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July 4th, 2011
11:22 AM ET

Atheists explain flying ad campaign

On the Fourth of July across the U.S., American Atheists are taking to skies with a flying banner ad campaign.

They will be flying over busy holiday hot spots like beaches and parks with banners that read: "Atheism is Patriotic" and "God-LESS America."

Some pilots balked and would not fly the banner ads. 

Justin Jaye of Fly Signs Aerial Advertising, told the Belief Blog last week,  "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.'"

In the video above, Rick Wingrove from the Virginia chapter of American Atheists explains to CNN's T.J. Holmes more about the campaign and why they picked the Fourth of July.

Watch CNN Newsroom weekdays 9am to 3pm ET and weekends. For the latest from the CNN Newsroom click here.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Content Partner • Faith • TV-CNN Newsroom • United States

soundoff (1,760 Responses)
  1. Maty

    It's important to have as many divergent opinions and beliefs as can fit on the table. These days, with so many raised voices proffering their ideological or spiritual wares, the discussion often turns to degrading insults. The point shouldn't be to muzzle, push down or persuade, it is to have an intelligent discourse, merely to explain ourselves and understand others, so we can live a little more peaceably with one another. This applies to all groups.

    July 4, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • Davidloc

      Religion has crippled humanity for over 2000 years , time to but all facts on the table and stop cluttering it will garbage. There are people that want to teach creationism like a science in school becasue they think that a child should be left to sort it out. That ideology is offensive to most decent Americans , I hope.

      July 4, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Maty

      Creationism is merely a marketing tool by evangelists trying to appear intellectual.

      July 4, 2011 at 2:40 pm |
  2. Nothing But Smiles

    Speaking as someone that IS NOT religious, but VERY spiritual, I wish each and every one of you a happy Forth of July. :o)

    July 4, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
  3. Larry

    Guess I just don't understand why a non-religious organization, if there IS an organization of atheists, feels the need to recruit like a religion, or more importantly, try to shove their belief down my throat like a TV evangelist. Next thing you know they'll be going door-to-door giving away magazines and tracts.

    July 4, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • conoclast

      Sorry buddy, but you really have nothing to fear from atheists; we do NOT proselytize. Save your precious fear for church!

      July 4, 2011 at 2:20 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      We atheists are no more trying to "shove our [absence of] beliefs down your throat" than, say, Ford Motor Company, Anheuser-Busch, Victoria's Secret, Frito-Lay, Nike, or Apple. All we're saying is "Look, we've got this cool product that we think you'd like. Why not check it out?"
         Shoving things down people's throats is when you get the government to try to FORCE beliefs or behaviors on you — you know, the way Christians do. Or had you never heard of the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Salem witch trials, the Holocaust, the corruption of the Pledge of Allegiance, or the faux piety that contaminates all our money?

      July 4, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  4. cadeck

    "For those who believe, no proof is necessary. For those who don't believe, no proof is possible." Stewart Chase

    July 4, 2011 at 2:07 pm |
    • Davidloc

      "For those that think rationally , no belief is necessary" - me

      July 4, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  5. conoclast

    It's interesting - and kind of telling - that an article about atheists turns up on the "Belief" page, as if atheism itself were just another form of religion. The bottom line is that atheists simply don't feel that need-to-believe that the "god-fearing" religious folks do. (Fear seems to be a pretty weak foundation to build a belief system on if you ask me) We atheists will muddle on quietly in the background however; we don't tell you how to live, we don't shake you down for money, and we most certainly don't spread ignorance by proselytizing!

    July 4, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • Maty

      Atheism may not be a belief, but it does pertain to 'spirituality', by fact that it exists to deny the topic. I'm not judging-BTW. To each their own.

      July 4, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  6. willie

    The holiday is called "Independence day", it is celebrated on the 4th of July. Atheists do not believe in theism thus they are not dependent on a god, they are independent. Religious folk are dependent on their god and belief is required. Like America is no longer dependent on England, atheists and agnostics are not dependent on god or religion. This is a holiday to celebrate freedom, not one to shackle someone with belief. The fear those pilots exhibited is real, America can be a scary place to be independent.

    July 4, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • apoloctil

      Very true...there isn;t much place for Christians or religion in July 4th celebrations...they should just keep quiet until thier xmas.

      July 4, 2011 at 2:08 pm |
    • Maty

      So Americans who don't share your opinions should keep quiet? How very American of you.

      July 4, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
    • willie

      @Maty,
      first of all atheism is not a belief, it is an absence of belief. Second, where in my comments did I say for you to keep quiet? Proof that religious people believe things that simply aren't there.

      July 4, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
    • Maty

      I was referring to apoloctil. And I am an atheist, despite your appraisal.

      July 4, 2011 at 2:39 pm |
  7. RaKa

    There is absolutely no proof that atheist actually exist. Most are more obsessed with God than religious people.

    July 4, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • Sean

      That has to be one of the most absurd statements I have seen today.

      July 4, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • Nothing But Smiles

      Absurd as it is, it is the truth.

      July 4, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Looks like normal "bible speak" to me – first there is no evidence of something then the non-existent something is doing something.

