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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. mac

    You have to remember that these billboards are nothing compared to what the Christian religion is trying to do to our young by sneaking their particular brand of dogma into our PUBLIC schools and PUBLIC school science classes. Nonbelievers have had to deal with discrimination for about 2000 years, and discrimination a great deal of the time led to death . It is time we spoke up.

    March 3, 2013 at 1:02 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      And really, how does a billboard compare to never ending torture that the chrstians want for us nonbelievers?

      March 3, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
  2. John

    A little editing to black out the "less" and it's all fixed up...

    March 3, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • Richard Cranium

      Godless america...the way it is.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:28 pm |
    • John

      No... edited it says "GO GOD INSTEAD", probably put an "!" in there too... I didn't bother... being already there.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
  3. WachetAuf

    The "Word" has been removed from the public square, darlings. It was removed by politicians who have corrupted Jesus' teachings. Anyone ever hear a GOP politician quoting Jesus' central teachings: tolerance; the Golden Rule, the fact that it will be the meek who inherit the earth, that it will be harder for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven that a camel to get through the eye of a needle? what i hear is the religion of Darwin, Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman, all of it being anti-Jesus malignant narcissistic sociopathic demagoguery. When these fff-–ng $sh...s begin quoting the Bible for something other than for political gain, I will start listening.

    March 3, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
  4. Andrew

    It's time to crush American extremism based on falsehoods and political corporateering with truth.

    March 3, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
  5. thinkdc

    Religion – biggest fraud perpetuated by the powerful, greedy and deviant defended by their foot soldiers who are not as powerful but just as greedy, and meekly accepted by ignorant, weak, lazy, and spineless masses.

    Happy and free atheist.

    March 3, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • Useful idiots

      Since you are so sure of yourself. Tell us when and why this scripture was written? How many years ago?

      2 Timothy 4:2-4

      2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.

      3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

      4 And they shall turn away [their] ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

      Give us the definition of fairy tale versus fables.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Ui, your posts are so stupid that you must have no idea that they don't even have a point, much less one that an atheist might be able to see any sense in your position. How sad.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • Useful idiots

      Moby, you own that you don't know how to decipher what you read. You atheists call God a fairy tale because you refuse to believe his truth to save your soul. With that said, he had that scripture written especially for you nonbelievers and your multiple excuses for being the walking dead.

      March 3, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
  6. Loathstheright

    Keep your stinking fake, completely made up, dislusionary god out of our government. Ancient stories by primitive goat herders are not gods word, they are simply faerie tales and anyone with reasoning power beyond an ape can see that.

    March 3, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
  7. James

    Oh get over yourself, I much prefer the people who are atheist but don't call themselves atheists because that is a religion, I realise we all have our own issues and in religion there are those that go to far, but for representing only ten percent of our nation, I have met more shove it in your face atheists than the respectful kind, of which I have befriended four

    March 3, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Atheism is a religion like bald is a hair color; "off" is a tv channel, and not-stamp-collecting is a hobby. Educate yourself.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • James

      It is a class of people who describe themselves as without faith, thus it is a religion.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Nonsense. If you have to lie, James, you must not have much of a point.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:16 pm |
    • Useful idiots

      Look who's using the "lie" word. The inventor herself.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      James, find a dictionary. Moron.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:22 pm |
    • Loathstheright

      Atheism as a religion? That is funny, and you just aren't that smart to think that. And more than likely a conservative spreading the propaganda that Atheism is a Religion, which it is not.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • Useful Idiots

      Loathstheright, atheism is a reliigon. You fools fought for that right at the supreme court level.

