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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. ArthurP

    The only people who need religion are those who do not have the moral compass or strength of character to know right from wrong without the need of a vengeful deity telling them.

    August 13, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • justageek

      So belief can serve a useful purpose by keeping those people in check. Cool by me.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • William Demuth

      justageek

      So Jeebus is just Addera in Palestinian clothing?

      August 13, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • ArthurP

      Which just so happens to be what religion is all about. Keeping the masses in check.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • justageek

      "So Jeebus is just Addera in Palestinian clothing?" – I have no clue. Never met the man.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • William Demuth

      justageek

      Sticky l key

      Jesus as adderal, a way to keep the damaged indivudals from becoming dangerous.

      Todays opiate for the ignorant!

      August 13, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  2. SiVisPacem

    I really don't understand why it is not okay to criticize religions; in my view, these fairy tales should no longer get a free pass or tax breaks. If you play in politics, you are not above being criticized. Logically, a believer should ask themselves:
    1. If there is one God, all religions cannot be right (or even variations of the same religion) as an all knowing, all powerful deity would have made his message clear to everyone. How do you know that you're following the correct path?
    2. If you tell me cite a holy text as an answer to question one; please provide a. Historical evidence and b. site which version of the Koran/Bible you're referring to, as they can't all be the one true word of God (literally dozens of versions have been translated and written...some of them eliminating entire scriptures that the others contain).
    3. Accept the fact that if you were born in a different region of the world, you would be a different religion...if you had been allowed to make up your own mind free from any religious dogma, you would either be an atheist/agnostic or have invented an entirely new belief system.

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

      Umm...what exactly is the harm in believing in a fairy tale? As long as it is not used to harm someone else why would you even care?

      August 13, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • Ravi in Nebraska

      Agree. Perhaps atheists groups should also be tax exempt. It's only fair.

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

      when your fairy tales tell you to hate certain minorities or flies you into buildings, then you're doing it wrong

      August 13, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • SiVisPacem

      That's the exact point; these fairy tales are starting to shape public policy. Religion is the reason we're even debating gay marriage, stem cell research, contraception, abortion, drug policy (some, not all), etc..Freedom of religion should mean you have the freedom to choose to do any or none of these things based on your belief; it does not mean you get to dictate if other people can do them based on your belief; that's called a theocracy.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • ArthurP

      Umm...what exactly is the harm in believing in a fairy tale?

      ============

      Nothing until it corrupts the education of children leaving them ill prepared for employment in our scientifically and technologically advanced society. Unless you are grooming proles for use in the service industries.

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

      "starting to shape public policy" – You really don't think that do you? Religion was far more influential in the past.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:44 pm |
  3. Cantfieldkeep

    Very well composed article, Enjoyed that.

    August 13, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  4. Atheist

    I don't mind if you believe, if you don't mind that I don't.

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

      Cool.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  5. Thinkstr8

    I agree with the "promoting hate" statement but that seems to be "the" tenet with most religions today! I think there is something to be said for the christian "savior". At the core of his teachings or "stated teachings" he at least provides a pretty good moral compass by which to live life. The biggest problem is humans get involved in religion and insert their hate into it!!

    August 13, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Really?

      His father was the foundation of his morality. The same father who wiped out life on earth, and did stuff like killing the Egyptian children to punish the Egyptian governmen?

      The Christian God is a rabid dog, whose worship brings shame on our race.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:31 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      There is no proof for a Christian savior.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Unbeliever

      Why do you guys still believe the new testament is all love and peace? Have you not read the parts where Jesus will burn anyone who doesn't love him in a fiery pit for all of eternity. That's a bit harsh. Also, the new testament is just fine with the the subjegation of women, slavery is still just fine with Jesus, and various other forms of bigotry are still advocated. One more point, why does Jesus get a pass on the OT? According to most Christian teachings, Jesus is fully God and so therefore all of the evil stuff God commanded in the OT was commanded by Jesus. Even those that don't teach the trinity like the Mormans, believe Jesus was at least there with the holy father. So he was at least complicit with those policies. I still don't see a doctrine of "love."

      August 13, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
  6. MyManJohn

    This article explains, in a nutshell, why atheism will never equal any other religion in terms of popularity and participation. The only way to promote atheism is by insulting another religion.

