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. Will

    Hey Bible Thumpers – the "Under God" wasn't added until the 1950s. It's about as American as McCarthyism and the second incarnation of the KKK.

    June 23, 2010 at 3:30 pm |
  2. Brian

    Nothing wrong with a little advertising. It still makes me sick when I see a certain billboard every day I drive home...........so really what you are saying is that you are glad to see that other people are annoyed???? A little hate for hate is it? Why not work torward a goal where everyone could be happy, instead of picking at each other. Why nto work to get that sign that bothers you taken down?

    June 23, 2010 at 3:29 pm |
    • Bonk :3

      [so really what you are saying is that you are glad to see that other people are annoyed????]

      So you're saying it's ok that I'm annoyed with seeing pro-death billboards just the same? A little hate for my little hate of your little hate?

      A goal with everyone is happy? Oh, do tell how that'll work. If it was possible, shoot I'd be going for that! But I can't make a world with everyone is happy; nobody can. I've actually wanted to complain about that sign, not sure who to do it to though. I may look into it.

      June 23, 2010 at 3:39 pm |
  3. Richard Posner

    There's no point in arguing with the bible-thumpers and god-pushers. They choose to believe in this fantasy because they're afraid of death, don't want to think that once they croak that's all she wrote and, like Neanderthals quivering in a thunder-storm, they feel better when they huddle on their knees and quake together.

    So far, of course, their little gods and saviors and such haven't done much, but they can't let go of their primitive fear of death.

    Grow up. Get over it. We're just really smart apes on a mud-ball flying through space in a remote corner of one of billions of galaxies. Not special. Not chosen. Not divine. Just smart monkeys in the process of destroying the only place they've got to live. How's that working out? Not so good. Oh well. The planet just keeps revolving around the star, ignoring the lice that cover it's skin.

    June 23, 2010 at 3:28 pm |
  4. Brian

    I would vote in a heartbeat for a repeal of organized religion's ridiculous tax-exempt status.....................uhhhh that would be kind of hard to do since it is in the bill of rights. The tax code write in was done by LBJ as if the church did not already have freedom from taxation, and Soooo many greedy churches lapped it up, and as a result were handed a muzzle. A church does nto have to be an inc. and it does not have to file for 501 status. Yes I am serious, google it. Separation of Church and state......as it was meant to be.

    June 23, 2010 at 3:26 pm |
  5. Joel3

    I believe in God and His Son. However, America was not founded on Christian principles. Our founding fathers, all of them, rejected Christ and the belief in Him. Ben Franklin even REVISED the bible removing the book of Revelation as well as any indications of Christ's miracles and resurection. He only kept the "moral" teachings of Christ, and left out the divine nature. This country was founded by freemasons and other secret societies who veil themselves behind Christianity. These people, especially the higher degree members, are getting ready to implement a one world government which will be run by their pagan god in the flesh, otherwise known as the anti-christ, and Apollo. They also have plans to build the 3rd temple in Jerusalem where this so called "man of sin" will set himself up and declare he is god. Most of you will fall for it. This event will be extremely hard to doubt and many Christians will fall away. Others who stand firm in their faith will eventually be killed if they don't conform. As you can see, a large part of the world has had it with God and would do just about anything to get rid of Him. The atmosphere is almost perfect for this charming charismatic figure to take the stage, along with the false prophet, and fool most of you. Why? Because most of you are looking for a "saviour" but unfortunately missed the bus. Or rather, you CHOSE to miss the bus. This man will have little to no opposition because God's people, at that moment in time, will be scarce due to mass deception which has already conditioned your minds through media, technology, science, and pagan theology forced down you and your children's throats for decades. I used to be like YOU, doubting the bible, God, and His Son but now EYE SEE and I thank God for 20/20 vision, spiritual vision, which only comes from the Father. Believe me or not, you can mark these words.

