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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. flk

    "people of america! with our strength in nothing we can perservere. If we dont keep faith or any hope, since we dont believe in it, we can move forward as one nation, under nothing.. and one day when we never pass away, we can never look down on our accomplishments since well all be dirt. and i thank god, i mean i dont thank anything, for the road we have before us. because the challenges come at a great cost, but we will perservere against evil.. uh, i mean nothingness. we will beat nothingness.. thank you and good night.. nothing bless."

    September 6, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
    • TrueBlue42

      Troll.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
  2. BB

    well its time to leave religion out of things in my oppinion. you can't realy fall back on somthing that has no proof or REAL evidence. As for the 'paranormal things luke spirits of deceased,' you sir are an idiot... enough said

    September 6, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
  3. Gedwards

    If neither the Dems nor Repubs meet your needs, start your own party. Or start one that does. It's that simple.

    BTW, the American Communist Party probably doesn't have "God" in their platform.

    September 6, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • Nancy

      We do have a party. The NAP. http://www.usanap.org/

      September 6, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
  4. Hadenuffyet

    Form your own party . Exist in obscurity , like the Green Party , or the Libertarians. Better yet , go invade a small defenseless country and make it your own.

    September 6, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • BB

      if you are going to follow your holy book of wisdom than you sir should stfu and keep to yourself or go pray.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
    • Hadenuffyet

      Didn't refer to any belief or non belief , just sayin if you want it go get it it ,but get in my face and reap the wind..

      September 6, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • attnmustbepaid

      if jesus did come back, and was somehow able to get a photo ID in time to be able to vote, do you really think he would vote republican? the party that is determined to make the rich richer? that doesn't seem to follow the teachings of jesus i have read. i think he would form his own party too, and get called a socialist

      September 6, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
  5. alex

    Honestly a believer in God or not it's getting to the point where it seems the non believers just hate the idea that some of us do want religion in our life and in PUBLIC LIFE this is the USA we all have our rights but you don't see the believers trying to tell the other side that their religion is wrong or is UNCOMFORTABLE to US I mean how long and how many times into the future do we need to hear this same broken RECORD about not having God in the PUBLIC SQUARE LOOK if you don't believe in God ok thats your belief but if you do believe in God then that too is your right if one side doesn't like the idea of GOD in the USA Fine but don't try and use the excuse that we don't care about your rights we do but we don't tell you how to live your life and religion honestly the NAME God has been in this country for over 236 years by now you would think that we could just leave this subject alone what is it going to do for the people who don't believe in God its not going to get you anywhere special its not going to change any believers its not going to even change what this country believes in so look BOTH sides lets not tell each other what to do if one side doesn't like that then go into your private homes and do what you want we live in a FREE Society and ALL of us should not have to DEFEND our believes in the FREE WORLD

    September 6, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • attnmustbepaid

      believers try to tell me i am wrong all the time. you are trying to tell me that.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
    • TrueBlue42

      Read the article, Alex:

      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 billboards were stopped due to threats against the billboard companies from religious wackos.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
  6. John

    if you dislike a political party because they mentioned god then you need to get a better grip on politics

    September 6, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • attnmustbepaid

      no, that isn't it. it saddens me that so many people are so gullible that the politicians can throw god around to make them follow. that is sad. if everyone just tried to think about things objectively. Voting republican is like breaking a mirror, 7 years bad luck!

      September 6, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
    • Nancy

      Tell that to Jefferson or Thomas Paine. They would have disagreed with you 100%!

      September 6, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
  7. geraldo123

    Why do atheists (only one percent of America) always have to whine about everything? Acting like a bunch of 2 year olds. All you care about is YOU. Try stepping outside of your self-absorbed bubble and growing up.

    September 6, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • attnmustbepaid

      grow up and believe in fairy tales? i don't know where you are from, but in areas with lots of educated folks, the number is much higher than 1%. much higher. coindicence?

      September 6, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • Hadenuffyet

      Just believe what you want and stfu.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
    • flk

      some of the most educated people in the world have come to believe in god because of what science has shown them.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
    • Veritas

      Why do political parties in nations like the US, Iran, and Pakistan have to bring religion into the space of elections and government? And by the way, you are only fooling yourself if you think there are only 1% atheists/agnostics in America. They are just afraid to come out and say for fear of being penalized by "devout christians" that may be their employer/boss or or other social persecution in this nation (or in Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia...)

      September 6, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
    • Veritas

      @flk: Name one.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
    • noillusion

      You are doing exactly what you are accusing them of. Get it?