    August 13, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • religion; a way to control the weak minded

      lol and that is so much different than telling everyone that their beliefs are wrong and they are going to hell

      August 13, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
  7. Locker

    Let me explain this... religious people.

    – Claiming gay people should be rounded up and killed is hate.
    – Calling someone out for hateful behavior isn't hate. It's observation.
    – Asking the overwhelming religious majority to give up it's proprietary advantage in our society isn't hate, it's a call for fairness.

    It is completely baffling how a group who is in a 78.4% majority can constantly pretend that they are being persecuted or denied their religious freedom.

    Actually, it's not baffling. You've had the advantage for so long there is no way you are going to let go of it without a fight.

    August 13, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • Ravi in Nebraska

      Locker – they're desperate to identify with the oppression faced by those in the stories they read. In fact, they are the ones persecuting others.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
  8. Drew

    Athiests are simple, bitter, selfish people. Why are you trying to recruit people to NOT believe in something? If you don't care for religion, shouldn't you just shut up?

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

      Only the whacked fanatic few do it. Most atheists are reasonable people.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Ravi in Nebraska

      Drew – your comment seems awfully offensive and bigoted. We are not bitter or selfish, usually.

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

      Drew, why don't you shut the fu*ck-up, learn about atheism and what it is and then comment on it. Until then you make yourself look like the azzhole idiot you are!

      August 13, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • William Demuth

      No.

      We wont accept your egocentric lies any longer.

      Your God is a fabrication, with no basis in reality at all, and your sickening attempts to use a relationship with him to justify your bigotry is no longer acceptable in civil society

      August 13, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Drew

      As do these pointless ads.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Jake-413451

      Why do we care. Because we feel badly that our fellow human beings have been fooled into supporting corrupt organizations that exist to line their own pockets and empower their leaders at the expense of their followers ignorance.

      We speak out because no people should be cowered by the threat of violence into living in forced ignorance of how the world works. Because knowledge of the world and the universe has been a threat to religions power, which is why so many religions, particularly the abrahamic, have engaged in war on knowledge for centuries.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Thinkstr8

      But if you believe in something and someone else does not then shouldn't you S T F U?

      August 13, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • Drew

      "...learn about atheism..."

      Is atheism a religion now? You make no sense. There is nothing to learn because you believe in nothing.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • Clyde M

      "Shouldn't you be silent in the face of a force that constantly seeks to convert you or infringe upon your rights and liberties?"

      Um...no?

      Sorry, but while I don't care if you "join up" with atheism or not, I will not just be silent when religion tries to infuse itself into my life in the secular sphere. When they try to ban civil gay marriage on religious grounds, I'll speak up. When they try to force creationism into secular science classrooms, I will speak up. When they take their religions into the polling places and cast votes that affect mine and other's rights based on the teachings of their religions? I'll speak up. I won't be a jack-***trying to convert everyone, but I won't sit down meekly in the corner and just take whatever religions dish out, either.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Ravi in Nebraska

      Drew – No, "believing in nothing" is nihilism. Atheism just doesn't believe in fantasy land after death. We believe in life. Making the most of it. Being fair to others and treating them as equals. Most atheists are actually anti-war for these reasons. Do not dare suggest that atheists have no morals. That's so ridiculous. Just because they don't worship an invisible sky creature doesn't mean they don't care about anything.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:33 pm |
    • Atheist

      It's called freedom of religion ( or lack of believe thereof), Drew.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Clyde M

      "Is atheism a religion now? You make no sense. There is nothing to learn because you believe in nothing."

      And this simple line clearly establishes that you aren't actually trying to engage in real or meaningful dialogue.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  9. Alex

    awesome...now about those silly religious billboards every 5 miles on I-40

    August 13, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      I'd rather they used the older ones. "You know it’s a myth … and you have a choice.”

      These make it too much of a ad hominem attack on the GOP candidates rather than the pervasive perversion that is religion. It is not helpful and just makes us look mean-spirited.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
  10. Ravi in Nebraska

    I'm more upset by bitter atheists who insult religious people and create problems than I am by the silly nonsense of you religious folks. You can choose to believe there's an invisible creature in the sky playing the Sims with our lives if you want. So long as you don't try to force that on anybody, I don't care, and neither should anybody else. When I see "atheist billboards" popping up, I'm confused, because we have nothing to gain by converting you all.

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

      No one is converting anyone except the fu*cking Christians. This billboard campaign is to bring about awareness. What the fu*ck don't you get about this?

