nope

      Errr Dawkins, not Dawin. Hah

      September 7, 2012 at 7:46 am |
    • Takawalk

      A lot if not most of the posters here are being disrespectful, and that includes both "sides". The other thing that seems prevalent is that many confuse religion with biblical Christianity.

      September 11, 2012 at 3:21 pm |
  3. SciGuy73

    It is so adorable when religious folks try to justify their positions with reason.

    September 7, 2012 at 7:32 am |
  4. iceload9

    Atheists "I want others to not believe as I don't believe."

    September 7, 2012 at 7:32 am |
    • Ethel the Aardvark Goes Quanti-ty Surveying

      No. Atheist says, I do not believe in the god you claim is real.

      September 7, 2012 at 7:40 am |
    • Nope

      Actually, I really don't care what anyone believes as long as they don't use their faith in voodoo or magic to create laws that affect my freedom. So yah... there you have it, from an Athiest.

      September 7, 2012 at 7:41 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Atheists strictly don't believe in your imaginary friend moron. Try educating yourself! They do believe in other things but unlike you they believe as evidence is presented and not on faith (belief without evidence).

      September 7, 2012 at 7:42 am |
    • Raycine

      What a rude little shit TruthPrevails:-) is. She's adopted the idea that one shouldn't respect anyone who professes belief in a god or gods and taken it a few steps further. One hopes she will at least piss on you if you're on fire. She's just not in the same class as some of the others.

      September 7, 2012 at 7:50 am |
    • indyreader

      If you want to be perceived as having an intellectually honest discussion, stop putting false words into atheists' mouths. I lack belief in your god(s) because I've not seen any evidence that supports that belief. I could not possibly care less what you believe in. The only time where someone else's belief becomes a problem is when they try to make laws that favor or enforce their particular religious beliefs, because our secular laws in the US explicitly say that's a no-no.
      Peace.

      September 7, 2012 at 9:24 am |
  5. TewksburyBob

    The atheists are more represented by The Democrats than any other party except maybe the communist party. I believe they have the wrong country though. Maybe they should move. In God We Trust is still our land...Democrat or Republican.

    September 7, 2012 at 7:29 am |
    • SciGuy73

      "In god we trust" is a recent invention. This country went nearly 200 years without it.

      September 7, 2012 at 7:33 am |
    • What?1

      So you think Athiests should move out of America if they don't like it. Hey buddy, you should know that my vote counts just as much as yours and I have every right to stay right here and fight for my America. In God we trust was adopted in 1956. You are a tool's tool if you think logic and science are bad.

      September 7, 2012 at 7:38 am |
    • truth derails ... true "Truth" Prevails

      "In God We Trust" may have been a recent invention but here's somethin that isn't:

      "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"

      "created"..."Creator" ...

      In case your grasp of American History is as short as it appears that it is, Google those words and check out what the "Copyright" date is...

      Fact is, neither Party represents 100% of my views, either...I still vote Democrat so that the right wing whacks don't gain more of a foothold...and I suggest you do the same...

      September 7, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • sam stone

      Good job, Tewksbury, pigeonholing atheists into a political persuasion. Now, boy, go fvck yourself

      September 7, 2012 at 8:27 am |
  6. Samuel

    Atheism is NOT a religion. It is the default state of the human being. The word atheism shouldn't even exist. We can't go around labelling the lack of belief in something. What do we call people who don't believe in Santa Clause or the Easter Bunny? Atheism is nothing more than a propaganda tool used by religion to try and bring others down to their level. Don't fall for it! Remember we're all Atheists and some of us just happen to believe in one less God.

    September 7, 2012 at 7:27 am |
    • jimbo

      Your an 1diot. Belief in a higher power has been around since man was around.

      September 7, 2012 at 7:31 am |
    • SciGuy73

      "Your an 1diot" Cracks me up. How ironic.

