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First on CNN: Atheist group targets presidential candidates' faith with billboards
A billboard criticizing Christianity is going up in Charlotte, North Carolina, host city of the upcoming Democratic National Convention.
August 13th, 2012
10:03 AM ET

First on CNN: Atheist group targets presidential candidates' faith with billboards

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) - A prominent atheist group is using next month's Democratic National Convention to take aim at the presidential candidates' religion, putting up billboards targeting Mormonism and Christianity in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“Our political system is rife with religion and it depends too much on religion and not enough on substance," said David Silverman, president of American Atheists, sponsor of the ads.

"Religion is silly and religion has components that are inherently divisive. … There is no place for any of that in the political system,” he said.

The billboards go up Monday in Charlotte and will stay up for a month at a cost of roughly $15,000. The Democratic convention runs September 3-6.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

The billboard targeting Christianity features an image of Jesus Christ on toast and this description of the faith: "Sadistic God; Useless Savior, 30,000+ Versions of ‘Truth,’ Promotes Hates, Calls it ‘Love.’ ”

The billboard targeting Mormonism lambastes - and, Mormons would say, distorts - specific Mormon doctrines: "God is a Space Alien, Baptizes Dead People, Big Money, Big Bigotry.”

The Mormon billboard features a man in white underwear, a reference to special Mormon garments.

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Both billboards feature the line "Atheism: Simply Reasonable."

American Atheists had wanted to put the anti-Mormon billboard in Tampa, Florida, to coincide with the Republican National Convention there later this month. Presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney is a Mormon. When no billboard company in the city would lease the group space for such a sign, Silverman said the organization decided to focus solely on the Democrats in Charlotte.

“Presidential conventions are for ideas, not ideology - platforms, not platitudes," Silverman said. "If a person believes stupid things, we have every right to question his or her judgment, and that directly impacts how the nonreligious voter votes.”

CNN Belief Blog: Atheist leader hopes to mobilize closeted nonbelievers

Some religious leaders said the billboards showed a misunderstanding of how faith works.

"That billboard makes the most common high-school error when it comes to atheism," wrote the Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author, in an e-mail to CNN. "It's not arguing against the existence of God, but against religion. The American Atheists need to go back to school on this one."

Martin also questioned the language used on the billboard: "And as for 'promoting hate' they're doing a bang-up job themselves with that billboard."

Terryl Givens, a Mormon professor at the University of Richmond, called American Atheists "petty and vindictive."

“If this example of adolescent silliness is what atheists mean by being reasonable, then neither Mormons nor other Christians have much to worry about," he said of the billboards. "When atheists organize to serve the poor and needy of the world, they will be taken more seriously."

CNN Belief Blog: Unbelieving preachers 'come out' as atheists

It's not the first time the American Atheists group has released in-your-face billboards. Earlier this year, the group put up two billboards in heavily Muslim and Jewish enclaves in New Jersey and New York bearing messages in Arabic and Hebrew.

“You know it’s a myth … and you have a choice,” the billboards said. At the time, Silverman said the signs were intended to reach atheists in Muslim and Jewish areas who may feel isolated because they are surrounded by believers.

In addition to the billboards, Silverman said his group plans to stage protests at both conventions.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: 2012 Election • Atheism • Barack Obama • Christianity • Mitt Romney • Mormonism • Politics

soundoff (7,477 Responses)
  1. K3Citizen

    At least they called Obama a Christian.

    August 13, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
  2. blakewalker1987

    Are the targets for these billboards converting atheists to atheism? Because they will probably do a great job of that. Otherwise, they should talk to someone about how to advertise.

    August 13, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      Yes, as someone pointed-out earlier the billboards really do bring an awareness to other like-minded individuals that they are not alone.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  3. RBbrighton

    These biilboards are more hateful than the "hate" they claim Christians have. Totally classless.

    August 13, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • Etalan

      Christian just kill a dozen people in a Sikh temple

      August 13, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • BRC

      The boards point out fallacies and strange believes ingrained in teh religion's doctrine. They do not target or attack any individuals, adn they do not call for any actions against people, so how are they hateful?

      August 13, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • John

      How are they hateful?

      August 13, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • James PDX

      So these billboards which target religions are more hateful than those religions that have killed and continue to oppress others? Ludicrous.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  4. Keith

    I think it would be nice to get an honest man in office. We have elected a lot of Christians and haven't accomplished that yet.

    August 13, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • James PDX

      Very good point. When a plan has failed miserably time after time, shouldn't a rational human being eventually learn from their mistakes?

      August 13, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
      • Keith

        One would think so, I am an old guy, not only can I learn from my mistakes, I can actually learn from other people's mistakes.

        August 13, 2012 at 12:34 pm |
    • blake

      u pretty sure jimmy carter was a filthy liar, huh?

      March 30, 2013 at 1:02 am |
      • Keith

        I don't believe he was a liar, but his Christianity didn't make him smart.