      July 4, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • apostate

      We're more obsessed with having rational people run our world, ie. adults without imaginary friends.

      July 4, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
    • will

      "I think, therefore I am".
      There is your proof, if you can only understand...

      July 4, 2011 at 2:28 pm |
    • Sean

      We can never be sure if Descartes, was truly a devout Catholic or if the accusations of atheism are true. But he was a dualist, and Cogito Ergo Sum in all of its brilliance were to be true does it depend on a deity? Pascal saying what he had said about Descartes, makes me think that just maybe, it was funded by the church so it could be published, and Descartes used that funding, he did make it so it did not offend the church. Brilliant man, great philosopher but better mathematician. You can take Anselm's argument as well if your grabbing for straws. A valid argument but not very sound.

      July 4, 2011 at 2:43 pm |
    • twiddly

      chaquita ergo sum (I banana therefore I am).
      May the Holy Dole be with you.

      July 4, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
  8. Steve F

    I'm a Catholic by birth, and by faith I do believe in God; however, I have never told anyone that they would suffer God's wrath if they didn't believe in Jesus Christ. Certainly there are zealots of all kinds (religious and non-religious) who go to great lengths to "win" over the hearts and minds of others. Truly, I don't believe any one person can tell us what is (if there is anything) on the other side. We will only know the truth when we die. And if Jesus Christ were only a man, then let us take away at least one of his greatest thoughts, "Love each other". Certainly, the world would be a better place. I personally do not feel that you need to believe in God to be a Patriot, but I am dismayed that anyone would want to do this on Independence Day. I know our Forefather's came to this land in search of a place where they could worship as they chose without fear of Government reprisal. That is the reason why there is separation of Church and State – to ensure that everyone had that right and, I can believe, to ensure that no one Faith could have an influence in Government to such a degree that the will of the people would be controlled by religious ideology. Our Country has become so divided on many issues. If we don't find a course and steer it straight, I fear that America has truly seen the last of its greatness.

    July 4, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • Donna

      You were an atheist at birth. You were taught to be a catholic afterwards.

      July 4, 2011 at 2:19 pm |
    • 4mercy

      We are all God's children at birth.

      July 4, 2011 at 2:46 pm |
    • 4mercy

      Correction: We are all God's children from the moment we are conceived.

      July 4, 2011 at 2:47 pm |
    • twiddly

      correction, we are all god's children from years of childhood brainwashing

      July 5, 2011 at 12:29 am |
  9. jason

    @luigi
    Magic: an extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a SUPERNATURAL source

    July 4, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
  10. John H Johns

    The atheist pilot FEARS for his life because Christians might harm him. Ironic.

    July 4, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • twiddly

      Ironic but true.
      I think hate/fear of atheists is because if we are right, that means they [theists] are not going to live forever, which of course is quite scary.

      July 4, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • Mikey

      It is isn't it? Of course in many places around the US, athiests pretend to be religious so that they (and their children) don't get shunned by believers, so that they can still get promoted at work, and so their kids don't get picked on at school. It is astonishing to me in 2011, people have to pretend to be religious or they get persecuted by supposedly "Christian" people

      July 4, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • Maty

      The insipid self-victimization of Atheists on this page is incredibly disturbing. When were any of you last beaten/shot at/called out for your beliefs (not saying I have been)? If it's infamy and perceived persecution is what motivates you, where does that leave a true discourse on anything at all?

      July 4, 2011 at 2:29 pm |
  11. John

    Wasnt this already a story?

    July 4, 2011 at 2:02 pm |
    • Davidloc

      They flew on the fourth of July. That is today.

      July 4, 2011 at 2:22 pm |
  12. apoloctil

    I see Christianity going the way of smoking...it will lose favour as people come to realize it is poison, and more and more places will ban it until you have to hide it in your home.

    July 4, 2011 at 2:01 pm |
    • Sean

      Interesting way to put it. Too bad it wont happen in our lifetime.

      July 4, 2011 at 2:06 pm |
    • Davidloc

      Even the bible says to pray in solitude. The churches want to make money on it so they try to keep it out in the open If religions would stop messing with the minds of children it would be ok. Apparently gods message isn't strong enough without indoctrination of the youngest Americans. Everyone is born an athiest and pray as hard as you want or jump up and down a scream or what ever you want , nobody will answer because nobody is there. The little kids getting beaten to death over a period of years should be proof of that. If I was god and I heard the prayers of a little boy chained inside a cage to make his mommy and daddy stop hurting him , they would wake up paralyzed from the neck down and the little kid would be found by a loving couple that desperatly wants to love a child. God a loving creature? I think not !!!

      July 4, 2011 at 2:17 pm |
  13. Sean

    Go to many military cemeteries across our country and overseas and you will find plenty of Atheist, Wiccan, Agnostic soldiers who fought for this country, died and did not believe in a deity. While your at it spit on their graves because you deem them "Unpatriotic" because of their beliefs. More people have been killed in the name of God than for another reason no matter what God is being prayed to. It isn't always whats good for one belief system should be the norm, when I saw all of the Rapture banners I just chuckled. If you don't agree with Atheists, then that is your freedom to do so, but to get your panties in a bunch is insane. Religion holds us back as a species, the sooner people realize that the better off this world will be. Enjoy your holiday people, make the most of it. And thank a Vet even if they pray to a different God or lack there of than you do.

