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.
About this blog
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.
Religion is an expression of reason. Politicians from all religions use relgion as a means to dupe the masses into surrendering their individual free will. This does not mean that all politicians abuse the names of God and the members of his executive staff (that means prophets agels and saints), but we allow too many perpetual political office seekers to get away with it. For believers, the behavior of some politicians clearly pushes using the name of the Lord in vain as an avenue to personal wealth and power. The billboards are not an insult but a wakeup call if not a backhanded homily. What is the nature of the evil that drives people right and left off the paths of good?
Keep your moral bullsh*it to yourself topher.
Topher, you wouldn't know right from wrong if I knocked you over the head with a slab of each.
Religion is an expression of irrationality. You merely parrot what you were indoctrinated into parroting.
Reason has NOTHING to do with it.
I like it. I read it without reading the posters name so I had no preconception of the slant. I think the back handed homily is spot on. I suspect we will begin to see the body of Christ contract, which non-believers will see as progress. Believers simply see it as pruning for another season of growth.
I get a big kick about all the so called atheists showing-up on this board today. Everyone claiming they are atheists when my skeptical intuition tells me differently. They are merely being the lying Christians that they really are. Anything that will help their agenda, their deceptive liars. If you truly are atheists you would have been here before and you wouldn't be saying the things you do.
I actually don't think you're an atheist. You are a troll trying to get people riled up with dumbed down insults.
Or could it be that these billboards are just stupid enough to engage people who otherwise wouldn't bother commenting?
VocalAtheist will chair the newly formed Inquiry Into Reason Office of American Atheist. He and he alone will be responsible for the determination of a persons adherence to the truth the way and the light.
I guess they are not true atheists.
You serve no one making unsupported claims that everyone else is a liar just because you personally haven't seen them make the claim enough in the past for your own edification.
Relgious people – We're right because our book says so!
Atheists people – You're wrong because you can't prove it, but we can't prove it either.
Agnostic people – You're both fools who don't know your butt from a whole in the ground. Quit bickering and go about your lives already. You'll have your answer soon enough.
Which seems most sensible?
You do realize that theism/atheism and gnosticism/agnosticism are not mutually exclusive right?
The former positions make claims about beliefs while the latter two make knowledge claims.
Therefore I am an agnostic atheist. I cannot claim to know but I do not believe.
Not sure what dictionary you're using, but one can easily be an agnostic atheist. Given the lack of evidence for any deity and the logical inability to disprove the , that seems the most sensible position to me.
My My, how the times are changing!
Do you guys realize this is the first Republican ticket without a Protestant on it in well over 100 years. (It may be the first ever, but its difficult to confirm)
It's amazing what progress is happening, Evangelicals are becoming an endangered species. The slow drip drip drip of modernity is wearing away the very bedrock of the American Christian conservative movement.
What we need are more Muslims down south. Muslim teachers, Muslim State Troopers, maybe even a Muslim supreme court justice or two.
Just to drive the Fundies mad!
In time even the muslims will be confronting their own atheists within their own cultures.
"Do you guys realize this is the first Republican ticket without a Protestant on it in well over 100 years."
It does depend on how "Protestant" is defined, however. The RCC considers anyone who doesn't accept the primacy of the Pope to be "Protestant"... no matter how much the 'protesters' try to wiggle out of it.
I wonder if there have ever been two Catholic VP candidates before?
We're getting there (to rational thinking), though...
What if Christians are right? I guess we'll find out when we all die. I would hate to be on the losing side of that bet. Athiests have a lot more to lose if they are wrong.
Unless, of course, you're the 'wrong' type of Christian. Or god is really islamic. Or Hindu. Or god is someone that doesn't reward a belief based upon hedging one's bet.
Or you could just read up on the fallacy of Pascal's Wager and stop sounding like an idiot.
"This human world of ours would be inconceivable without the practical existence of a religious belief. The great masses of a nation are not composed of philosophers. For the masses of the people, especially faith is absolutely the only basis of a moral outlook on life." – Adolf Hitler
Do you worry about dying gloriously in battle so you can get to Valhalla?
If not, why? What if the Vikings were right?
There are around 300,000 gods invented by men. The chances of being right as atheist vs. Christian are far better. Religion is a control tool and you see it everyday, especially in the US. Just open your eyes.
PS: Best way to become an Atheist: Read the bible.
PPS: Google Bart Ehrman, worlds most known bible scholar or watch him on you tube.
