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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. Kevin

    Nice, now fix the pledge.

    This has win written all over it.

    June 25, 2010 at 11:47 pm |
  2. steve88

    The billboard just supports the traditional original slogan; "under god" was not a part of the pledge until the 1950's.
    Also the treaty of Tripoli which was unanimously approved by the Senate in 1797, then signed by John Adams. "As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion;"

    June 25, 2010 at 7:22 pm |
  3. Thorrsman

    The Evangelical Atheists really feel the need to preach their message, don't they?

    June 25, 2010 at 6:24 pm |
    • Rinoa

      No, this is not an atheist message, it is a movement to have the pledge return to the original pre 1950's version of the pledge.

      June 25, 2010 at 10:14 pm |
    • Thorrsman

      Rinoa Nope, this is an Atheist message, no question about it. They waste their time and our money on this sort of thing because of their religious beliefs.

      June 26, 2010 at 11:17 am |
    • steve88

      This was the original traditional secular message; as "under god" was not added until the 1950's.

      June 26, 2010 at 5:01 pm |
  4. mat

    The left is more full of hate and malice and discrimination than all the peolpe they accuse. You want people to respect men who put their genitals into other mens anuses but will not respect anothers belief. Are all of your women "easy access" too? Apparently there's nothing wrong with it right?

    June 25, 2010 at 2:00 pm |
  5. Paul

    UNDER GOD! Thats what Mary said as she cuckholded Joshph.What do you think of a god that takes another mans wife? Sounds like the olld Greek god at work.

    June 25, 2010 at 1:34 pm |
  6. Emily

    I'll pray for all you!

    June 25, 2010 at 8:52 am |
  7. bobby

    EJK, thankyou for calling me out on the the difference between Revelations and Revelation, I'm impressed ! Your right it is "The Book of Revelation". But I wish you would give me the definition of a "smug christian". STEPHANIE where will you be 200 years from now. Believe it or not Christians dont hate y'all that hate us. Why hate us!

    June 25, 2010 at 7:02 am |
  8. Paul in Louisville

    Who's hiding? I'm proud to be a non-believer. It's time people came into the 21st century.

    June 25, 2010 at 6:26 am |
    • S. Johnson

      I'm a believer and I'm in the 21st Century.

      July 16, 2010 at 2:03 pm |
  9. Open-Minded

    For those that keep reminding us that "God" and "Creator" are in the Declaration of Independence, may I also remind you that it also refers to "the merciless Indian savages." I like to believe that my fellow Americans can agree this is not the sort of language to be used when speaking about Native Americans in today's society. It shouldn't have been used back then either, but that was well before my time, and there is nothing I can do about what has already come to pass. My goal is simply to point out that just because something is in the Declaration of Independence does not mean that it necessarily should still apply in today's society.

    As a nation we have moved past our prejudice toward Native Americans, isn't it time we moved past our prejudice toward those who's beliefs differ from our own? And I'm not just referring to religious beliefs, but also cultural, political, etc. We're all human, and we're all part of the global community.

    Imagine how much more advanced we could be, how many more of the world's problems we could solve, and how much better our lives would be if we could just learn to accept our differences, and use that diversity to build each other up instead of tearing each other down. After all, what is Yin without Yang, peanut butter without jelly, a bat without a ball, up without a down, night without day, etc etc

    June 25, 2010 at 1:03 am |
    • j n da gulf

      Well said Open-Minded.

      June 25, 2010 at 9:38 am |
  10. MikeD

    Anybody else notice that atheist and homosexuals use the same arguments and retorts to justify there views?

    June 25, 2010 at 12:42 am |
    • Luke

      You mean reasonable and rational methods of organized debate? Yes, I did notice. What are your methods?

      June 25, 2010 at 11:09 am |
  11. Abd al-Latif

    WHY are we using billboards in the first place to advocate various specific metaphysical beliefs, or disbeliefs as the case may be? You don't see us Muslims doing this. Unlike the Christians and the atheists, we don't have to advertise.

    June 25, 2010 at 12:05 am |
    • khan

      Oh please give me a break!
      Remember Saddam added his version of "Under God" on his flag during the first gulf war. Religion is the last refuge of the scoundrel – Saddam, McCarthy alike.

      June 25, 2010 at 12:40 am |
  12. Treese

    Wow, my reply thanking someone for the best description of why an atheist wants to live a good, full life was deleted! Someone's a little thin-skinned, and I'm an agnostic to boot.

    I grew up in a Fundamentalist Christian family, so I absolutely have read their entire holy book, and know exactly what I do not believe. I pondered things for years before realizing that I'm an agnostic, and feel good about not just following the little formulaic solution I was taught. In answer to a couple comments above, I never felt a desire to pray during cancer treatment. In fact, my caregivers said I handled it better than most. In my experience it was the Christians who seemed to have a hard time, they seemed so fearful that their God wasn't listening.

    June 24, 2010 at 7:41 pm |
  13. Javamanny

    SD: Why would you want to impose your religious beliefs on people who don't agree? Why not leave "under God" out of the pledge, as originally written, and pray to your God as you'd like? Why try to get other Americans to say something they don't believe? I wouldn't want you to say "one nation, under no gods, indivisible..." if that's not what you believe.

