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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. Why Ditch Religion

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

    August 13, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Mulehead

      Great points from Dr. Harris. – this vid must be a little out of date though, now that President Obama has come out in support of gay marriage.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      something wrong in his eyes

      August 13, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
  2. Saint_John

    There are far more atheists than most realize. Until recently, it was very difficult for non-believers to communicate which often resulted in feelings of isolation and alienation. The internet has dramatically changed all of that. Hopefully, the internet will also hasten the end of all religions. Religion is poisonous.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • QS

      Agreed.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:10 pm |
  3. really?

    wow...that is a "hateful" billboard. Are you trying to convert the "believers" ? Give them some space and time not ridicule.....their own beliefs will let the down....no worries about that.....then if they want to fantasize after that.....cool for them! Take it down a notch atheists!

    August 13, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • Andy in Minneapolis

      Take it down a notch? Ha, that's hilarious! Take these few billboards and put them up against the thousands upon thousands of churchases that blatantly advertise their beliefs (when atheism is in fact NOT a belief, rather disbelief in and rejection of the unsupport and unsubtantial god claims of others who have not met and are not capable of prooving the existence of god, or any god for that matter, and as such have failed to meet the burdon of proof of one who would claim that a god exists) ... perhaps theists should 'take it down a notch', don't you think?

      August 13, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
    • Andy in Minneapolis

      wow...that is a "hateful" billboard. Are you trying to convert the "believers" ? Give them some space and time not ridicule.....their own beliefs will let the down....no worries about that.....then if they want to fantasize after that.....cool for them! Take it down a notch atheists!
      *****************
      And as far as trying to convert the beleivers, again, atheist is not a belief that one can convert to, it is a rejection of unrpooven and unsubstantiated god claims. Give them some space and time? Please, tell that to the two gentlemen from the church of LDS that continue to knock on my door even though I have told them a total of eight times to stop doing so, tell that to the man preaching on the corners of downtown Minneapolis who even though I try to power walk away from while listening to music with my earbuds in my ears who grabs me by the arm and walks along with me telling about the good word of the lord. It goes against everything I have been tought and for the most part completely agree with that atheists more than any advocate of any faith need to be educators but c'mon man atheists need to stop being so apologetic about these issue, atheists have the same freedom of speach as anyone else. So no, athesists, please don't turn it down a notch.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:19 pm |
    • saopaco

      Why should they take it down a notch? Have religions done so, or do they still continue to monopolize national conversations?

      August 13, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  4. palintwit

    If I was Sarah Palin I'd take a bath with my favorite electric toaster.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  5. Sy2502

    Funny how a "Jesus saves you" billboard is freedom of religion, but a "God doesn't exist" billboard is militant angry atheism.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • ArthurP

      It is to be expected since if you actually read the Bible you will see that God is very much the 'do as I say not as I do' kind of deity.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
  6. Melissa

    Interesting, the minority of atheists are recruiting.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      And what's your fu*cking point Melissa?

      August 13, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Huebert

      We see it as educating.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
  7. Matt M

    I'm not a religious person at all, do not believe in religion at all, but these athiests are just as bad (if not worse) as the people they are lashing out against. The denial of god is to stake a claim to the nature of the universe, which is simply unknowable. The claim that god does not exist is just as bad as the claim that god exists, because the claim is impossible to determine scientifically. The worst part is, is that the athiests are promoting hate of religious organizations when their ads are claiming that religious organizations are the ones promoting hate. To be perfectly honest, I always thought Mormons and other types of intensely religious people are wacko's, but now I'm sure intensely athiest organizations like this are even more insane.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • snowboarder

      pointing out hateful organizations is not hate.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • Andy in Minneapolis

      The denial of god is to stake a claim to the nature of the universe, which is simply unknowable. The claim that god does not exist is just as bad as the claim that god exists, because the claim is impossible to determine scientifically.
      ************************************************************************************************************************
      Atheism is not the claim that a god does not exists for the two reasons you mention: it is simply knowable and impossible to determine scientifically. It is actually a response to unproven god claims made by theists.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
  8. drinker75

    As an atheist, these fools don't speak for me. I don't want to be told what to believe and I would like to give others the same respect. These guys are just going to the lowest common denominator.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • Melissa

      Well said. Wish there was a "like" button

      August 13, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      Hey dinkhead!

