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. Matt

    Please, one scripture at a time.

    I will cut and paste those you cited there to do research one my and not paste the answers I find here, okay.?

    Your answer to Genesis 6:6: The Bible reveals God, Jehovah has affections and emotions, the Bible describes him as having a “heart.” At the time of the Flood “he felt hurt at his heart,” regretting that men had rejected his righteous rule, making it necessary for him to turn from being their benefactor to becoming their destroyer. (Ge 6:6) That is why /how He became "dissatisfied" as you say.

    When you pick a scripture here and pick a scripture there; a person tends to take of things out of Bible context and much confusion results.

    July 4, 2011 at 10:36 am |
    • Bucky Ball

      If there were a (supreme) creator, it would have created space-time, and as such existed outside, (apart from) those dimensions."That is why /how He became 'dissatisfied' as you say." To "become dissatisfied" is a process, ie a temporally, (get it..TIME) dependent anthropomorphic emotional projection. It, (and the projection of emotion of any sort) is therefore completely invalid, on it's face.

      July 4, 2011 at 11:45 am |
    • Ted M.

      -Bucky Ball-
      Very well said.

      July 4, 2011 at 11:52 am |
    • Roxie

      If god knows everything, why was he surprised the people in Noah's time were so evil? He repented of having created them? How can you change your mind (repent) when you already know what is going to happen before ANYTHING happens?

      That just doesn't make sense!

      And how does the context change the meaning of the scripture? Be specific.

      Thank you!

      July 4, 2011 at 11:15 pm |
  2. brad

    THe atheists look at the believers and accuse them of believing in sky fairies, myths, so on. THe fact is, believers sense something infinitely higher, and religion is merely a language to express the results of their contemplations. The atheist considers this delusional. I acknowledge their right to feel this way (as long as they are aware of their own inner conflicts, emotional swings, and rational mistakes. ) But I would challenge the atheist in the spirit of discussion: you are offering the believer what amounts to a great Void. Can you contemplate a total, eternal void? I don't think anyone has the capacity to imagine it, any more than imagining eternity. But while the believer becomes "delusional", I think coming face to face with the Void can lead to insanity.

    July 4, 2011 at 10:19 am |
    • Ted M.

      This "void" you are talking about is just laughable.
      And as for atheists "offering" a "void" to believers is nonsense. We aren't offering you anything. We just don't believe in your fake religion. That's not an offer, that's a declaration that we do not believe in your gods.
      If you think there's a void somewhere, you'd have a pretty hard time pointing it out to any scientist, as no void exists that I have ever heard of in all my years.
      I can imagine a void of nothingness. It's a little hard to remove all preconceptions, but I can get an idea of what a void would be like. As a concept, it's as empty and useless a concept as you could wish for.
      Delusion is delusion. If you have proof that you are not delusional despite considerable evidence to the contrary, then why not bring it forth and share it with all of us?

      July 4, 2011 at 11:24 am |
    • Aaron

      @brad – It would be unfortunate if all we faced was a great void at the end of it all, but that wouldn't change whether or not it was actually true. If it's true that there is absolutely no afterlife, then that would be useful information in living your life, handling your relationships with family, etc. Not offering enough? What does this "special language" provide you, aside from walings and incantations? How about the information that you will never see your family again after they die; I hope that information can be useful to at least someone. It may not be 100% sure, but it's the best we can tell. While evidence for an afterlife is nill. It is delusional to believe in such things as a God that intervenes in human affairs (or any God in my opinion), but the thing I think you don't give enough credit to the atheist (and too much to the theist) is that rationalists will always admit their mistakes, correct them, and base their conclusions on evidence; good luck with that in the congregation. -peace.

      July 4, 2011 at 11:31 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      Brad that is a very interesting question for them.

      July 4, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
  3. Auntie Mabel

    Our Declaration of Independence put forth the main reasons why we were throwing off the shackles of England's religious monarchy and the oppression England was visiting upon the Colonies.
    The different Colonies had mixtures of different religious communities within each one. Co-existence was crucial if we were to unite as a country in the face of the brutal tyranny of the English king and the bullying of Parliament.
    Now we have a country that denies every religion the power to rule our country, and we are represented (extremely badly) in Congress by people we vote for.
    Instead of a king given authority by a church, we have a President who is given authority by the people.
    And we still have mixed communities with many different religions all living side-by-side.
    We ain't dead yet!
    Those leaders in the American Revolution were for the People of the Colonies. That's how we united into a country.
    We allow for the different religions to live side-by-side in peace. They are ruled by the laws of the country, not the laws of a single religion.
    That's Freedom with a capital "F".
    And that's what we are celebrating today!

