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.
So why is this billboard a news story? I don't see frontpage articles when Christians put up billboards, I don't need to hear about it each time a religious person mocks good science in favor of his invisible sky-friends.
This is the belief blog.
Simple, this creates 1000's of comments, articles on religious billboards would stimulate next to nothing.
Atheists are not happy unless they make everyone else un- happy around them... really sad and pathetic people.
And Christians are not happy unless they scare children with stories of hell and make normal people feel ashamed and guilty for being born human.
I'm not a very religious guy, but I do have my beliefs. You, and others like you, are both filled with such hate AND I don't see anything substantiating YOUR assertion that there IS no "God". Where's YOUR proof, other than your hate. And why do so MANY atheists relate belief in God with religion, as if the two are mutually exclusive. They're not. Geez, what twits. And that's a lot for someone like me to say, since, like I mentioned above, I'm not a very religious person. I just can't stand the pure hate and degradation for others coming out of the mouths of most atheists. How many orphanages have YOU built? How many poor people have you helped and fed through the years?
Mylife, you really lump all atheists together? That is a simplistic and bigotted view.
yours is one of almost 3,000 posts on this topic. By your actions, it's a news story.
Mylife, that is not true... Atheists WANT to be happy, but they can't because there are thousands of delusional zombies walking around talking that Harry Potter died for your sins. When Atheists tell them Harry Potter didn't exist, they say, yes, the evidence is in the Harry Potter book and then go on forgetting the inconsistencies between their fable and REALITY (Adam and Eve have been disproven by science).
Atheists just want to make humanity happier, more ethical, less hateful, more loving... you know, the opposite of christianity which think gays, atheists are evil and deserve no human rights.
Jim, I've fed plenty of poor people. And the hate I have experienced has been from religious zealots who can't stand the fact that I can live freely and happily without the yoke of guilt/sin/shame/fear.
When you're all through tormenting one another with your childish unsaved ways, your knee will bend. There are and never will be any athiests in foxholes.
Have you grown so accustomed to making unsubstantiated assertions that you feel comfortable making this claim?
"...your knee will bend"
Enough with the threats, please!
Yahweh and Jesus want me to bend over?
I knew that Jesus probably went that way, but Yahweh?
ME II , you do know that "[blank] is an ignorance term" is not grammatically correct.
Insecure Christians like to tell themselves that atheists don't really exist because they don't like to consider that fact that someone read their book of fairy tales and found it to be flawed.
Funny, there is a whole military group called "foxhole atheists".
Actually, there are only atheist in fox holes. If you believe in a magic being that watches over you and protects you, and has planned everything out, being in a fox hole in combat will not help, if the plan says you live you live, no hole in the ground till change the magic plan right?
"ME II , you do know that "[blank] is an ignorance term" is not grammatically correct."
Apologies, I was attempting a play on words, that "agnostic is a term of ignorance", i.e. a term denoting a lack of knowledge, or without knowledge, or "ignorance", as oppose the original statement of "Agnostic is an ignorant term," which seemed to imply that someone using such a term was ignorant of its meaning or its usage.
@Caroline: I've never laughed at a stupider comment. Even if you prove god exists that doesn't prove that Jesus was his son or that christianity is the right religon, and not the thousands of other religions that believe in a god.
If you don't worship the Yahweh/Jesus duo and accept both of them not your heart, you're going to spend eternity in hell.
Oh jeez... this is not gonna help atheists in the least. Speaking as an atheist, I find these obnoxious. Don't resort to the same vitriolic rhetoric that we atheists have endured for all of our existence. Billboards? Fine, but be nicer about it. These aren't going to win anyone over.
It's not about "winning" anyone over, all that enlightened people can do is wait for religious people to die.
The non-religious are the fastest growing "religious" group in the united states
Agreed, and thanks for being reasonable!
The high road here is essential. Resorting to the eye-for-an-eye mindset of the fundies leads nowhere good.
Any organization that congregates under one banner head that is based on principles of their beliefs can be considered a religion, therefore, American Atheist Group is merely just another religion (cult). What happened to the REAL Atheists, that felt so indifferent about religion that they didn't have an opinion on what others believe, let alone force it down peoples throats like any other group that proselytizes. These are not Atheists...THEY ARE ANTI-THEISTS! It is a shame to see such ignorance from a group that claims to rely on science and reason. I personally know TRUE ATHEISTS, who shake their heads at these new so-called atheists!