      September 7, 2012 at 7:35 am |
    • Anon

      Hey jimbo do some research on the Piranha tribe. They literally made a linguist professor who was going to convert them to evangelical Christianity into an atheist.
      [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNajfMZGnuo&w=640&h=390]

      September 7, 2012 at 2:24 pm |
  7. athiest

    Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large numbers.

    September 7, 2012 at 7:26 am |
    • LuniB

      You misspelled "atheist."

      September 7, 2012 at 7:29 am |
    • Ath-holez

      Actually, his moniker is "Ass-iest" but he also talkth with a lithp and that-th a phonetic thpelling...

      September 7, 2012 at 7:46 am |
  8. Mirosal

    If you think "god" is the end-all be-all, then FORGET aobut Obama and Romney. Just take your ballot in November, and write-in your vote for "god". Go ahead, I triple-dog dare you. Let's get the millions upon millions of voters out there to the polls, and have every one of them write in "god" on the ballot. We'll see what happens at noon on Jan 20th, 2013. Go ahead and do it, what are you Christians afraid of?

    September 7, 2012 at 7:22 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      If women care at all about their rights they'll vote for Obama, otherwise they'll be taken back a century and have no rights!! All these christards who think they have a clue are fooling themselves.

      September 7, 2012 at 7:30 am |
    • Las-o-rim(min)

      No, I triple dog dare YOU to vote for neither...every single last one of you...take your votes and cast them for...oh I dunno...how about Christopher Hitchens??? My bet is you'll reward Mitt, on the whole...or maybe even IN the hole...

      September 7, 2012 at 7:52 am |
  9. tlo

    Shouldn't this be under the "Non-Belief" Section?

    September 7, 2012 at 7:22 am |
  10. tupperhouse

    If Atheists don't believe in anything then nothing should offend them.

    September 7, 2012 at 7:21 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Idiot!!! Atheists strictly don't believe in god. We do believe in numerous other things! Christards use the belief to impede on basic human rights; they use prayer to kill (praying over a dying child instead of getting the child medical help is immoral); they use the belief to tell women how to live (they can fuck off thinking they have that right)...they have nothing to back them outside of one book that was written 2000 years ago and has been debunked. Not our fault that you are too gullible to think for yourself and live in the 21st century!

      September 7, 2012 at 7:27 am |
    • Mirosal

      we get offended when you shoehorn your beliefs into my elections (which is actually against the law), and strong-arm your fairy tales into my legislature to make laws based upon a 2000 year old book filled with 3000 year old stories, and the 2nd half of that book is about a person you cannot even prove existed in the first place.

      September 7, 2012 at 7:36 am |
  11. Cambob

    They just need to have a little faith...

    September 7, 2012 at 7:21 am |
  12. Okli

    Who the F cares what atheists think or feel left out? Christians felt left out during communist Soviet Union.

    September 7, 2012 at 7:19 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      You're slightly brain dead!!! You should care what Atheists think...without them you wouldn't have the ability to come here and spew your stupidity!! Communism has nothing to do with Atheism!! Atheism is strictly the disbelief in an imaginary god!!

      September 7, 2012 at 7:24 am |
  13. CuriosityKilledTheCat

    You christians are dumb, and your prophet is long dead, My personal thanks to the Romans for their creative ways of killing criminals- Can you imagine me mocking your God at every monent i get- and havent been hit by lighting?- I guess Zeus decides what is just as i am still here. Jesus cried like a girl when Roman justice came for him- good riddons!

    September 7, 2012 at 7:18 am |
    • Ntrain2k

      Do you know that non belief is the same as belief?

      September 7, 2012 at 7:20 am |
    • Okli

      Jesus could have saved himself from being crucified by the order of the Jews if he wanted because Roman Pilate asked him what to do with him.

      Now go to hell and burn your moron

      September 7, 2012 at 7:20 am |
    • ahumanbeing

      Christians are expected to respect the views of atheists. Then why is it okay to spew hatred on the beliefs of Christians? Why ridicule our religion, then expect understanding and acceptance of atheism. Ignorance and intolerance are ugly things. Your post is filled with them.

