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.
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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.
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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.
From my experience, these types of atheists are the least secure in their own beliefs and lash out anytime mentions the Gospel, the Lord, or Jesus Christ. The majority of the comments on this board are evidence of this.
Bless Thor for he will save us from the evil christian.
For Thor already nail his son to a cross with his hammer and smite the father away from Midgard, and left us to mature till the next coming of Thor.
It's fun watching a group of people try to convince and argue about something that doesn't exist in the first place (according to them). Seems somewhat counter intuitive to argue about nothing.
Because we're vocal doesn't mean we're not secure in our beliefs. It means we want to be heard. If you made that correlation for everyone who speaks out it means that people who want to stop the war in Iraq don't want to stop the war in Iraq and vegetarians want to eat meat but don't.
As an atheist, I think these are a bit childish, and over the top. There are far more effective ways to convey the same message.
Agreed. Also an atheist, but not a fan of this organization's ads or it's president. We may agree on a lot of things, but you don't have to be mean and hateful when talking about it. He's little better than fundamentalists.
Why no attack of muslims? Fear and hypocrisy maybe? Come on, Jesse, at least have the courage to be an equal opportunity hypocrite and intolerant idiot.
Do any of you Christians read the article? This is the third time i have posted this link.
Hubert, my point was only this: that atheists only attack Christianity because it's open-season. Attack muslims and their "faith" and you run scared. You are smart enough to know that. Why just choose Mormonism and Christianity? Didn't radical muslims and their koran call for the killing of us whites? Think so! But no outcry from Atheists? Not a word.
Did you read the article i linked to? It is an example of American atheist putting up billboards targeting a Muslim neighborhood.
These bill boards were specifically target at the religions of our 2 presidential candidates, neither of whom is Muslim.
What would you do Jesse?
I must have missed that there was a Muslim running for office right now.
It is a great day when reality is finally able to speak truth. Religion is incredibly offensive to all those who can see through its lies. Throughout history the greatest evils have always been committed in the name of religion. Otherwise intelligent men and women have had their potential productivity subverted into contemplating the 'meaning of god'. If they had instead concentrated on increasing human knowledge about the real world, we would be at a much greater level of technology today. Maybe we would have eradicated cancer, or solved the cheap plentiful energy puzzle, or managed to feed everyone who is hungry everywhere on the planet. So, when I think about everything that faith has cost humanity, the loss of life, destruction of history, lack of scientific progress, I get very angry. I H A T E everything that religion has done to mankind, and every day I hope to see it eradicated in all of its forms. Man is the only god there ever was, and the only one we need. Only man has the power to create something from nothing, to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts. The sooner all men and women realize this, the sooner we all can achieve greatness.
Hope that works for ya.
except man didn't create this world and everything in it, but we have certainly done a wonderful job of messing it up.
Simply not true. More people were killed by atheist communism than in all religious wars combined. Tens of millions dead in the name of atheism by Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao, etc.
Steve they didn't kill in the "name of atheism", either you are being intentionally dishonest or you are an idiot.
@steve – you are factually incorrect on that one, but even if true, I would consider Communism as espoused by Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao to be religion. It is blind faith in unprovable principles in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Specifically, each of those examples are really about a cult of personality centered around an evil man who was worshipped by his followers. Just like all other religions.
Militant atheists are just as smug and condescending as any religious person.
Militant Christian kill abortion doctor and burn down temple.
You get what you give.
Mormons have magic underwear. I don't belong to any religion, but magic underwear is kind of awesome.
And don't forget becoming an actual god and ruling your own planet when you die.
Watch out for the 'skid marks' in the holy bloomers that Romney wears.....lol
And you can have a harem, like Smith had.
I bet there are other great bennis too, we just don't know all of them as Rmoney won't let us even bring it up.
Wait no one told you people that God is a black woman?
The world would be a much better place if we all believed that god was a black woman.
Atheism is as much of a "religion" as any other. It has core beliefs and precepts and can be just as divisive as this billboard exemplifies. In fact, there is only one principle we all need to follow: "Love thy neighbor". I can do this whether or not I believe in God, and I should do it, not because of some promise of rewards after death but because it is the right thing to do, plain and simple. If we all strove for this ideal, including our politicians, things would probably be better than they are now.