    July 4, 2011 at 10:18 am |
    • Ted M.

      I see you have posted this all over the place.
      Well done!
      And Happy Independence Day to you as well!

      July 4, 2011 at 11:27 am |
  4. Matt

    @Sarah Herman
    No I would never call you or your family "un-American" what good would ever come from that? Perhaps we could call you Sarah Herman- the woman who chooses unbelief. Would be more a more accurate a comment, and in harmony with our free will. That choice is a personal one and one held accountable for that what you wish. =)

    July 4, 2011 at 10:01 am |
  5. Matt

    @Sarah Herman
    heheehhe. that's funny. No I promise that this is no special club or sorority. Any individual is free to join, and is under no obligation of monetary dues.

    July 4, 2011 at 9:38 am |
  6. Matt

    @Jeff Williams
    Actually Faith is defined this way: Hebrews 11:1 "What is Faith? It is the confident, assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hope for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead. Men of God in the days of old were famous for their faith." Then it goes on to give the example of some fifteen other individuals who manifested Faith and Trust in God.

    @Sarah Herman
    You do realize that you just discredited and erased the writings of the Roman and Jewish Historian Flavius Josephus?

    For he was I witness to the historicity of Jesus and those around him. You are a person who does not believe in historians? Next, you'll tell me that the Holocaust did not happen?

    July 4, 2011 at 9:30 am |
    • Jeff Williams

      """Flavius Josephus"""

      C'mon Matt. Don't equate Josephus with the holocaust. Really, don't go there.

      Josephus' mention of Jesus has been challenged as to its authenticity. Note also that Jesus supposedly died in 33 AD – before Josephus was even born.

      July 4, 2011 at 10:19 am |
  7. Freethinksman

    We are a nation of diverse groups. We are not a nation of Christianity. People can, will, and ought to believe in whatever makes them happy. But religion has no place in government. The government represents all people. Not just Muslims or Jews or Christians. When our politicians pander to the religious right by claiming the US is a Christian Nation, they are not only wrong in fact, but wrong in principle. America was founded with the idea that anyone can worship whatever flavor of god they choose, or no god. The founding fathers knew that favoring one god over another would be devisive and self destructive.

    So quit claiming your god is "America's God". It isn't. It's your concept, your god, your security blanket. It isn't mine. America is wonderful and amazing country precisely because your god has nothing to do with it's function.

    July 4, 2011 at 9:30 am |
  8. Matt

    @ Rainer Braendlin
    I am not allowed to say here. I have taken an oath. However, away from here, I could tell you outrightly. But if you want to know- I know that God will reveal my religion to you in due time. =)

    July 4, 2011 at 9:06 am |
    • Sarah Herman

      What does that even mean? You have taken an oath, It will be revealed?! Are you Phi Kappa Phi? Sounds like a sorority.

      July 4, 2011 at 9:12 am |
    • News Flash

      I am a giant magic rabbit, but I am not allowed to talk about it. All will be revealed in due course. Oooohhhh.

      July 4, 2011 at 10:42 am |
  9. Sarah Herman

    Ok so the flying banners were a bit much. My husband and I and my family are atheist (I come from a VERY long line of Atheist people) and we love our country! Remember Atheism and Anarchists are 2 different things. My family helped settle this country, came from England not long after the revolutionary war and drove ox carts from New York to Pennsylvania to Michigan, fought in the civil war, we were ranchers, farmers, barbers and violin makers. My family did it without god then and we continue our traditions. I pity the fool who calls me or my family un-American.

    July 4, 2011 at 9:01 am |
  10. Matt

    you said our "Believe or burn" doctrine. The hellfire/damnation doctrine that you mentioned is unloving and incompatible with Bible truth.

    Those who preach and teach this doctrine are wrong, it is a scare tactic.
    There is no hellish place of torment for eternity. Hell is the just the grave- a place for burial.
    No one today is going to a place of torment to burn eternally for their unbelief.
    But one does understand that that persons life would end because of one's refusal.

    For example, Some one says: "Hey get out of the water- there are Sharks! A person can say "No I don't believe in Sharks, and I don't believe that sharks are there in the water." Who's fault is it if that person goes into the water and gets eaten by the Shark? It cannot be the person who issued the warning can it? Certainly, to be skeptical and unbelieving can prove to be deadly.

