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First on CNN: Atheists ratchet up rhetoric, use billboards to attack Republican politicians
March 3rd, 2013
05:00 AM ET

First on CNN: Atheists ratchet up rhetoric, use billboards to attack Republican politicians

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – An atheist organization known for being provocative plans to take that reputation to the next level this week by putting up seven billboards that call out prominent politicians and religious leaders.

American Atheists plans to target three Republican politicians: former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, former House Speak Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

The seven signs will go up around Dallas and Austin, Texas.

In one billboard, a picture of Palin is featured on the left, with a quote attributed to her. "We should create law based on the God of the Bible," the quote reads. Underneath the graphic is a tag line "GO GODLESS INSTEAD."

The billboard, however, misquotes Palin. In an interview with Fox News’ Bill O'Reilly, Palin addressed the growth in American secularism by saying America's founding fathers "would create law based on the God of the Bible and the Ten Commandments," not "should."

Each of the billboards has a similar format and includes a pitch for the group’s 50th anniversary convention in Austin.

Santorum is condemned for when he told an Iowa crowd last November that, "our civil laws have to comport with a higher law: God's law," while Gingrich is criticized for a remark he made at a CNN debate on October 18, 2011, in Las Vegas. "How can I trust you with power if you don't pray," Gingrich posited.

Virginia Davis, spokeswoman for Santorum, thanked American Atheists for the publicity.

"At a time when many are trying to remove God from the public square, the senator is appreciative of someone helping him very publicly express his strong belief that we are one nation under God," Davis wrote in an e-mail to CNN.

American Atheists President David Silverman, however, sees the billboards as a way to shame the targets.

"We at American Atheists are shaming these leaders for their bigoted and backwards remarks and attitudes, and conveying a message to today's atheists that we need not take it anymore," Silverman wrote in an e-mail to CNN.

Two religious leaders, the Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor at the First Baptist Dallas, and Benedict XVI, now the pope emeritus, also are featured on billboards.

Jeffress' billboard includes a quote the pastor said during a 2008 sermon titled, "Gay Is Not OK." "What they [homosexuals] do is filthy," reads the billboard. Under the quote is the phrase "Go Godless Instead" and a rainbow flag, a symbol of gay rights.

This will be the only ad placed in Dallas, featured in a busy stretch of Interstate 30 and only a few miles from Jeffress' large church.

The First Baptist Church of Dallas is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention. Jeffress, who has been in its pulpit since 2007, is no stranger to controversy, including comments about Judiasm and Catholicism. After introducing Texas Gov. Rick Perry at the Values Voter Summit in Washington in October 2011, Jeffress told reporters he believed Mormonism was a cult, expressing a personal position and one held by his denomination. The move was seen as a particular slight to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a lifelong Mormon.

The billboard featuring Benedict XVI, who stepped down Thursday, cites a New York Times article entitled, "Vatican Declined to Defrock U.S. Priest Who Abused Boys." "The Church Protected Priests Who Abused Children," reads the billboard.

Silverman says the group plans to spend $25,000 on the billboards, which will go up on Monday and remain up for the rest of March.

"Everyone should be allowed to profess their faith, of course, but that does not shield them from criticism," Silverman wrote. "Everyone has the responsibility to lead moral lives, and 'It's my religion' is not an excuse for bigotry or immorality."

Silverman continued: "Some Americans seem to think that bigotry in the name of religion is somehow permissible. It is not. We hope that the believers of Austin place anti-atheist bigotry in the same category as anti-Semitism or racism - a relic of the past that needs to be jettisoned for all the right reasons."

Six of the billboards will be dispersed around the Austin area, with four placed on high traffic freeways.

This is not the first time American Atheists has used billboards to get its message out.

Last March, the group targeted Muslims and Jews with billboards that called God a "myth" in both Arabic and Hebrew.

In November 2010, the same group posted a billboard around the holiday season that read, "You KNOW it's a Myth. This Season, Celebrate REASON."

Silverman, who has been criticized for this in-your-face atheism, has long defended the tactic, saying that the confrontation is meant to "grow the cause and benefit the country."

