Atheists flying ad campaign meets strong resistance
June 30th, 2011
06:41 PM ET

Atheists flying ad campaign meets strong resistance

By Katie Glaeser, CNN

(CNN)–It's a battle of belief - and the right not to believe - in a country founded on freedom.

"I'm a patriotic American. I served my country. I get out there and celebrate the Fourth, too," Blair Scott, who calls himself a proud atheist, proclaimed.

"This America belongs to everyone."

Blair, the communications director for the New Jersey-based American Atheists, said atheists in the United States often feel alienated and face accusations of being anti-American because of their lack of belief in God.

To combat those notions, his group is using Independence Day to say atheists love their country, too.

But the way they're spreading their message might have Americans looking to the sky this Fourth of July and finding something besides fireworks to stir emotion.

Planes with banners that read "God-LESS America" or "Atheism is Patriotic" will be flying over 27 states on Monday. While people might be leery to see the messages overhead, the $23,000 campaign has had a struggle with those who are supposed to bring it to life.

Justin Jaye of Fly Signs Aerial Advertising, who is orchestrating the flights for American Atheists, said out of the 85 people in the country who fly these sign-pulling planes only about 17 have agreed to fly the messages.

"I've been in this business for 20 years and I've never run into so much resistance on people flying," Jaye said. "I've had pilots who are actual atheists who said, 'Justin, I am an atheist and I won't fly it because I can't wear a bulletproof vest.'"

Dave Silverman, president of American Atheists, says the reaction to the organization's campaign before it takes off shows how much work the group still needs to do. "This is a clear reminder of why we need to keep fighting because the bigotry against us is so thick that a lot of the pilots are afraid to fly our banners," he said.

Jaye said while some feared for their lives, others feared for their marriages. He had one pilot say his wife would divorce him if he made the flight.

Red Calvert, a pilot and president of Pro-Air Enterprises in Indianapolis, said his reasons to decline the flight were based on his personal beliefs.

"I respect our country and I respect our churches and we've got enough problems in our country without stirring up some more," he said. "If those people want to do something they believe in, fine, just don't include me."

The American Atheists hope to draw attention and spur public discussion through their campaign on Monday.

"It's going to remind people that atheism is at that ballgame and at that beach and at that parade. We are patriotic people," Silverman said.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • New Jersey • Religious liberty • United States

soundoff (2,835 Responses)
  1. Doni Dillwortho

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    July 29, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
  2. Jim

    Religion is now obsolete. I'm of the opinion that religion was created for two reasons: One; we have a ravenous need to feel that life has a purpose, and two; in the old days if there was no police force or way of keeping a town from anarchy people needed to believe that there was some horrible form of divine retribution that would chastise them for wrongdoing. Since the meaning of life is XBox, and we have more cops than criminals, religion is no longer needed.

    July 27, 2011 at 7:52 pm |
  3. slightlystooopid

    God is the greatest lie invented.

    Religion has caused war after war after war

    And everyone pulling bible verses- you do realize a human wrote that? Its so you stay a good boy and girl and live your life the way they want you to live your life.

    July 27, 2011 at 5:26 pm |
    • bob

      war was never about god, its all about money in the end and living a better life

      July 28, 2011 at 5:43 am |
    • OnLooker

      Sure, religion has unfortunately killed people in the past and probably will in the future, too. But, lets not forget that God-LESS Atheists were responsible for the bloodiest century in the history of mankind. Mao, Hitler, and Stalin. The three greatest mercenaries in human history were devout Atheists. Did you forget that?

      July 28, 2011 at 6:30 pm |
    • Son of Liberty

      Wrong. Hitler was NOT an Atheist; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Hitler's_religious_views

      April 27, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
    • Son of Liberty

      In fact, none of the people you mentioned were Atheists: http://stupac2.blogspot.com/2006/10/hitler-stalin-and-mao-were-not-atheists.html

      April 27, 2012 at 8:37 pm |
  4. BL

    Where is the Class Action Suit against American Atheists, I would like to sign on.

    July 27, 2011 at 4:15 pm |
    • Son of Liberty

      Where is the class action suit against hypocrites? I could get every religious zealot in one shot.

      April 27, 2012 at 8:41 pm |
  5. Maya

    So, atheist ads are unacceptable, but painting John 3:16 on everything in sight is fine?

    July 26, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
  6. stockmarketusa

    Athiest Friends maight say, there is no evidence to support that God exists, so he does not exist. In the past we did not have evidence to prove that sound waves existed, did that mean it did not exist then. Its just that our means of providing evidence to the existence of sound waves improved. So just to say the lack of evidence is the reason enough to prove God's non-existence does not make sense. It just could be we dont have the means to provide the evidence yet. But Science is always growing and needs to be open to all options and not be narrowed down by athiestic ideologies. Drawing quick conclusions based on our present limited understanding of science and making foolish claims like God does not exist is mere arrogance and short-sightedness.