      September 7, 2012 at 7:29 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      ahumanbeing: When your belief stops impeding on basic rights, then it will no longer be ridiculed, until then it deserves every bit of ridicule it gets. It has no place in society outside of your church and home!

      September 7, 2012 at 7:32 am |
    • WASP

      @train2k: ok so i have a non-belief in fairies, leprechans, unicorns, trolls, chupacapra, zues, ra, odin; so by your logic i have a belief in things i think aren't real?

      ROFLMFAO, so how is that working for you?

      September 7, 2012 at 7:34 am |
    • ahumanbeing

      but your beliefs do not deserve to be ridiculed? So what you do believe is that Christians should keep their beliefs to themselves, while atheists remain free to preach their views. Now I understand.

      September 7, 2012 at 7:40 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      ahumanbeing: Our beliefs are based on evidence and facts that can be verified, your belief's can't be and so no our beliefs don't deserve ridicule!

      September 7, 2012 at 7:45 am |
    • Takawalk

      TruthPrevails :-) You keep referring to laws that interfere with your rights? Which rights would that be?

      September 11, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  14. ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !

    Few 100% true Reasons why Atheism is TERRIBLE and unhealthy for our children and living things:

    † Atheism is a religion that makes you angry, stupid, brainwashed, ignorant & blind.
    † Atheism is a disease that needs to be treated.
    † Atheism makes you post stupid things (90% of silly comments here on CNN blogs are posted by closet atheists)
    † Atheist are satanic and have gothic lifestyle.
    † Atheists are misguided and causes problem in our religious & public society.
    † Atheists are mentally ill, that's why they have no faith.
    † Atheism won't take you to kingdom of heaven and paradise.
    † Atheism making you agree with Mussolini, Stalin, Hitler (denied his faith later), Mao, Pol Pot & other terrible mass murder leaders who killed religious people because of their religious cult!
    † No traditional family lifestyle, no holidays, no culture, boring and feeling 'outsider'
    † Atheists are angry, drug additcted and committ the most crime.
    † Atheist try to convert people over internet because they feel "safer" behind closet.
    † Atheists do not really exist, they just pretend that they don't believe in God and argue with religious people.
    † Atheists have had terrible life experience, bad childhood and not being loved.
    † Most atheists are uneducated... No atheists could run for presidency.
    † Atheism brought upon the French Revolution, one of the most evil events of all of history.
    † Atheism cannot explain the origins of the universe, therefore God exists.
    † All atheists believe in evolution, which means they don't believe in morality and think we should all act like animals.
    † The Bible says atheism is wrong, and the Bible is always right (see: Genesis 1:1, Psalms 14:1, Psalms 19:1, Romans 1:19-20)
    † Countries where Atheism is prevalent has the highest Suicide rate & Communist countries = Atheism!
    **Only 2-3% of the U.S. are atheists/agnostics VS. over 90% who believe in God (80% Christians) in the U.S.**

    † † Our Prayers goes to atheists to be mentally healthy and seek their creator † †

    PS! the USA is a † nation and will always be. You know it's true and stop being ignorant and arrogant!
    (Take a look at our federal/state holidays, 99% of our presidents, blue laws in parts of the nation, name of some cities/counties/streets, the majority of people, some laws, calendar, culture, etc.)

    http://rightremedy.org/tracts/7

    ¦There is only one God and it is to Him that you pray. All others pray to false gods and idols. Jew, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, and Buddhist are all lost unless they know Jesus as their Lord & Savior.¦.

    September 7, 2012 at 7:18 am |
    • Brahm

      You know what's more dangerous than atheism? Generalization.

      September 7, 2012 at 7:25 am |
    • Mirosal

      Please provide legitimate sources and references for EVERY ONE of your "truisms", and be specific, otherwise, you're just talking out of your ass, or farting through your mouth.