    June 23, 2010 at 3:24 pm |
    • Sitara

      You're absolutely right Joel. Those are terrible things – media, technology, science! Honestly, what were our parents thinking sending us to SCHOOL! Let's all get together and thump the Bible. Who needs to find a cure for cancer? Let's just convert the patients to Christianity. They will come back to life with a harp and halo – screw science for trying to save them in THIS life

      June 23, 2010 at 3:29 pm |
    • Benjamin

      If most of the world has had it with God why would they follow someone claiming to be God? Your insinuations that the world had rejected God and is ready to latch onto another God at the drop of a hat cancel each other out. Wouldn't a time when the world has rejected God be the hardest time for an anti-God to rise up? Rationally, a time of almost universal religious devotion would be the perfect time for an anti-God to seize power.

      June 23, 2010 at 3:30 pm |
    • Richard Posner

      What a jerk. Yet another Taliban-christian. Gonna be a big disappointment when you finally take that dirt nap. Of course, you'll be dead, so you won't know you were freakin' wrong about everything.

      Why don't you just make a little statue and pray to that...oh, never mind...already did that.

      June 23, 2010 at 3:31 pm |
    • Joel3

      Sitara – It's not about science, it's about your life. We are dealing with an enemy who will go to any and all lengths to maintain control over YOU. No offense, but your petty logic has no room in the spiritual realm.

      June 23, 2010 at 3:34 pm |
    • Whoops!

      >Because most of you are looking for a "saviour"
      A lot of us are trying to get away from being told we have a savior. I hate being told I'm in debt to something I never wanted. Being guilted into believing because he died for me? That's just sick.

      >Or rather, you CHOSE to miss the bus.
      That's more like it! I'll walk 🙂

      >This man will have little to no opposition because God's people, at that moment in time, will be scarce due to mass deception which has already conditioned your minds through media, technology, science, and pagan theology forced down you and your children's throats for decades.
      Actually, technology and science, and especially media, have opened up everyone's options. You've got it backwards. Before we were able to contact people around the world on the internet and whatnot, we were forced to only believe what was around us and come up with our own conclusions which were usually dominated by our parents who forced religion on us at an early age before we had a chance to understand it wasn't real. When technology opened up and others were able to explore options, some of us found others who shared that same deep-down confusion and second thoughts about religion. Now with the internet the way it is, sharing this information with others couldn't be easier it feels like. And after being able to really converse with everyone how I feel and hear other's stories, I've come to my own conclusion on my beliefs: that I'd be happy to miss the bus.

      How you've got your results backwards only makes just as much sense, too. Just as there are internet groups socializing against the bible, there is the counter group socializing how it's 100% real and.. etc you get the rest of this.

      June 23, 2010 at 3:34 pm |
    • Joel3

      Benjamin – The false "wonders or miracles" that this man will be able to perform will be EXTREMELY hard to doubt. But his actions will reveal his true nature which serves the enemy.

      June 23, 2010 at 3:37 pm |
    • Joel3

      Whoops! -If technology is so great than why is the US government using Twitter as a tracking device? Why is Facebook used as evidence in court? Why is big brother popping up EVERYWHERE? Remove your head from the sand.

      June 23, 2010 at 3:39 pm |
    • jaime

      There are medicines that might help you.

      June 23, 2010 at 3:44 pm |
    • Joel3

      Jaime – I'm going to just keep it real with you: If you choose to follow the world, you're taking a lie straight to the head, no chaser.

      June 23, 2010 at 3:49 pm |
    • Joel3

      Whoops! – Wow. So you actualy believe they would never use that kind of technology against YOU for their own hidden agenda? Are you kidding me? You actually put THAT much trust in your government even after seeing what they are capable of? I'm sorry, but you have ALOT to learn.

      June 23, 2010 at 3:52 pm |
    • Whoops!