    July 4, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • willie

      Now if we can only get Arlington to stop putting crosses on the graves we could be getting somewhere. That is the scariest cemetery anywhere in the world, so generic and soul less.

      July 4, 2011 at 2:11 pm |
    • Davidloc

      A cemetary is there for the living to look at and think that they honored them by sticking them in the ground. There is no honor in dying but just incredible valor in a soldiers heart before they do.

      July 4, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  14. Randy

    There is no correlation between religion and patriotism. Only a moron doesn't understand this.

    July 4, 2011 at 2:00 pm |
    • will

      exactly, that is why they are flying the banners, to let the morons know that.

      July 4, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      "Only a moron doesn't understand this."
         Millions qualify.

      July 4, 2011 at 2:38 pm |
  15. mexel

    did cnn deliberately misswrote the lettering on the word atheist? i want to believe that this was not on purpose...

    July 4, 2011 at 1:59 pm |
    • Brian

      Do you mean kind of like you miswrote ("misswrote") yours? Everything isn't a conspiracy....

      July 4, 2011 at 2:05 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      This is a fairly common misspelling, probably due to "-est" being the super-intensifier for regular adjectives (pure, purer, purest). But you're right, the correct suffix is the one for nouns, "-ist" (as in capitalist or parachutist), meaning generally "one who ...".
         Cut the CNN captioner a break; the poor schmuck has to work on a holiday weekend, so it's probably some poor intern.

      July 4, 2011 at 2:42 pm |
  16. RichardSRussell

    It's kinda hard to believe that people posting on this board rail at atheists for DARING to make their presence known — and on the 4th OF JULY, of all times (they lament, as if this totally secular holiday is somehow or other sacred to Jesus). If you want to know why it's necessary, just review the news clip, where you'll find that pilots in half the states in America — people who would have no qualms about towing a banner touting Christianity — refused to fly the atheist message, either out of personal disdain for it or out of fear of retribution. THAT'S why atheists need to stand up and be counted. WE ARE AMERICANS, TOO, and we deserve to be treated as full citizens, just like religious people.

    July 4, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
    • monica

      I agree!!!!!!!

      July 4, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • twiddly

      Yes!
      Atheists are the invisible pariahs. The fear of violence from religious zealots is very real.
      I'm waiting for my daughter to graduate high school and then I'm going to "out" myself (wife will not like this).

      July 4, 2011 at 2:04 pm |
    • monica

      If the kooks can skywrite "Jesus Loves You" over Disneyworld every day, we can fly our banners without controversy!

      July 4, 2011 at 2:09 pm |
    • Mikey

      In many places around the US, athiests pretend to be religious so that they (and their children) don't get shunned by believers, so that they can still get promoted at work, and so their kids don't get picked on at school. It is astonishing to me in 2011, people have to pretend to be religious or they get persecuted by supposedly "Christian" people

      July 4, 2011 at 2:12 pm |
    • Natasha Miller

      Well said! I'm atheist as well and I'm kind of cringing a bit at the way he decided to go about this. It seems in a way... on the offensive to most of America. It's kind of hard for me to explain. I think maybe something like "America is secular" or something along those lines and then perhaps something about atheists.

      July 4, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
    • Natasha Miller

      Also I feel forced to pretend to be Christian around my boyfriend's house... I say grace and I've never even done it before lol! I wish I didn't get so picked on. His father said to me "God won't let my son marry a nonbeliever... you'll find your way" -.-

      July 4, 2011 at 2:16 pm |
    • 4mercy

      Natasha, if you feel this way, why would you date someone who is Christian? Why would you subject he and his family to the inevitable conflict which will arise?

      July 4, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • Frogist

      @4Mercy: Wow. Just wow. She shouldn't marry the person she loves because it would confront the bigotry of the boy's parents? Would you have said the same if she's white and he was black in the days of segregation? Just wow.

      July 5, 2011 at 1:30 pm |
  17. Nahu

    my name is nahu and i am from northern virginia and im an atheist. It's a growing trend boo yaaa

    July 4, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  18. Reality

    Third place and gaining as we type and fly our banners:-----–

    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 1:58 pm |
    • Truth

      867 million people are in the world are illiterate... it doesn't mean all of them can't talk.
      Your numbers are based on a small percentage of peoples opinion and have no evidence of this claim.

      July 4, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • open2it

      Um...A lack of Abraham does not equal a lack of God.

      July 4, 2011 at 2:26 pm |
  19. LeDeal

    'God' is a metaphor. Can't we just leave it at that?

    July 4, 2011 at 1:56 pm |
    • Donna

      We could if everyone shared that view.

      July 4, 2011 at 1:58 pm |
  20. Bailee

    When a religious group makes a commercial for their faith, no one cares. When an atheist group does, people suddenly turn red in the face. Double standard much?

    July 4, 2011 at 1:55 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.