June 23rd, 2010
10:49 AM ET

Billboard campaign rebuts 'one nation under God'

Religious billboards adorn the highways across the South. But a new billboard campaign in North Carolina deliberately snubs the Almighty.

A coalition of atheists and secular humanists has placed a billboard on Billy Graham Parkway in Charlotte that displays an American flag with a few key words from the Pledge of Allegiance: “One Nation Indivisible.”

Notice anything missing? The phrase “under God,” which appears between "One nation" and "indivisible" in the Pledge, is absent on the billboard.

William Warren, a member of the North Carolina Secular Association, says his group put the ads up on billboards across the state to let people know that patriotism and belief in God are not always synonymous.

The billboards are appearing in a half-dozen locations across the state, including Asheville, Winston-Salem and Raleigh, in addition to Charlotte.

Warren, an atheist, says people who share his beliefs often fear losing their job or their friendships. The billboard is designed to encourage them to be more open.

“We’re here. We’re your neighbors, your co-workers,” he says. “We’re not happy that we have to hide who we are everyday.”

Read more on this story from CNN Charlotte affiliate WBTV.

A statement on his group's website says the campaign "is intended as a consciousness-raising effort to point out how every U.S. citizen who doesn’t believe in a monotheistic god is being 'officially' marginalized, disrespected, and discriminated against by the insertion of 'under God' in the Pledge..."

The North Carolina Secular Association's statement also alleges that North Carolina's constitution "restricts anyone that doesn't believe in a monotheistic god from holding public office."

Warren says two billboard companies refused to raise the billboards. One said the Pledge ad was too controversial. Another didn’t call back when it heard about the planned message.

“It’s a pretty innocuous message,” says Warren. “If someone sees controversy in the message, they’re looking for controversy.”

Some may consider the location of the Charlotte billboard controversial: along a parkway named for the Rev. Billy Graham, the venerated evangelical minister.

But Warren says the location was chosen because the price was right. The Charlotte billboard costs $3,300 to rent for a month.

The entire billboard campaign costs $15,000, with money coming from donations from various secular groups and from a national marketing organization called FreeThoughtAction.

The North Carolina Secular Association's website explains that it chose the Pledge for its campaign because the phrase “one nation under God” was inserted into it in 1954, provoked by the Cold War. The intention then was proclaiming a Judeo-Christian American heritage in the face of godless  communism.

That change, though, stigmatized atheists and religious skeptics, Warren says.

“Instead of uniting the nation, it divided the nation,” Warren says. “You were either religious or with the godless communists.”

The Pledge was originally written in 1892 by a former Baptist minister who made no reference to religion in his version.

In 2004, the Supreme Court rejected efforts by a California atheist to revisit the issue of banning the Pledge’s recital in public schools because of its use of the words, “under God.”

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church • Courts • Culture wars • Politics

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soundoff (797 Responses)
  1. david

    If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. John 15: 18-19

    June 24, 2010 at 9:22 am |
    • Ponter B

      We call people who would harm and kill people on a massive scales psychopaths and genocidal. According to the Christians, god wiped out most of mankind with a flood. He's also going to condem most of us to an eternity of fire and pain, because we refuse to bow down and worship him or follow his rules. I don't know about the rest of you, but I haven't killed or caused anyone serious pain. My only crime is that I refuse to believe and follow the BS in book written two thousand years ago. Sounds like a sociopath to me.

      June 24, 2010 at 9:37 am |
    • USN_Athiest

      @ Ponter B – Well said.

      June 24, 2010 at 10:25 am |
  2. phnxrth

    How stupid do people have to be? It can't be indivisible unless it includes God. It's never been indivisible.

    June 24, 2010 at 9:16 am |
  3. Joesph

    What was before Oxygen?

    June 24, 2010 at 9:08 am |
    • Luke

      That question doesn't even make sense? What was before Oxygen? Do you mean what makes up Oxygen? Its molecular formula O2, in which the two oxygen atoms are chemically bonded to each other with a spin triplet electron configuration. I think where you are headed is here: Einstein's E=MC^2. Clearly, we know that an object's mass*the speed of light squared equals its energy. Basic math leads us to understand that the equation works both ways though. Meaning, if we have energy, it can create mass. Cosmic evolution developed early oxygen.

      June 24, 2010 at 9:19 am |
    • USN_Athiest

      I agree with Luke's answer.... What is your answer Joesph? If it has something to do with those 6 days a few years back then don't waste the energy to type it out.

      June 24, 2010 at 10:22 am |
  4. Joesph

    "If there were no God, there would be no atheists." G.K.Chesterton

    June 24, 2010 at 9:07 am |
    • USN_Athiest

      "If there were no athiests, there would be no free thinking, free will, freedom of choice" -USN_Athiest-

      June 24, 2010 at 9:44 am |
  5. texokie

    Removing "under God" only admits that we can't as a nation comtemplate what's infinite and transcendental anymore. We're now thinking smaller.

