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. Michael

    Christians are offended by this, but turn around and act indignant when Atheists complain about the street sign "heaven" in Brooklyn, NY. Hypocrisy much ... Atheists have just as much right to promote their message as Christians. So much for tolerance among Christians.

    July 7, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
  2. Cowboy

    Are these the same idiots that want the street sign in New York with the word Heaven on it removed because it's offensive?

    July 7, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
    • Muneef

      You mean like Ch-all-eng-er or like the T-itanic (The unsinkable) in their Ad cam-pai-gn have said that even if God wanted to sink the T-itanic he couldn't..!
      They those are ch-all-enging but who pays the price in the end with them are those innocent people who were driven within such un-thankful w-a-ves of disbelieve...

      July 7, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
  3. Muneef

    British Actress Inspired by Prophet's Life
    Myriam Francois-Cerrah Embraces Islam
    'Sense and Sensibility'

    Say (O Prophet!): The evil and the good are not equal even though the excess and abundance of the evil may impress you. So, O people of understanding, be mindful of your duty to Allah that you may succeed." Al-Qur'an, 5:100

    “The two feet of the son of Adam [human being] will not move on the Day of Judgment in front of Allah until he is asked about five things: about his life, and how he spent it? And (more specifically) about his youth, what did he consume it in? And about his money, how did he earn it? And on what did he spend it? And how much did he act upon what he knew?” Hadith


    July 7, 2011 at 1:25 pm |

    Why is it that everyone needs a "group" to support their "individual" beliefs? I'm sorry, but what does it prove? Where it's going to end. It has become an assault on the masses by these so called groups. These groups can't wait to tear down this country internally, and create a system of order which does not recognize any of OUR beliefs. A socialistic society governed by fear,eliminating the very core of Americas ideals. That's the plan and it's been working through our media, our schools, and especially our govenment for quite some time.Take a look around. This is why it's always.....the voices of the few trying to dictate the lives of the many.

    July 7, 2011 at 12:20 pm |
  5. pookie

    Lincoln was an atheist. Was he patriotic?

    July 7, 2011 at 10:57 am |
  6. observer

    The difference between and atheist and an agnostic seems to be that agnostics don't beleive in God because they are not convinced, but atheists don't beleive because they don't want to.

    July 7, 2011 at 6:57 am |
    • reader

      There's nothing like an observer who cannot see clearly, is there?

      July 7, 2011 at 7:06 am |
  7. Jeffa27

    Funny that it is considered "bigotry" to exercise the freedom to not fly with an atheistic banner. I suppose the atheist would be a bigot if he refused to fly a banner that said "Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6.
    Jesus wasn't a bigot. He said "Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

    July 6, 2011 at 7:30 pm |
  8. John


    July 6, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
  9. human as you

    I agree on the principle that we are free to express ourselves but what the Atheist say they want to accomplish and the messages chosen to accomplish that goal do not work in harmony with one another to get the message across. How about something like... I <3 (heart) USA and my freedom to not believe in any god... ideas anyone? while Im here... I believe we are all god... how bout that? 😉

    July 6, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
    • Chas

      I really like "I <3 (heart) USA and my freedom to not believe in any god." With that as a bumper sticker, I imagine I would lose a few antennae due to Christian hate and the oft mentioned belief that this is a Christian nation.

      July 6, 2011 at 3:48 pm |
  10. Stephanie

    Everyone has the right to believe or not to believe as they choose, but I'm confused as to how this group thinks the "God-LESS America" and "Atheism is Patriotic" banners will come across as stating that Atheists are patriotic too. Strikes me as more of a divisive act than an inclusive one.

    July 6, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • Shadowflash1522

      well, "Atheism is Patriotic" pretty much says atheists are patriotic... I think. 🙂

      July 6, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
  11. elogic

    I am an atheist and I don't like proselytizing of any kind. I especially don't like it from atheists. It just makes us look bad. I have no desire to try to convince people not to be religious. (Just keep it separate from our government, please.)

    July 6, 2011 at 12:42 pm |
  12. suspect

    I am not sure where I stand in this squabble however I suspect there is a little bit about my beliefs that both side can love and hate. I simply believe that anything is possible and that no one knows for sure. In my belief I might end up with Jesus or Allah when I die or I might just be worm food. Doesn't really matter to me what happens when I die just what happens while I'm living.
    We do not push this belief on our children. My wife is solidly in the "worm food" camp and my daughter attends a christian church regularly.

    July 6, 2011 at 12:33 pm |
  13. Chas

    "God created science". What crap. Since Galileo, science has proved religion wrong and the religious have persecuted scientists for it. I have a simple test: faith vs science. Have you ever seen one of those huge 1000 lb pendulums in a museum? We will ask someone to pull that pendulum back 25 feet. I will use science to determine the minimum safe distance on the other side (about 24.99 feet). You stand at 20 feet and pray to your god. Then, when your god fails you and you are in the hospital, you can pray for healing, too.