"That's why companies buy billboards - to get attention," Silverman wrote.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Catholic Church • Newt Gingrich • Politics • Pope • Rick Santorum • Sarah Palin

soundoff (3,513 Responses)
  1. Atheism lives and grows and thrives -- hurray!

    Yay for these people! The louder other atheists are, the more my husband and I applaud them. It's about time! Maybe someday more people will wake up and listen to the voice of REASON.

    March 3, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • Atheisim-Religion-of-the_Undead

      You celebrated the fact that we act more like animals than every. Hurray??

      March 3, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • tony

      Something wrong with God's animals?

      March 3, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • Dana

      Unfortunately, some of these people have been brain-washed for too long and cannot think for themselves.

      March 3, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
  2. Sally Strange

    So, Republicans say that atheists are filthy, immoral, and unsuited for public office. But quoting them and saying "Go Godless" is beyond the pale. OK then.

    March 3, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Sounds like a tame and reasonable response to extreme hatred and rabid vitriol to me.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
  3. Joe

    What do you get when you cross an atheist and an Jehova's Witness?

    A person who rings your doorbell for no reason.

    March 3, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • tony

      There's no reason for that sort of door bell ringing in the first place, even without the atheists

      March 3, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
    • Jim Brody

      Do they hand you leaflets with blank pages?

      March 3, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
    • talkingraven1

      dat is very funny...!

      March 3, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
  4. Starchylde

    The arguments over atheism vs. religion are always the same. It's gotten boring. Can we all just learn to live together?

    March 3, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
    • tony

      Only if you accept that we are all going to die together.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • Joe

      +100000

      March 3, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
    • Atheisim-Religion-of-the_Undead

      We allowed them to teach our children in public schools against our beliefs now they wish to destroy us.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • Dana

      Don't pray in my school, and I won't think in your church.

      March 3, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
    • Dana

      Prayer has no place in the public schools, just like facts have no place in organized religion.

      March 3, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • Starchylde

      @Dana \what that has to do with my statement I'm not sure

      March 3, 2013 at 6:00 pm |
  5. ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

    Atheism is hindu Judaism, filthy secular ism, self center ism, denial of truth absolute, way of hindus, ignorant s, living life of hindu filthy dogs, secular s, self centered, having nothing to do with humanity, but every thing with hindu filthy animals. hindus, Atheistm an insult to be called human.

    March 3, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
    • Starchylde

      Say what now?

      March 3, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • asingleverse

      The hatred is powerful with this one.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
    • tony

      Cheer up! When you are dead, all those silly but unpleasant thoughts will be gone.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
  6. lionslake

    As much as I dislike Palin, if American Atheists are going to claim to be the side of objective truth, they can't go around misquoting her. "The founding fathers would create law based on the God of the Bible" is a qualitatively different statement from "We should create law based on the God of the Bible."

    March 3, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Do you really think that Sarah doesn't mean that we should have law as the founding fathers would have had it, or that she wouldn't be in complete favor of laws based on the bible?

      March 3, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • ISLAM FOUNDATION OF AMERICAN CONSTI TUTION

      GOD OF BIBLE? Book of hindu Mithraism, racist savior ism, you must be a hindu ignorant follower of hindu Mithra ism, pagan savior ism, Founding fathers had nothing to do with it, but, TRUTH ABSOLUTE, LORD GOD OF THE WORLD. NOT HINDU FABRICATION CALLED JESUS.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:53 pm |
  7. Joe

    The atheists posting here remind me of this rash I once had on my bum.

    March 3, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
    • OBMatt

      You remind me of the Taliban Joe

      March 3, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
    • tony

      In that you are always a bit behind?

      March 3, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Your rash was reasonable with no need for fairy tales? ok.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
  8. Atheisim-Religion-of-the_Undead

    Atheism is the religion of the brain dead.

    March 3, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Atheism is not a religion.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • Dana

      You are the one that believes the universe was created a few thousand years ago by an invisible guy in the sky in one week, people created from magical ribs, talking snakes, parting water, etc.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • Atheisim-Religion-of-the_Undead

      Atheisim buy the very fact that it is a belief system is a religion.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • Gawd

      If atheism is a religion than not collecting stamps is a hobby.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • todd marks

      it's an organized belief system with strong opinions on god. it's definitely a religion.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
    • tony

      "Not believing" is a belief system in what???

