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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. intelligent designer

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

    August 13, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  2. intelligent designer

    Now That's religion!

    August 13, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  3. bp

    “We were convinced that the people need and require this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out.” -Adolf Hitler, in a speech in Berlin on October 24, 1933

    August 13, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • justageek

      Why do you keep quoting Hitler? He was a nut job to everyone nearly everyone. He was just a run of the mill good old fashioned lunatic with some drugs thrown in.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • bp

      I quote Hitler as an example that faith in no way makes people more moral or less likely to commit atrocities. Despite the revisionists who try to rewrite history to portray him and Stalin as atheists ("Christians wouldn't do such things!"), the fact is that people of faith can be just a evil as any others, only more so because they claim divine justification for their hatreds.

      "I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires." – Susan B. Anthony

      August 13, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  4. ryan evans

    My problem with most atheists is simple... they're asinine. They have no sense of tact. they use every opportunity to remind you of their atheism. even when not appropriate. If you find yourself getting offended because someone says they'll pray for a sick relative of yours, maybe you should open your heart and get off the soapbox. other than that i'm all for logic and reason. i'll stick with philosophy though.

    August 13, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Adam

      "other than that I'm all for logic" – so by your admission, religion is not logical.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • justageek

      Religion is about as logical as believing we, and this universe, came from an infinitely small point of nothing in a big bang. But we're here so matter what you believe it is pretty unbelievable. Simply amazing.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Adam, that is your problem. Religion is in fact, not logical, it is spiritual. Atheist seem to lack a spiritual receptor.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  5. justageek

    What do you get if you join them? No hopes or promises like a religion gives so you just get a bumber sticker or something? Seriously...what is the point in joining exactly?

    August 13, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Bijouandbucky

      You don't "join athiesm" to get something. You either believe in God or you don't. Athiests don't. Duh!

      August 13, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • justageek

      But it says to 'join' their group. I want at least hotel discounts or something.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  6. soican

    In other news..... Atheists are building a stadium and are importing lions and tigers to the area.....

    August 13, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • bp

      Good idea, but those with religious beliefs thought of that idea first. Also, the Crusades, the Inquisition, etc. Maybe in modern times they can set up an arena for mass displays of pedophilia.

      "It is necessary for salvation for every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff." – Pope Boniface

      August 13, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  7. Reality

    "John Hick, a noted British philosopher of religion, estimates that 95 percent of the people of the world owe their religious affiliation to an accident of birth. The faith of the vast majority of believers depends upon where they were born and when. Those born in Saudi Arabia will almost certainly be Moslems, and those born and raised in India will for the most part be Hindus. Nevertheless, the religion of millions of people can sometimes change abruptly in the face of major political and social upheavals. In the middle of the sixth century ce, virtually all the people of the Near East and Northern Africa, including Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Egypt were Christian. By the end of the following century, the people in these lands were largely Moslem, as a result of the militant spread of Islam.

    The Situation Today

    Barring military conquest, conversion to a faith other than that of one’s birth is rare. Some Jews, Moslems, and Hindus do convert to Christianity, but not often. Similarly, it is not common for Christians to become Moslems or Jews. Most people are satisfied that their own faith is the true one or at least good enough to satisfy their religious and emotional needs. Had St. Augustine or St. Thomas Aquinas been born in Mecca at the start of the present century, the chances are that they would not have been Christians but loyal followers of the prophet Mohammed." J. Somerville

    It is very disturbing that religious violence and hatred continues unabated due to radomness of birth. Maybe just maybe if this fact would be published on the first page of every newspaper every day, that we would finally realize the significant stupidity of all religions.

    August 13, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • Jon

      ...and now we have heard from the foolish sect. It is all truly sad. But, one day we will all see the truth. You can say what you want but the truth will be revealed. I hate it for the nonbelievers but you can't and you won't be able to say you didn't know. Nuff said.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Reality

      It is very disturbing that religious stupidity, violence and hatred continues unabated due to radomness of birth. Maybe just maybe if this fact would be published on the first page of every newspaper every day, that we would finally realize the significant stupidity of all religions.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  8. bp

    “I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so”

    “Any violence which does not spring from a spiritual base, will be wavering and uncertain. It lacks the stability which can only rest in a fanatical outlook.”

    “I believe today that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator.”

    All these statements by Adolf Hitler make me breath a sigh of relief that he wasn't an atheist. Otherwise, he might have done some terrible things. The same for Stalin, a Jesuit who as a teenager was accepted by a seminary to begin training for the priesthood.

    August 13, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • southernsugar

      He was killed out of the seminary after two months. He only joined because he was freshly out of prison and needed room and board. State the all of the facts, bubba.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  9. William Demuth

    Mass shooting at Texas A&M breaking on the wire.

    Anyone wanna bet it's a jeebus freak gone mad?

    Multiple cops down.

    August 13, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • Anita Hanjab

      It's all part of God's plan....right?

      August 13, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • Kalessin

      Wow, that's a jack@ss thing to say Billy.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Kalessin

      Why? Bibles and Bulletts go hand in hand!

