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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. Zack

    My belief in God explains science.

    June 23, 2010 at 5:14 pm |
  2. Zack

    My proof (the proof I need to believe, much the same as you have your proof to not believe) is in the science. The fact that science cannot begin to explain the creation of the universe (continually using this, because it is the biggest and best example) where as my belief can.

    June 23, 2010 at 5:13 pm |
    • Drew

      @Zack,

      You said, "My proof (the proof I need to believe, much the same as you have your proof to not believe) is in the science. The fact that science cannot begin to explain the creation of the universe (continually using this, because it is the biggest and best example) where as my belief can."

      So your belief based on faith, which is based on no facts at all? It is true that modern science cannot prove everything because it's still in it's infancy. Every day, more facts are presented as technology provides us with clues to everything. The difference between your religion/belief and science is, religion is like ROM, it's read-only, it doesn't change or get updated as new findings or evidence is presented but science is like RAM, it gets updated based on new findings and scientists are the first ones to accept a new theory based on new evidence and facts, unlike your religion which throws all reason and rationale out the window.

      June 23, 2010 at 5:30 pm |
  3. Zack

    Actually, the bible does say something about the dinosaurs, i dont remember exactly where and really dont have the time to go researching it right now, but it does bring up "Giants bigger than any man and of a much different species"
    I believe in dinosaurs, never said they didn't exist

    June 23, 2010 at 5:11 pm |
    • Drew

      @Zack,

      You said, "Actually, the bible does say something about the dinosaurs, i dont remember exactly where and really dont have the time to go researching it right now, but it does bring up "Giants bigger than any man and of a much different species""

      That doesn't mention dinosaurs or lay proof that the bible mentions dinosaurs. The only mentioning close is in Job where they call or describe it as "behemoth" and "Leviathan". Most scholars agree that these are references to either the hippopotamus and crocodile for either and those that believe it is describing dinosaurs is highly debatable. There are plenty of animals bigger than man, so claiming that this is the bible speaking about dinosaurs is your own interpretation, not based on facts. Learn your bible if you're going to use it in arguments.

      June 23, 2010 at 5:23 pm |
    • ttwp

      I hardly think a hippo's tail "sways like a cedar" (Job 40:17). Maybe a very small cedar.

      June 24, 2010 at 8:52 am |
  4. Zack

    Yes but it is a scientific law stating that energy cannot be created nor destroyed, so where did the energy for the creation of the universe come from. Also if you believe all newton did was discover gravity, you didn't get a very good grade in science or in history did you.

    June 23, 2010 at 5:09 pm |
  5. Eric G.

    Zack......I forget – Which day did god make all the fossils?

    June 23, 2010 at 5:09 pm |
  6. lawl

    I'd like to see the proof. Might change my mind. Btw don't offer a book that was written by man, stating that absence of proof is proof in itself, or just faith it's self is enough proof. Oh how about this thought "If God didn't create us where did we come from?" that isn't proof either.

    June 23, 2010 at 5:09 pm |
  7. Zack

    That is my only problem with trying to have a decent discussion, people like Eric G. rather than talk just want to bash people not knowing anything about the subject

    June 23, 2010 at 5:08 pm |
  8. Solex

    ZACK – newton did not try to explain the universe.

    He just wanted to explain why the apple fell – not why Eve ate it.

    June 23, 2010 at 5:07 pm |
  9. Zack

    Never lived in Kansas. And do you want me to copy and paste newtons law for you so that way you can see that it does state that energy can be neither created nor destroyed

    June 23, 2010 at 5:07 pm |
  10. Eric G.

    I Went to Public School in Kansas and All I Got Was This Lousy T-shirt and a Poor Understanding of the Scientific Method.

    June 23, 2010 at 5:06 pm |
  11. Zack

    might have exposed an underwater ridge, which the Israelites crossed as if it were dry land. Although the event is plausible,

    June 23, 2010 at 5:05 pm |
  12. Zack

    Science is the pursuit of fact absolutely agree with what was said, the only thing is newtons law begs the question of how was the universe created.