Except for the part about Atheism being a religion I agree with everything you posted!
I don't know if you misunderstand what a religion is, but atheism, by pure definition, cannot be a religion, because it is only the rejection of theism. If a bunch of morons believed in fairies, we'd probably have a group of people called afairyists, but that doesn't tell me jack about what they believe, it only tells me what they don't believe in.
"It has core beliefs and precepts"
Other than a lack of belief in god(s) name one.
Quite true. Agnostics are the ones who simply don't know and have no beliefs. Atheists are strident and certain:"There is no God!" They are absolutely positive in their assertion that there is no God and will argue with you if you disagree. Agnostics are much more reasonable and honest.
Steve you don't even know the difference between atheists and agnostics.
Most atheists I am aware of do not accept your definition. If you would like to know why you can find it here.
Q: What's the difference between an atheist and an agnostic?
A: It has to do with the difference between what you believe and what you think you know. For any particular god that you can imagine, a "theist" is one who has a belief in that god. In contrast, an "atheist" is one who does not have a belief in the god. A "gnostic" is one who knows about the existence of god and an "agnostic" is one who thinks that god is unknowable.
Notice that the terms "atheist" and "agnostic", by these definitions, are not mutually exclusive. You could be an agnostic atheist, meaning you don't think that the existence of gods is knowable, but you don't choose to believe in one without further proof. Many people assume that atheists believe that gods can be proved not to exist, but this isn't strictly true and there is no proper word to describe this. You could call such a person an "untheist", perhaps. Or, you could just call such a person a "gnostic atheist", one who doesn't believe in a god and thinks that his non-belief can be proved.
So there are four possible ways one could be.
1. Agnostic-Theist: believes god exists, but the existence of a god is unknowable
2. Gnostic-Theist: believes in a god for which he claims knowledge
3. Agnostic-Atheist: does not believe god exists, but it can't be proved
4. Gnostic-Atheist: believes it can be proved that god does not exist
Case 3 is sometimes referred to as "weak atheism" and case 4 is sometimes referred to as "strong atheism". Only strong atheism positively asserts that there are no gods.
Finally, it should be pointed out that when a person is asked about their beliefs and replies that they are agnostic, they are avoiding the question and answering a different one. Someone who can't positively say he/she believes in a god is an atheist.
If those core beliefs are based on truth, and fact and what can be proven with the scientific method, then yes, we have "core beliefs." And damn proud of it too.
Let go Mike, your magic man is a fairy tale, not supported by anything other then blind faith.
No one is going to be there when you die. There is no heaven or hell. Just emptiness.
And I hate to break this to you, but no one is really going to miss you when you are gone. Not trying to put you down, it is just how it is. People have their lives, even the people closest to you, and they will go right back to and not skip a beat after your body has been layed to rest. As it should be. Life if for the living, not the dead.
So have the courage to throw off your shackles to the snake oil salesmen, embrace the truth that can only be obtained by facts, and live to today.
This is a lame attempt at humor. The toast and underwear are indeed 'laughable' but all this billboard will do is anger people.
There are better ways to spread the message that reason is preferable to religion.
Deeply religious people will probably never change their mind. The target audience is people who are skeptical and they will not be offended.
@Atheists – if I may... then what else is there if you guys don't believe in any God/god? Just nothing?
A life full of teh things and people I care about and a universe that is vast beyond imagining that would take us an almost infinitely long time to explore. That's plenty for me.
I hate to tell you luxom3 .. but "believing something" doesn't make it true. BTW, we believe in reality .. any more questions?
"I don't know" is a perfectly reasonable answer...
Claiming to know something you don't know is not...
What there is is the greatness of man. That is really all anyone needs. How can you look at what we have accomplished over the last 10,000 years and not be astounded by our greatness? We even invented religion and made up a god that has many many followers today even in the face of overwhelming evidence that the whole thing is completely false. Why do you need anything else?
There's a huge list of possibilities. You theists seem to think the two options are either god with an afterlife or no god and no afterlife. Sure, I don't believe in god, but that doesn't mean other possibilities can't arise. There could be no god or gods with an afterlife. This could be a computer simulation for all we know. So if you want me to speculate I could make up things that are possible all day, I just don't confine myself to one of them and try to live based on it. That's the difference in myself and a theist.