Actually, it's christians that have a lot more to lose. An atheist that has lived a wonderful life, helping others, being honest and living with integrity, will have a lot better chance of getting into any kind of heaven than most of the "christians" that are out there today preaching hate and living duplicitous lives. If the christian bible is to be believed, then the christian god will absolutely understand why some turned to atheism. With all of the religions to choose from, all of them screaming that they are right and yet living wrong, I think any reasonable god would sympathize with an atheist's lack of belief in any of it. It's how you live your life that is the true test of your character and worth, not what group you claim to belong to.
Hey I am not stinking atheist. I am a poly atheist.. there are many Gods I don't believe in.
Atheism isn't the lack of belief in a god. It's the lack of religion. Inherently, you may not believe in a god of any form of religion, but you are not required to be godless.
Umm... Doug? Perhaps it's best to check a dictionary before correcting someone's English?
If religion or law has the Ph.D. on when life begins; why does bull semen cost so much?
I'm absolutely ok with these billboards. In fact, I'm in favor of them. I doubt they'll have the same effect as a billboard advertising a 99cent big mac available for a limited time at participating mcdonalds (ad that tells you something that you didn't know). but in this case, I already know this. Good for them!
There's 99-cent Big Macs?! I'm in!
How could American Atheists think that this would attract people to their organization rather that polarize people to the opposite side? While I am an atheist my self I never go as far to insult a person because they happen to subscribe to a system of belief I feel is facile.
While I completely agree with the premise of questioning the intelligence of our potential leaders and championing critical thought, this certainly is not the way one should achieve the result. This anti-religion campaign lacks the substance, tact and respect that should be found in the public discourse. The need to resort to ad hominem simply displays the fact they they are uncomfortable with defending their arguments rationally.
Much like how every theist does not represent all theistic believers, the same is true for David Silverman. You would be better off saying nothing at all Mr. Silverman.
Beliefs are one thing – actions that a person takes due to those beliefs is another...such as voting against the rights of others because your beliefs dictate that you should do so.
It's a battle cry. We want your belief system expunged from our society
The days of us sitting quietly are done.
There is blood in the water. The time to strike is NOW!
In tactical warfare you have to burn out all their niche -holdings- first. Still a few years away I think.
"I pledge that I never will tie myself to parties who want to destroy Christianity .. We want to fill our culture again with the Christian spirit ... We want to burn out all the recent immoral developments in literature, in the theater, and in the press – in short, we want to burn out the poison of immorality which has entered into our whole life and culture as a result of liberal excess during the past ... (few) years." – Adolf Hitler
Jesus is toast.
Meemee, I'll tell you what to eat – and it won't be toast!
The Atheist Slogan should be Misery Loves Company – Please Join Us...
You have no hope and we see it in your bitterness!!
Yeah...... go figure. The misery of living in a real world.
Why is it that you assume that atheists are miserable? I've never been happier since dropping my faith.
You see what you want to see. Their is nothing I could do to show you differently. You are truly blind.
Wowee!...... Just look in your own doctrine's mirror and history!
It is a statement of self appeasement.
"I can think that they are miserable.. so I'm now glad that I said it. To confirm it in my own mind."
I am much happier without religion than I was with it....
"A religion is sometime a source of happiness, and I would not deprive anyone of happiness. But it is a comfort appropriate for the weak, not for the strong. The great trouble with religion – any religion – is that a religionist, having accepted certain propositions by faith, cannot thereafter judge those propositions by evidence. One may bask at the warm fire of faith or choose to live in the bleak certainty of reason- but one cannot have both."
– Robert Heinlein
aren't u clever! ha ha
if u were capable of actually thinking for yourself and not being a slave of pulpit propaganda you wouldn't have made your statement!
Christianity isn't about your happiness. It's about your holiness. Desire for temporal happiness is what causes sin and, by it's nature, it is pleasurable. Addiction to pleasure produces dependency on the substance providing the high. Thus more and more sin is incurred. Only when the flesh ceases to satisfy, when the happy rush of self satisfaction flees is one faced with the realization that there is no happiness in the flesh.
What about Islam? When y'all gonna attack that? Oh yeah, you don't want your offices to be blown up...
Read the d@mn article.
I bet the major party Muslim candidate would be upset.
None of the presidental candidates are muslim.
As far as Western history is concerned Christianity has been the oppressor, murderer and backward force for centuries. There is no doubt that is Islam has it's turn, it will be a repeat, but probably not nearly as cruel as Muslim militants just cut off heads, it took Christians to devise the most horrid methods of extracting "confessions," etc., from heretics and the "like." Look it up, if you have the courage.
Beyond that of all the religions of the world, Christianity's claims and premises are by far the most ridiculous. The schizophrenia of the Western mind can be attributed the dominance and insistence of Christian "thought" as set into the minds of children from birth by the most devious forms of brainwashing known. But that anyone beyond a dumb 8 year old could believe that nonsense is what amazes the thinking among us.
