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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. Ben

    all the religious hillbillies need to secede from the union and form their own third-world country, so america can (and will) move forward without them.

    June 24, 2010 at 1:15 pm |
  2. Chris

    @ GI John concerning your comment to USN_Atheist

    Why do you think he would want to use a gun for anything? Only religion fanatics kill others for their beliefs. (also slightly ironic that you would say that when your name has "GI" in it)

    June 24, 2010 at 1:05 pm |
  3. Jane Doe

    Why fix something that isn't broken? Why try to change history? Why even bother worrying about what the pledge says, when half of Americans don't even have enough patriotism to put their hand across their heart and remove their hats and stand while it's being recited? If our forefathers hadn't thought this phrase needed to be there, it would have been taken out years ago; DEAL WITH IT AND MOVE ON TO THE FUTURE FOLKS! Why even waste your money on these stupid billboards?

    June 24, 2010 at 1:01 pm |
    • Eric G.

      At the risk of redundancy.........one more time for the people in the cheap seats........."UNDER GOD" WAS PUT INTO THE PLEDGE IN 1954. THE ORIGINAL VERSION DID NOT INCLUDE "UNDER GOD". Please do some research, or just read the article.

      June 24, 2010 at 1:21 pm |
    • Seriously?

      Eric G. - time we stop banging our heads against brick walls. I counted back only halfway up this article and this fact has been stated over 6 times, by multiple users. The crazy "believe in our god or get out of our country" folks don't bother to read. They probably still believe the earth is flat. 😉

      June 24, 2010 at 1:40 pm |
    • Marco Rubio

      Dude, the Earth is soooooo flat!!!

      June 24, 2010 at 3:52 pm |
  4. GI JOHN

    @USN_Atheist
    Yikes...I hope they don't give you a gun. There is a clock tower in Texas with your name on it.

    And yet another foolish minded person pipes in with an ignorant comment....I am speaking of spiritual warfare. Our weapons are not of this world.

    June 24, 2010 at 12:58 pm |
    • USN_Atheist

      Ummmm...ok. A phaser? A disruptor? An Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator?

      June 24, 2010 at 1:07 pm |
  5. Chris

    "Every other thing in the physical world must have a cause"

    Okay, I know that God is not part of the "physical world", but I don't see how God can be exempt from explanation if the existence of the universe does. Oh wait, God is eternal and does not need explanation though right? Have you ever considered that the universe could have the same statement applied to it, or does that just ruin your delusional fun. You say atheists are imbeciles, but you blindly believe everything in a book that was written over 2,000 years ago. Why? Does Christianity just "make more sense" than other religions? Of course not. You have no logical basis for believing what you believe, because it is only based on emotion. I don't fear judgement day, just as I don't fear Apollo's wrath that comes from society not building any temples or praying for him. Then again, what if I'm wrong about Apollo.... (gasp)

    June 24, 2010 at 12:57 pm |
  6. CatholicMom

    Google ‘Pillar of Fire, Pillar of Truth’ if you are interested in learning how Christianity came about. After reading this I could see how Atheism started to show its face due to conflicting notions that man developed, especially in the 1500’s, although heresies were evident all along the history time-line of Christianity. You will find Truth—just SEEK!

    June 24, 2010 at 12:55 pm |
    • Eric G.

      Please Google "Three pillars of apologetics" and watch with an open mind. If you would like to make an argument, please refrain from falling into the traps outlined in the video. I welcome an open and logical debate, but your statement proves you are currently unprepared to present your views using facts and logic.

      June 24, 2010 at 1:18 pm |
  7. USN_Atheist

    Sticks and stones...

    So much for christian love and tolerence. "And they will know we are christians by our love, by our love. Yes they'll know we are christians by our love" SO....where does this place you?

    June 24, 2010 at 12:49 pm |
  8. JoeP

    “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.” – Thomas Jefferson

    Umm...you do know that Thomas Jefferson wasn't a Christian, right?