Except that we don't congregate under one banner at all...
Well said, James
We exist, you just don't here from us (because we are those types of atheists)
"Any organization that congregates under one banner head that is based on principles of their beliefs can be considered a religion,"
Like the Boy Scouts? Colleges? Corporations? Home owner's associations? Nascar?
People who don't believe Zeus existed aren't called aZeus. They don't have a rallying call or a defined set of beliefs. They don't need to. They are not a religion. Atheism isn't a religion either.
"Any organization that congregates under one banner head that is based on principles of their beliefs can be considered a religion, therefore, American Atheist Group is merely just another religion (cult)."
Based on the principles of their LACK of belief. =]
Are you also going to call Non Stamp Collecting a Hobby?
Nice logic you got there, and are people that dumb that they even root for your comment?
atheism does not imply indifference. There are many things that some atheists passionately care about.
– Science education in public schools
– Marriage equality
– Personal freedoms – like the right to exercise religion, or not
These are the issues that atheists will speak out on. I truly don't care what you believe, so long as you keep it to your self.
Not believing in God does not equate to silence on issues that are important. Your mindset seems to be 'it's OK if you think differently, so long as you keep it to yourself and let me do whatever I want." This does not feel very democratic to me.
These sorts of sensational ads serve no purpose but to alienate by acrimony. What good does it do to give atheism such a bad rap? So a few atheists think its funny? I don't. Atheism is an intelligent approach to any point of view but to vilify others by countering under developed belief structures with childish, immature, and reckless adverts is inconsiderate pranksterism.
I don't see how this will lead to a humane and secular society built on mutual respect. Silverman is a rogue and more interested in donations that meaningful discourse. He is angry and confrontational. Ok? Now what? Why don't you try reasoning with people instead or aggravating them? Even I find you annoying and we share a similar outlook regarding the dangers of religion in politics.
And religion in politics is unconscionably dangerous for many who believe in God. We should try to build bridges with such people. This tactic of Silverman's backfires. I don't care what people believe or don't believe, but I do care that we have governance in the absence of any fear, or consideration, of God-speak.
It's impossible to respect religious people, would you respect an adult who still believed in Santa?
I agree with you completely. The worst thing a minority point of view can do is pretend that it is on equal footing with mean-spiritedness of an overwhelming majority.
The British atheist community do a much better job of this. They use gentle humor to poke fun at the follies and self-deceptions of the believers and make thoughtful points.
Direct attacks just put believers on the defensive. Disarming them through humor is far more effective.
I exist, Science. have you not seen me in the face of a child on Christmas morning?
Santa only exists in children's minds, just like Yahweh/Jesus.
@majav – Wonderful statement.
I have to admit, I've noticed more comments by rational, compassionate atheists on this article than others, which leaves me extremely pleased. I'm not an atheist, but I respect your beliefs (or right not to believe, etc.), and enjoy having open dialogue with people of any number of beliefs.
When immature name calling and disrespect start, though, any hope of discourse is lost. It is childish and rude.
I am also one of those Christians who is deeply concerned by the misuse and misrepresentation of my faith by many in politics. It is dangerous.
Looking forward to the day when diversity of thoughts and views is celebrated and respected.
thanks for your post. It is fair and thoughtful.
Praise Yahweh and his son Jesus, Mary and all the other Christian deities that religion is slowly but surely dying in the US
I'm an atheist, and although I do think that the billboards characterizations of Christianity and Mormonism are about right, there is a time and a place for these topics to be discussed, and I don't think that politics is the best time unless there is a viable, atheist candidate running.
Such billboards are always adequate. Promoting positive atheism is the only way to progress humanity.
Even if people don't change their beliefs, it is IMPORTANT for people (esp. religious people) to understand what Atheism is, and what it is NOT.
Atheists are a minority that are below the gay minority. Gays can marry, and their rights seem to be acknowledged in society, People view Atheists are evil, unpatriotic, untrustworthy, it's so stupid.
Let's draft Hugo Chavez !!!...Oh, wait, he became a Catholic....after he was diagnosed with cancer.
"Promoting positive atheism is the only way to progress humanity." – That is not positive. It at best ridicules another belief system, and does nothing to demonstrate a positive (i.e. what you believe) only a negative (i.e. what you don't believe).