Tell you what, when Islam is the major religious force affecting the laws of secular American society, I'll deal with it. Right now, it is every bit as erroneous as Christianity in my opinion, but Christianity is the self-proclaimed religion of nearly 8 our of every 10 Americans. Christians hold 96% of all national level offices. Christians cause the biggest election swings and provide the most funding in political elections of all the religious groups. I can't even legally buy a car on Sunday where I live and that's because of Christians, not Muslims. So, I'll focus any concerns and conflicts I have on the religion that MOST DIRECTLY affects the lives, rights, liberty, and property of myself and those I care about first, and discuss outliers when it matters that I do so.
Pretty obvious, really.
I'm an atheist myself (more or less a prerequisite for being a physicist), but I don't like these kinds of big-billboard, in-your-face kinds of actions. I agree that in a perfect world, politics would essentially be run by kind, rational, incorruptible people. But it'll never be that way, and in any case I think that religion plays a fairly minimal role in the decisions they make in Washington.
I can understand why people view these kinds of billboards as "hateful". What you need to understand is that the Atheist community in America is HEAVILY discriminated against by pretty much everybody. Atheists in this country face alienation from their communities, loss of jobs, loss of friends, and are frequently discriminated against by juries in the courts of law. Unlike the LGBT community, there are no safe zones for atheists – anywhere. So is it really a surprise when groups show up and express their anger at the rest of America?
I very frequently conceal my own non-religious orientation, as do many of my friends from college. "Oh, I'm an atheist" isn't something you want to say at dinner as it always causes an uncomfortable, brooding silence. People have tons of misconceptions about atheists that they wouldn't even consider giving voice to with respect to any other racial/social group. It's also definitely a fact that a LOT of people openly consider atheists to be subhuman – this despite the fact that atheists make up a hugely disproportionate percentage of all the scientists and other very highly trained professionals in this country.
So while I disagree with these billboard messages and wish American Atheists would take them down, I understand where it all comes from.
It's true, we atheists don't have much of a leg to stand on in the public forum, and coming out swinging like this isn't going to convince anyone of anything. Sadly, not many of the devout have been put off religion by the presence of facts, and even far fewer by having it pointed out how silly and self-contradictory their belief systems are...
You are not an atheist, prove it.
Thanks for speaking up for us. These god-fearing fools are going to end the planet. Space exploration and technology are the only thing we have going for us as a planet...
You've articulated my thoughts on this issue perfectly.
If your first sentence is an indictment of the scientific community exercising discrimination, I suppose that is one issue. If your ignorance of contributions to science from religious people is behind it, I have posted the following which is to lengthy to cut and paste:
American Atheists is a hate group which attacks others for their beliefs. I'm atheist myself and I don't support them. They give other atheists a bad name.
So your version of atheism is the one true way?
It takes as much faith to be an atheist as it does to believe in God. It sounds to me like atheists are making more of an emotional cjhoice that a rational one. As for the billboards, they are petty, vindictive, and demeaning and more than a little hateful. But you know what, say what you need to, I respect your God-given right to say it.
"It takes as much faith to be an atheist as it does to believe in God."
Repeating your mantra to yourself. Good for you. One day you'll convince yourself that this is really what it is.
Does it take faith for you to not believe in the tooth fairy as well? Do you have lots of faith that Zeus does not exist?
So ... it takes faith to not have faith? Does that actually make sense in your head?
Who cares what the atheists say, or think, REALLY ? They are an insignificant monority within the scheme of things, and have little if any influence politically. They can't even influence a boycott, much less an election. Screw 'em.
"Who cares what the atheists say, or think, REALLY ? They are an insignificant monority within the scheme of things, and have little if any influence politically. They can't even influence a boycott, much less an election"
Yeah, until they are in a position to bribe the candidates, their voices are largely quiet.
I'd say it probably takes more faith the be athiest in the United States of god fearing morons..
What? You don't have any idea of what atheism or philosophy is about. Just because you want to characterize it so that you can deal with it using the same meager tools as you have for your psychological set of crutches doesn't make it true or factual.
The plain truth is that whenever religious zealots ruled, chaos and mayhem resulted (read The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire," Gibbon for a start). It is those willing to challenge that spiritual dogma and use reason to find truth who are responsible for every bit of progress this world has seen.
"Live by the word...stop preaching empty words that fall of deaf ears without action!!!!"
The action is the putting up of the billboard.
As an open atheist myself, I LOATHE David Silverman, his organization, and all the damage they do to the acceptance of atheism in America society.
These ads do far more harm than good and make atheists in general look bad.
I total agree with you Clyde. I would never join this group. They sound as bad as, if not worse than, any religious zealot.