      September 7, 2012 at 7:27 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      Mirosal: We know this is bat-sh!t crazy. Foolish little shiczophrenic-type minds talking to imaginary friends...they all need locked up and heavily medicated.

      September 7, 2012 at 7:39 am |
    • WASP

      @!!!!!!!troll: you're posting the same stuff again? we have gone through this before you stole that from an ATHEIST blogger that was writing that about CHRISTIANITY.

      america isn't a CHRISTIAN nation if it was we would ahve a recognized religion like great britian, or iran.
      each of those "points" you stole are easily refutted and have been thousands of times.

      want to prove atheists wrong? SHOW US YOUR GOD. easy enough right? i mean he is all powerful and waits with baited breath for you to summon him (kindof ironic your god has a gender seeing it doesn't have a DI CK) with your telepathy; so hope to it and tell him i want world peace if he is such a loving god.

      September 7, 2012 at 7:41 am |
    • jim d.

      Atheism is a religion that makes you angry, stupid, brainwashed, ignorant & blind. (by definition, atheism is absence of religion)

      † Atheist are satanic and have gothic lifestyle. (atheists do not believe in satan, by definition)

      September 7, 2012 at 7:41 am |
    • indyreader

      That's some high-test trolling, there.
      Unfortunately, as Poe's Law observes, there will be a significant number of people who either a) don't recognize it as trolling, or b) actually nod along and agree in earnest.
      Satire is not dead, and dada lives, daddy-o.

      September 7, 2012 at 9:32 am |
  15. JoeProfet

    "Obama was the first president to acknowledge non believers,” Mark Musante wrote on the American Atheists’ Facebook page. “I wish he would stick to his guns.” | The only thing I can suggest is pray about your situation and maybe it will change for you... LOL You can pray, you choose not to. You can believe, you choose not to. Those that choose to believe should not be punished, influenced, nor effected in any way by your choice. So what, the convention was geared up with God in mind, big deal. Why does that have to be such a stigma to an atheist? If the shoe were on the other foot and Christian's felt left out, who would care? No one. Also, what might the atheist' speach be at a convention speaking to a nation founded by Christianity? It doesn't fit, and you are sour that God won this round...Waaah

    September 7, 2012 at 7:17 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      You mean a country founded on Secularism!! Your forefathers included 'separation of church and state' and freedom of and from religion for a reason...you want respect, then learn to give it!

      September 7, 2012 at 7:34 am |
  16. kristyc3

    Who cares how athiests feel and why is this front page news?

    September 7, 2012 at 7:17 am |
    • Hungry Atheist

      Because we come in the night to steal and eat your children

      September 7, 2012 at 7:38 am |
  17. Layla

    OMG atheists complaining and opening their big mouth again....

    All I want to say is the more militan you get, the more we will fight and move towards theocracy. So better watch up!
    Iran, Egypt and certain other countries were secular and turned into Islamic nation.

    September 7, 2012 at 7:17 am |
  18. pliberato

    A true atheist shouldn't feel threatened by God, for, according to atheism, it's just a word with no connection to any material thing. The Democratic Party is a pluralist party, so there is a place for atheists there as well. I have been an atheist until i found my true Love. Now i can only be a believer, for i count my blessings every day. However, my religion is a very personal and intimate thing.

    September 7, 2012 at 7:15 am |
  19. Jason

    Problem is, who are we as atheists going to vote for? You certainly can't say forget the Democrats and vote for the other guy. At this point we take the lesser of two very evil evils.

    September 7, 2012 at 7:15 am |
  20. alientech

    What's the complain? Democrat Party is as godless as the old Communist Party of the Soviet Union...atheists should feel right at home.

    September 7, 2012 at 7:14 am |
    • TruthPrevails :-)

      The president upholding the constitution bothers you christards...hahahaha...you'll never get the votes to change it and Atheism will rise...you best get used of it or move to a country where you are not free! You live in a secular nation!

      September 7, 2012 at 7:37 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.