    July 6, 2011 at 11:20 am |
    • Vijay

      II hate replying to these kind of posts, but this forum is full of them. I especially could not resist your post. Is this the standard of your thinking on reason or faith? It is incomprehensible that all you have to say about religion is that to you it seems like delusion, hypocrisy, deceit, power-mongering, etc- and your silly test for it belies your prejudice.

      II personally think atheists have a lot of good things to say if only they would say it without ridiculing sincere people whose intelligence you have no right to question without knowing them. In fact I think atheists do and must keep true theists honest. But I wish that atheists too would sincerely seek to understand why many theists also do good things (without descending into the defensive line about anything they can do we can too).

      July 6, 2011 at 1:02 pm |
    • Jack Bauer

      First Catholic/Christians have committed more murders in the name of religion, Beside heaven is a not real GOD Hell are not real they are tools of fear, you should be your own higher power. When you die your engery is absorded in to the things around you. Most ignorant people need a god to believe in, they need to believe that their life meant something. well hate to break it to you unless you get out there and do something to leave your mark like Ben Franklin, Tomas Edison, Tesla you haven't done anything note worthy. Do you really know what Thanks Givening is about? We celebrate the massacre of the evil indians, go team. So remember men are inherently evil even those who hide beind a badge or a judges robs. Beside the US of A is becoming more and more like Nazi Germany everyday and those of you let yoru rights be violated should be gassed.

      July 6, 2011 at 1:54 pm |
    • Chas

      Vijay, I appreciate your comments. I don't think it is intelligent to dedicate your life to worshipping a fairy, although you are free to do so. However, don't expect my respect, just as I would not get your respect by putting tin foil on my head and calling for the aliens to come pick me up, but it is the same thing. My test (above) is a perfectly valid test of science vs. faith. Since you call it silly, you understand that the inevitable conclusion is that the person standing 20 feet from the pendulum praying will be crushed 100% of the time, whereas the person standing 25 feet away will not be touched 100% of the time. So, you seem to agree that prayer is silly. Of course, it's silly. What I see from theists is hatred. Hatred of gays and hatred of any religion not like their own. There are 2500 religions in the world today. I could be open minded if any of their "bibles" had anything in them that the people of the time could not have known, as would be the case if they were the word of god. Something like "The most abundant thing that thee will find is seven positive and seven negative (basic configuration of Nitrogen), or when we flew into space, seeing a huge cross orbitting the earth, even if that cross was made of space debris. Or, I could be open-minded if theists were nicer than atheists or they lived better lives, but the truth is that most theists are the poor and uneducated, which, when you think about how silly it all is, makes a lot of sense.

      July 6, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • human as you

      The example put forth is not indicative of proof, anyone who puts themselves in harms way on purpose does not preclude that praying will then save them, this is a very narrow point of view and indicative of not having any spiritual or soul moving experiences ever. To you its either black or white and I respect that, I will humbly and simply state that I have experienced absolutely incredible spiritual experiences, however I had to open myself to the possibility. People here say things like "the Catholics, the Christians, the Muslims did this and they did that... NO, each individual human being consciously made a decision to follow others into their individual situation and that applies today. Each of us is their own GOD and we can choose where we put our energy, what is clear is that following another human into battle is just to appease that particular humans ego and no good comes out of that because it is never appeased, it must always keep the troops going until inevitably you are defeated or die trying.

      July 6, 2011 at 2:52 pm |
    • Vijay

      Sorry, Chas. You seem to get your opinions on theists by reading the news which of course sensationalizes everything. If you have not yet seen a theist who does something extraordinarily good, I have to conclude you have not been looking. It is not hard at all.

      And, if you were to ask me whether theists have been remiss in looking for atheists who are also doing good things, I have to say that sadly this is also true. Here is another test. Go to the poorest, most war torn regions in the world. Take a private poll of who does good things there and for what reason. I'm sure you will find many atheists. But please be objective and tell me if there aren't many more theists who do it because their faith compels them.

      July 6, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
    • fam


      July 11, 2011 at 9:03 am |
  14. Tony

    The problem with many of the atheist campaigns is that they are frquently blasphemous and intolerant. A case in point is the "God-less America" sign mention in the article. (I suspect that many of the most vocal atheists secretly do beleive in God, otherwise they would not harbor such animosity towards the faithful.) I am continually amazed by the number of people who demand respect while at the same time denigrating others. Maybe it's not the athesim that people are objecting to – maybe its the hypocrisy.

    July 6, 2011 at 10:08 am |
    • LinCA


      You said "The problem with many of the atheist campaigns is that they are frquently blasphemous and intolerant. A case in point is the "God-less America" sign mention in the article."
      So it is intolerant to proclaim that they don't believe in your fairy tales, but it's OK for believers to publicly profess their ignorance?

      here is no difference between the sign that you are offended by, and the thousands of signs flown, proclaiming "Jesus saves", or similar. Stating otherwise is hypocritical.

      You said "(I suspect that many of the most vocal atheists secretly do beleive in God, otherwise they would not harbor such animosity towards the faithful.)"
      I don't know a single one. Your god is equally likely to exist as Bob the Magical Blue Sock. I only harbor animosity towards the believers that are trying to inject their superstib>tions into my life.

