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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. PHIL

    @
    Zack
    The SCIENTIFIC law that disproves SCIENCE. Look at what you just said. WOW.

    June 23, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
  2. Cameron

    Most Athiest are awful, hate filled hurt, people.

    And the cause is stupid if you want to take something out of the Pledge of Allegiance take out "With Liberty and Justice for All". Because that was a lie when it was written and still is today.

    June 23, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
    • Eric G.

      Some atheists are hatefull..........but they hate you because of you. Believers hate and try to justify it with god.

      June 23, 2010 at 4:44 pm |
    • Cameron

      Eric G. And arrogant I forgot to list their greatest trait.

      June 23, 2010 at 4:46 pm |
    • Rinoa

      Based on what? Your limited experience? You judge the whole group on your limited experience? That does not seem fair or logical.

      June 23, 2010 at 4:49 pm |
    • Billy

      You know most of the atheists? Wow.

      June 23, 2010 at 4:50 pm |
    • Guest

      Don't forget Pride, when you describe an Atheist.

      June 23, 2010 at 4:51 pm |
    • skeptical inquirer

      Yeah, like all those atheists that fill the prisons...wait, most of those in prison are believers? Gee, how can that be?

      June 24, 2010 at 4:19 pm |
  3. Zack

    Set Wind Down Effect, not physically impossible, it was replicated. Scientific explanation

    June 23, 2010 at 4:38 pm |
  4. elgeevz

    I really don't know why I have taken the time to read so many of these comments. As I learned long ago, it is quite futile to argue with anyone who believes that a first-century Jew walked on water.

    June 23, 2010 at 4:38 pm |
  5. Billdacat

    really... you erase my comment when there is sooo much hate flying around?

    June 23, 2010 at 4:37 pm |
  6. Zack

    And also like I said Set Wind Down Effect was "how the sea was parted"

    June 23, 2010 at 4:37 pm |
  7. PHIL

    Its physically impossible. IDC what the discovery channel says.

    June 23, 2010 at 4:36 pm |
  8. Guest

    I know we feel the same way about Atheism....self worship is everywhere.

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

      I am an atheist, I do not worship or believe in any deity. Saying that atheists worship their selves is a misunderstanding to what the definition of an atheist is.

      June 23, 2010 at 4:51 pm |
  9. Zack

    he law of conservation of energy is an empirical law of physics. It states that the total amount of energy in an isolated system remains constant over time (is said to be conserved over time). A consequence of this law is that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, it can only be transformed from one state to another. The only thing that can happen to energy in a closed system is that it can change form, for instance chemical energy can become kinetic energy.

    So explain to me how the universe was created using this law.

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

      The fundamental forces did not create the universe, they were created after the big bang.

      June 23, 2010 at 4:52 pm |
    • sbp1

      So instead of getting a PhD in astrophysics and quantum mechanics so you could understand the science, you choose the easy route: "It was magic. God just said abra cadabra and it happened." That makes more sense to you then science?

      June 23, 2010 at 5:03 pm |
    • ImmortalityIsBoring

      @Zack... again.. .you do realize that the assumption that the universe was "created" is what's hobbling your thought process in the first place. "creation" is a temporal attribute a result of our concept of "time" which for all intents and purposes isn't quite as certain as you may think. A beginning and an end are not necessarily required, when you understand this you'll be a lot further along. If you ask a question hoping to get a specific answer, you're not really asking the question at all are you? You're just looking for support for something you already assume is true and won't throw away your assumption regardless of how much evidence you encounter that doesn't agree with your hypothesis. That's where religion fails and science (slowly but surely) succeeds.

      June 23, 2010 at 11:15 pm |
  10. Zack

    Also it is hilarious that you jump on the one thing in the Bible but have nothing to say about the Scientific law that disproves science.

    June 23, 2010 at 4:31 pm |
    • Whoops

      Jumpin on the one comment you made with no evidence, but since there is none, next topic.

      Scientific law that disproves science what.

      Can god make a hotdog so big that he couldn't even eat it? If he can't make it that big, must not be god. If he can't eat it because it's too big, must not be god. [/your logic]

      June 23, 2010 at 4:35 pm |
  11. Zack

    Wind Set Down effect

    June 23, 2010 at 4:30 pm |
  12. Zack

    EZ I completely agree with you. A persons beliefs are a very personal thing and should not be put on others unless asked questions.

    June 23, 2010 at 4:29 pm |
    • Whoops

      [unless asked questions]

      Well I'm askin' a question about that faith of yours and that hair-raising sea-splitting adventure.

      I know it's a troll feeding but it's still comical 🙂

      June 23, 2010 at 4:32 pm |
  13. ThomasDTank

    >And no not trolling just having a good discussion after spending all day at the pool with my kids.