    June 23, 2010 at 5:04 pm |
    • Nurse K in San Diego

      You know, scientists don't really say that the universe came from nothing. What is known begins with a singularity, which is something. So something was already there/here.

      Given that we can trace the development of the universe back to within a fraction of second after the big bang, and given that the blind forces of nature have been running things since then, I see no reason to suppose that anyone was needed to create our universe. It makes sense given the fact that, if there are sentient beings beyond our universe, then they live in an even larger space that is likely governed by phsycical laws and had to develop over time as well. It opens up the possibilities to such an extent that our universe begins to seem nothing more than a speck. And it becomes more and more difficult to find a place to insert the claim "God did it."

      Frankly, I'm not at all opposed to the idea that someone might have been powerful enough to create a big bang, but I am opposed to calling that being "God" given that it could just as easily be some bumbling group of humgry people raising universes as food for their pigs.

      June 23, 2010 at 5:23 pm |
  13. PHIL

    If you increase the ratio, then the wind by my math would have to be blowing between 10,000 and 17,000 mph depending on where in the sea they were. You might find that on Jupiter.

    June 23, 2010 at 5:03 pm |
  14. Zack

    Many many people struggle and question with their religious beliefs through out there life time.

    June 23, 2010 at 5:03 pm |
  15. Eric G.

    As an atheist, I do not believe in god. I do love believers..............they make me smile.

    June 23, 2010 at 5:02 pm |
    • Vivian

      @Eric >As an atheist, I do not believe in god. I do love believers..............they make me smile.

      As a Christian, I believe in Jesus and God. I know and love my atheist, free-thinkers, and humanist friends. They make me smile too 😉 We agree to disagree and also agree not to get into silly debates. We discuss the reasons we believe the way we believe. The world would be a much brighter place if we could all just quit trying to 'fix' one another and reason together instead of trying to always figure out who is right and who is wrong. Deep inside each of us think 'we' have the right answer. We love each other and stand by each other despite our difference of opinion on any issues of the day. Love is a powerful force.

      June 24, 2010 at 3:48 am |
  16. Zack

    Drew, I never said any of that, go back and look at who said that because I can tell I have not brought up anything about Muhammad

    June 23, 2010 at 5:02 pm |
    • Drew

      That reply was directed to Jason further back, clicked the wrong reply.

      June 23, 2010 at 5:12 pm |
  17. Solex

    Atheists do not "worship" themselves – they just don't blame other things for their behaviors (good or bad). Science is NOT a religion nor does it strive to disprove religion. Science is the pursuit of FACT while religion is the pursuit of TRUTH. TRUTH is a relative concept – what is true to you is not necessarily true to me – and vice versa.

    FACTS are incontrivertable – they cannot be challenged – and thus believe it or not, the MUCH MORE DIFFICULT paradigm.

    It is much more difficult to be an atheist than a cultist. Atheists question, cultists submit. Atheists reason, cultists believe. Atheists look to themselves for answers, cultists want the answers given to them.

    So I WANT to be an atheist. To quote Tom Hanks:

    "The hard is what makes it great."

    June 23, 2010 at 5:01 pm |
    • Joel3

      Solex – The vast majority of science when it comes to life and the creation of it are ALL based on THEORY. Man has no proof of anything one way or another when it comes to this subject. It's a big GUESSING GAME and they just happened to choose the answer that sounds the best or makes the most sense "logically." Again, they are trying to explain creation with human logic which has NO PLACE in this area. Your tiny little brains could not fathom the size and scope of the life, creation, or the universe. Please GET OVER YOURSELVES.

      June 25, 2010 at 9:49 am |
  18. Zack

    And my allegiance first and foremost is to God,

    June 23, 2010 at 5:01 pm |
    • Carol

      Zach,
      If that is true, they you shouldn't be saying The Pledge at all. It states your allaince to America not God. You can't serve two masters.

      June 24, 2010 at 6:55 pm |
  19. Zack

    Like I said before, God put us here to make choices, we chose to take this land. I never said he gave it to us.

    June 23, 2010 at 5:00 pm |
  20. Eliot

    The original wording of the Pledge not only didn't mention God, it never mentioned the United States.

    June 23, 2010 at 4:59 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.