      I write about how religion isn't real and sometimes how I have a crappy lunch at work or that my tooth hurts or that I found a fun video game to play. Trust in my government? Technology against me? I think you have your tinfoil hat on a little bit too tight, bro. People who don't trust the government shouldn't be posting on a forum like this in the first place; much less using the internet. Even though its anonymous, IP's are still very traceable through this. Oh no the gov'ment gonna getcha!

      Paranoia 🙁

      June 23, 2010 at 4:02 pm |
    • sbp1

      And you KNOW all this for a FACT because it says so in a BOOK. A book you CHOOSE to believe without a shred of evidence. You are absolutely certain of everything that is written in this book because..... your parents and teachers told you to believe all of it.

      I have a lot more patience for religious people who at least harbor some doubt.

      June 23, 2010 at 4:56 pm |
    • Joel3

      sbp1 – MOST of what is in that "book" has already come to pass. Why doubt now? Have you even read it? If so, do you understand it? God is the same today as He was yesterday, and He NEVER breaks His promises- You guys kill me with the comments about the "book" like we don't have something more which convinced us. Naive? NOT

      June 23, 2010 at 5:07 pm |
    • BR

      1-Thomas Jefferson wrote the revised bible...not Franklin.
      2-Nice as it might be to ponder, few of the founding fathers can truly be said to have outright "rejected" Christ, though many were highly, and publicly critical.
      3-Funny how these ultra-secret societies seem to have a lot of people who know their secrets. Maybe you can audition for National Treasure 3. You can't be any worse an actor than Nick Cage.
      4-No offense, but your made-up spirituality has no room in the realm of reality.
      5-Facebook is used as evidence in court because stupid people post things there for which they can be held liable. As for Twitter being used for tracking...evidence, please.
      6-"MOST of what is in that "book" has already come to pass" Hindsight is funny that way. I had a dream a while back that I got a ticket for speeding. I got pulled over this morning. WOW!!!! Prophecy fulfilled. Just a matter of time before that winning the lottery with that hot co-worker comes true.
      7-Many non-believers I know are such BECAUSE they studied the bible.
      8-Try providing an actual argument for the existence of god before you claim to know what it wants. But before you do, look up the term "teleological argument" and "logical falacy".

      June 24, 2010 at 10:58 am |
  6. Melissa

    Brilliant billboard. Its about time someone did this. But you just wait.. the boards are going to be vandalized because 5 year old religious children out there can't behave in a civilized manner.

    June 23, 2010 at 3:21 pm |
    • illlisten

      if any five year old, religious or not, defaced a billboard that high- i'd say that kid deserves props

      June 26, 2010 at 10:01 pm |
  7. Sitara

    I am amazed by the copious amounts of stupidity on this page. "If God does exist, then atheists better watch out"?? Really? You believe in God because you're playing safe? Aren't you supposed to believe in a higher power because your heart says he is there and is watching out for you? Isn't that why it's called FAITH? In my opinion, if said God had half a brain – he will bestow eternal life (or moksha/nirvana if you please) on the atheist who based his life on what he truly believes and NOT on the Christian who played safe and chose to believe 'just in case..'. Also, if said God CANNOT make that distinction – he is not worthy of worship anyway and I pledge my allegiance to the Flying Spaghetti Monster

    June 23, 2010 at 3:19 pm |
  8. Travis Else

    God help us.

    June 23, 2010 at 3:12 pm |
    • Whoops!

      Spoiler: he isn't real

      June 23, 2010 at 3:15 pm |
  9. VigilantMachine

    Ok people..pay attention because I'm only going to say this once. Removing 'under god' from the pledge does not mean atheists win and christians lose. Atheists don't believe in god so for them to win the pledge would need to read 'one nation without a god'. That's not what we are asking for. All we want is to take religion out of the pledge entirely. The pledge is a patriotic vow to support our country. It has nothing to do with religion. It never has and it never will.

    June 23, 2010 at 3:10 pm |
    • Merissa

      Amen 😉

      June 23, 2010 at 4:15 pm |
    • Weez

      I'll second Merissa's amen.