    June 24, 2010 at 12:47 pm |
    • USN_Atheist

      Me thinks not...

      June 24, 2010 at 12:54 pm |
  9. GI JOHN

    @ApatheticCharlotteGuy
    Here is a fine example of a foolish minded person thinking worldly. I am talking about when prayer was taken out of school and all the events where America has turned Her back on God.

    June 24, 2010 at 12:45 pm |
  10. Tom

    Why do I read "There is no god" and "...god is imaginary", then in the same sentence "you Christians are all delusional and misinformed"? This is a very incomplete statement. The only true and accurate way of expressing your beliefs would read: "Given the information I have, I choose to believe there is no god, however, this is just my opinion and I can not prove it, nor can anyone regardless of their beliefs."

    The bottom line is we all have the exact same information to base our beliefs. Neither side has a "Trump Card" that proves themselves right, and the other wrong. Our presuppositions play a major role in how we view the evidence given. Like it or not, it takes a great amount of faith to hold convictions to your beliefs... and yes, Atheists have just as much faith as Christians.

    June 24, 2010 at 12:43 pm |
    • Luke

      Your thought process is completely flawed and your argument a straw man, but you are on the right track. Allow me to fix it to you. No, there is no proof of either side. However, the religious claim to know and use books and theologists to prove their point. The Atheist argument examines the religious argument and rejects it based upon the evidence available. That is – I have happen to have read the bible in its completeness. It makes a tremendous amount of claims that infringe into the sciences including geology, cosmology and biology. I use my scientific approach to examining said claims and reject the conclusions reached. I therefore reject other claims the reach into the supernatural by interfering with what is called the Natural Order of Things. In other words, it is not a stretch to reject the god of the bible, Yahweh, in much the same way as you yourself likely reject the Greek and Roman gods such as Thor, Apollo and Poseidon. That is unless you believe a god riding a flaming chariot lights the sun every morning. If so, we're helpless and I cannot argue with you any longer.

      June 24, 2010 at 1:04 pm |
    • Ponter B

      @Luke – I bow to you sir. I couldn't have stated it better myself.

      June 24, 2010 at 1:23 pm |
    • Luke

      There is no reason to bow to me. We are here to learn from one another. The only way to eradicate religion is with education. Do some reading, particularly works by Hitchens, Dawkins and Sam Harris. Dan Dennet is also fantastic, but very cerebral.

      June 24, 2010 at 1:28 pm |
    • ttwp

      "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." Romans 1:20

      June 24, 2010 at 1:47 pm |
    • Luke

      ttwp – LOL. What? Maybe if you had some thoughts of your own, you'd garner a bit more respect.

      June 24, 2010 at 1:52 pm |
    • ttwp

      I do have thoughts of my own and they line-up with the Word of the Living God. And I will get true respect from my
      Savior for following and believing in His Word. Respect from others in this world is worthless.

      June 24, 2010 at 1:59 pm |
    • Ponter B

      @ttwp – "I do have thoughts of my own and they line-up with the Word of the Living God. And I will get true respect from my
      Savior for following and believing in His Word. Respect from others in this world is worthless."

      I have yet to see thoughts of your own. And wow, "respect from others in this world is worthless", its no wonder the world is such a toliet.

      June 24, 2010 at 2:22 pm |
    • Tom

      Luke – I agree wholeheartedly that we should all do our own research and base our conclusions and beliefs off of those findings. There is plenty of scientific evidence to support the bible's claims, as well as those claims of evolution. As I previously stated, if it were so cut and dry we would not be having this debate. As intelligent as you come across, I'm sure you can agree on that. There would be no need for a debate if we had definite answers. Science is a wonderful tool that we have. It should not be based on opinion, but fact. I'm sure you can agree on that as well. But there is no way in your right mind that you can PROVE through cosmology, geology, etc that we are here by chance. You cannot scientifically test that. You have to have faith in that. There is no flaw in that reasoning.