      You're a liar and a Christian.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • drinker75

      You are so articulate Vocal atheist. I'm far from a christian and this pushy crap is one of the things that I hate most about religion. I defend Atheism as not being a religion but these nutjobs are turning it into one, at least for themselves.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  9. ArthurP

    @Wes

    Can anyone explain why Obama's faith is any better for the country or worse than Romney's?

    ==========

    Romney's faith is better because it is 'White'. Obama's faith is bad because it is 'Black'.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • Brendan

      I think you're what we call an "idiot."

      By we, I mean people who aren't "idiots."

      August 13, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
  10. Sanchez

    I am an atheist and while the billboards bring up what some of us are thinking...it does not do much to help our cause and we cannot expect others to take us seriously as a group of people who should not be demonized by placing these adds up in public. I agree religion brings about division between people and causes hate due to their total belief that "their' religion is the only right way to live but in order to prove we are of sound mind and heart we must stand for what we believe and use the good words of "treating thy neighbor as you would like to be treated" against them. In order to change minds you need to be the voice of reason in the room not the voice that explicitly calls religion and god stupid. That is exactly what they say and do to us. Let us be the change not create more division between us. Speak truths and act just and no one can say you are not living a good life. Debate the facts do not put others down in the process , it does not help our cause!! And to those asking atheists to go out and help the poor...please stand with your church and actually do something on a Sunday, Saturday while you are supposed to be in service. Do no throw stones, be the example instead of trying to tell a group of non-believers what to do with their time...we do not have a doctrine to follow...we are moral people who do our best in this world to be just and fair to all. To you super churches with priests wearing Gucci and Armani suits...shame on you for stealing money in the name of religion so you can live a fabulous life. "Live meekly" I believe your savior once said. Live by the word...stop preaching empty words that fall of deaf ears without action!!!!

    August 13, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • snowboarder

      agreed.

      reaching out to those with doubts with an alternative would be much better than attempting to insult people.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      Sanchez you are as much as an atheist as I am a Christian. When someone starts-off a post with "I am an atheist" it gives you away in an instant. You're a liar and a bad one at that.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Doug

      I find it to be much more sensible and realistic to remain agnostic on the subject. The answer of "I don't know" seems to cover all of the bases and is about as truthful as it comes to reality. Of course, neither the religious, nor the atheists can admit this. Sad sad sad...

      Keep bickering, folks. It will get us closer to the truth in no time!

      August 13, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • QS

      Disagree – we can still treat them better than they treat us simply by not trying to deny them their rights like they so insistently do to others, but that's no reason their discriminatory beliefs should not be called out for what they are.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
  11. the zen pirate

    to quote Devo, "freedom of choice is what you've got, freedom from choice is what you want."

    August 13, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Brilliant

      August 13, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I used to think I wanted freedom. What I wanted was irresponsibility

      August 13, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
  12. GreenieInPA

    Here is a conversation between Mr. Deity and his assistant at creation:
    Assistant: "So, sir, what should we do about childhood cancers?"
    Mr. Deity: "Yah, let's leave it in."
    Assistant: "What about famines and disease?"
    Mr. Deity: "Yah, let's keep 'em."
    Assistant: "But, sir, don't you think it's going to be a hard sell that you are a loving being with all of these afflictions?"
    Mr. Deity: "No. They're not that smart."

    Google and watch Mr. Deity; he's awesome!!! Spread the love.

    August 13, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  13. rrd

    If it's ok for an atheist to say there's no God. Then is ok for me to say there is.

    August 13, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • Dave

      You could try saying it in p[roper English next time.

      There is no god, even if you say there is.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
    • GreenieInPA

      Yep. Just remember the burden of proof falls to you since you made the hypothesis. Oh, that's right, you religious people don't believe in the scientific method.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • QS

      That's kind of the point here, according to the comments from believers – that it's actually NOT okay to say there is no god.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
    • Utmu

      I agree. However, you have the burden of proof. Since one cannot prove something does not exist, you must prove that something does.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • Brendan

      Greenie, please explain the scientific method. I am in second grade, so we haven't figured it out yet. Clearly you are at least eight-years-old, knowing such complicated terminology.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • lover of freedom

      even if you're wrong

      August 13, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
    • GreenieInPA

      Brendan, since you obviously are a pea-brain. Something must be first observable before a hypothesis can be made and experimentation and conclusion can follow. Atheists have not made the observation or hypothesis about God's existence. Religious believers have (although their observations are in their imagination). It's not a complicated concept ... except to pea-brained religious whacks.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  14. Myto Senseworth

    How many religions in this world????.........and they all say they are ones with the "truth". It's a fact everybody can't be correct.