      June 23, 2010 at 6:06 pm |
    • Drew

      Well, the original pledge had that intention, the revised version had a different agenda. The Knights of Columbus who were the main organization behind the urging and changes to the original made that very clear. The pledge is like Law & Order shows, the original is always better!

      June 23, 2010 at 6:23 pm |
  10. Hurp Durp

    The belief that a cosmic Jewish Zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree. Sounds legit, bro. Lets put him in our pledge to our country.

    June 23, 2010 at 3:08 pm |
    • Cindy

      Well, when you put it like that it sounds ridiculous. Seriously though, very creative. 🙂

      June 23, 2010 at 4:36 pm |
    • MikeTheInfidel

      Cindy, it sounds ridiculous because it *is* ridiculous.

      June 23, 2010 at 9:28 pm |
    • Ponter B

      Wait, was Christianity founded by L. Ron Hubbard too? 🙂

      June 24, 2010 at 2:53 pm |
  11. bazz

    Love it!

    Remember that Freedom of Religion also means Freedom from Religion.

    June 23, 2010 at 3:03 pm |
    • Vivian

      I agree. No one should be FORCED into or out of any religion. That is why we have free will. Religion is impossible to live by anyway. Now, relationship is a different thing...as posted elsewhere on this blog.

      June 24, 2010 at 2:17 am |
  12. Joanna

    I prefer the pledge "One Nation Indivisible" as well.

    But then I think it's weird that we have to pledge allegiance like some Communist Kim Jong Il forcing people to do things. We are a free country, why do we force kids to pledge allegiance?

    June 23, 2010 at 3:02 pm |
  13. Not an atheist but it doesn't matter

    Any one else notice how brainwashed the dissenters sound?

    June 23, 2010 at 2:59 pm |
    • Tom in Wisconsin

      Yeah...religion is scary that way, in how it takes away rational thought and freewill.

      June 23, 2010 at 4:10 pm |
  14. Kristen

    Those that comment about the Under God as being a response to the Communists are completely correct. Nice to see in the comments section!! I grew up in a Baptist small town in the 70s and don't remeber ever saying "under God". Now I have to remember to stop and inert it when I say the pledge with my kids. Since our enemies todya worship the same God that the majority of Americans do, it is petty to say under God. Even though He watches over all of us, even the atheists!

    June 23, 2010 at 2:58 pm |
    • Vivian

      >I grew up in a Baptist small town in the 70s and don't remeber ever saying "under God".
      That is interesting. I grew up in a small town too; however, your town must've been really, really small. We always included "under God" when we said the pledge.

      June 24, 2010 at 1:49 am |
  15. Starglade

    Considering the phrase "under God" was added in the 1950's, and under duress I might say, this is merely a return to the ORIGINAL pledge–which is the way I choose to say it, and the way my children say it.


    June 23, 2010 at 2:55 pm |
  16. Benjamin

    The "under God" phrase in the pledge has nothing to do with Christianity or any other religion. It's a dig at "godless communists" that was inserted during the Red Scare of the 1950s. The whole reason it's in the pledge is to say "We're better than you are." to the Soviet Union.

    June 23, 2010 at 2:45 pm |
  17. Tom

    Did you hear about the guy that did not believe in God? When he died his body went on to fertilize the ground so a large tree could grow. Then, years later, a big sweaty lumberjack cut him down, dragged him through the mud to a paper mill. There he was turned into paper and used to print the Bible. HOPE is why people believe in God, hope in something better, hope in their daily lives, hope in the misery seen around the world. Without hope what are we? Where do we go? What do we look forward to? Maybe there is no God, but....What if there is?

    June 23, 2010 at 2:26 pm |
    • Joe

      Pretty lame when you have to plagiarise Dane Cook

      June 23, 2010 at 2:29 pm |
    • John D

      I'm sure you think that's clever, but you and I both know you're not musing about whether A God exists.

