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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.

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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.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: 2012 Election • Atheism • Barack Obama • Christianity • Mitt Romney • Mormonism • Politics

soundoff (7,477 Responses)
  1. Kilgore Trout

    The Devil is saying: "Yeah how's that new program of mine working out with those atheists? Keep working on their arrogance and cynicism. I got everyone hating everyone, suckers".

    August 13, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • BOB

      What do Bermudans know?

      August 13, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      Look at your Kilgore Trout! You believe in a Devil, how mature of you.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Dwayne Hoover

      My wife is a God.da.mned, f.uc.ling MACHINE !!!

      This out to delight the determinist crowd

      August 13, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  2. StBrigid

    My bff is an Atheist. When I’m down she always says things like “the universe has a way of working things out.” And that makes NO sense to me in the world of Atheist thinking. Doesn’t that indicate a belief in some higher power, rather than just randomness? Then again, she isn’t one of those ZEALOUS Atheists that feels the need to convert people.

    August 13, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • William Demuth

      You have a bff, but no high school diploma I assume?

      Turn off the idiot box and educate yourself.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      Atheists do not convert people. What's wrong with your thinking on this? It's just mind blowing how fu*cking stupid all of you are when it comes to atheists.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Those horrible ZEALOUS atheists are but a pale shadow of the mission for global conquest that is Christianity and Islam.

      What is your position on the missions, St. Brigid? Do you not find them even more "ZEALOUS"?

      After all they preach conversion on the peril of the eternal lake of fire. The very definition of zealotry, I would say.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  3. gary

    religion makes nuts. The 21st century has no need for myths and ancient folklore. Learn the history of Xtianity and find out why it has no cred. Just silly myths that have been changed and morphed over centuries by men seeking power. It's a scam.

    August 13, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • StBrigid

      First of all, you just further bolstered my argument that Atheists are no more than angry grownups who neer got over having to skip cartoons to go to Sunday School. Why target just Christians? Last I heard Muslims believed in a Supreme Being. Maybe you're not such a free thinker and are just drinking the kool-aid. Secondly, what do you care what anyone else thinks or believes in? Why does seeing a religious symbol offend you? Why do you have signs that say "Jesus Sux"? In other words, you sound very angry at a God you supposedly don't believe in.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      @StBrigid

      Grow-up and grow a brain while you're at it! It's obvious you know nothing about atheism. You're just plain fu*cking stupid.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • Mike V

      StBrigid, stop parroting common false assertions and actually do 5 minutes of research. Atheists criticize Islam all the time, but it's no surprise that the majority religion in the US gets the brunt of the attention. As for why atheists get worked up about religious oppression, well I always refer people to this video since it's easier than repeating the same thing ad nauseam:

      [youtube=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4fQA9mt-Mg&w=640&h=360]

      August 13, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  4. tom in san diego

    These people should be put down they are so perverted

    August 13, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Maybe your preachers should bend them over like an altar boy?

      That'll teach em to be perverted!

      August 13, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  5. frankb2910

    There is no man in the sky. When you die you'll be dead. Get over it.

    August 13, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Truthbetold

      You can't know that any more than I can know of an afterlife. Your arrogance reeks.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
  6. dave

    dear American atheists:
    please put up a billboard to ridicule Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and any other major religion you can get your hands on as well.

    p.s. while you're at it, please please up a billboard to ridicule your hateful agenda as well.

    August 13, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Dave

      We hate you all equally.

      Please continue slaughtering each other

      Thanks!

      August 13, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • gary

      I don't hate anything. I don't like people living delusions and myths. Religions make slaves, wars, nuts ... always has.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      Dave, why don't you shut up? You don't know a darn thing about atheism and by the way there have been billboards placed in Muslim communities. So before you speak, learn.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • sam stone

      dave....when those other religions have people running for president, they will be ridiculed. feeling a bit put upon, little fella?

      August 13, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • sam stone

      also, davey, religions are not physical things, so we cannot "get our hands on" them

      August 13, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • BOB

      @samstone: If religion is not a "physical thing" then it does not scientifically exist. Why are you so angry at something that does not exist?

      August 13, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  7. Rich

    It says a lot about Tampa when the billboards are not permitted. Glad I don't live there. It sounds a lot like the Soviet Union.

    August 13, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Paul Apostle

      Tampa is known globally for it's Go Go bars, not Billboards.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  8. Truthbetold

    Atheists are always angry. How miserable your lives must be. Power and corruption are independent of religion and both naturally infest politics. Atheists are just as partisan and irresponsible as the rest of us.

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

      Yes, but we have better love lives.

      It seems there are lots of frustrated Christian woman who want to trade sides for a night or two.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  9. sblome

    Ok, I'm an atheist and these billboards seem unnecessarily insulting to religious people. It's hard to encourage someone to consider your point of view by insulting them.