    June 24, 2010 at 7:37 pm |
    • John

      Guessing from what you have write, I am 100% sure that your are a fanatics Moslem.

      June 24, 2010 at 7:45 pm |
    • Rinoa

      it is simply returning to the original pre 1950's version of the pledge.

      June 25, 2010 at 3:54 am |
  14. Javamanny

    This billboard in no way says what you should or shouldn't believe. It does state, quite patriotically, that we are one nation indivisible including religious and nonreligious Americans. It seems the Christians who are taking issue with it believe this nation IS divisible – it's for them but not for atheists like myself. How un-American is that?

    June 24, 2010 at 7:17 pm |
  15. John

    It is a facts that all issues, violence by religion, are coming from Abrahamics religion, either internally (i.e.Jehovah vs Protestant vs Catholics; Sunni vs Ahmadiyya vs Shi'a, etc) or externally (Christian vs.Islam).

    I believe (please prove this) that the main caused of religion conflicts in the world are caused by missionary act by Christian and by Moslem.

    Missionary is carried with threating those who refuse to accept or follow it.

    One exception for Jewish. Since they do not spread their faith to others, and Jewish is only for Jews.

    June 24, 2010 at 6:43 pm |
  16. SD

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

    That's the most ridiculous thing I ever heard. Warren, if you don't intend to create controversy, then why put up the ads? Clearly you don't think it's "innocuous" to have the words "UNDER GOD" in our Nation's pledge – where they rightfully belong!

    June 24, 2010 at 6:26 pm |
  17. CatholicMom

    You may find yourself in a foxhole in some crazy war some day, and then you may find out that you are not atheist after all!!

    June 24, 2010 at 6:17 pm |
    • Javamanny

      You will notice that one of the atheists quoted in the article is an ex-Marine. BTW, there is an organization called "Atheists in Foxholes." Also, Pat Tillman, the hero who walked away from a multi-million dollar contract with the NFL to go fight in Afghanistan where he was killed by friendly fire was an atheist. So you are incorrect. Please believe what you believe but understand that others think otherwise. We are all Americans and worthy of respect. Please change back to the original pledge and the original motto, e pluribus unum (Out of many, one) that our founders wisely gave us. Thank you for your consideration.

      June 24, 2010 at 7:22 pm |
  18. CatholicMom

    Luke, you say that the 'theory' has held the test of time, and peer review for 150 years. A theory is still a theory.
    The Church has been around for 2000 years and the world has tried and is still trying to tear it down. It is real; not a theory. If it were just a theory, atheists wouldn't be concerned in the least about it.

    June 24, 2010 at 6:08 pm |
    • Rinoa

      Actually, untrue. No one is trying to tear down the church. Can you actually cite documented cases where proven secularists tried to destroy a church?

      Religion has been forced on to society by either religious governments or parents bringing their kids to church and indoctrinating them.

      June 25, 2010 at 4:00 am |
    • Rinoa

      Yes, scientifically it has. However, the rigorous that science goes through is not the same as how long religion has existed. Religions has been perpetuated through out time because of religious governments forcing populations to believe or parents bringing their kids and indoctrinating them. That is how it has survived.

      Also, can you cite these cases where churches have literally been torn down by those who are non believers?

      June 25, 2010 at 4:03 am |
    • BlueMando

      Being immersed in blind faith, it is perfectly understandable that you would not comprehend what atheists are concerned about – particularly that citizens we might need to rely upon are making decisions based on blind faith. As a former Catholic, I was awaked to reality by events decided at the Second Eccumenical Council many years back. At one time, a sinner teetering on the edge of eternal damnation could be sent to hell by just one more mortal sin, which could be achieved by eating meat on Friday – a mortal sin. The council rescinded that particular sin, and voila... no more eternal damnation by a boloney sandwich! What an awakening it was for me. A veil lifted on the world of religion and I was SAVED. Logic and reason graced my being. Life makes so much more sense now. I totally understand that being moral is its own reward. My awe of the universe has increased by a magnitude. And my love of life, with no judgemental god in the way, is so much sweeter. The one thing in life we all have to fear is the unpredictable illogic of believers.

      June 25, 2010 at 11:42 am |
  19. Bryan Jon

    To post a billboard that says indivisible on a subject that divides us seems a bit strange. As a Christian, I have many friends and co-workers who are not Christian. I don't feel any less about them. I love them as much as my Christian brothers and sisters. This is just another non-issue.

    June 24, 2010 at 5:44 pm |
    • Javamanny

      Then the billboard was not for you because you already get it. I am glad you will support taking "under God" out of the pledge since it offends (intentionally, by the way) any atheist friends you may have. You will notice, however, that some of your Christian brethren commenting on this site, aren't quite as full of love as you. The billboard is for them.

      June 24, 2010 at 7:40 pm |
  20. Eric G.

    Uh.......Sam? The 12th century called......the black plague is about to start and they wanted to know if they should save you a seat. Perhaps you should read Darwin's book "DUDE, YOU ARE A FREAKIN' MONKEY". (Actually, I think it's called "origin of species" or something.)

    June 24, 2010 at 4:50 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.