      June 24, 2010 at 2:25 pm |
    • Luke

      Tom – the hole in your rationale is that you replace the gaps of science with the Judeo-Christian god, Yahweh. Clearly, you can see how that flawed thinking cannot hold water. Furthermore, I am humble enough to say that science is, so to speak, working on the answers. Your side thinks you have the answers, even though the evidence proves otherwise. Additionally, what evidence is there for biblical claims? I'm intrigued! Also, the evidence for evolution is concrete. The theory has held the test of time, and peer review for 150 years. It was proven time and time again under constant ridicule. The human genome project further proved the theory. And to think – Darwin did it without fossils.

      June 24, 2010 at 2:44 pm |
    • ttwp

      Ponter B – Yes I don't go around trying to get respect and praise from others.

      "...And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people." Romans 2:29

      June 24, 2010 at 3:21 pm |
  11. Easy

    "One Nation, Indivisable" – Except when it comes to religion, God, this message board, and lack of respect for someone elses beliefs. Sure is indivisable......

    June 24, 2010 at 12:43 pm |
    • Luke

      Well that's the whole point, Easy. The insertion of the word god divides us. There is a higher proportion of atheists and skeptics alike in the US than Jews, for instance. What if the pledge said "One Straight Nation" or One Blonde Nation? The original writing unified the population as a whole, while the insertion of the word god carved out a large, albeit minority, portion of the people within the borders. I am a rational and reasonable person that believes in individuality and free of religion and speech. While holding atheist thoughts in my mind, I do not infringe on anyone's civil liberties, whereas the newly written pledge divides us and oppresses me, my wife, my children and many millions of people you see and meet every day that do you no harm whatsoever.

      June 24, 2010 at 12:58 pm |
  12. JoeP

    Michael Schulze – "I fear the religious minded and WILL react violently to thier attempts to indoctornate my children. To any Christian, Muslim, whatever... you've been warned."

    Dude, chill out. Seriously.

    June 24, 2010 at 12:39 pm |
  13. JoeP

    David – "They would rather believe that a monkey is their father..."

    It's pretty well established that humans share >95% of our DNA with chimpanzees, and something like 0% with dirt/mud/clay.

    June 24, 2010 at 12:36 pm |
    • Luke

      It's actually 99%, but whose counting?

      June 24, 2010 at 12:53 pm |
  14. Big Red from Texas

    Who are you calling lukewarm?

    June 24, 2010 at 12:34 pm |
  15. Michael Schulze

    I fear the religious minded and WILL react violently to thier attempts to indoctornate my children. To any Christian, Muslim, whatever... you've been warned.

    June 24, 2010 at 12:33 pm |
  16. John Anner

    The LORD is the reason why the United States of America is where it is today. To remove "under God" from the the pledge is to deny this. The pledge has always had those words in it and thats the way it should stay. I am not going to snub the LORD and what he has provided in order appease muslims and atheist idiots. Long live the Christian United States.

    Incarcerate Democrats to Inspire Freedom, Truth and Liberty!

    June 24, 2010 at 12:33 pm |
    • Eric G.

      Sheep!!! Table for one..........Sheep.....table for one! You should really read the article. By the way, If you want your god to come and judge you so that you can go to heaven, why do you want the christian United States to have a long life?

      June 24, 2010 at 12:38 pm |
    • Robert Tobin

      "The LORD is the reason why the United States of America is where it is today. Long live the Christian United States."
      Why does not Uncle Sam put you brain dead Christians out of your misery and rename the USA as the United Christian States of America? When I read through repies like yours, I become more proud to be Atheist and an AUSTRALIAN which now has another Atheist Prime Minister.
      I have visited your country once and once is enough. The best part was the airport on the way out. I have no intention of ever visiting it again. I probably would not be allowed in because I'm Atheist.
      RELIGION POISONS VERYTHING.

      June 24, 2010 at 1:01 pm |
    • Ponter B

      "The LORD is the reason why the United States of America is where it is today."