      September 6, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
  8. STC

    Form your own party and quit whining and being a martyr....

    September 6, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
  9. Christina

    I'm a Christian and I'm for neither party. I'll represent you because I still love yah!

    September 6, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
  10. Dan

    Atheism? That belief system that has led to Communism in China, the Former Soviet Union, Nazism, Cuba, Vietnam, and North Korea. As Atheists may know their belief system has led to the deaths of countless millions in China, the former Soviet Union, and etc. Atheism has sent more people to their graves in the 20th century than any other time in history. Atheism vs Christianity. I don't see Atheist groups going to other countries feeding, educating, clothing, building water wells for people to have clean water around the world. Christianity has done that not Atheism. Atheist sit around and blame Christians for their unhappiness in America. The American Atheist organization hates Christianity, just go to the People for the Freedom Religion website. American Atheist pick ONLY on Christianity and give the other religions a pass.Atheist are a bunch of cry baby's, and the only god they believe is themselves.

    September 6, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
    • Gadflie

      If the rapture happened tomorrow as described and all the self-professed Christians dissappeared from this country. Over 90% of the prison population would be gone and over 90% of the membership of the National Academy of Sciences would still be here.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • Veritas

      Same old "discussion" as in everyone of these comment sections that involved a religious theme. Ground hog day.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • Chad

      "But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first." Matthew 19

      September 6, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • Dan's Nurse

      Oh Dan! You forgot to take your happy pills. Were going to give you a double dose of lithium to catch you up. First, let's put on your snuggy-huggy jacket and put you in the soft room.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:26 pm |
  11. Kris

    I am an atheist but respect the fact that this country is a Christian nation. I have no problem with saying the pledge of allegiance or with having "In God We Trust" on my money. Seriously, it is freedom of religion not freedom FROM religion.

    September 6, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
    • RasPutin

      Sort of. The government isn't supposed to endorse any particular religious view. I include a religious view as a belief in God.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Actually, no. It is decidedly NOT a Christian nation. It is a Christian majority nation. Huge difference. You named two of the very few explicit failures of separation. Both of which became pre-emient during the early cold war. God was added to the pledge at that time and "In god We Trust" became our motto in 1957. That is when it was added to our paper currency. It had long been on our coins (since 1864 when it was the hot civil war that caused the north to claim god), but was not an official motto.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
  12. god'sMightyhammer

    Time to call the Whambulance. Waaaaaaahhhh Ahhhhhhhh Waaaaaaahhh Ahhhhhhhh!

    September 6, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
    • Hear This

      heh... going to copy that to use the next time Christians whine about being soooooo persecuted :)

      September 6, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
  13. Joel

    My being an atheist has not had any effect on my ability to listen to the speches at the RNC or DNC. In fact it is pretty much one thing I thought about very little over the past 2 weeks.

    September 6, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
    • OnlyOne

      Yawn. You feel "excluded"? So do the snake handlers. So do the fundamentalists. So do the isolationists. Guess what that says about the company you keep?

      September 6, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Actually, Joel said the opposite.... Says more about your reading comprehension than the company he keeps.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
  14. john

    Waaa......Waaa
    Nobody wants to represent losers.
    Why don't you get with the program and come join the winning team?
    God's Team!!!!!!

    September 6, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
    • Veritas

      Thor's team! Valhalla rules!

      September 6, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
  15. Fannie Butler

    God loves you even when you don't recognize or believe in Him!

    September 6, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • Joel

      Her; God is a woman if he's real.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
    • Veritas

      Well, isn't that nice. So he is not sending me to "hell" then?

      September 6, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
    • Oh, that Jesusy love!

      Yeah. Then he burns them eternally. Because he loves them.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
    • Aezel

      And you believing in God doesn't make him/her/it any more real.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
    • attnmustbepaid

      God loves me? i am a man. hmm, seems like he could get in trouble for loving men. right?

      September 6, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • Christina

      No Veritas! God is sending those to who are saying hurtful and mean things about your profession of faith. They believe that He exists but refuse to follow Him or live like Him. God is not an accuser. God is love. You are not a loser or a bad person. God is not an excluder, He's an includer. You are loved, you just don't know it yet, but you'll find it one day. And just between you and me, God and His son are your friend, not a word they throw out to win an election.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
    • Veritas

      @Christina: "God" is a delusional thought in your mind. Everything you are saying is complete nonsense, but if it makes you feel good, well go ahead and stick with your delusion. Believing in ridiculous notions like "heaven" and "hell" is simply unimaginably naive.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:36 pm |
    • Hadenuffyet

      It's reciprocal...deny and be denied...accept and be accepted..