      March 3, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Atheism is not a religion.
      It is not an organized belief system in any way.
      It is simply not believing in myths.
      You need to look up the definition of religion

      Atheism is a religion like abstinence is a $exual position.

      March 3, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
  9. Pablo

    Go Atheist. At least you know Democrats are on your side.

    March 3, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • tony

      You don't have to go atheist. You start out born that way. It's avoiding the crap that the people on the billboards like to ram into children teat messes up things later.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • todd marks

      i was born with a strong opinion on the existence of god? wat

      March 3, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
    • Jim Brody

      That's right, Pablo! And they are also on the side of Reformed Jews, progressive Catholics, ELCA Lutherans, Episcopalians, Presbytarians, Unitarians, Bhuddists, Quakers, and Muslims. Gotta love the Dem party!

      March 3, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • Preston Blair Maximilian III

      since the Atheist mad up quotes that were not really said by some of the people, what does this say about the Atheist?

      sarah palin never said any such thing. google it.

      not all Atheist are as corrupt as the Atheist who put up the billboard. most likely they are democrats.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • the AnViL

      Preston, you retarded moron... i've taken the liberty to retrieve sarah palins ignorant remarks for you so you can read them for yourself, idiot:

      “keep this clean, keep it simple. Go back to what our founders and our founding documents meant– they’re quite clear– that we would create law based on the God of the Bible and the Ten Commandments, it’s quite simple.” – sarah palin

      so basically what we've proven here, is that you're an ignorant fuckwit.

      March 3, 2013 at 2:01 pm |
  10. tony

    Collection Plates have much in common with Corporate welfare.

    March 3, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • Preston Blair Maximilian III

      how so?

      you sir are insane

      March 3, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • tony

      You haven't heard of tax avoidance? But keep name calling. That religious activity always helps a lot.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:48 pm |
  11. Dan

    If the bible is mistaken in telling us where we came from, how can we trust it to tell us where we're going?

    March 3, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
  12. Atheisim-Religion-of-the_Undead

    I was watching the Military channel who featured a program on Vietnam. They interviewed a fellow who said that he at one time was an Atheist. He went on to say that he converted one night when he though he was going to die. He said there are no atheist in a fox hole. He when ask what religion he converted to that night said "Every one of them"

    March 3, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • You are a brain-washed simpleton

      An Atheist believes that a hospital should be built instead of a church. An Atheist believes that deed must be done instead of a prayer said. An Atheist strives for involvement in life and not escape into death. He wants disease conquered, poverty vanishe

      March 3, 2013 at 1:46 pm |
    • Atheisim-Religion-of-the_Undead

      An Christan want to build a hospital, CATHOLIC Church for example. to heal the body and builds the church to heal the soul.
      An Atheist says we are hear by accident but can not justify their beliefs of right and wrong.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
    • Dana

      I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:52 pm |
    • Damocles

      @arotu

      Next time you get the urge to post, don't.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
    • PFL2

      I spent many an hour in fox holes in Viet Nam. I was an Atheist before, during and after and remain an Atheist today.

      March 3, 2013 at 2:06 pm |
  13. Preston Blair Maximilian III

    did not Obama take his oath of office on the xtian bible?

    March 3, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • Jim Brody

      So what? Obama is a Christian.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
  14. tony

    It's where these politicos go and do the rest of the week that worries the sanest of us.

    March 3, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
  15. todd marks

    saying there is a god is as ignorant as saying there is not a god.

    March 3, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • Humanist

      Thank you for making me think this through. I have to agree with you, but not for the reasons you probably think.

      Over the millenia, humans have revered and prayed to hundreds (if not thousands) of different gods. Given that believing in a god is ultimately an act of faith for which no direct proof is necessary, no one has ever had verifiable proof of their god's existence (they may believe they do, but objectively, they really do not). Just because one or more books have been written or images of a god repeatedly carved on pyramid walls does not prove of that god's existence any more than the writings of various people in various books proved the validity of "spontaneous generation" or that the earth is the center of the universe.