      August 13, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • Ravi in Nebraska

      I disagree. These campaigns have been proven ineffective. They tend to just upset Christian folks and get them all riled up and crazy with their evangelizing. I'd prefer we just put the money toward education purposes. You can't advertise stupidity away.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Jake-413451

      "So long as you don't try to force that on anybody, I don't care, and neither should anybody else."

      History though shows religious people have a horrible habit of not only trying to get others to join them in their favored fairy tales, but a rather nasty habit of killing or subjugating those who refuse to convert.

      "When I see "atheist billboards" popping up, I'm confused, because we have nothing to gain by converting you all."
      Except of course a bit of security since one of the most commonly used excuses for killing their neighbors will have been eliminated.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • Clyde M

      Save that history is clear that religion DOES often try to "force that on [every]body." Many religions DEMAND practi tioners proselytize and seek to convert others. It is a tenet in many of them. And beyond mere attempts at peaceful conversion through dialogue is a track record 10,000 years long of conversion through force and coercion.

      So, yeah, when religious people DO start keeping it to themselves, I'll keep my atheism to myself, too. But since I had to try to fight to keep Creationism out of public science classes not 2 or 3 years ago, then I'm pretty sure the attempt by religion to convert and get their message out there is still going pretty strong.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  11. MashaSobaka

    Religion and politics should stay far, far away from each other. Anyone who doubts this should take a look at the theocracies in the Middle East. Much of the conservative Christian rhetoric in the States is identical to the conservative Islamic rhetoric that thrives in those impoverished totalitarian states that we call "backward" and "barbaric." If we let Christianity go on too long a leash, the same atrocities will happen here. I don't intend to give my support to politicians who would be happy to let that happen. Actually I would sooner chew off my own foot than vote for someone who has said that he/she would allow his/her faith to influence his/her decisions as a policymaker.

    August 13, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Ravi in Nebraska

      MashaSobaka – actually, we're nearing that tipping point now. Very good points.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  12. Lulu

    Kinda lame.

    August 13, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
  13. Sam

    "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.” *in the article*

    If someone wants to act like a jack a s s and put up a billboard that shows they are a jack a s s, then we can laugh at them and ridicule them.

    August 13, 2012 at 4:23 pm |
    • religion; a way to control the weak minded

      please tell me you laugh at every single christian billboard then...you nkow, the ones that say "Jesus is real" or "hell is real" both equally laughable.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • PerceivedReality

      But Jesus is real, if you could ever let go of the rotting world around you, deprogram all the BS secular society feeds you, get on your knees and tell him you give up everything you are for him to come into your life, you would know he is real too.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • fintastic

      Speaking of...... there's a church billboard near where I work that says;

      "For all you do, this blood's for you"

      Talk about SICK.

      August 13, 2012 at 5:31 pm |
  14. Church Member

    Most people that think Religion or God is a "waste" or those that hate life most. They are the complainers, the ones who think they are owed something, most importantly they are the first to say something is too hard so they go with what they think the norm is. No one ever said this life was going to be easy we're here to learn something about ourselves and how much we are willing to work to better not only our life but those around us. That is what religion is about. That is what good is trying to teach us. But most of you are stuck in the peer pressure era of your life and will never leave it. You think that because something is asked of you that is difficult that you should just do what everyone else is doing and then blame them for the trouble its caused you. You think that if you try and tell yourself there is no god that you can do things that your conscience tells you you shouldn't. I have no problem say your losers in life and always will be. Thats my opinion of course and im sure you will cry and complain about it as well. Most of you have no idea what any ones believes are or what there church stands for you just attack because its easier then finding out. You know nothing about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormans) and you don't want to because then you'd have to rethink about certain things in your life

    August 13, 2012 at 4:22 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Yeah, your right.

      The whole magic undies thing makes it all make sense now.

      God is an alien, yup, now it's all crystal clear.

      You are in a cult, in fact an embarrasing one.

      You make your average breed of Chritians seem reasonable in some as s backwards way

      August 13, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • jms58

      I know that it is more voodoo.

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

      guess that magic underwear doesn't help much with your use of the english language...