        April 7, 2013 at 11:48 pm |
  5. pauleky

    Religion is petty and stupid. However, these billboards are preaching to the choir. The language is a bit much if you're trying to make people at least think about how silly their beliefs are. I love how the commentors, though, are equating what the atheists say with hate. The church has provided excuses for hate for centuries.

    August 13, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Jen

      Yes, but we don't have to go to that level. I am an atheist, and I don't understand this organization. I don't like religion, but I don't understand how you are going to get people to give up religion, but being mean, spiteful and hateful. These billboards are the pot calling the kettle black. It is hate speech. why not put something supportive up, for the atheists who are looking for people like them– to find support. I don't get this method. It is ugly, and I wouldn't want to be a part of it.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  6. Billy

    Atheists are cowards. I'll believe otherwise when they start preaching in Saudi Arabia.

    August 13, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Mimi

      LOL! Religious people are the cowards because they are so afraid of death that they have to believe in an after life just to get through this one!

      August 13, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • Etalan

      Atheists exist in high education area with religion around them.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • pauleky

      Nice ad hominem, Billy. I take it you preach Xtianity in Saudi Arabia? No? Then how are you not a coward, as well, based on your logic?

      August 13, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • Dave

      Unlike the crazies in religions, atheists recognize that death means you're dead.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • Confused face

      Really? In Saudi Arabia where the religious mafia will kill you if you dare speak your mind? Seems like you are applying a strange standard.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • Etalan

      Atheists is the result of decent education, and the abilities to question what they learn.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
    • WASP

      @billy: you first. lol i would love to see how different our receptions would be: i doubt they would bat an eye at my atheist thoughts.......mainly because i wouldn't be handing out anything denouncing their faith, or trying to preach to anyone seeing i couldn't care less what they believe; your reseption may require an ambassador to request your release from prison for handing out leaflets and preaching against their faith.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • Billy

      How about atheists are d@@k heads? Feel any better?

      August 13, 2012 at 12:15 pm |
    • sam stone

      Billy Boy.....don't you have to get on your knees and start begging for salvation?

      August 13, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      @Billy

      Big tough guy, huh Billy?

      August 13, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
  7. JC

    Ladies and gentleman, take my advice: pull down your pants and slide on the ice.

    August 13, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • BRC

      Damn you, now I have to go watch M.A.S.H.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
  8. Trptlead

    Why is it that atheists spend so much time talking about God? It never fails – want to talk about religion or God? Go find an atheist.

    August 13, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • If horses had Gods ... their Gods would be horses

      Because in the vast majority of cases it's the Atheists who know more about religion than the followers do!

      August 13, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Because September 11 Really Sucked

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NA53vCC_MIk&w=640&h=360]

      August 13, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  9. Keith

    It won't help, stupid people don't know when they are being insulted.

    August 13, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  10. Dave

    If there is a god, why do people fear death? If there really were an afterlife, we would be eager to get there instead of being afraid, right?

    August 13, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  11. rdeleys

    I approve of this message!

    August 13, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  12. Sam

    No company in Tampa would accept their billboard. What happen to Freedom of Speech?

    August 13, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Keith

      In America it has always been as much "freedom" as you can afford

      August 13, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • blake

      put up your own billboard structure, birdbrain. free speech. genius. sam stoned "fvck you"

      March 30, 2013 at 1:07 am |
    • blake

      quit your crying. get a magic marker and some card board and stand on the street corner with your sign

      March 30, 2013 at 1:10 am |
  13. buffalo

    So, now Atheism is a "religion"?

    August 13, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • If horses had Gods ... their Gods would be horses

      Why would anyone think Atheism is a religion?

      August 13, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Confused face

      How can you interpret this article, which includes the unqualified quotation that "religion is silly," as implying that atheism is a religion? Do you bother to read? think for yourself? Or do you just take bits and pieces of items and try to square them with your pre-determined conclusions?

      Now, where have I seen that before?

      August 13, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
  14. brightapplestudios

    Claiming that Christianity (or any other religion) promotes divisiveness and hatred and bashing other folks because of what they believe is in itself hateful and divisive. Also, it's incredibly ignorant. Jesus (and many other religious leaders and prophets from around the world) taught his followers to love love their neighbors, give up their material possessions and live together in a community that shares everything and practices compassion toward the sick, the imprisoned, the elderly, and the poor.

    You can't judge a religion by the actions of some of its most extreme followers (or, as in the case of my church, an historically corrupt administration concerned more with politics than following what Christ taught). There are good Christians and not so good Christians. There are good Muslims and not so good Muslims. There are good atheists and not so good atheists.

    Rather than spend so much effort ridiculing people for their beliefs and practicing the same hate they claim to condemn, perhaps these folks might find a greater purpose by spending their time more productively. After all, there are millions of people in prisons, millions more on the streets, and plenty of sick, elderly, and poor men, women, and children who could benefit from the kind words and actions of a loving neighbor. Or, keep making yourselves look silly by protesting what someone else chooses to believe, as if that makes any sense or can ever accomplish anything meaningful.