"Atheists are a minority that are below the gay minority. Gays can marry, and their rights seem to be acknowledged in society." – What country are you in? LGBT persons are denied over 1000 federal rights and privileges that marriage provides. Less than 10 US states/districts even recognize local marriage for LGBT persons. LGBT persons can be fired or lose housing just for being LGBT in a majority of US states.
I would expect more intelligent, researched discussion from one who values rational thought over emotional beliefs.
W. Wallace, it was silly of you to suggest a Christian as an atheist candidate. Are you trying to make Christians look silly by saying silly things?
That billboard is almost silly enough to be a parody. I think maybe some religious group put it up to make Athesits look foolish, artistically challenged....and intolerant.
Yes, many atheists are intolerant of willful ignorance and belief in mythology.
Having tolerance for such impossible claims is overrated. You don't get to walk around claiming 1+1=7. Religion isn't a lot different.....not quite as readily provable as a math equation but not far off; certainly not on the intellecual honesty spectrum.
"I would love to believe that when I die I will live again, that some thinking, feeling, remembering part of me will continue. But as much as I want to believe that, and despite the ancient and worldwide cultural traditions that assert an afterlife, I know of nothing to suggest that it is more than wishful thinking."
If god is isnt real then why are there all these churches everywhere? And who was Jesus' Dad? Huh? Checkmate!
"And who was Jesus' Dad? Huh? Checkmate!"
Who was jesus' grandpop?
religion was built to control the masses. that's it's main intention.
Jesus dad was Yahweh, one of the most awful characters in all of fiction.
Edward Current, is that you?
Me, of course.
Jesus dad was Yahweh, one of the most awful characters in all of fiction.
Well if it fiction...then why do you care? Of course...you do have evidence it is fiction or that God is awful?
Jesus hates non white, non Christian, non rich people
Mormons hate coke.
This is a bit useless (what that atheist group is doing) but it is their freedom of speech and freedom of expression. And yes, I am an atheist. I tend to see Christians as allies in western civilization. I admire President George W. Bush for example. I tend to find many so-called atheists/humanists irrational that some of these people tend to be the one's justifying Islamic fascism. I am more on the wing of the late and great Christopher Htichens. Civilization has some responsibilities and must live up to its bill.
Christopher Hitchens * (sorry spelling typo)
You admire W?
"Science": there you go demonstrating my point on how some atheists can very much be ideologues themselves.
Science, I can see your vocabulary is limited. Having a discussion with someone like you is like trying to talk to a brat.
Atheists justifying Islamic extremism? I missed that entirely. Who and when?
"Long Time Non-believer": You see it quite a bit among some segments of atheists. They tend to downplay Islamic fundamentalism and "blame the west". You see it quite a bit among the Nim Chimpsky and George Carlin type of atheists.
I just love to see all the fundies squirm at this billboard. You know all the times you have shoved your religion down the atheists' throat? Yeah, that's how it felt like. What's wrong, you don't like some of your medicine?
Also, TOO many people are VERY ignorant of what atheism is... they think they are devil worshippers, hate god, are evil. Christians (loud mouths) have poisoned the well for atheists. Christians seem to be the tongue of Satan.
Atheists just mean progressive humans, skeptics, atheists are the ones that help the oppressed by removing chains one might be enslaved to... if someone is giving all their money to spiritual/psychics, atheism is applied skepticism to these scams. Ultimately, religion (whom doesn't like to be questioned).
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."
He is correct!
God is good. However religion was created by man, not God, for the purpose of creating power and wealth.
Religion is bad. Worship God in your own way.
Pass on any kind of god worship.
"Again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."
Why do neocons ignore this? Christians can't even interpret the bible correctly. Sheep.
Agnostics lack belief. Atheists believe there is no god, they don't know that.
We don't know there isn't a planet made of cheese either. Or that pixies don't exist. Sometimes you have to take all available evidence and have the spine to make up your mind about it.
"Atheists believe there is no god..."
Under some definitions this is correct. However, I think most Atheists would classify the assertion of "there is(ard) no god(s)" as "strong" or "positive" atheism and reserve "atheism" alone as a lack of belief that there is god(s).
No, Atheists do not accept the science supporting a God, there is none. Belief has nothing to do with it.
Atheist : a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods (from oxforddictionaries)
An atheist is someone who disbelieves in the existence of god(s), it doesn't necessary mean that they believe gods don't/can't exist. Please educate yourself. Agnostic is an ignorant term.