      Hm, maybe you're right. It would explain why things are so F-ed up. Believing in all powerful invisible beings and leaving things to "run" in said hands does fit the current mess of things.

      June 24, 2010 at 1:20 pm |
    • Seriously?

      Do you even bother to do even a tiny bit of research before blogging out stupidity??? "To remove "under God" from the the pledge is to deny this. The pledge has always had those words in it and thats the way it should stay." The pledge HAS NOT always had "under god" in it... that's actually the whole point of this article. Just do 2 minutes worth of online research and you will find out that the writer of the pledge (a Baptist minister no less) did not include those words in the pledge. They were added in the 50's, years after his death, by the Knights of Columbus.

      If you're going to try to argue why "under god" should be in the pledge the least you could do is base your argument on the truth. (sigh... but I guess by reading your comment I should realize that you're not even remotely interested in the truth)

      June 24, 2010 at 1:21 pm |
  17. GI JOHN

    This is not surprising. America is no longer one nation under God. God no longer blesses America and has not since the 60's. We have been spiraling down deeper and deeper into the bowels of Satans world. The American Christian is not even a true follower of Christ. The American christian still loves the world and clings to their pet sins. Who cares what America does. It's fate is sealed. God is allowing America to destroy herself. America is a joke. The world is a joke. Quit arguing and trying to convince these foolish people there is a God. Their hearts are hardened and satan is their Father. He has them all fooled into believing they came into existance from nothing. As for you American lukewarm christians....you are more of an abomination to God then these foolish Atheists and evolutionists. You know the truth yet you continue to live like the world. By doing this you trample on the Son of God and the blood He shed. Jesus did not die to give you a license to continue to sin. Mark this...God will humble America. If you can't see it happening now..you are either dead or blind.
    Words of encouragement for my true brothers and sisters in Christ who serve in the Lord's Army...
    All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved
    Keep fighting the good fight the end is certainly near!

    June 24, 2010 at 12:32 pm |
    • ApatheticCharlotteGuy

      You are totally right John, ever since we started giving rights to women and blacks, things have been going downhill. What a white man you are...

      June 24, 2010 at 12:35 pm |
    • Big Red from Texas

      Be careful how you speak of fellow Christians. That can border on blaspheming the Holy Spirit. We aren't to question another's faith in Christ. It's not for you to judge whether someone is lukewarm or not. You don't know a person's heart, only God knows our hearts. If a person can say that Jesus is their Lord and Savior, then they are in Christ. That should be enough. We are all on different parts of our walk with Him. As Paul said, "we are all running the same race", so don't trip up your fellow runners. The Bible says we aren't to cause our brothers to stumble. Also keep in mind it wasn't the unbelievers Jesus rebuked harshly but those who were legalists and saw themselves as the epitome of their "religion" in telling others how to behave. Jesus said of these high minded-religious, "take the telephone pole out of your own eye before worrying about the toothpick in your brother's eye". Jesus is the one who changes hearts, and ranting at others only causes strife and disunity in the body. We aren't to follow the law, if we do it negates God's love in grace through faith and nullifies the work of Christ on the Cross.

      June 24, 2010 at 1:07 pm |
    • Drew

      "Keep fighting the good fight the end is certainly near!"

      The end is when your own death arrives. The religious have been speaking about the end times for the past 2 thousand years but yet we keep on chugging along. Even Jesus said he would return within his apostles lifetime, I guess he lost his bus ticket back! 😉

      June 24, 2010 at 2:25 pm |
    • Vivian

      @Big Red From TX
      I agree and enjoyed your previous post too. You are very wise and humble. Thank you. 😀

      June 24, 2010 at 6:42 pm |
  18. Luke

    All of you – Notice how none of my questions were answered by Joseph, nor anyone else for that matter? Typical cherrypicking and outlandishly foolish. Good riddence.

    June 24, 2010 at 12:28 pm |
    • Joesph

      Luke you never answered my question, Are you closed minded to the point of not even considering the existence of God?