Since we tend not to believe in things like the afterlife or a god of some sort, I think we would focus on our life at hand and trying to make something out of our lives, to do something with it and make a mark on the world no matter how small - things ranging from raising a family and nurturing it (the guy down the street) to changing our political system and/or society (Bertrand Russell).
I am an atheist. I believe in myself, my daughter, my family, my community, my country, education, mother nature and Cookie Monster. The majority of us also "believe" that living by the Golden Rule, is pretty much all that is needed. Simple. Is that answer enough for you? 🙂
@lux: i believe in spending what time i have on earth attempting to make my children lives better and the lives of those around me a little better each day. i pick up trash when i see it, i hold doors for people that need it, i work hard to return to my community what it has provided to me, i strive to set good examples for anyone that living without the belief in a god doesn't mean you're a bad person.
the one thing i do find to be a big waste of time is waiting on a god to come back and play "nanny" and clean up human problems, doesn't that seem kindof sily to you folks in the least?
Why does there have to be "something?"
Answer me this; What was there for you before you were conceived?
The moment just before your conception you did not exist. No cells, no life.
You have zero memory of this because you had no memory.
Once you die, the molocules that you are renting will move onto other states and structures.
Again, you will not exist. What cames next is nothingness, for you.
For the rest of the creaturs that are alive, they will continue to live, until they too will die and become nothing.
Why is that so scary for you?
Why do you have to keep clinging onto this fairy tale that tells you there will be eternal life?
Why can't you just try to be the best person you can be without having some big brother watching over you to do so?
@Luxom – This is the true root of sadness caused by religion. We live in a Universe that is so vast, that we can't even comprehend how big it is. Religion closes off this Universe because they think they already have all the answers. The funny thing is they don't have an idea what is out there for us WITH a god. Their patent answer for everything is god, without even understanding what they mean.
Question to you theists. What is there for us WITH a god. Please try to answer with out just saying god.
Boy, these athiests are really hateful.
The boards point out fallacies and strange believes ingrained in the religion's doctrine. They do not target or attack any individuals, and they do not call for any actions against people, so how are they hateful?
No, we like you so much that we want you to let go of your delusions and join humanity. You'll feel better, be more content, and we can move past this archaic notion of deities.
I hate religion. It is pure evil. I pity the faithful, I do not hate them. I am sorrowful that they can not break their chains and achieve their full potential as humans. Man is god. There is no other.
If I had a child that grew up into a man and he tried to tell me Santa Clause was still real, I would hate that and I would feel sorry for him. So, if by hateful, you mean we hate that you believe in silly things, then yes, we are hateful.
The thing about these billboards is that the American Atheists group isn't trying to get people to like them, it's trying to convince atheists who don't speak up about their position on religion to speak up. Now one would think that's nonsensical, a person speaking up about their non-faith... it is... but when one considers that atheists are generally a persecuted group in the United States, it becomes more clear.
Also, atheists have very little political power being a minority. Most of us don't make a big deal about our position, but many of us also have beliefs regarding our current political state and how religious it is, as well as how some religious groups are trying to bring religion into our public school system and this is one of the reasons why American Atheists wants atheists to speak up, because a lot of us don't think religious matters should have a place in government and education (unless we're teaching about all religions in an objective way - I wouldn't mind that and might even encourage it).
persecuted? How are atheists persecuted in America?
@work in progress –
Try a little social experiment. Let all your friends know you are an Athiest and pretend to be an atheist for a month. You might see then.
The billboards were a waste of money. The goal couldn't really be to change people's minds on religion. If so, poorly executed. It's an antagonistic approach. Atheists should attempt to be the adult in the conversation, but this comes off juvenile if anything. And I'm a big kid.
there are quite a few juveniles on here
"It's not arguing against the existence of God, but against religion. The American Atheists need to go back to school on this one." Says the jesuit.
That's kind of the point of atheist activism- go ahead and believe in your god for all we care- just keep your religion and your priests phallic regions out of our schools, our children, our political system, and the justice system.