    But let's remove the words. Given the state of this country, it's blastphemous to say "under God".

    June 24, 2010 at 9:05 am |
  6. david

    Ummm so oxygen , water, food came out of nothing????? pathetic pride.

    June 24, 2010 at 8:50 am |
    • Luke

      No. Oxygen evolved during the early universe. Food (what kind of food exactly?) and water developed much later on after more complex elements were formed. Clearly you understand that water, for example, is the combination of hydrogen and oxygen, two very abundant elements in the universe, right?

      June 24, 2010 at 9:05 am |
    • ttwp

      I just watched a series on Discovery on the origin of Earth's water. The Earth was the only known planet that had the right make-up of hydrogen and oxygen to sustain life.

      June 24, 2010 at 9:11 am |
    • USN_Athiest

      My pride??? Please explain then your "sin" of pride at worshiping your god. Of people's pride in wanting other's to worship their god because their god is the best of all. Yes there can be an overabundance of pride in one's belief of something that can be annoying. I don't have pride or arrogance in that I am a better person than you, I simply don't believe in your god. Your god, according to the bible, is not one that I find to be palatable.

      June 24, 2010 at 9:11 am |
  7. david

    For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18

    June 24, 2010 at 8:49 am |
  8. ttwp

    It's sad to see how we are trying to push God completely out of everything in life. Especially since he is the life giver and sustainer.

    June 24, 2010 at 8:37 am |
    • USN_Athiest

      Ummmm....actually I can prove that oxygen, water, food etc. is a human's life giver and sustainer. Can you prove otherwise....just a thought.

      June 24, 2010 at 8:49 am |
    • ttwp

      USN Atheist. Yes and all those things come from God. Seek him humbly and he will take you out of your darkness and open your eyes. Remember, "The fool says in his heart there is no God."

      June 24, 2010 at 8:57 am |
    • USN_Athiest

      I didn't think so. Although in a way I do envy someone who simply has faith to carry them throughout the day, week, through good times and bad...it can be a nice pillow to fall back on when times are tough or when a good has been had. I however happen to not suscribe to words written by man attempting to intrepret something he didn't understand then and used it to control the masses....and seeing what people have been writing here, not much has changed in the years since.

      June 24, 2010 at 9:05 am |
    • ttwp

      USN Atheist. I can't thank myself for my faith. It is inevitable once the living God reveals himself to you and strengthens you. I can't expain it...other than Jesus's words, "Life is in the Spirit, the flesh counts for nothing." If we truly wish to know him we must come humbly and in Spirit.

      June 24, 2010 at 9:18 am |
    • Rinoa

      It wasn't until 1950's when "one nation under god was added" if we'd remove the phrase we'd just be going back to the original pledge.

      June 25, 2010 at 4:16 am |
  9. wf

    Remember, the blessings of this nation did not come from standardless principles. It came from Christian principles which served the nation well up until now. Our founding fathers understood that very well. It's okay to move away from God. However, remember that rebellion always comes with consequences.

    June 24, 2010 at 8:32 am |
  10. david

    There is no such thing as an atheist, but there is a lot of PRIDE and ARROGANCE, the thought of having to answer to a higher authority terrifies them and boy GOD does hate pride, not the person but the sin of pride, but because he is a loving God he gave everyone free will, otherwise He'd be a dictator, he can not force anyone to love him and not believing does not change a thing.

    June 24, 2010 at 8:19 am |
    • USN_Athiest

      There is no such thing as an atheist, but there is a lot of PRIDE and ARROGANCE, the thought of having to answer to a higher authority terrifies them and boy GOD does hate pride, not the person but the sin of pride, but because he is a loving God he gave everyone free will, otherwise He'd be a dictator, he can not force anyone to love him and not believing does not change a thing.

      Oh really....and so the saying of "having no other gods before me" doesn't hint of pride? the saying that the ONLY way to heaven is through him doesn't hint of arrogance – he is the ONLY way...not through some other belief (wiccan, hindu, islam etc.) And having to answer to a higher authority is something people do every day. You make it sound like athiests are criminals with no morals and do anything they want regardless of the consequences because they don't believe in a god and don't have to answer for anything. You are mistaken. I am not arrogant or self-centered enough to believe that there is a higher power of some sort that is greater than me...what it is I can't explain though I am sure it isn't your god – at least the god, as it is interpreted by man in both testaments of the bible.