      March 3, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
  8. sundrop63

    The right wing conservatives(catholic, prost, evenglicans etc...) always talking about how great a christains they are. Newt, palin, bushes, pat robinson and the list go on exploit and and everyone for money. The down trodden will always fall on religion and give their money so these robbers will laugh going to the bank. These individuals preaches hate and get paid for it. all religious faiths are going around the world to try to increased their flock. The blacks and native americans did not have a religion until the slave owner gave them a name and their religion. the slaves that was capture by the spaniards are catholic

    March 3, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • Aydin

      That would explain why they are so intent on keeping large masses of voters downtrodden.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • Useful idiots

      American Indians believe in Jesus Christ. They call him the holy spirit.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • Damocles

      @useless idiot

      While I don't doubt there are some that believe in that particular enti-ty, the majority tend to stick with ancestor worship and/or animal spirits such as Raven.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
  9. Robert

    Ah, yes, atheist evangelists are some of the most hate-filled bigots on the planet. EVERY officially atheist nation has been a bastion of mass murder and denial of basic human rights. Mao, Pol Pot, Stalin, Lenin, and a dozen lesser known atheist tyrants were responsible for the deaths of over 250 million people in the past 100 years. Far, far more than all other religions combined for all of recorded history.

    Christianity teaches love for God, and love for one's fellow man. Many atheists love to lie about theistic and have compulsion about doing so because the concept of morality is not rational in an atheistic world view.

    Atheism is a highly irrational non-theistic religion. Atheists must either believe the universe is eternal or that it created itself out of a steady state of absolute nothing. Neither position is possible based on what we now know.

    March 3, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • Akira

      It wasn’t atheism that killed these people, it was totalitarianism. I invite you to research the difference.
      Hint: none of these deaths were done in the name of atheism. And, note please, that those "atheist evangelists are some of the most hate-filled bigots" targeted some of the most hate-filled US Christian politicians, so, really, it's a wash, isn't it?

      March 3, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
    • asingleverse

      I really hate the assumption that atheists are immoral, evil people because we don't believe in some fairy tale. I don't need an imaginary father figure wagging his finger at me from the sky to know how to behave. I volunteer my time on a regular basis with domestic violence organizations and non-kill animal shelters (to HELP people and animals, not PRAY about helping them) but I'm an evil person just boiling over with hate, right?

      March 3, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
    • Vince

      Robert, your ignorance of history is shown by the complete denial of the Crusades in your comment. I am not going to spend my time educating you on your misquotes but instead ask you to invest in yourself and visit a library instead of wikipedia to research the facts.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • Useful idiots

      Akira, it was hateful fools such as yourself claiming they are something they aren't.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
  10. TopCat

    Blind faith is not a legitamate reason to treat others differently.

    March 3, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
  11. zaglossus

    These right wingers talk about religious freedom. But try to be appointed to a position of public trust, like a federal judge or a cabinet secretary, in one of their Administrations. If you are an atheist or even a Buddhist, you probably won't even be considered.

    March 3, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
  12. David Crosby

    Finally the people are starting to see that living in a Theocracy makes us no different than the Taliban..Ban Churches from any governmental influence..Their track record is Native American genocide, Slavery and 200 plus years of religious tyranny...They have given us endless war and enemies that stretch the globe..Time to take the fight to them..

    March 3, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • James

      Religion didnt kill native Americans or cause slavery, Europeans did, and the blacks were already enslaving themselves when they came to Africa, they just bought them from the tribes. Spain actually made a law saying only cannibalistic natives could be enlsaved or killed. Much of the killing was just disease due to misunderstanding of immunity and disease. The greatest art and literature in history and many of the palaces we show proudly as trophies of man kind were religiously influenced.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
    • James

      Further more, religion isn't the cause of our global enemies, it is our constant intervention, mainly in the Middle East because we wanted to remake the state of Israel, not for religious regions, but as a state for the millions of ethnically Jewish people flocking there after world war two

      March 3, 2013 at 1:08 pm |
    • Damocles

      @James

      I know you so very much wish to view the world through belief tainted goggles, but religion was used to justify the killings of Native Americans and slavery. Now, I am not so crass as to think that every believer was out there gunning down NA's and participating in slavery, but it did happen and it was not isolated incidents.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:09 pm |
    • James

      No, I can assure you my vision of history is clear, religion had little to do with Europeans expanding, it's what empires do, and you really didnt attempt to contradict my statements

      March 3, 2013 at 1:14 pm |
    • Damocles

      Maybe we have different views on what a contradiction is. You said religion wasn't responsible, I said it was. I thought that was a contradiction. *shrug*

      March 3, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
  13. Colin in Florida

    "They believe in nothing and nothing is something, therefore they believe in something. " Huh? Ever taken a logic course? DId you pass?