      Redneck Fundies going off the deep end.

      The truth always hurts!

      August 13, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Kalessin

      "Why? Bibles and Bulletts go hand in hand!"

      No they don't.

      "Redneck Fundies going off the deep end."

      We have no idea if this guy is (a) a redneck or (b) even Christian

      "The truth always hurts"

      What truth? All you are doing is channeling Hannity.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • iwillia

      WOW! I'm seeing a lot more hate from the athiests than the christians here...

      August 13, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Kalessin

      I offered a WAGER. Are you taking it?

      The truth will soon out, but even then you will deny it.

      Crazy Christians with guns are becoming a national crisis, and we need to put aside the PC stuff and face the truth. If you believe in some man in the sky controling your world, you are to crazy to have a firearm.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • Kalessin

      "I offered a WAGER. Are you taking it?"

      A wager on an event that led to the deaths of many people?

      "The truth will soon out, but even then you will deny it."

      You are not interested in truth. You are interested in being correct. Truth has no ego but your motives are filled with it.

      "Crazy Christians with guns are becoming a national crisis,"

      Umm...no. Perhaps crazy citizens.

      "If you believe in some man in the sky controling your world, you are to crazy to have a firearm."

      I know of no one that believes in "some man in the sky" that controls anything. Seems you have some issues with people and what they really believe.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      William was on here last week blaming the Joplin mosque fire on Christians before the facts came in too. Spreading lies is just his way.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • jimmer

      It's just god punishing Texas for supporting gay marriage......oh, wait.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  10. Anita Hanjab

    I heard that Smarties wanted Jesus to be their spokeman but they kept falling through the holes in his hands.

    August 13, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  11. Manhammer

    As a person who isn't religious myself, I don't understand why there are so many Atheists out there who go out of their way to bash and ridicule other people's beliefs. Why does an Atheist care what another person's beliefs are? Other people's beliefs have no impact on an Atheist's life. When Atheists do this they just look like jerks, not clever. If you have a problem with a politician because you believe they will use their beliefs to pass laws that you don't agree with then don't vote for them. But why take it out on everybody else?

    August 13, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • A

      "Other people's beliefs have no impact on an Atheist's life." That is where you are wrong, they want the law to be determined by what they "believe". Further, they use it as a shield for bigotry in many forms, both of which impact the lives of others.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Ace

      I am an atheist as well, but I fear we run the risk of sinking to the level of the religious zealots by doing one one the things they do – Preach. Which is what they are doing. Only way to rid the world of religion is education with reason and logic, not taking to the pulpit. I agree on what they say, but maybe not the way they go about it.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • Bijouandbucky

      As an athiest, I agree in part. I don't care about another person's religious beliefs However, I don't think it okay to give the nod to whatever religious legislation the pols want to pass, then not vote for them in the future. Legislation based on religious beliefs should never even make it to the floor. I've said it once and I'll say it again. Christians, Muslims, Catholics, Jews, etc. are welcome and encouraged to pass their beliefs to others by talking with them, going to services, teaching their children. But don't bring this stuff into our laws. It will back fire anyway. What are the nice Christians going to do when they become the minority in the US, and the Muslims become the majority?

      August 13, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Imagine No Religion

      Xians have forced their fairy tale down my throat for decades. Knocking on my door trying to sell their imaginary friend. Shoving their propaganda pamphlets in my face as I walk down the street. Delusional jerks like you have no problem dishing it out. What's the matter, don't like the taste of your own medicine? Try growing up and living in reality, instead of some 2000 year old fantasy.

      "There ain't no jesus gonna come from the sky.
      Now that I found out, I know I can cry."
      - John Lennon

      August 13, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I love john Lennon's music as much as anybody. I just don't look to him for spiritual guidance.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • geenabeana

      I don't bash Christians. However, I have been bashed by a Christian at my place of work because she found out I didn't practice any religion. She found out and used it against me. It was very painful because I would never try to hurt someone for any reason. I try to hide the fact that I don't have a belief system because I fear the backlash. My kids have even been bullied because they don't go to church! Why, oh why, do people have to be awful to one another because they don't have the ability to believe in religion? Sadly, this is reality. I am not the only one who gets bashed. As a nonbeliever, I am saddened by these incidences over something that can't even be proven. I fail to see why it is so important to answer the question "Where did we come from" rather than just living a happy life.

      August 13, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
  12. Dave Harris

    "When atheists organize to serve the poor and needy of the world, they will be taken more seriously."

    When the holy men of the Catholic Church agree to let their nuns serve the poor and needy, instead of just trying to prevent them from using birth control, they will be taken more seriously.

    August 13, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Jon

      Prevent thier nuns form using birth control???? Do you really have any clue what you are talking about? It is obvious you don't. It is individuals like you that just throw comments around that you really don't understnad. I guess you must have heard that at the office and now feel you are expert on the subject. Then again, this is just CNN and not a real importnatn media avenue as they thingk they are., Keep up the stupidity. Why did I just waset 2 minutes of my life commenting on here? I have a life.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  13. Wonder???