    August 13, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      Guess what? Too bad if the truth is insulting. You're not an atheist, you're just a liar.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Scott

      Thank you sblome. I view the type of atheists that post billboard like this in the flip side of the same coin as the Christians that tell me if I don't practice THEIR type of Christianity, then I'm headed to the inferno region.

      Scott

      August 13, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • sblome

      I assure you, I'm an atheist. Another concern I have about the style of these billboards is they are good tools for fundy groups to use for fund raising. One could say on a billboard (in a much catchier way, but something to this effect): "There is no evidence of god. There's lots of evidence provided by science. Consider reason!"

      August 13, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Scott

      sblome,
      If your response was to me, I was not trying to infer that you weren't an atheist. I meant no disrespect to you in my first posting nor in this posting. I was only trying to point out the similarity between the foaming-at-the-mouth-atheists and the foaming-at-the-mouth-Christians on how they are so similar in how they hack off the other side with their outrageous statements.

      Scott

      August 13, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • sblome

      I should have clarified, my comment was for TheVocalAtheist.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
  10. Niyol

    Atheism – Simply Hate.

    August 13, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      Your comment – simply wrong.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • gary

      Atheism is myth understood.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Crazed Engineer

      Seems that way doesn't it.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • sam stone

      gary: i like it.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
  11. cryofpaine

    "Religion is silly and religion has components that are inherently divisive. … There is no place for any of that in the political system"

    Best laugh all day. Oh wait, you were being serious? News flash, that's not religion's fault, that's humanity's fault. And what, politics is all peace, love, and singing Kumbaya by the fire? Perhaps you've been living under a rock, but politics these days is silly and divisive, and that has nothing to do with religion. It has everything to do with the "I'm right, you're evil/brainless" mentality that many people seem to have these days, including the person posting these billboards.

    Too many people these days believe that they are absolutely right, and that anyone that disagrees with them must naturally be doing so either because they lack the intelligence to see the truth, or because they are deliberately and maliciously denying the truth. That is the problem with religion, that is the problem with atheism, that is the problem with politics, and that is the problem with humanity in general. Not any specific belief, but rather the beliefs that your belief makes you inherently superior to everyone else.

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

      If there were no humans there would be no religion. If there were no humans there would be no hate.

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

      uh? Without humanity you wouldn't have religion.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
  12. the dude

    If atheists are targeting "Mormonism and Christianity" are they not guilty of violating the First Amendment (freedom from religious persecution) ???

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

      No, that only applies to government.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Adam

      Maybe they are just returning the favor?

      August 13, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • BOB

      Atheists are not reknowned for their logical consistancy.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Adam

      perhaps...perhaps not, but at least we know how to spell renowned.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • Dudus57

      Just as guilty as when I express my right to be an atheist and 10 religious nut-jobs try to cram it down my throat.

      Consider this: Does the street corner preacher preach tot he other believers, no. Therefore he preaches tot eh the non-beleivers. Isn't that also then a violation of the non-belivers rights that is overlooked simply by the fact that their religion say to spread? Inverse: Say an atheist preaches to a street corner, as his morals says to him "say the sheepeople", as an expression of faith both would be considered oppression.

      It's a two way street and we've stood on the saide walks and ignored your billboards and preachers for 1000s of years. It's your turn to ignore us, but DO NOT pretend that your religion makes your blood run a different color. We are the same, your just a little bit crazier than us.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • the dude

      Knows absolutely nothing about the application of the Consti.tution...

      August 13, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • sam stone

      "Atheists are not reknowned for their logical consistancy"

      And theists are?

      August 13, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
  13. BOB

    You can get together with the Atheists at their next "humanist gathering" and watch them worship their newest pair of Khaki's.

    August 13, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • AverageJoe76

      Awww c'mon BOB....... everyone loves a good pair of khakis.

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

      You can also join them the next time they "volunteer" to barrista at Starbucks.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  14. Jack 3

    Did anyone see the coverage by CNN and Soladad Obrian on Tv covering the opening and opposition to the mosque in Murphreesboro? It was very slanted against the opposition. You could tell Soladad was for the muslims and they mad it look like all those bad people that were opposed to it battling nice innocent teenage muslim. It was shameful of CNN and Soladad. It was totally biased. We are battling what the muslim religion will bring to the US in the next 10 to twenty years. We've seen what has happened in other countries and we don't want it to happen here. The question is when they get many more muslims in the US will sharia be compatible with democracy? So far in other countries it's proven to not be for the most part. A good muslim follows Sharia. To not goes against islam.

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

      I'm one of those new atheists, and I recently donated to rebuild the burned down mosque in Joplin. How's that for hate? I have a few issues with Islam too, but much more of an issue with ignorant southern Christian bigots.

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

      Certain parts of all religions are incompatible with western cultures. Like Christians, Jews, Hindus etc (I'm sorry if you fall in etc, but I'm not typing them all), I'm sure that freedom is pretty attractive and a prime reason for coming. As such, they are less inclined to worry about how to convert your kids, and more worried about how to prevent theirs from skipping school and hanging out with their friends...