    AND

    "How can I trust you with power if you don't pray." My answer is: How can I trust you with power if you believe in something that there is no evidence of it's existence? If you truly believed in 'Jack and the Bean Stalk', people would consider you insane. But your god has just as much evidence of his existence: All that you need to know is contained in one book. The difference is one is called a fairy tale, the other is called a bible. Both were compiled by man. And to make it worse, one was compiled by a committee!

    March 3, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • edwardst35

      A sinkhole will form under your bed at 12 midnight and it was placed there by "chance" Bon Voyage. COLON.

      March 3, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • Mohammad, A. Dead Subject

      edwardst35, that's very rude and disrespectful to exploit someone's tregedy to make your point, be gone you fool.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
  14. edwardst35

    Daniel....great language....you get an "E" for effort. Unfortunately you fail the course.

    March 3, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • End Religion

      lemme guess, lol?? has a new name?

      March 3, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
  15. cigarlover

    This is needed to counter these fanatics. I would donate more money to this group to expand these bilboards to other areas.
    Enough of these bigoted mullahs, buying votes off weak-minded idiots, who cant think for themselves.

    March 3, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • edwardst35

      Your language indicates that your IQ is below 100. Must be all those "seegars" you swallow.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
  16. F-tards and their fairy tales

    The story of Jesus is in effect the greatest story ever sold....sold that's it....f-tards don't believe in truth only fairy tales born out of fear....

    March 3, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • edwardst35

      Speaking of fairies.......most Atheists wear that monogram. Jesus was not God but God DOES exist, Could it be the sun? It sure is not Obama or Uncle Remus.

      March 3, 2013 at 12:51 pm |
    • Akira

      My, edwardst35, in one post you have shown extreme predjudice against gay people, atheists, and blacks. Well done on your trifecta of hate.

      March 3, 2013 at 12:58 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I don't think eddie's smart enough to know what "monogram" means.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • Useful Idiots

      F-tards and their fairy tales, the fear of the Lord is to begin learning his wisdom. You/d know it's meaning if you left the fools category.

      March 3, 2013 at 3:34 pm |
  17. us_1776

    This "god" nonsense will be relegated to the same place as the "flat earth society".

    .

    March 3, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • edwardst35

      As will the "flat head" Atheists. Atheists were created by worms. It is proven. Whatever will be will be. It is what it is. If we stamp out "Atheism", we will stamp out ignorance.

      March 3, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
  18. John

    They would be much better without the atheist comments. Can we do our own set of them without the atheist comments?

    March 3, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • End Religion

      Who's "we" and feel free to pony up $25,000 and get your own billboards.

      March 3, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • OBMatt

      Cults have nothing to do with politics except brainwashing and fear mongering. Christianity is the biggest cult in America. I can't agree with atheists completely about the non existence of God but I support them in this very uphill political battle. There is a God but he ain't what's being preached on your pulpits. Organized religion just doesn't get it, individually OR collectively. It's all about money, control and power. You are scared and brainwashed fools that can't think for yourselves. Just go away or shut up please. Bring REASON not myth to government or we'll all be as F***ed as Iran. WAKE UP!

      March 3, 2013 at 1:06 pm |
  19. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things :

    March 3, 2013 at 12:44 pm |
    • edwardst35

      Correct! Atheism creates insanity and fear. After you die on earth, you will learn the truth. Nonbelievers will die FOREVER!

      March 3, 2013 at 12:47 pm |
    • cigarlover

      f'u. Now go pray. Dont sh** all over the message board.