    August 13, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • Etalan

      I know, we should spend more money printing the bible and giving to the poor, the bible have a good source of fiber.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Keith

      Your message is not the message coming out of 90% of the pulpits in America.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • James PDX

      Jesus may have taught Love and Tolerance 101, but his students were too remedial to pass the class.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
  15. Goose66

    It seems the atheists have confused Mormonism and Scientology with that first billboard?

    August 13, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • pockets

      They are all the same....nutty.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • Dave

      Nope. Mormons believe that their god was a man on another planet, and once he had enough 'spirit children', they populated the earth. They got nothing confused, you seem to be the confused one.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • If horses had Gods ... their Gods would be horses

      What part of it is wrong?

      August 13, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • James PDX

      The Mormons also believe that when they die they go to Planet Bob and become gods themselves.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  16. dave

    It's difficult to understand the logic behind this. Who are they trying to speak to? To a Christian, the billboard is offensive. To a Mormon, the billboard is offensive. To an agnostic, the billboard is arrogant. To an atheist, the billboard is about as entertaining as an internet meme. Well done, sir. You managed to persuade no one while offending quite a few.

    August 13, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • James PDX

      Sadly, there is no good way to point out the fallacies of these religions. Not when their followers doctrine is to faithfully believe everything in their holy books no matter how contradictory or ludicrous, despite the fact they ignore any of it that is inconvenient to their own personal lives.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  17. Reemo

    I know tons of Christians and Mormons who don't fit the description that these billboards convey. This is a terrible generalization of two groups of people. This is as bad as people who think all Muslims are terrorists. I'm quite shocked at American Atheists for posting these, I thought they were better than this.

    Maybe we should give them a taste of their own medicine. Here's a billboard idea:

    ATHEISM:

    – Started the Holocaust
    – Supports Freedom of Religion...As Long As It's Atheism
    – Likes to Bully Children of Faith

    The 1st Amendment: Simply Reasonable

    August 13, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • Etalan

      This information the billboard use is base on their bible.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • Dave

      Atheism did not start the Holocaust. Germany was very Protestant.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • James

      None of those are true either.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Mimi

      Atheism started the Holocaust? What???? Religion started the middle east unrest thousands of years ago, which continues today and always will continue due to ignorant people!

      August 13, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • sam stone

      "- Started the Holocaust" Like Hitler the Catholic?

      "- Supports Freedom of Religion...As Long As It's Atheism" – Who is denying the freedom of people to worship as they choose?

      "- Likes to Bully Children of Faith" Well, when the "Children of Faith" try to impose that faith though the laws of the land. they certainly have it coming.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:09 pm |
    • pockets

      Have no fear fellow atheists, you are seeing then end of religion. Its only a matter of time, and those who follow skygods or so called prophets will come to the conclusion that religion is a mental illness. There is hope the intelligence will prevail. The lunacy will end and religion can go the way of the do do bird.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • wrong

      the holocaust was started by catholic Hitler who pronounced his belief in god to his death. And the pope was his aid. Not to forget the Nazi's were christain. And the KKK were christian.. the inquisition were driven by christian, Shall I continue?

      August 13, 2012 at 12:14 pm |
  18. more2bits

    Religion is like a virus on mankind. Unfortunately to eradicate it will probably kill the host........

    August 13, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • pockets

      True, religion is a cancer on the planet.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:11 pm |
  19. Ethan

    I'm and atheist-leaning agnostic, but I don't agree with this one bit. People can believe whatever they want. Its simply their choice.
    I do believe, however, that politicians shouldn't use religious morals and teachings to influence their reforms. I think they should start focusing on real matters. It just doesn't make sense. One should think first "Why does it matter if gay marraige is legal? How the hell would it change MY life? It wouldn't." Nothing would change.
    They should focus on the larger issues, such as the damn economy. Reform that.
    I support all religions, although I do not believe them. That doesn't mean you have to slander them.
    Peace.

    August 13, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • more2bits

      The problem is that those adhering to religions try to force their ways on others by 'looking down on them' as if they are better than everyone else and that those who don't follow them are doomed to an 'eternity in hell' and 'sinners' and the peer pressure they use is nothing different than the same techniques Hitler used to create his mass of followers.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Ethan

      So, this billboard is just a silly counter-attack to their pushy ways? Don't get me wrong, I know that religious folk are very pushy. But, it seems like these people are just trying to do the same exact thing. Its somewhat hypocritical.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
    • rdeleys

      It wouldn't be such a problem if people would keep their religion to themselves and out of government and public schools. Just because you're religious doesn't mean I want to share it.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Ethan

      EXACTLY! rdeleys is right. Everyone should just keep their own religion to themselves. Religion shouldn't be a priority.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
    • James PDX

      Ethan, so what do you propose we do? Take the Christian path and just turn the other cheek to their religious oppression? Even the Christians know that doesn't work and have completely abandoned the practice their savior preached.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:10 pm |
  20. JJ Cortez

    Whoop-de-#$%& Doo...Relevance check in 3-2-1....

    August 13, 2012 at 12:01 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.