    July 4, 2011 at 8:52 am |
  11. Rainer Braendlein

    Don't believe the atheistic nonsense!

    Here is the truth: Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, died for our sins on the cross. Everybody, believing in Jesus Christ, will experience redemption and forgiveness. Get set free in the name of Jesus!

    July 4, 2011 at 8:42 am |
    • Jeff Williams

      """Here is the truth: Jesus Christ"""

      What is truth, really? And how can what you *believe* be truth if it's something you must have faith in?

      Faith is the direct opposite of truth, so quit deluding yourself that your belief has any semblance of credibility.

      You believe in a mythology fostered by your culture, ingrained in you since you were a gullible, naive child. It is not truth.

      July 4, 2011 at 8:53 am |
    • Sarah Herman

      Ya know the Romans kept records of who they killed, funny how your very important person does not exist in history just in the bible.

      July 4, 2011 at 9:04 am |
  12. Reality

    Third place and gaining as we type:-----------------

    o http://www.adherents.com/Religions_By_Adherents.html

    oReligion >>Adherents

    Christianity 2.1 billion

    Islam 1.5 billion

    Irreligious/agnostic/atheism 1.1 billion

    Hinduism 900 million

    Chinese traditional religion 394 million

    Buddhism 376 million
    Animist religions 300 million
    African traditional/diasporic religions 100 million
    Sikhism 23 million
    Juche 19 million
    Spiritism 15 million
    Judaism 14 million
    Baha'i 7 million
    Jainism 4.2 million
    Shinto 4 million
    Cao Dai 4 million
    Zoroastrianism 2.6 million
    Tenrikyo 2 million
    Neo-Paganism 1 million
    Unitarian Universalism 800,000
    Rastafari Movement 600,000

    1.5 million Conservative Jews and there rabbis have concluded that Abraham, based on lack of text and architectural evidence, probably did not exist. Therefore Christianity, Islam and Judaism have no foundation and fail as religions moving irreligious, atheists and agnostics to the top of the list.


    July 4, 2011 at 8:40 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      Three kinds of cancer: Atheism, papacy, Islam.

      Also Neopaganism is ill!

      July 4, 2011 at 8:46 am |
    • Sarah Herman

      So many gods so little time

      July 4, 2011 at 9:06 am |
  13. Matt

    @David Johnson
    You said: "My parents and myself are not all powerful, all knowing, all good gods. We are mortals. If my loved ones were sick, and I knew about it, had the power to change it...then they would not be sick. You are not addressing the argument.

    I AM addressing the argument: You are saying that " God does not exist because He does not take action and remove sickness today? This is your "evidence" that God does not exist because sickness continues today?

    You have said: "if God exists and is all good, we must have evidence that all of the evil / suffering we see, are for a higher purpose.

    The Answer: Is found in God's Word the Bible, that Book explains God's purpose. It reveals how we got here and why we get sick and die. It answers why human suffering continues today, and reveals that God has set a time to remove it and those individuals held accountable for it. It also answers why evil is all around us? and many, many other things that- if you would like to consider; you may find real answers to. So that we are not "left up to guess what lesson we are to take away from our ordeals."

    Unfortunately, there are hundreds of Christian religions out there. And there can be one hundred different ways to interpret what one reads in the Bible. The key is to follow the example of the 1 century Christian congregation because if you stick with that. you will be able to pick the real from the false Christians today.

    Just something you may like to consider. I appreciate your comments and insights that you have put forth here.
    Thanks again for your time and attention. Have a great July 4th.

    July 4, 2011 at 8:05 am |
    • Reality

      Saving 2 billion lost Christian souls :

      There was and never will be any bodily resurrections i.e. No Easter, no Christianity- Priceless!!!

      July 4, 2011 at 8:44 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein


      Which denomination do you belong to?