    August 13, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • snowboarder

      with the myriad of deities, religions and doctrines today and throughout history, one thing is certain. man is very adept at creating god.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
  15. Leo

    The one guys response was right on "When atheists organize to serve the poor and needy of the world, they will be taken more seriously."

    August 13, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • John

      The least religious countries in the world give the most charity per capita to underdeveloped countries.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • sam

      Did it ever occur to you that maybe some atheists don't trumpet their good works – they just do them? No organization needed, no holier than thou attitude...just service?

      August 13, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • Brent Slensker

      Nice high horse Leo...I probably gave more last year than you ever have...

      August 13, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • WASP

      @leo: ummm when was the last time you donated your old clothing to the salvation army, or worked the soup kitchen during a holiday? that is just the individual doing good things, not to mention the fact that non-religious charities are merely a phone call away, if you would take the time to do some research.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • Leo

      Missionaries and Christian Workers:
      In the unevangelized world, there are 20,500 full-time Christian workers and 10,200 foreign missionaries.

      In the evangelized non-Christian world, there are 1.31 million full-time Christian workers.

      In the Christian world, there are 306,000 foreign missionaries to other Christian lands. Also, 4.19 million full-time Christian workers (95%) work within the Christian world.

      Number of Christian Martyrs Worldwide:
      An average of 171,000 Christians worldwide are martyred for their faith per year.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:03 pm |
    • QS

      Indeed – it was right on...as it once again shows the complete and utter absurdity and ignorance that religion perpetuates in people.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • JesterJames

      Atheists do organize to help the poor. They just don't try to ram their belief down the throat of the people they are helping. Also they spend ALL the money on helping the people instead of giving $1 and spending $9 singing about how generous and helpful they are being.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:04 pm |
    • GreenieInPA

      Mine was more accurate: "When atheists organize to molest the children of the world, they will be taken more seriously." duh, duht, duh

      August 13, 2012 at 1:05 pm |
    • sam

      Ah, missionaries. That's nice. Again, most atheists don't run around yelling "I'm atheist!" when they do something for their community. They just do it, without sending people out to convert others, or being organized by a religious body. Which is likely why there are no numbers to show; after all, saying you don't believe in a god gets you a batch or crap in the US.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:09 pm |
  16. RobotDudeMN

    Hewed wood and toted water for 50+ years in the Christian religion. Decided that way was idiotic. Rebooted my beliefs, started over and still looking. It was tough but I did it. No more fear based religion for me where I have to do 100% of the work and God has to do nothing AND I'm in trouble anyways. Four years since starting my new journey, I'm very relaxed and enjoying my path wherever it takes me. I'm not an atheist (yet) but when you think about it, if a billboard like that was posted in many parts of the world – those people would be killed. I'm thankful we can speak our mind (kind of) without fear of death. Glad we have "Freedom FROM religion" in the USA, at least right now.

    August 13, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • Saint_John

      You are on the fast track to enlightenment. Enjoy!

      August 13, 2012 at 1:12 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Wow fifty years and never a moment of enlightenment?

      August 13, 2012 at 1:33 pm |
  17. bp

    "As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice." – Adolf Hitler

    August 13, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Hitler, like most politicians co-opted Christianity for his own purposes just like everything else around him. It's called megalomania.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • ArthurP

      Republicans, like most politicians co-opted Christianity for their own purposes just like everything else around them. It's called megalomania.

      August 13, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
  18. Pragomatic

    How slow does one need to drive past that thing to read it all? For smart folks, they can't design billboards worth a hooey..

    August 13, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • John

      And you just read the entire thing because they got it published on an international news website. Smart folks indeed.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:00 pm |
  19. Fred

    Man we have some seriously angry Atheists. LOL @ angry atheists. They're so smart and snarky; I wish I was completely absent of a belief system so I could be angry too.

    August 13, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • bp

      You'd be upset, too, if you saw people expressing hate and intolerance in the name of their god of love and acceptance.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • QS

      You have my pity.

      August 13, 2012 at 1:06 pm |
  20. SPW

    I hate militant atheist as much as I hate religious people who try to 'save' my soul or whatever their books call for.

    August 13, 2012 at 12:55 pm |
    • Dave

      Labelling us "militant" just shows how irrational you are.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:59 pm |
    • Brendan

      Dave...he was talking about militant atheists, not atheists. I think he made that pretty clear when he said "militant atheists" instead of "atheists are militant." People really love getting offended, don't they?

      August 13, 2012 at 1:06 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.