      You said "I am continually amazed by the number of people who demand respect while at the same time denigrating others. Maybe it's not the athesim that people are objecting to – maybe its the hypocrisy."
      As soon as christians and other believers start to actively lobby to remove references to gods from our currency, the Pledge of Allegiance, public buildings, etc, I will stop denigrating them.

      You want respect? Earn it. Fight for equal rights for everyone. Fight against teaching ignorance in schools. Get your religion out of matters of the State.

      You have the right, and are free, to believe whatever nonsense you fell like. But unless you support it with some verifiable evidence, it's still nonsense. Nonsense has no place in the public space.

      July 6, 2011 at 11:02 am |
    • Chas

      Tony, anything that says "There is no god" or anything contradictory to your beliefs is "blasphemous and intolerant" to you. But those are the beliefs of Atheism. Just like every time I see a billboard that says "Jesus is Lord", I feel offended.

      July 6, 2011 at 11:12 am |
  15. dilberth

    We were all born atheist. It's just that after we were born, our mothers and fathers sterilized our brains and poured in the syrup of salvation and belief that we would live after we died. I am glad I got out of the jail of belief.

    July 6, 2011 at 5:05 am |
    • lance_manyon

      Amen to that!

      July 6, 2011 at 10:38 am |
    • Vijay

      Nobody is "born atheist", Dilbert. We are all born into a society which nurtures curiosity and wonder in us. Even if we do not include God in such a system, human beings will always wonder what our origins were and many will conclude that there is a higher power. It is more accurate to say that we all have an innate sense of wonder. We are all born seekers.

      July 6, 2011 at 10:41 am |
    • Realist

      Yep, sad the religionist have to brain wash kids with their crap. Why can't they let kids be kids.

      July 6, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • Renatus

      Vijay, that is atheism–the ability to wonder is not stifled by atheism it is stifled by religion.

      July 7, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • Vijay

      Atheism does not by definition continue to seek after God. It may seek an atheistic explanation of the mechanisms that brought matter and life into existence. But being a born seeker does not mean the same thing as being born as an atheist. Neither theism nor atheism stifles wonder. Wonder will always exist regardless of our beliefs.

      July 7, 2011 at 1:32 pm |
  16. Shelama

    God is a big-breasted lesbian, manic-depressive with multiple personality disorder. Poor Paul of Tarsus was wrong about a lot of other things, too.

    July 6, 2011 at 12:06 am |
  17. mark

    put simply this religious zealousness is no better than the zealots of Islam that you americans decry -wake up and see the natural light-there is nothing else but science -the rest was made up over a long time to supress humans no matter what religion you come from.

    July 5, 2011 at 10:57 pm |
    • Rex Diamond

      Mark, unless you are an American, you have no place commenting on our religious and political landscape. It's something you have to be born into. Lots of us take issue with foreigners pretending to understand and delivering snide little comments.

      July 6, 2011 at 1:46 am |
    • Rex Diamond

      and God created science. Otherwise you could explain why we are here.

      July 6, 2011 at 1:47 am |
    • sgreco

      @Rex Diamond

      Ok, im an american, born and raised. I believe in God. I also believe every American has the right to believe or not believe whatever they want. Any attempt to force your beliefs on others turns freedom into tyrrany.

      July 6, 2011 at 4:14 am |
  18. Muneef

    How do Atheist make their best wishes to others if believe in no God?

    July 5, 2011 at 6:09 pm |
    • Truth

      "Best wishes", "good luck",..

      July 5, 2011 at 10:50 pm |
    • Muneef

      Wished them Best wish's and best of luck from whom to them?
      When you wish some body some thing shouldn't there be some one powerful who make your wishes become true?
      Saying "Good bye" alone means "God be with you "....!!

      Very hard to give up the use of the word God in all best wishes or in sympathizing with some one..people will become as robots in exchanging conversation with out such soothing and cooling words...!

      July 6, 2011 at 5:28 pm |
  19. Terri

    Well, I honestly and with embarassment must say that ATHIESTS talk about GOD more than Christians do.

    July 5, 2011 at 6:02 pm |
    • Truth

      Not in the same context as the religionists..

      July 5, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • Dianne Brown

      Probably true. We take ideas seriously, we've thought about the god idea and looked at the evidence for it. That's why we reject it.

      July 6, 2011 at 2:47 am |
    • Ben

      Yea, right? Sundays...?
      Atheists don't talk about god more than christians, it's just you all try and shove religion down our throats and then demand respect.

      July 6, 2011 at 10:54 am |
    • Alyssa

      ha no. i avoid it because christians are cuh-raze. keep your jesus-speek to yourself pls

      July 6, 2011 at 3:43 pm |
  20. mymilkshake

    i feel so sad for all those poor persecuted christians in america

    July 5, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • Truth

      You mean the Inquisition? The Catholic Hitler? The to become minister Stalin? The christians that came to America and committed the largest massacre ever, 11 million Indians killed? The holy wars?

      July 5, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
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About this blog

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.