Atheists are always so angry and bitter. If they think they have found the truth in nothingness or science or whatever they believe they should just be at peace and keep it to themselves. Leave the rest of us who continue to seek a greater truth alone.
We've found that greater truth, seems you don't want to hear it.
For thousands of years, atheists were executed by the religious. In some parts of the world some of them still are. Now that civilization is at least mostly moral enough to stop executing us, the religious has turned into trying to control our legal and education systems and set back women's rights. So when you religious babies cry "leave us alone" I don't understand what you mean. How about you leave us the hell alone first?
Then tell Jehova's Witness' to stop coming door to door. Tell religious protesters to stop coming to us at schools and condemning us to hell because we decided to become educated. We'll stop when you do. There are militant Christians too, it isn't just us.
I would agree with the point that religion plays too large a role in politics, but the "reasonable" people do a terrible job in getting it across. Being bigoted and intolerant yourself to decry religious people being bigoted and intolerant is NOT a good strategy. The social conservatives need to remember the tidbit about freedom FROM religion. This atheist group needs to remember the freedom OF religion. People have the freedom to believe and practice their religion. I disagree with them trying to lobby religious morality into law that forces their ideals on all Americans like gay marriage, etc.
the problem is that it is freedom OF religion, not FROM religion, and was to keep the gov't out of the church.
You are exactly wrong. Early writings and correspondence spell out directly what the separation of church and state was supposed to accomplish. It was supposed to be a wall between the two. I know there are many false quotes put out in a few books back in the 70s that pastors are using to try and support their side, but they are being falacious. The majority of founding fathers very much believed that religion should have no place in politics, and vice versa. You should also be very thankful for this fact.
In the words of Adamas
“Who does not see,” he wrote, “that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects?”
Every conservative christian in the US owns at least two copies of the movie Deliverance.
Those two characters in the woods in the famous "squeel" scene are exectly what I think fundies and republicanism is all about.
And that is creepy.
Just scratch below the surface of any fundie/repub and that is what you get.
I for one do not believe any religion as true but I do believe that we were visited by aliens in the past who made themselves known to us and we "misinterpreted" them and called them Gods. For example, look up John Frum as a religion of the south pacific islands as to how this can easily happen.
Like I say to fundies, prove it.
If not, then if it assumed false.
I don't claim to know this (like religious followers do) I simply said I believe it. Just seems more llkely to me than religious fables.
I agree that religion has absolutely no place in our political system.
When I see the President of the United States with a bowed head in 'prayer' to a skygod, I am totally embarassed. It just looks so silly really......worshipping in 'temples', give me a break will you. 2010 and they still go to 'temples'. Can you imagine the stupidity of it all.
That's 2012, pardon the error. Maybe the future will finally see the end of this religion nonsense. It really is embarassing.
I completely agree, it is very embarassing part! Future generations will look at us like we look at the ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Mayan God(s).
It is lunacy.
As I say all the time, it is cute when little children believe in Santa Claus, but creepy when adults do.
What will be truly be embarrassing is meeting the God you denied existed
@ workinprogress ... I wouldn't be embarassed at all to meet a God(s) & find out im wrong. If there is an omnipotent God(s) I give them credit for being smarter than your statement and understanding why I feel the way I do .. especially in a world of their creating.
The link says, "Atheist billboards slam Obama, Romney," yet neither of these billboards mention either candidate. Typical BS reporting by CNN.
That said, these billboards are more of an embarrassment to atheists than anything else. They're so poorly done it's obvious they know nothing about advertising. I'm afraid these will hurt their cause more so than further it.
You don't get the point, really. More than anything, these ads are meant to let other atheists know that there are many of us. After gays get equal rights, we're next in line.
It is getting attention and there is no such thing as bad 'advertising' case in point, you read it and are commenting on it. That is the point...
romney is a mormon, obama is a muslim. who is the christian ?
@Dave. "After gays get their rights, we're next".
What "rights" are atheists being denied? You have the right to beleive whatever you want, as do I.
Also, atheism in itself is a type of religion. You might not worship anything but you are still a group of individuals with a shared beleif – some of whom occasionally meet to discuss said beleif.