    Did you part the pool for your kids too I guess? They did it in a 3 inch petri dish apparently, I bet your pool made a good example of it being a 'fact', huh.

    No seriously, I actually want to see a fact of this. Google it if ya must, I have got to read how it was determined a fact that a SEA SPLIT IN HALF.

    June 23, 2010 at 4:29 pm |
    • Cindy

      Check this out: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/story?id=99580&page=1

      Explaining these scientifically may support these stories as historical events, but that does not prove God was involved or even that he exists.

      June 23, 2010 at 4:55 pm |
    • MikeTheInfidel

      It doesn't even go that far. It only demonstrates that it *can* happen, not that it *did*.

      June 23, 2010 at 9:50 pm |
  14. Zack

    Look man I am not going to go and look up every little thing but I have read enough books, watched enough history and discovery channel to know that many non christians out there believe and know that it had happened

    June 23, 2010 at 4:28 pm |
  15. EZ

    I was brought up Lutheran. Had to go to a lutheran church, do the whole pray thing, every sunday thing, before dinner thing. And i didnt believe a word of it. I was told that when i was in high school i could flex my beliefs (non-beliefs) and either go to church or stop. I stopped. I dont preach non-belief, however, i dont want religious doctrine shoved down my throat. There's no reason for me to hear it. You see it everywhere.

    There's no problem with omitting god. They arent denouncing anything. They are separating the people from 'god' because it doesnt have to be there.

    If you want religion, keep it in your household. The rest of us dont care to hear about it.

    June 23, 2010 at 4:26 pm |
  16. PHIL

    Moses parting the red sea being fact? Please explain, I can't wait to hear this one...

    June 23, 2010 at 4:24 pm |
    • USN_Athiest

      I am on pins and needles myself!!!!

      June 23, 2010 at 4:28 pm |
  17. Zack

    No I stated that the money that is wasted on these billboards(Christian or Non) could be used for a much better purpose, as in helping the needy, never stated I needed to save those from the depths of hell.

    June 23, 2010 at 4:24 pm |
    • ImmortalityIsBoring

      @Zack.... really? You're worried about the money spent on these billboards? Really? Have you seen the Vatican? Have you seen modern mega-churches? Have you seen the pastors of those churches with their BMWs and private jets? Much more money there that could have been put to good use.

      June 23, 2010 at 11:07 pm |
    • JCC_Starguy

      The $15,000 spent on the billboards pales to insignificance compared to the salaries given to individuals who profess to be "men of God."

      One of the mega-churches in Charlotte gave a $100,000 love offering to its pastor last year. This is atop the free clothing, housing, limos and private planes he receives annually.

      Incidentally, $10 of that $15,000 was mine and I think it was money well spent.

      June 23, 2010 at 11:41 pm |
  18. Zack

    Then ask a historian how the Jews escaped Egypt, we all know that they were there and being used as slave labor, and that they had escaped. Well how so, they had to cross the Red Sea with the Egyptians on their tails. If they had held a scientific study in a lab to replicate the parting of the Red Sea then it is obvious that they agreed that it had happened, they just did it in a 3 inch by 3 inch petri dish rather than using the Red Sea.

    June 23, 2010 at 4:23 pm |
    • JCC_Starguy

      Actually, if you ask any historian who doesn't treat the Bible as historic reference, they'll tell you that, outside of the Bible, there's no evidence that the Egyptians ever used Hebrews as slaves. There were some small tribes who were slaves but, despite their reputation as meticulous record keepers, the Egyptians didn't mention anything about the followers of Abraham. So your argument falls rather flat... again.

      As for the Bible as any kind of historic reference, why is there not one single actual date in the entire text? That's some pretty sloppy record keeping.

      June 23, 2010 at 11:38 pm |
  19. Zack

    And no not trolling just having a good discussion after spending all day at the pool with my kids. I enjoy conversations like this, I will not put somebody down for the beliefs and I don't expect others to do that to me. Just posing questions that I have asked myself.

    June 23, 2010 at 4:21 pm |
  20. Zack

    Also not just the parting of the Red Sea but the laws of science defy themselves. Isn't it a scientific law that energy cannot be created nor destroyed but only transformed and changed, if that is the case then where did the energy to create the universe come from. These are questions that science has created laws about but cannot answer.

    June 23, 2010 at 4:20 pm |
    • Chris

      So the energy behind the creation of the universe needs an explanation, but God is completely exempt from the need for such an explanation? That just doesn't make sense to me. Also, I'm sorry, but you have GOT to be freaking kidding; they replicated the parting of the Red Sea in a lab? What did they do, set up a fan and blow it into the pool at the Christian Science Center?

      June 23, 2010 at 5:16 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.