      Your rhetorical question ought, for the sake of intellectual honesty, to be rephrased "what if MY God exists?"
      If your God exists, and if you are correct in your interpretation of scripture, atheists are screwed.

      But if THAT GUY'S God (pretend I'm pointing at a Muslim, or at Fred Phelps) exists, we're BOTH screwed.

      You're setting up a false dichotomy here.
      It's not "either no god or the Christian god."

      There is an infinite array of possible gods out there. Humans have never had any problems making them up.
      They can't all be right.
      They can, however, all be wrong.

      June 23, 2010 at 2:31 pm |
  18. righteous1

    how stupid...just move to your hindy practicing country

    June 23, 2010 at 2:21 pm |
  19. marcus watson

    God is a must in all our lives who believe in Him. http://www.childrenandgod.com

    June 23, 2010 at 2:20 pm |
  20. Vivian

    The pledge was written for Americans and states, 'I pledge allegience to the (American) flag...one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty, and justice for all (Americans)." If you don't want to pledge allegience to the American flag then go back to where you came from and worship your god. There are too many gods in America as it is...that's why we are in the mess we are in now. That is what started this whole AZ mess. We, Americans, have chosen one American flag to represent us!! Btw, those children had ever right to wear the American flag t-shirts! The old saying goes "there are no athesist in foxholes". The problem is the liberty (free-will) we've been blessed with has been used so selfishly it's hard to tell religion from Christianity anymore. Religion lives by rules, Chrisitianity lives by relationship with Christ. Signs pulling out parts of the "pledge" are not offensive to me...I think of the whole pledge. The one's that are offensive are the one's up indicating we do not need God or Jesus. "the fool has said in his heart there is no God." amen and amen.

    June 23, 2010 at 2:17 pm |
    • victim of democrat hypocrisy

      You didn't read the article, did you. The "under god" part was inserted in 1954. Hope you learned something today.

      June 23, 2010 at 2:26 pm |
    • Whoops!

      >"The one's that are offensive are the one's up indicating we do not need God or Jesus"
      You mean the ones that are offensive TO YOU. But SHOCKER, guess what, different people get offended over different things! WHO WOULD HAVE GUESSED?!

      >"the fool has said in his heart there is no god."
      So you are calling me a fool, and RIGHT THERE YOU OFFENDED ME. SMASHING JOB, CHAP!

      June 23, 2010 at 3:18 pm |
    • Rinoa

      It is sad that you are misrepresenting one of the tennents of honesty in Christianity, because that is not the original pledge. "One nation under god" was not added to the pledge until 1954 during the red scare to drum up national support to defeat the commies.

      June 23, 2010 at 4:30 pm |
    • Mike

      So basically you think that everyone who doesn't believe what Vivian believes should just go back to their own country? Well, guess what? We're from this country. Non-christians in America are just as American as you are. In fact, some of us are more American, because we recognize that all citizens are free to believe in ANY god or NO gods.

      June 23, 2010 at 8:58 pm |
    • Will

      hey "Whoops," you might be amused to know that Vivian, by calling you a fool, has endangered her own soul according to the words of Christ in Matthew 5:22:
      "But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the Sanhedrin; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell."

      June 23, 2010 at 9:25 pm |
    • JCC_Starguy

      The fool has said in his heart, "There is no god!"

      The wise man proclaims it to the world.

      June 23, 2010 at 10:54 pm |
    • Vivian

      For it is written...Psalm 14 "Folly of the Godless-The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none who does good. The Lord looks down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is none who does good, no, not one...for God is with the generation of the righteous...the Lord is his refuge." End of quote fro the bible. So let it be written, so let it be done.

      June 24, 2010 at 12:41 am |
    • ttwp

      "Will" you speak incorrectly because you don't know Scripture. She is not calling "Whoops" a fool on her own accord. The Lords himself states that one is a fool for not believing that he exist.

      The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” (Pslam 14:1)

      June 24, 2010 at 11:39 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.