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.
Their billboard should really say "Satan.org" cause that's whose really behind all of this. Human free thinkers my azz!
how sad, now you make up another god> satan? How silly, please grow up.
Satan.org – that's a good one. Too bad he's just a fairytale, too.
In the bible, satan kills a couple dozen people.
In the exact same bible, god kills a couple billion people. That's BILLION, with a "B".
They're both fairytales for grownups, but given the choice I'd say I have a better chance with satan.
Religious leaders try to defend their "faith" by declaring the Atheist organization's approach as "a common high-school error"! At least they consider the Atheists to be at a high school level as opposed to the religious mindset which seems to be perpetually at a pre-school level.
And the fact that these people can't seem to differentiate between their beliefs and a religious environment that resembles a corporation more than a church is quite telling when it comes to them understanding just what reason is all about.
The laws of this country are not supposed to favor any religion...other than giving religion special rights and tax exemption in the first place. But the religious in this country would like nothing more than for the laws of this country to more closely reflect their own beliefs over those of others.
Deny it all you want believers, but every time you vote against a woman's right to choose, or vote against gay peoples' right to marry, you are contradicting the exact reason this country was founded to begin with – that religion should not have that much power, authority or influence over others like it once did.
"Religious leaders try to defend their "faith" by declaring the Atheist organization's approach as "a common high-school error"! At least they consider the Atheists to be at a high school level as opposed to the religious mindset which seems to be perpetually at a pre-school level."
-Yes that comment.. what it really says when I read it goes like this..
"You atheists do not have the right to be vocal about our beliefs. You don't have the authority to fight us so you should stay quiet."
This is the school yard bully that says .."you can't fight back because I said so. So don't."
@J.W – a question to you. If you care to reply on..
I agree with BRC. This group is no better than the Christians that tell you you are going to hell. This seems like the American Athests are saying that they can be more hateful than any religion.
Per your quote – I have to ask. Do you not like to see confrontation?
I have in mind that your suggestion is to NOT be confrontational towards the theists. I see you as handily telling myself -an atheist- that it is good to "just take the religious sides' argument about their god QUIETLY and be passive."
"You should not be resorting to confrontation because this will result in more confrontation" <<– this is your point correct?
Then I would ask.. when is the use of "confronting your adversary, to stand up for yourself" – thought/suggested by you as something disgusting? Is this disgust from you – or some other emotion?
You've referenced me a coupel different places, but you're taking my position way off mark. I never said that the goal isn't worth $15K, or that we shouldn't take action and try to make and prove our point. I said that the way they're doing it won't work. I don't care if it starts a confrontation, I just want us to go into the confrontation planning to win. These billboards will go right over the heads of many people, they won't have the affect that is hoped. You want to have a positive effect and show people that we don't need religion involved in politics or any gods to do good, sponsor, drive and support beneficial secular functions. And when you have a solid track record proof of effect, use that to your advantage and grind your opponent who spends millions of dollars a year trying to stop loving couples from getting married into the dirt.
I'm fine with confrontation, I just don't like losing.
22 Traits of God-Heroes. Where does Jesus fall?
Good one atheist.org you got us on that one. Bazinga! What a waste of money. Why not give it to the needy.
It beats spending the milliions of dollars that people give you on a glass cathedral.
"What a waste of money."
–Take cue here BRC.
Your same thoughts reflected by this person.
Now question that amount. $15,000. Too much you say. What is a NOT a wasteful amount? Your reply please.
And spending millions of dollars defending molestor priests is a wise use of funds? Try again, dunce.
Wow. So atheism is now officially a religion. What's next, atheists knocking on my door asking me to convert?
They will just hand you a blank piece of paper...
the more exposure, the more they will help small children from continuing the religious cycle. Fear, how religions brainwash children. Deny it"s fear and you have the makings for a terrorist.
Oh myself (omg doesn't work for an atheist), NoTruth – that was awesome!
My God is better than your God. Nanny, nanny boo-boo!