Disagree – it's high time there was more vocal and visual opposition to the theocratic tendencies the believers in this country seem to be intent on.
There should be an ecuumenical council called to meet in, I don't know, say Cleveland. There each branch of atheism can come together and negotiate their beliefs into one cogent statement. Of course then there will be the dissidents and off shoots to deal with.
@QS – agree. Atheists SHOULD be more vocal and willing to stand up fro themselves. However, the tactics this particular group employs are usually insulting, disingenuous, and I truly feel cause more backlash against atheism than acceptance. There is adult discourse and strong opposition through socially productive means, and then there is the second-grade level inflammatory "they did it first" insult-based mentality of the American Atheists group.
I am an atheist. I do STRONGLY stand up for that and my rights with regards to that. I just don't feel the need to be juvenile and instagatory when doing so. There really is little to be gained from such billboards. It causes the religious to circle the wagons and entrench even deeper in their faith and the questioning to say "well, atheists just seem like a bunch of jack-***es; maybe it's better to be religious and nice than atheist and mean." You catch a lot more flies with the honey of rational discourse and living as an example than with the vinegar of insulting the underlying fundamentals of their entire worldview.
God....can do anything........does nothing.
A make believe friend for adults.
I would respectfully qualify your statement......"A make believe friend for willfully ignorant adults"
Carry on. 😉
Remind me of a Woody Allen quote from one of his early films; "If there is a God, he's incompetent."
I just viewed an excellent WW2 film from 1977, "Cross of Iron." In it, the protagonist (played by James Coburn) at a point says in answer to the question, "I think God is a sadist, but he probably doesn't know it."
09.03.10 at 2:43 pmJack Kemp's Hair Part FilesFirst of all, it's the Feast of St. Rexy, not Rex Ryan Day. Simmons nominates D-Day. THE FACKIN NARRATIVE STRUCTURE OF SAVING PRIVATE RYAN IS NAWT ACCURATE! WILLIAM GOLDMAN TOLD ME SO! MEG RYAN IS WAY MOAH CONVINCING THAN ED BURNS! HOW DO WE AKNOW ANYTHING IN MOVIES ANYWAY? IT's WRITING ONE-OH-ONE \beats off into faded Dwight Evans jeersy\\inserts VHS of Real World: Seattle\\\ nails door over window to protect house in Wareham from Hurricane Earl WEAVAH
... and black people are all thieves and hispanics are all on welfare. If this atheism cult had so called 'reason', then they wouldn't run ads attempting to categorically stereotype what a few "Christians" do, as how most Christians live.
As an atheist, I'll vote for the 'Christian' Obama because his mother was an atheist and I think he's just doing the Christian thing to make his wife and America happy.
Mitt on the other hand... His 'god' was born on the planet Kohlar and lives in space Heaven, nailing his millions of spirit wives. Alien AND Polygamist... No thank you!
And yet, as an atheist, you still cast your vote on the basis of religion. Interesting...
you are seriously going to vote for someone based on those reasons? Please if that is your motivation to vote do the nation a favor an stay inside on election day.
So, you choose to support a candidate based on the fact that he is a follower and does not stand up for his own beliefs? Not great leadership qualities. I'll support the candidate who is steadfast in his beliefs, regardless of how unpopular those beliefs may be.
Your exaggeration of ignorant claims shows no understanding of Mitt's true beliefs or the false claims of his anti-religion enemies. Please inform yourself properly.
Wow! Born on the planet Kholar? Where did you get your "facts" from? I was raised as a Mormon and I have never heard of that one before. The lies some people come up with about the LDS faith are... funny.
Chris – You are correct sir:
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
In the practice of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or "Mormons"), a living person, acting as proxy, is baptized by immersion on behalf of a deceased person. After giving a short prayer that includes the name of the deceased individual, the proxy is immersed briefly in the water, then brought up again. Baptism for the dead is a distinctive ordinance of the church and is based on the belief that baptism is a required ordinance for entry into the Kingdom of God.
Kholar?....close...it's Kolob, and i don't think he was 'born' there, but he resides there currently, according to Joe Smith. Certainly not to correct your post, sir, but to silence your attackers and support a fellow independent mind. Carry on! 😉
In an explanation of an Egyptian hypocephalus that was part of the Book of Abraham scrolls, Joseph Smith interpreted one set of hieroglyphics as representing:
"Kolob, signifying the first creation, nearest to the celestial, or the residence of God. First in government, the last pertaining to the measurement of time. The measurement according to celestial time, which celestial time signifies one day to a cubit. One day in Kolob is equal to a thousand years according to the measurement of this earth, which is called by the Egyptians Jah-oh-eh."