      That's right, just like everyone else...

      August 13, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
  15. Chad Baker

    I'm still shocked that in the modern age we're actually considering voting for candidates who believe in such nonsense. Mormonism is a fanfic of an expansion pack (Christianity) of an ancient tribal religion. It is complete bull, but he believes it, and yet I'm supposed to trust this guy's judgment on matters of national and global importance?

    August 13, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • the dude

      Check the Bill of Rights, First Amendment.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • the dude

      So much for the religious tolerance of the Left.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  16. Paul

    Ironic, isn't it? Their very name includes the concept of God: "a-theist". For a group that doesn't believe in God, they sure are supporting Him. Can't they come up with a more original name? After all, if aethists are the most supreme intelligence in this universe, they should be able to come up with a name that is opposite... or at the very least not promulgate the very concept they are trying to dispute (Theism).

    August 13, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Dudus57

      id10t. the prefix "a" means not, anti, other, non, etc....

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

      Are you that stupid or was this a failed attempt at being clever?

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

      Hahahahahahahahaha.

      Thanks. I really needed that. Try picking up a dictionary sometime...or attending the seventh grade, whichever works best for you.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • IAMCORRECT

      Ummm Paul, the word "Athiest" is 400+ years old. We did not just come up with it.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  17. southernsugar

    I forgive the atheists.

    August 13, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • Dudus57

      Thankfully for us we don't need it. See you in the grave sheepeople.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • Ohwaityouareseriousletmelaughevenharder

      Can I also borrow a cup of fairy dust, while you're at it?

      I have this annoying neighbor who watches TV late at night and it's way too loud... I was thinking about sprinkling some fairy dust and praying to Jesus that the offending noise will cease, rather than actually doing something about it.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  18. River

    I’ve had to unfriend at least a dozen friend on Facebook because they were so obnoxious. Just would not shut up. I couldn’t post “this weather is gorgeous” or “excited about the shuttle launch” without “Your ‘God’ had nothing to do with it” or “I thought you said you believe in God? Why do you follow the space program?” I didn’t preach to them and I certainly didn’t want them preaching to me. If they hate Christians so much, why are they trying so hard to act like them? And how come it’s only being open minded when you only believe in one possibility? Simple. Reasonable. Hypocrits.

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

      I'm not surprised River. Atheists, like other forms of komrade liberals, are all for "tolerance" and "Freedom of Speech" ... ONLY if the the "tolerance" and "Freedom of Speech" are approved by them. Pathetic, isn't it.

      Scott

      August 13, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
    • Mike V

      Your Facebook friends indeed sound obnoxious, but that doesn't nor shouldn't say anything about the justification for belief in deities versus a lack of belief.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • karl

      River if you put in every comment that God helped achieved whatever your brain considered important than i would have defriended you a long time ago. Nothing more annoying than someone who professes their belief constantly and refers it to everything. If your religious great but dont expect others to share your view or post on your update..

      August 13, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
    • jimmer

      I get one or two atheist comments a month on my FB feed. I get twenty stupid jesus loves you memes before lunch every day. The atheists are mildly annoying, I have just gone to unfriending the self righteous jesus types.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  19. Pelegrim

    I think religion is an utter waste, but so is being an atheist.

    August 13, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • No Truth, Just Claims

      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..

      August 13, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • Crazed Engineer

      Yeah Atheism has turned into a belief system where you fight religion. True non-belief means you ignore all of it (atheist claim to want this, but can't separate it from fighting the religious). Atheism is a religion for those who hate religion. Rationalism is the way to go. I hate it when an atheist says that they are for rationalism, but they have to fight the religious? When you've set aside your petty fights between atheism and spiritualism, try rationalism. A true rationalist would not donate money and time to fight the religious (it's like fighting over Santa Claus)

      August 13, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • jimmer

      The only reason atheists fight religion is because of the increasing creeping of religion into the public sphere. If the faithful were not constantly trying to force "Christian law" into my secular government, I could not care less whether they were religious or not.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
  20. PrimeNumber

    "Atheism: SIMPLY Reasonable. " In other words, if reasoning was somewhat difficult, it would be to hard for them. But their anthem, Imagine, does say " it isn't hard to do" and "its easy if you try". Perfect for the mentally lazy.

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

      @PrimeNumber

      I guess misrepresentation comes easy to you doesn't it? Then again, I don't expect honesty from you.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • Mike V

      As opposed to claiming "God did it" when faced with the tough science questions? So many of the conveniences you enjoy every day would not be possible without the efforts and accomplishments of rational, scientific-minded atheists.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • Crazed Engineer

      If you are a scientist, and you are fighting for or against religion, then you are a poor scientist with not enough research. I prefer to spend my time researching and designing. Trust me there are plenty of things that need to be researched. Speaking of which what the hell am I doing on this site?

      August 13, 2012 at 4:46 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.