      July 4, 2011 at 8:50 am |
    • Scott

      1. God is satisfied with his works
      Gen 1:31
      God is dissatisfied with his works.
      Gen 6:6
      2. God dwells in chosen temples
      2 Chron 7:12,16
      God dwells not in temples
      Acts 7:48
      3. God dwells in light
      Tim 6:16
      God dwells in darkness
      1 Kings 8:12/ Ps 18:11/ Ps 97:2
      4. God is seen and heard
      Ex 33:23/ Ex 33:11/ Gen 3:9,10/ Gen 32:30/ Is 6:1/
      Ex 24:9-11
      God is invisible and cannot be heard
      John 1:18/ John 5:37/ Ex 33:20/ 1 Tim 6:16
      5. God is tired and rests
      Ex 31:17
      God is never tired and never rests
      Is 40:28
      6. God is everywhere present, sees and knows all things
      Prov 15:3/ Ps 139:7-10/ Job 34:22,21
      God is not everywhere present, neither sees nor knows all
      Gen 11:5/ Gen 18:20,21/ Gen 3:8
      7. God knows the hearts of men
      Acts 1:24/ Ps 139:2,3
      God tries men to find out what is in their heart
      Deut 13:3/ Deut 8:2/ Gen 22:12
      8. God is all powerful
      Jer 32:27/ Matt 19:26
      God is not all powerful
      Judg 1:19
      9. God is unchangeable
      James 1:17/ Mal 3:6/ Ezek 24:14/ Num 23:19
      God is changeable
      Gen 6:6/ Jonah 3:10/ 1 Sam 2:30,31/ 2 Kings 20:1,4,5,6/
      Ex 33:1,3,17,14
      10. God is just and impartial
      Ps 92:15/ Gen 18:25/ Deut 32:4/ Rom 2:11/ Ezek 18:25
      God is unjust and partial
      Gen 9:25/ Ex 20:5/ Rom 9:11-13/ Matt 13:12

      July 4, 2011 at 8:56 am |
    • Sarah Herman

      We could have resurrections IF zombies were real, but they are not or at least i have never met anyone who knew one.

      July 4, 2011 at 9:14 am |
  14. Rainer Braendlein

    From the point of view of the Christian Church atheism involves a big danger:

    According to the Holy Writ, we are all affected be the original sin. What does that mean? Answer: We are all very inclined to sin. An atheist may say: "There is no original sin!". I ask back: "You got never annoyed at your neighbour?" Your neighbour never got annoyed at you? If their would be no sin, there would be no anger between us. So we have proved, there is a problem: Bad behaviour causes anger and unhappyness. Do you really want to claim, you had never done something wrong?

    We need a Redeemer. Without a Redeemer we will more and more get ruled by the sin and in the course of time we become little monsters, not able to love with affection, but full of hate and anger.

    If their would be no God and no Redeemer, we would be condemned to everlasting wickedness and mankind would become a stinky midden. Atheism indirectly destroys mankind, because it denys God, who could set us free from or sinfulness. It sounds so harmless: "There is not God!" Just a ridicolous statement, someone could say, but atheism is yet dangerous. We all have the potential to become predators. A worldview, like atheism ,denying the God, who wants to release us from sin, is wicked.

    The truth: Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, died for our sins on the cross. When we believe in him, we get set free from sin.

    July 4, 2011 at 6:52 am |
    • Reverend Strategy Pony

      "From the point of view of the Christian Church ISLAM involves a big danger:"

      "From the point of view of the Christian Church WOMEN involves a big danger:"

      "From the point of view of the Christian Church PEOPLE OF COLOR involves a big danger:"

      "From the point of view of the Christian Church GAYS involves a big danger:"

      See where I'm going with this? Religion, not just Christianity, has always divided people into the "us vs them" groups because of "belief" and "faith." Atheism uses reason to discern truth and dispels these Bronze Age myths.

      I support this campaign, we should have more.

      July 4, 2011 at 8:11 am |
    • Reverend Strategy Pony

      " It sounds so harmless: "There is not God!" Just a ridicolous statement, someone could say, but atheism is yet dangerous. We all have the potential to become predators. "

      Do you really believe that the threat of everlasting damnation is the only thing that's keeping you from becoming a predator? Without a redeemer, as you say, you would start doing predatory things? That, in itself, is a ridiculous statement.

      That's like saying, "if drugs were legal, I'll immediately start shooting heroin, because the only thing stopping me right now is the law."

      July 4, 2011 at 8:23 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein

      @Reverend Strategy Pony

      I love women (astonished?) and people of color. Gays I offer the gospel, so that they may be set free. When they repent, they are welcome in the House of God.

      I love even my Muslim neighbours, but the Koran is garbage. I am reading the Koran second time. Muhammad hates Jews and Christians. He condems Jews and Christians, because he thinks, they are Muslims, having turned apostate.

      July 4, 2011 at 8:34 am |
    • Scott

      You know you're a Christian when you feel insulted and "dehumanized" when scientists say that people evolved from other life forms, but you have no problem with the Biblical claim that we were created from dirt.