      "There are arguments for atheism, and they do not depend, and never did depend, upon science. They are arguable enough, as far as they go, upon a general survey of life; only it happens to be a superficial survey of life."
      GK Chesterton

      June 24, 2010 at 1:19 pm |
    • Luke

      I answered your question clearly and concisely in my post. I reject the idea of your god, Yahweh, based on all of the evidence provided by the bible, its followers and evidence that contradicts claims supported by science. I am also man enough to say that humanity does not know the origins of the universe, but we can concretely reject biblical claims and supernatural ideas supported by theists. Leading scholars believe that for every super massive black hole, there may be a white-hole on the other side, where the materials swallowed by the black hole eject matter in the same way the our big bang theory has been proven through evidence for an expanding universe.

      June 24, 2010 at 1:24 pm |
  19. david

    There is no such thing as an atheist because no person knows everything and has all knowledge as we've seen above. Neither can any person be everywhere at the same time. For a person to be able to confidently say, "There is no God," he'd have to know EVERYTHING that existed EVERYWHERE–and no person fits that bill. There is no atheist. At the very BEST a person can say, "I'm agnostic" although this is not true either...
    I submit to you in accordance with the word of God (Romans chapter 1) that the big talkers and blasphemers know that God is real and they know that their day of judgment is coming. THAT is why they call themselves atheists–they are trying to convince themselves that that day of judgment will not come–the ostrich-head-in-the-sand syndrome. They would rather believe that a monkey is their father and a fly their mother than give the reverence to God and Him alone. Plugging up your ears will not stay the wrath of God against you. When you get thrown in hell you will be without excuse and it will be too late to get it right with Jesus. It's in this life you get it right or never

    June 24, 2010 at 12:24 pm |
    • Eric G.

      More threats from the faithful. Thanks Dave for proving my point again. Please provide proof and verifiable evidence of your god. That is all I ask.

      June 24, 2010 at 12:34 pm |
    • USN_Atheist

      Atheist –noun- a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings.

      No where does it say an atheist knows everything...I think you are thinking of the word(s) "know-it-all" of which you are looking awful similar to from simply reading stories written by men a few years back.

      June 24, 2010 at 12:38 pm |
    • Bunnies

      "For a person to be able to confidently say, "There is no God," he'd have to know EVERYTHING that existed EVERYWHERE–and no person fits that bill. There is no atheist."

      Then by your logic, there is no christian either.

      June 24, 2010 at 1:04 pm |
  20. Seriously?

    Wow. Some of you folks scare me. Listen, if you want to believe in your god and your religion as well as try to tie it in to the history of this country, then PLEASE for the love of all that is sane.... educate yourself first!!! Some of these comments here are just ridiculous beyond belief. The article already stated (and you can even look it up online) that the original pledge DID NOT include the words "under god". As a matter of fact it was added after Bellamy, the original writer of the pledge, was dead. His family says that he would have resented and protested the change. Bellamy was a religious man, a minister, and even he seemed to recognized the importance of keeping church and state separate. Why do some of you all have such a problem with it?

    I could go on, but really what's the point. The sane, educated, religious people already get this. You religious zealots will believe whatever suits you regardless of the truth. Frustrating.

    June 24, 2010 at 12:23 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Perhaps the reason 'under God' was inserted is because we have grown to realize that our greatness in this country is due to God. It is good to acknowledge Truth. So some people don’t feel so grateful, is that it?

      June 24, 2010 at 5:29 pm |
    • Seriously

      Please re-read my post... I didn't say anything at all about WHY "under god" was inserted – that topic will take a much bigger web space to debate. Just wanted to point out to the crazy zealot people that it was NOT in the original pledge. Good grief.

      (btw, it was not because the country felt its 'greatness' was due to god, it was an idea brought about by the Knights of Columbus and....... oh nevermind, it's not like you're willing to listen anyway... if you're at all interested in the REAL reason why "under god" was included just look it up online yourself).

      June 24, 2010 at 7:05 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.