      Let us assume for a moment there is a god. Which god? Or gods? Perhaps the Zoroastrians actually got it right. Or the Mayans or Druids. Or maybe the religion hasn't been invented yet that accurately captures the nature of the one (or more) actual gods. Ultimately, if there is a god, only one religion could possibly get it completely right. Which means the hundreds or thousands of other religions over the millenia have got it partly or wholly wrong.

      Statistically, if there even is a god, it is far more likely that one of faith has chosen (or been taught without the benefit of making an actual personal choice) the wrong god to believe in or the wrong set of tenets ascribed to that particular god or that the one true religion has either gone extinct or hasn't been formulated yet.

      One consistent message of religions is that believing in another god or set of tenets is no better than believing there is no god.

      So your point that one person's belief in atheism is equally fallacious as another person's belief they have found the one true religion is decidedly correct. There may or may not be a god, but the beliefs of those of faith are very likely no more correct than those believing in atheism. By extension, espousing that the rule of law for all must be based on some theological text, which is almost certainly partially or wholly incorrect, is equally fallacious.

      March 3, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
  16. John Adams, 2nd President of the United States

    "The Government of the United States is in no sense founded on the Christian religion."

    March 3, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • Atheisim-Religion-of-the_Undead

      READ ABOVE

      March 3, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
  17. Preston Blair Maximilian III

    and why are not the Atheist going after born again xtian Obama who askes americans to pray to majick men in the sky after theater shootings? and when other bad things happen?

    Obama claims he has eternal life like a vampire. certainly a moonbat who believs in mythology is real should not be president.

    In an interview with the evangelical periodical Christianity Today, Obama stated: "I am a Christian, and I am a devout Christian. I believe in the redemptive death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that that faith gives me a path to be cleansed of sin and have eternal life."

    March 3, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • Saving the earth,one pithy comment at a time

      Good point.Perhaps they are targeting the reasonable folks that may be swayed from religion.These folks(the reasonable),would most likely be Democrats and would be turned off by an anti-Obama billboard.But yes,the fact that Obama-and all American politicians- claim these deep beliefs is a problem for AA.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
    • Darin

      Wanna be a politician, gotta pretend to be religious. Statistically impossible for all politicians to believe in god.

      March 3, 2013 at 4:42 pm |
  18. Napolean

    Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet.

    March 3, 2013 at 1:42 pm |
    • thinkdc

      and fear of death and ignorance were fodder for organized religion. Keep them meek and fearful so they don't question any authority.

      March 3, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
  19. Dana

    You keep believing, I'll keep evolving.

    March 3, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • Joe

      You'll be up to "ape" level in no time!

      March 3, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • Johnny

      Joe, Humans are taxonomically Apes. Stop the nonsense.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
  20. Joe

    Why do atheists spend so much time on the religion blogs? Don't they have somewhere to go on Sundays?

    March 3, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Why do you care what anyone else does?

      March 3, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
    • Saving the earth,one pithy comment at a time

      trick question?Most atheists can watch hockey and shoot fish in a barrel at the same time.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
    • Johnny

      POWNED

      March 3, 2013 at 1:44 pm |
    • AB

      Joe, this is not a religion blog. It is a belief blog. Hence the name of the blog. Idiot.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:47 pm |
    • Juanito

      It amazes me that self professed atheists would waste their time and resources to denounce something they believe doesn't exist.

      If I truly believed that this is all there is, I would be find a lot better things to do with my time than arguing with people of faith. Our faith is based on that which is beyond the scope of the limitations of human understanding and pride-based reasoning.

      In His love, Juanito

      March 3, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • .

      The only social event these atheist ever attends is the one on the CNN belief blog.Pity them! no life, no family, no job just the blog...

      March 3, 2013 at 1:56 pm |
    • Joe

      @AB lmao you moron. check the url in your browser please.

      March 3, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Joe
      It says belief blog right at the top of the belief blog.
      Pot meet kettle.

      March 3, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
    • AB

      Joe, the URL is not the name of the blog. The name of the blog is "Belief Blog"

      March 3, 2013 at 2:05 pm |
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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.