The result is the same, agnostic, atheist, if you don't have Jesus as your Savior and Lord, it makes no difference. You will spend eternity seperated from your creator.
@Sy, I am an atheist, I just understand the difference between knowing and believing.
Wrong. Pick up a dictionary please.
"Agnostic is an ignorant term."
ignorant or ignorance term?
So the dictionary rules your life?
"You will spend eternity seperated from your creator"
My mom and dad fvcked.
I was created.
No magic sky wizard involved.
Did you pay attention in s e x ed class, or did you go to one of those abstinence only fundie schools?
Theist = belief in god(s)
Atheist = no belief in god(s).
Gnostic = there is evidence or proof
Agnostic = there is no evidence or proof.
Atheism and agnosticism are not two different values on the same scale. They are two different values on two entirely different scales altogether.
Seems to me some atheists promote the same hate that they accuse religion of doing. Personally I don't like being lumped in a single groups isn't that called stereotype. You don't know me or what I think, to me some atheists are intolerant and bigoted spewing their hate at anyone that doesn't agree with their beliefs, or way of thinking.
I don't have a problem with hate, the issue is why you hate. Is it because a book told you so, or because you have a good reason?
Narrow mindedness is not reserved for the religious.
Dont hate based on religion race etc... Hate based on merit, people. There are tons of great reasons to hate. Our actions decide who we are not our beliefs. If your beliefs cause you to act stupidly, you are earning merit.
Dude did I say I hate, do you know me or what I think? There are many christians that do so many good things for people but it seems aeithists but they are lumped in with every religion. Hate is a harsh word but it seems you don't have any problem with it.
Hate? Yes, maybe. Hatred generated by centuries of being forced to silence our thoughts, even the purely rational ones. Of being burned at the stake for making science experiments. Of being forced to recant of obvious truths. Of being forced to shut down scientific research that could have us by now living among the stars, curing every known and unknown disease, knowing everything there's to know about the universe. Of having to add things like "by the glory of God" to every manuscript even when the point of the manuscript was to demonstrate that lightning didn't require divine intervention.
But the biggest of pains comes from the most terrible oppressions. That of the mind. Of being repressed since young into thinking that if we even questioned the existence of a divine power, we would suffer horrible pain for all eternity. Of billions of men, women and children that never dared to think for fear of putting their families at risk of horrible suffering.
Now we are accused of being intolerant, when we don't even want revenge, not even fairness. We just want the privilege to be able to be listened to and to express ourselves with freedom, even if it offends the imaginary beings in whose name you ruined our lives for two thousand years.
Is that much to ask?
I have never once voted to affect the LEGAL rights of others based on my lack of a belief in a god or gods. So by that reason alone, my "hatred" is much lower than the literally millions of Christians who vote their particular moral code into law every election cycle.
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.
I can relate as a christian, they lump all christians together, I resent that. I have no animosity against atheist, they can choose to believe what they want, and if you don't agree with religion that is your right. No one really knows the truth until they die anyways, believe or don't believe everyone should have that right.
When you die, you learn nothing. Your ability to learn goes away. Your brain stops. You can no longer process sensory information, store or associate memories, or recall. You simply are not. Ask the poor family down the road who's kid nearly died in a pool. He's alive, but he's not there any more. The brain is altered. Is his "soul" still whole? Or does he just not have a soul at all, simply being a result of brain/mind duality. I fear it is the latter.
In my experience, as both a Christian and an atheist, atheists are far more "live and let live" than, in general, Christians are. Having been on the inside of both circles, and heard both sets of people speak candidly, Christians are all-sure of the words in the Bible, and therefore feel justified in actions against non-Christians. Atheists just want to be left alone, already. They're sick of hearing it.
The National Atheist Convention has been slated for next year in Charlotte,NC on April 1st to coincide with April Fools Day
That's your best shot?
That was a zinger.
How did that even make sense when you thought it up. Why would they meet after the DNC?
Atheists make up every excuse why they won't follow Jesus. Their favorite is, "there is no God" or "God is a way to control the masses". Since their world revolves around them, them, them, there is no room for God. Everyone else is just an annoyance unless they have something of value.
John, it's quite appropriate to have the convention on April Fool's Day. Looking at this juvenile billboard, I think of Sirach 21:26 "The mind of a fool is in his mouth."