    July 18, 2011 at 12:30 am |
    • Unbeliever

      While you make a good point about science making predictions prior to actually discovering the actual proof, the fact is that God has been spoken about for thousands of years and no evidence has ever been produced. In fact, there have been numerous discoveries that directly contradict the bible giving it less credence. The only evidence that can actually prove the existence of a supreme being would be the presence of the supreme being in a tangible way that everyone could attest to. Just think about it. Many people believe that the bible is true and the only evidence they have is that the bible says so. The books of the NT were written at least 20 to 30 years after the death of the supposed messiah by unknown authors. Many of the historical "facts" found in the books are either uncorroborated or untrue. The bible has many scientific facts wrong, the creation stories do not agree with one another, the idea of a triune god is a tap-dance around the fact that Christians worship more than one god and are therefore breaking the 1st commandment. There are so many problems with this book and yet many people believe in it. I have no problems with changing my opinion about the existence of God if evidence come forth that proves that my current worldview is wrong. I wish Christians could do the same. Many still don't believe that evolution is a fact and never will.

      July 22, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
    • Lycidas

      Keep in mind that the Bible was never meant to be a book on science. Especially since the concept of science as we know it came way after. It is a book of theology and should be taken as such.

      July 22, 2011 at 4:12 pm |
    • J.W

      I agree with Lycidas on that point. Since many of the Bible's writers did not know anything about science, it is possible it will have scientific inaccuracies. I believe that evolution has been shown through the fossil records, but the fossil record does have holes that have not yet been explained.

      July 22, 2011 at 4:31 pm |
  7. redhen3

    Muneef: You spent all that time typing text no one will give a rat's hind end about. Spend time being kind, generous, and peaceful – that's all you need. There is no after life with 47 virgins and spring water. Religion is a hoax – open your eyes and do what is right in the here and now!

    July 17, 2011 at 1:47 am |
  8. Raymond L. Cavness

    To all parties, I can only say...."Fiirst, jettison your prejucices, then, THINK, and don't stop thinking!

    July 10, 2011 at 11:47 am |
  9. Muneef

    Quran verses;

    The Big Bang Theory Confirmed*
    [21:30] Do the unbelievers not realize that the heaven and the earth used to be one solid mass that we exploded into existence? And from water we made all living things. Would they believe?

    [21:31] And we placed on earth stabilizers, lest it tumbles with them, and we placed straight roads therein, that they may be guided.

    [21:32] And we rendered the sky a guarded ceiling. Yet, they are totally oblivious to all the portents therein.

    [21:33] And He is the One who created the night and the day, and the sun and the moon; each floating in its own orbit.

    [21:34] We never decreed immortality for anyone before you; should you die, are they immortal?

    [21:35] Every soul will taste death, after we put you to the test through adversity and prosperity, then to us you ultimately return. 

    All Messengers Ridiculed

    [21:36] When those who disbelieve see you, they ridicule you: "Is this the one who challenges your gods?" Meanwhile, they remain totally heedless of the message from the Most Gracious.

    [21:37] The human being is impatient by nature. I will inevitably show you My signs; do not be in such a hurry.

    [21:38] They challenge: "Where is that (retribution), if you are truthful?"

    [21:39] If only those who disbelieve could envision themselves when they try to ward off the fire – off their faces and their backs! No one will help them then.

    [21:40] Indeed, it will come to them suddenly, and they will be utterly stunned. They can neither avoid it, nor can they receive any respite.

    [21:41] Messengers before you have been ridiculed, and, consequently, those who ridiculed them incurred the retribution for their ridiculing.

    Priorities Confused
    [21:42] Say, "Who can protect you from the Most Gracious during the night or during the day?" Indeed, they are totally oblivious to the message of their Lord.

    [21:43] Do they have gods who can protect them from us? They cannot even help themselves. Nor can they accompany one another when they are summoned to face us.

    [21:44] We have provided for these people and their ancestors, up until an old age. Do they not see that every day on earth brings them closer to the end? Can they reverse this process?

    [21:45] Say, "I am warning you in accordance with divine inspiration." However, the deaf cannot hear the call, when they are warned.

    [21:46] When a sample of your Lord's retribution afflicts them, they readily say, "We were indeed wicked."

    [21:47] We will establish the scales of justice on the Day of Resurrection. No soul will suffer the least injustice. Even the equivalent of a mustard seed will be accounted for. We are the most efficient reckoners.
    Verse 21:30 translation of the Arabic word for the big bang as per Arabic-English Dictionary is; (to unsew,un-st-itch,rip open,tear,rend,slit open). 

    -Another translation of verse 21:30
    Have not those who disbelieve known that the heavens and the earth were of one piece, then We parted them, and we made every living thing of water? Will they not then believe? (30)

    -Another translation of verse 21:44
    Nay, but We gave these and their fathers ease until life grew long for them. See they not how we visit the land, reducing it of its outlying parts? Can they then be the victors? (44).

    July 7, 2011 at 6:50 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.