      You know you're a Christian when you laugh at polytheists, but you have no problem believing in a triune God.

      You know you're a Christian when you vigorously deny the existence of thousands of gods claimed by their religions, but feel outraged when someone denies the existence of yours.

      July 4, 2011 at 8:58 am |
  15. brent2005

    too bad it will be too late when the non believers are in hell. sorry, can't start believing then.

    July 4, 2011 at 6:21 am |
    • Odessa

      The reason Christians send out the salvation messages of Jesus Christ into the world against all obstacles and threats and dangers. All other belief systems don't need to do evangelism because no one needs them. Religions, as well as stuff like atheism, don't offer salvation at all, except for the Christianity.

      July 4, 2011 at 6:43 am |
  16. Herby Sagues

    This is ill-advised marketing. As an Atheist (I tend to call myelf a Rational Person though) I think that it is very important that Atheists work hard to promote unconstrained reason and fight against those that relegate atheists to anything other than first class citizens, but these banners are ill-advised and will do very little to further our views.

    July 4, 2011 at 5:28 am |
  17. Odessa

    It's time for Americans to stress and value moral, godly character, not just freedom. Freedom is simply a woeful chaos to hedonists and a prelude for destruction. Hedonists destroy the land with everyone in it; they have no right to sing freedom. People should not be free to destroy others.

    July 4, 2011 at 3:32 am |
    • SDGuy

      If i believe in the pagan gods of old would that be godly enough for you? or do you want me to believe in a specific god...

      July 4, 2011 at 3:34 am |
    • Scott

      Yes, like this moral and godly quote from Moses about what to do with little girls

      And Moses said unto them “Have ye saved all the women alive?... Now therefore Kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known a man by lying with him, but all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves” Num 31:1-2, 9-11, 14-18

      July 4, 2011 at 4:40 am |
    • Odessa

      Scott, it's nothing to do with little girls. That race deserved execution to protect future generations and surrounding nations from con-tamination at that particula time, but those women along with some others received exceptional mercy. In the ancient world, because vengeance was a duty of everyone, elements of the future dangers were often eliminated completely. Isreal only had some certain tribes designated for elimination because those tribes were worse than Sodomites and Noah's generations. They would have been destroyed by natural causes instantly even if Israel left them alone. All other tribes were made mere subject or untouched.

      July 4, 2011 at 5:37 am |
    • Odessa

      The hi-de-ous tribes in Canaan have spiritual meanings. It's any kind of sins one must give up in life or difficulties one has to overcome by trusting in God. This world has lots of elements of real evil that must be destroyed or eradicated by believers. Christians are more realistic and more effective than anyone else in the world regarding combating the evil because of the Bible. Americans became naive and ineffective by ignoring the Bible teachings.

      July 4, 2011 at 5:45 am |
    • Rainer Braendlein


      Hi, which denomination do you belong to?

      I am a Protestant.

      July 4, 2011 at 6:57 am |
  18. Odessa

    Founding Fathers were already very moral; the immortal value of being moral and godly was out of question to former Americans. That's why they only stressed justice and liberty along with asking God for help. Americans, wake up. You were not born for filthy pleasures on a dying planet. Remember your godly legacy on the Independence Day. Having everything is meaningless to you unless your nation humbles itself before God again.

    July 4, 2011 at 3:24 am |
    • SDGuy

      Slavery is pretty moral... so is misogyny, adultery.... sound like pretty moral guys. wanna bring that back?

      July 4, 2011 at 3:33 am |
    • Odessa

      SDGuy, The Christian British and Christian Americans abolished slavery all over the world by Biblical principles. Besides, Americans in the north always wanted to free slaves, but the plantation guys always opposed. Christians still fight against all forms of slavery in the frontlines all over the world.

      July 4, 2011 at 5:25 am |
    • William V

      SDGuy, your speech sounds very reactionary like you have a chip on your shoulder and you are looking for an argument.

      July 4, 2011 at 5:34 am |
    • MQ

      Odessa, you might want to check out a few history books on the Civil War and read up. you're waaaaay off base! as for Christians fighting slavery, I think they're pretty good at oppressing people all on their own.

      July 4, 2011 at 7:09 am |
  19. Heisenberg

    American Atheists! I am with you.

    July 4, 2011 at 3:18 am |
  20. Galt

    Welcome to America – where your freedoms are constantly tempered with fear.

    July 4, 2011 at 3:13 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.