      June 24, 2010 at 8:58 am |
  11. JK

    They atheists are right about one thing. They seem to think we should go back to the original. OK – if we do that let's go back all the way. Let's put all the schools back into the churches. That's where they all started (remember). Let's put prayer back in school. (it was stated the pledge was ok for 62 years without under God – well prayer in schools was ok for over 200 years, let's put it back in) The really good part for me is this. The idiots (atheists) are fighting against something they don't even believe exists.

    June 24, 2010 at 8:11 am |
    • USN_Athiest

      Ok, whomever you are listening to is a moron...that or your interpretation is incorrect...most likely the latter. I think the main focus of this blog is the right to freedom from religion as well as freedom of religion. So many posters/billboards throughout the US proclaim the "glory of god" or "god is watching" and now people are up in arms over something that is has removed the "god" slogan and yet remains a symbol of patriotism. I was raised saying "under god" in the pledge only because that is the way it was then. I didn't know then that the main reasoning behind the "under god" was to thumb our noses at the "godless" communists and we had to say the pledge that way to prove we weren't red. Just another silly means of controlling the masses – through fear and intimidation.

      June 24, 2010 at 8:46 am |
  12. M

    An enemy who wants to prevail against an opponent might use the motto, "divide and conquer". It's sad and ironic that the U.S. is effectively implementing its own destruction..... There is no such thing as an indivisible nation made up of groups who all make up their own rules (belief systems).

    June 24, 2010 at 8:09 am |
  13. david

    We are so close, praise God, all the signs coming to pass. For those who want to push God out of everything, don's worry He wont be in hell either.
    The satanic inspired lie of "Tolerance" – where God's Word is not proclaimed because people fear insulting or offending others has so infiltrated America today that few people even recognize the destructive results that inevitably follow.
    As most Americans are now living in darkness and refuse the truth, their consciences have been seared and like the brazen prostitute; they refuse to blush with shame.

    June 24, 2010 at 7:59 am |
    • Chris

      I completely agree with you on this. People are too afraid of speaking their minds about the TRUTH, simply because they feel that they have to be "politically correct" all the time. It is wrong – people deserve to hear the one true message, and that can never happen if their brains are weakened by a bunch of lies. Spread the true word! God does not exist.

      June 24, 2010 at 12:38 pm |
  14. Tim59

    I can't stand it when I hear people state that this country was founded on Christian values. How dare any group claim propriety over what is universal morality.

    June 24, 2010 at 7:57 am |
  15. elgeevz

    It happened during the summer of 1937 when I was five. I can't recall the boy's name, but he was about a year older than I and lived around the corner on Holman Street. We were standing at the back door of my home, engaged in a casual conversation when, for some unknown reason, he shattered one of my most beloved childhood illusions.

    "There ain't no Santa Clause," he suddenly volunteered. "It's really your folks that bring the presents. They buy 'em, hide 'em, and then put 'em under the tree after you go to sleep on Christmas Eve."

    Though distressing, his explanation sounded far more reasonable than my parent's tale about a jolly old elf in a red suit who climbed down chimneys, and I never for a moment doubted it. Still, I hated him for having told me the truth.

    Being disabused of our childhood fantasies - indeed of cherished beliefs of any sort - can be an extremely traumatic experience, and we tend to resent rather than respect those who dispel our fallacies.

    June 24, 2010 at 7:57 am |
    • skeptical inquirer

      Traumatic at first. Then comes a big free-ing sigh of relief. THEN comes the living...because it's the only life you've got! "I believe in love and live my life accordingly." Iris Dement, Let the Mystery Be.

      June 24, 2010 at 4:58 pm |
  16. Dr Bill Toth

    How about billboards on every highway with the Bill of Rights, or a simple message like "Sticks and stones can break my bones but names can never hurt me" or "How may I serve others today?"

    June 24, 2010 at 7:44 am |
  17. Dave

    Obviously, many are confused about what it means to be a Christian, so here it is:

    Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

    (Mt 22:37-40)

    June 24, 2010 at 6:59 am |
  18. Stephanie

    You can snub something that doesn't exist. When religious people finally wake up and realize that every god that man has worshiped was a figment of his imagination, the world will be a better place indeed.

    June 24, 2010 at 6:55 am |
    • Joesph

      Really Stephanie?
      Is Death also a figment of the imagination?
      but what of people have near death encounters? They for the most part say, there is an after life! So are you going to take a chance? And what of tolerance? It seem like those who don't believe in God are so intolerant of those who do. Why is that?


      June 24, 2010 at 7:58 am |
  19. Dave

    Let them have it. That's $15k/mo. that they won't be giving to the ACLU.

    June 24, 2010 at 6:50 am |
  20. lester

    Let's give the diety a new name, Zeus. One nation under Zeus. Then you can either believe in Zeus and go to your house of Zeus worship, or recognize Zeus as a mythological figure that is part of history and belongs in a museum.

    All together now: Hail zeus.

    June 24, 2010 at 6:45 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.