      August 13, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Brigance

      You say that people that don't believe what you believe in are whiners and complainers, yet you go on and on about those that do not have the same beliefs as you. You just debunked your own theory.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • Unbeliever

      Actually, I attended a Mormon Church for about 2 years. I will say this about the Mormons. They are some of the nicest people I have ever met. I really enjoyed studying scripture with them. In fact, I credit the mormons with pointing out that there are different ways to look at the bible. They got me actually studying that book. It was in the studying of that book that I came to the realization that it was false. There is nothing in those ads that are factually incorrect. You might not like the delivery because it is a bit disrespectful to the religious groups, but you can't argue the facts. Maybe the "God as a space alien part." The facts are that most Atheists know the bible better than most Christians. Most Atheists are not unhappy haters. We are actually very happy people for the most part. However, we are growing very tired of religious people trying to force their beliefs down our throats and telling us to get over it. We have tried for years to say these things in a civil tone, but that hasn't worked. The facts are that you believe in a sky-god with no evidence whatsoever that this sky-god exists. Period. Using the bible, Book 0f Mormon, Pearl of Great price, or the Doctrine and covenants to "prove" the existence of this all-powerful being is akin to using comic books to prove the existence of superman.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • Church Member

      Lol. I knew it would work. More whining and complaining. Its not fair boo hoo they believe in something and i don't. You don't need special rights if you believe all people are created equally but you don't believe in that either do you? Keep crying its funny.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:39 pm |
    • Dan

      If believing in a god helps get you through the day, then I'm glad it works for you. As a kid, I was reared to be a good Southern Baptist though the preaching scared me much of the time. However, as I grew and matured, I started thinking, reading, questioning and doubting. I came to realize that religion wasn't for me and I no longer believed. While these billboards are graphic and harsh, maybe they will at least motivate people to think more and to question more rather than believing what they are told to believe.

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

      Well put Dan.

      August 13, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
  15. Joseph

    Atheist Billboard= Epitome of "HATE SPEECH"

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

      Oh yes and christian billboards screaming about hellfire for non-christians is just the epitome of love and tolerance.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • Dyslexic doG

      we don't promise you an eternity of hellfire and damnation, we're just amused by the infantile logic of living your life following a bronze age story book. Religioous folk really are very funny. LOLOLOL

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

      Actually people who do not affiliate themselves with religion are much more accepting of others simply by the fact that most religions have a list of those they don't like – For example, we better not see universal health care because that might actually help the poor, or women don't deserve an equal voice, or gays will burn in hell. Blah, blah, blah. People are tired of hate.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • William Demuth

      No, the Molotov is, and I hope they change tactics and begin using them soon.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:36 pm |
    • Unbeliever

      Nowhere in those billboards did we say you don't deserve any rights. Nowhere in those billboards did they try to oppress your beliefs. No one is saying you can't have your religion. Are they calling you out for believing in fairy-tales? Yes. Are they saying your beliefs are silly? Yes. Did they mess up any of the facts? No.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  16. Realist

    It's always the same. . When calling out religious zealots on the lunacy of their faith, they like to respond that YOU are the crazy one. In this day and age, I simply cannot believe that people still believe in god(tm). it would be easier to swallow if they would at least keep it to themselves and not assert their divine judgement and wisdom on the rest of us.

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

      Unfortunately you can't take the moral high ground if you degenerate into religionist tactics.

      "My unGod is better than your God" is no different from "my God is better than your God". It is playground-level taunting.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
  17. Truthbetold

    Don't atheists see that them trying to covert people is just as annoying as any other religion doing the same? Why does everyone try to force beliefs on others....live and let live.

    August 13, 2012 at 4:20 pm |
    • justageek

      Most atheists are not nut jobs like the ones in the article.

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

      That's what tends to happen when people get tired of having someon else's religious beliefs forced upon you. We are not trying to force any beliefs. We are trying to get religion out of politics like the founders originally wanted. They did it so that the religious could worship without government interference and that the government could govern citizens of all belief systems.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  18. Dudus57

    Rock on billboard! Kinda lame but I love the concept. And to those that raise the "that's not " argument. This is the Santa clause argument with a 35 year-old, pointless to try to prove the unexplainable to someone who feels it's been explained, i.e. My parents write "Santa" on a tag. Or people like control, religion in control. Explained, explained, exhausted.

    August 13, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
  19. Richard

    John,Simon C said he was paraphrasing.So,I must assume you can't comprehend what you read.

    August 13, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
  20. Debby

    How lame the billboard looks like a Bill Maher creation.

    August 13, 2012 at 4:17 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.