    I wish Nero could have lived 1000 years LOL

    August 13, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Kalessin

      Promoting a mass murderer? How enlightened of you.

      August 13, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  14. Kris

    Nobody knows, but it is a fascinating topic.

    August 13, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
  15. Carys

    Atheists have become the same solicitious, organized belief as Christians, Muslims, etc. Why should they worry about what I believe in? I am able to live freely and think freely without being an Atheist, thank you. They don't need to save ME from anything.
    I would further like to dispel the myth that Christians don't believe in science. And we don't baptize dead people. Do more research, and less bullying.

    August 13, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • Adam

      @Carys – some mormons used (certain sects might still) baptize holocause victims because they believe that this allowed them to go to heaven. Nobody was saying that Christians, as you define them, baptize the dead. They were saying that mormons do because it is true (or was at some point in time).

      August 13, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • really

      The billboard states that Mormons baptize dead people.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Sighs for modern atheism

      Huge difference between baptizing dead people (not aware of anyone who does this) and baptizing the souls of the dead by proxy (which is what the Mormons do). If you don't believe it matters or that they don't have the authority to do so then it shouldn't matter at all. I don't understand why atheists have become so religious in their non-belief. It's getting harder and harder to distinguish between their logic and behavior in comparison to the theists they revile.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
  16. frederick

    Obama and Willard don't have religions, they have greed for money and power. When you have/want the position of power that the presidency is in the US, you ARE God. We've all had that little feeling of ego when we get just a pinch of power, be it a managerial position or what not, imagine that times a million and see if you still believe in a higher being. Look at North Korea for example, that's what the US is slowing turning into with all of the sheeples going crazy for straight up propaganda.

    August 13, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
  17. Fallacy Spotting 101

    The Billboard by American Atheists contains instances of the ad hominem fallacy and the circ-umstantial ad hominem fallacy.

    http://www.fallacyfiles.org/glossary.html

    August 13, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      wow I never thought I'd see the day when you'd point out an atheist twist in logic.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  18. Believe in nothing

    Athiest have no religion however most do worship "Mother Earth", and are enviromental types.

    Mother Earth = God
    Al Gore = Jesus
    Big Oil = Satan
    Big Coal = Satan's Demons
    Carbon = Sin
    Global Warming = Book of Revelation

    Funny how close Christian Faith and Enviromentalism follow that same fear tactics...

    August 13, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • RED HERRING

      Hey, I'm over here... follow me!

      August 13, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • Bijouandbucky

      Sorry, I don't buy it. You are making this up.

      August 13, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      This reads like Believe's list of imaginary analogies.

      Atheists don't worship 'mother earth'.

      Think of it as spaceship earth. It's our life support system. When you mess with the life support system, you're asking for trouble. This is logic, not metaphysics.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
  19. Logic

    The main problem with Christianity is most people who call themselves "Christian" have no idea what it means. Don't know much about Islam but I am guessing it's the same there. Mormons? Well that's just plain wrong...

    August 13, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      The main problem with Christianity is they force it on others. Another problem however is Christians all think their version of the 30K truths is the correct one and that other ‘fake’ Christians are not really Christians.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • Kalessin

      "The main problem with Christianity is they force it on others."

      Now how has anyone recently "forced" Christianity onto another person?

      "Another problem however is Christians all think their version of the 30K truths is the correct one and that other ‘fake’ Christians are not really Christians."

      Unlike atheists who think that their version of truth is the correct one.
      As for Christians, I know very few that would ever say someone isn't a Christian because something minor in dogma.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @Kalessin,

      every time a fundie-funded lawyer starts another defence of marriage act Christianity is forced on other people.

      California Prop. 8 ring a bell with you?

      Rights materially taken away from people by Christians.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • Kalessin

      I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV- "every time a fundie-funded lawyer starts another defence of marriage act Christianity is forced on other people. California Prop. 8 ring a bell with you?"

      It does. Certain tax payers did not agree with how the civil union of marriage was being handled. They were in their right as tax payers to voice their opinions and participate in the political message. Any issues on religion (by either side) was irrelevant since the govt does not handle the religious aspect of marriage.

      "Rights materially taken away from people by Christians."

      What would be more correct, rights materially got given by citizens that may have been Christians.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  20. Reality

    I see the Silvermans are at again trying to build their take of the "non-profit" pie. As per guidestar.org, Dave "works" for his "non-profit" and is paid $25,000/yr for working two hours a week. As with "uncle" Herb, said non-profit pays out~$180,000 in salaries each year but most of this money is not accounted for on the groups' Form 990. And with assets of $1.5 million, you have to wonder if this is another investment front where said non-profit pays no taxes on dividends, capital gains or interest.

    That being said, the topic billboards are a great idea. Hopefully, one of these days said billboards will be paid for by those who have no economic agenda. CNN is helping by featuring these billboards at no cost.

    August 13, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      If you can't beat 'em join 'em I guess. If you want to label it as snouts in the tax-free trough go right ahead. It's a drop in the bucket compared with the religious non-profits.

      But I disagree with you on the billboards. They're crass.

      Reasoned people should be better than this.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:16 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.