Atheism is not a religion. Its just the lack of a belief in a supernatural being. Its pretty uncontroversial.
Its good to laugh at people who believe that elvis is still alive. Its good to laugh at people who think that there is a magical type of being who lives in another dimension and who will set you on fire for eternity if you dont do things his way.
As far as im concerned, both those people are equally stupid.
a lack of belief in a supreme being. so you must be able to prove it? please remember that evidence is not proof.
I wonder how you will pull this trick.
"a lack of belief in a supreme being. so you must be able to prove it?"
You want proof that I don't believe in a supreme being? Huh?
@lolol – I don't have to prove that I have not seen any evidence that convinces me a higher power exists.
I don't have to prove to you that Bigfoot, or Unicorns don't exist. By your stance you must believe in every and anything until it can be disproven to you.
What a dumb message. Atheism is also fate based just like those two faiths. There is no scientific proof either way.
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.
The burden of proof falls to those making the assertion of existence or the hypothesis. Atheists have nothing to prove or disprove because they never made the hypothesis in the first place. They just accept what they can observe. It's called science.
No Truth is right. Agnosticism/Gnosticism and Atheism/Theism are two different thing. One can be an agnostic theist (one who doesn't know but still believes anyway) or a gnostic atheist (I don't think there are many of those, I'm sure most atheists would believe in some supreme being if there was incontrovertible proof for it).
I don't see how the billboard will do anything besides upset people. I'm an atheist, but I don't agree with this tactic. American Atheists does not speak for me nor every atheist. Atheists don't have a leader or organization that dictates policy.
true, atheists don't have leaders as religions and stalin did. Tax religions and their properties. Lets see their books. No more grants to religions, that's my tax dollar. My const-itutional rights are violated. Where is my freedom from religion???
Why buy a billboard when CNN will do your PR for nothing?
"I WOULD RATHER LIVE MY LIFE AS IF THERE IS A GOD, AND DIE TO FIND OUT THERE ISN'T,
THAN TO LIVE MY LIFE AS IF THERE ISN'T, AND DIE TO FIND OUT THERE IS."
which god are you placing your bets on?
how childish a post.. And if your god is evil??
Good old Pascal's Wager. Now what if you end up finding out you were living life as if there were the wrong god, and the real one isn't particularly happy about that?
This is a terrible argument.
1. Which god.?
2. Wouldn't that god know you are 'hedging your bet' and decide your belief was not true nut just convienient?
I'm sure God appreciates you believing in him for your own eternal benefit. I think you kind of missed the point of your own faith.
I would rather live my life knowing that this is all there is – being a good role model for my children, not sheltering the truth of our existence from them, teaching them to be good, caring and educated people – and passing these values on to their children. Wash, rinse, repeat.
That's Pascal's wager. Better to believe in god, just in case he exists. You can also say it's better to believe in Allah just in case, or Zeus, or Vushnu, etc.
The problem that Pascal's wager presents is, with so many gods that people worship, how can you worship them all...just in case?
disregard their posts Katz....they have no valid points so they utilize schoolyard bully tactics to belittle and demean.
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."
Ummm, excuse me, reverend. Religion is worse than god. Religion kills people. God, because it does not exist, has never killed anyone.
well stated Confused.. they won't see it though
It's easy for you to feel insulated today but there may have been a time when your ancestors were glad that a Christian soldier fought against an invader such as the mongols, the muslims or the nazis.
I think they meant it to be about religion.
Mormon God is a Space Alien, LOL
Mormons Baptize Dead People, L&LOL
Mormon Religion, Big Money, Big Bigotry. L&L&LOL
Mormon man in white underwear, a reference to special Mormon garments. L&L&L&LOL
at least kids will see the message and will be better able to break away from mindless religious fears that keeps everyone there today. And anyone who believes they are religious and fear has nothing to do with it. You could be the next terrorist.
I am religious and I am not fearful. What on Earth do I have to be afraid of? And how would this make me a terrorist?