      September 6, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
  16. Lee-Anne

    I am not sure how they want to be represented. By an anit-prayer? If you have no belief in a greater being, why would you even care about people that do? Just confusing.

    September 6, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • OnlyOne

      Well said, Lee-Anne. I guess they stick to their unbeliefs and say anti-prayers to no-one in particular.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
    • Pray to Zeus

      Because people who do believe keep trying to make laws that shove the rules of their belief system down our throats

      September 6, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
  17. Joel

    Really now... was it the fact you don't believe in God that has estranged you from the 2 biggest self promotional gatherings of a very apparent fixed political machine's multi millionaires who talking about sandy counties thousands of miles away, bit point energy initiatives, and touting barely coherent movie stars from the 1950's? Wow then... you must think about the lack of God as much as the Pope thinks about God.

    September 6, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
  18. Common Sense

    How about every body (atheists) leave other people (Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sihks, Hindus, Buddhists, etc.) alone and then there will be no problem.

    September 6, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • Aezel

      That's pretty laughable. Most atheists, who represent a drastic minority in the population, would be happy to live and let live if the religious nuts would stop trying to inject their loony beliefs into the secular laws of our country.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
    • Jamm

      As long as those people don't use our government to enforce their religious views, like those on abortion, stem-cell research, Sunday Blue Laws, "god" scrawled across our money, etc. There is tremendous danger in having a theocratic government, which is why the founding fathers tried to warn us away from it.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
  19. Chau Nguyen

    As an atheist, I'm not surprised why "atheism" is bad politics.

    1) Most atheists go around telling people what they've believed their entire life is WRONG (whether condescendingly or politely). And If my guess is correct, people don't like to be wrong (even atheists).

    2) Atheist are currently loosely connected and not organized in communities. Religion has had thousands of years to work its way into many aspects of society (churches, community events, charities, schools, hospitals). What community services have atheist provided? Hence, It is not politically expedient touch "atheism".

    September 6, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • Ben

      Very Correct. Atheist have a bad reputation for evangelizing, and short of adding a we don't believe in god clause to a platform, it's hard to imagine a way in which an atheist belief can be represented in a non confrontational way at a convention.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      I think of science as the ultimate community service and though not all scientists are atheists it is by nature a non-religious activity, effectively atheistic.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
  20. Transcending

    How do you explain paranormal things like spirits of deceased?

    September 6, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • Aezel

      There isn't a need to explain something that doesn't have a shred of proof. You are the one who has to explain why you believe in such nonsense without any evidence to support it.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:08 pm |
    • Transcending

      I'm not trying to debate just get an explanaton to things I don't understand, too many things have happened that we see or experience that are par a normal, broke it up because won't let me post.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • Transcending

      Like things flying through the air at random, Ouiji board things and stuff like that.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
    • Gadflie

      Ouiji boards fly through the air at random?

      September 6, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
    • attnmustbepaid

      Just because you don't understand it, doesn't make it magic or supernatural. Do you really understand how planes fly? or do you think angels hold them up in the air?

      September 6, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
    • Hear This

      Trans,

      Just because it's odd doesn't mean it's "God".

      September 6, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • RasPutin

      If ghosts, or whatever you want to call them, are unsettled souls, shouldn't Shanghai and Hong Kong be the most haunted places on the planet? Huge populations have been living in those exact places for thousands of years.

      Having said that, I think ghosts and most paranormal activity are BS. Don't get me wrong, I would love to experience something at some point. I've played with ouija boards, been to a seance thing, been to a lot of supposedly haunted houses/sites, places where weird lights were suppose to show up, and lonely desert highways at night. I've never experienced anything remotely paranormal, which is sad.

      There are, however, a lot of fun chemistry and physics experiments that seem like magic at first, which is fun.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
    • ambrose

      People like everything else are the pruduct of God. None believers just like fake Christians they are the reason young kids today have a hard time dealing with people around the world. Teach the kids love and to have respect for every persons no matter what they believe in. Saying someone is stupid won't prove anything just let them be. Like God say we have to yolk together. Maybe one day atheists will wake up and see they are not alone on this earth and fake Christians will stop trying to change people only plant ur seed and move on because in the end we shall see

      September 6, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
    • Transcending

      RasPutin

      Your actually the first person who says they have tried all that without anything strange happening. Maybe most of us are fearful by nature. I have often wondered if we have internal powers to make things happen ourselves lol

      September 7, 2012 at 12:07 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.