      March 3, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • tom LI

      to edwardst35 – Uh no. You sound like you really get off on that revenge scenario. Seems that American Xtians truly get off on their revenge scenarios...which is the main motivator for Faith...to indulge the EVIL thoughts of revenge and the violence that accompany them...so to create a loophole to the "thought is a sin too" sin.

      March 3, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • thinkdc

      .. and you can prove this how?
      I have donated countless hours and dollars helping children and animals while you were praying.

      Happy Atheist

      March 3, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • OBMatt

      It goes "WAR is not healthy for children and other living things". ORGANIZED RELIGION is not healthy for this world. You will be partly responsible for the next nuclear exchange and your children will be the ones paying the price. You may find this hard to believe but you can believe in and worship God in YOUR OWN MIND without the help or necessity of a Pope or priest or father. You are a flock of SHEEP.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
    • Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

      March 3, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • OBMatt

      Is that all you can say? Copy and pasting over and over and over? REALLY?

      March 3, 2013 at 1:43 pm |
  20. edwardst35

    Atheists are fools and are insane. They believe in nothing and nothing is something, therefore they believe in something. They claim one celled animals created man and man created jet planes through one celled animals. WHO created the great void? WHO created the one celled animals? What came first, the chicken or the egg. Atheists are numb! There is a GREATER power somewhere in the universe or the power is dimensional. The power exists. Atheists do not. They are a FAD!

    March 3, 2013 at 12:42 pm |
    • Daniel

      Hmmm....who is the real fool? You believe in something that was made up when mankind thought the sun was just a yellow orb in the sky, the earth was flat , and it was all created by a fairy tale man in the sky....that is the biggest bs lie mankind have ever told to itself.

      Atheism a fad? You really are a sucker...I have a bridge to sell you....f* tard...

      March 3, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
    • cigarlover

      And dumb Edward.... who the f created your god? Going by your own logic? Care to answer that, you numb minded fool!

      March 3, 2013 at 12:52 pm |
    • FreeFromTheism

      @edwards35
      you haven't demonstrated anything but the fact that you have no idea what the term atheist means
      "one celled animals created man and man created jet planes through one celled animals."
      i've never heard anyone claim such a thing.... literally
      You say:
      1 whatever begins to exist must have a cause (this is what I take it you're saying)
      2 God began to exist
      3 thus, god must have had a cause for it to begin to exist
      4 god is eternal (contradiction)
      C god did not begin to exist

      you figure out what the problem is with that argument
      either a) god does not actually exist or b) god is not eternal (it must have had something that caused it to begin to exist, such as an infinite number of gods beyond it)
      you could deny P1, but then it would be ridiculous to attempt to run that argument for the beginning of the universe or whatever else, actually

      you're welcome

      March 3, 2013 at 12:53 pm |
    • asingleverse

      Yes, because this "fad" has lasted twelve years of my life because it's temporary. I already know the response this will generate (people telling me to pray, that I'm going to hell, that my logic is flawed for not believing in something I can't see, etc) so please, just don't bother. I've heard and seen all of the Christian propaganda, so if you think you'll some how change my mind, I suggest abandoning such thoughts. Maybe if you pray hard enough about it, it'll happen.

      March 3, 2013 at 12:55 pm |
    • tom LI

      Sorta funny in a sad way...nice try but epic fail.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • kso

      all great assumptions.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:01 pm |
    • skytag

      Who created God? Given the rambling nonsense you posted you are in no place to call anyone a fool. You have no evidence anyone one could reasonably call a God exists, you simply choose to believe so you can have an answer to some questions about our origins. There are many questions science can't answer, but that isn't proof there must be a God. In fact, historically the trend has been for science to explain phenomena people such as yourself attributed to God and spirits. People used to believe disease was caused by evil spirits, for example. Then we discovered bacteria and viruses. I pity folks like you, so terrified by the thought that your imaginary friend might not be real.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:05 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.