I am curious as to why you feel faithful=fearful ? We live in a pretty open society where pretty much anything goes. I'm not really buying your theory.
Jesus said this would all come to pass.....including the branding of God. Interesting that atheists refuse to acknowledge that minor item so, what they are doing is just fulfilling prophecy...heck, someone has to do it.. it may as well be non believers.
mans writings did say that. Imagine sitting back and figuring out how to get zombies to follow you. What could be more perfect than to state what you just did. More silly religious stuff.
Oh wow, people make outrageous claims and claim it's a "prophecy" that reasonable people will call them out on it sometime in the future. How stunning.
Spoken like a true Christian. You must take after your hate and war mongering Father. Have at it.
there are a few prophecies left to be fulfilled and I truly believe we shall see them come to pass
People have been behaving the same way since we crawled out of caves. It's not exactly prophesy to predict how people will behave, long before and after any specific religion. It's also not exactly prophesy to predict things that have been happening naturally for millions of years (earthquakes, etc).
Of course mr. (or Ms) Wrong.. and how silly to even begin to believe ALL the other prophecies that were written by men (God's inspired words of course) that have and are becoming to pass, right on the mark....utterly silly I say!!.. gotta be a huge cooincidence.....or, as you skeptics coin it "random".
Never discount what you:
A. Do not understand
B. Cannot see with your own eyes.
There's evidence for things you fail to perceive because your evidence has to be complicated and textbooked. Knowledge can kill you.
@Alicia – Well thank goodness you do your best not to obtain any ... knowledge that is. How's it feel to be a saved moron!?!
In the article they assert atheists were arguing against religion not against god, then in the next paragraph atheist were not to be taken seriously because they did not support the poor, not because there was a god.
I'm sure as the atheist movement gains a sliver of the limelight religious leaders will become more concerned and vocal. Too bad for them they can't just kill us off like the Inquisition in the good 'ole days.
As a mormor our potential president will be out there representin' in his magic underwear.
Religion as with war it doesn't matter whose right only who's left.
Quote should read: When atheists organize to molest the children of the world (as churchers do), they will be taken more seriously.
Good one! Very true....unfortunately.
there are no atheist pedophiles? Who knew?
This is God here. All you nutcases stop posting on here or I will get angry and note it in my huge book of wrongs committed by my creations. I will then patiently wait unil you die and throw you in my basement of fire to avenge these sins. My guy will guard that basement (he is really good .. I vetted him by having him bury all these ancient dinosaur bones to confuse you guys). You can avoid this wrath if you convert and obey me ... before you die.
OMG, you _do_ exist!
Finally, the proof we've been waiting for.
You have to wonder about people that believe they are finding favor with their God for believing in him out of fear. I'm sure he loves that.
And what do you get for claiming to be God? A special hell?
The Bible is just a book written by men.
look you all with your schoolyard bully ad hominems
The Jesuit Priest cited in the article argues that the billboards directly attack religion vs having any argument against the actual existence of any Gods, which is correct, however the point of placing the billboards is not to argue theism vs atheism, but an attempt to bring light to the notion that if someone is willing to state a belief in ridiculous, or at least completely unsubstantiated ideas, then as voters, people should be calling their judgement and ability to lead into question. Personally, I believe that a man who is willing to say out loud and in public that he believes in the existence of supernatural beings, magical miracles, garments with "power", spirits, ghosts, telepathic communication with beings outside our plane, etc., then that's a pretty solid argument that their critical analysis abilities are lacking enough to disqualify them from positions of power. Especially military power. I think the billboards are the very least people should be doing in this regard.
I think you pretty much nailed it. What baffles me most is how blind the majority of the populace is to the truth. Religions, all of them, make absolutely no sense whatsoever. Even a cursory examination and logical analysis of religious beliefs reveals that they are all frauds. Some more so than others, of course, but that's to be expected I suppose. There is no reason to be afraid. None.