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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. organically

    Religion is the biggest scam in the history of humanity

    August 13, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  2. child of midian

    Great, Atheism has become just another hypocritical Religion! Now I have to find something else to call myself. Damn you!

    August 13, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • Mopery

      Atheism makes you religious? Sure, just like not drinking makes you an alcoholic.

      August 13, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      Hey child!

      I have the perfect name for you F*UCKING IDIOT! If the shoe fits...

      August 13, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • Ned

      atheism is a belief system, hence a religion. all you atheists are in denial, big time.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
  3. Russ

    Arrogant and disrespectful. Have some class. I would say the same to a lot of religious people who talk this way about Athiests. You are foolish to speak so simplisticly about such complex things. Everyone has their reasons for believing what they believe. Discourse in this country is a joke.

    August 13, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Jon

      Fair enough. How would you convince a die-hard Mormon or Christian or Scientologist that all his beliefs are simply incorrect and go against all basic laws of physics and science?

      August 13, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      What is so complex about something for which there is not a shred of real evidence? In any other domain, given how long people have been searching and absolutely no results, the unfounded claim would have been discarded centuries ago. But no, continuing to believe in childish myths gets a free pass...

      August 13, 2012 at 11:27 am |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      "Arrogant and disrespectful. Have some class"

      You are speaking of the religious, right?

      August 13, 2012 at 11:29 am |
    • Pika

      I may not be the brightest star in the sky, but religion does seem pretty simplistic to me and not complex what-so-ever. I'm pretty sure that is what created religion in the first place...there where complex questions such as where did we come from and why are we hear? There were no answers, so simple stories were created.

      August 13, 2012 at 11:31 am |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      @Pika

      You hit the nail on the head. Religion and Gods were born out of fear of the unknown and later utilized as a control over populations.

      August 13, 2012 at 11:35 am |
  4. Pika

    LOL, haha.

    August 13, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  5. Leonore H. Dvorkin

    Hurray for you, American Atheists! You have our full support. And to all our fellow atheists who have not yet declared themselves as such: Don't be afraid. You have much more company than you might think. It's time to come out of the belief closet and proudly declare, "Yes, I can think for myself, and I support rationality, not mythology!"I agree, Jon. It's all just so stupid. How can anyone believe it? The good thing is that fewer and fewer of us do, now. That's progress.

    August 13, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  6. The Annoyed Elephant

    I'm waiting for the billboard that mocks Obama's pastor who teaches that God loves black people more than white people. Or that mocks Joe Biden for being Roman Catholic.

    Oh, wait a minute! There won't be any of those billboards because American Atheists are just a bunch of bitter, hateful political hacks!

    August 13, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • BRC

      WHile I don't necessarily agree with the bilboards, I imagine you won't see what you're talking about because they aren't making personal attacks, they're commenting on teh questionable portions of religion. If people take it personally that's one thing, but there is a distinct difference between that and going after an individual.

      August 13, 2012 at 11:25 am |
      • The Annoyed Elephant

        If they were concerned about religion, they wouldn't be, per the article, "using next month's Democratic National Convention to take aim at the presidential candidates' religion".

        My guess is they don't care about Obama's religion. Or Biden's.

        August 13, 2012 at 1:24 pm |
    • Pika

      What makes athiest political? I guess if they don't want religion involved with politics that makes them political, but I would say that they are way less political than the religious who want to change laws or add new laws to follow the teachings of the bible. Either way, I think if the right distanced themselves from the religious rhetoric they would do much better. I for one am a fiscally conservative athiest but get turned away from the republicans because of the religious agenda, I know there are millions just like me.

      August 13, 2012 at 11:26 am |
      • The Annoyed Elephant

        And we're sad to see you go. It's a shame when your personal religion is so important that you can't vote your conscience when it comes to fiscal matters.

        "I really want a balanced budget, a fiscally responsible economic-oriented business-building government, but... they go to church, so I just can't vote for them." – You.

        August 13, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  7. michiganhockey11

    Yeah, and I would much rather prefer to hold to the mathematic probability of being created from dust, which is the statistical probability of a chimpanzee sitting down at a typewriter and penning Shakespeare.

    August 13, 2012 at 11:21 am |
  8. MiddleWay14

    Finally a little truth on these billboards. Good on these people. Someone has to have the balls to cut down the swaths of bs propagandized daily by the world's religions.

    August 13, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  9. Gaunt

    remember: Science makes men fly.

    Religion makes men fly into buildings.

    August 13, 2012 at 11:19 am |
  10. child of midian

    As an Atheist I want to be as FAR away from these people as possible.

    You can't use hate speak to speak out about hate speak, it's just hypocritical.

    August 13, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • Etalan

      that not a hate speech. that is truth with little satire.

      August 13, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Jon

      It's not like Christians are going to change their views otherwise. These are the same people that believe God took the form of a bush and spoke to Moses. It's just brainwashing. And it's worked.

      August 13, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Daremonai

      *nods* can not stand when religious groups put up billboards like this, and none to happy when atheists do it either.

      August 13, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      Where's the hate, I'm not seeing it?

      August 13, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • Leo

      Agreed. I appreciate productivity. For the record I am a Secular Humanist. For those that want to do research.

      August 13, 2012 at 11:23 am |
  11. Dr. Steve

    I totally respect the rights of atheists and agnostics to speak up. Count me as one who prefers the affirmative approach – like the billboards that say: "You can be good without God" or "Doubts about God? You are in good company". This other type of billboard strikes me as needlessly antagonistic. OTOH, how many of you Christians would have a problem with a similar billboard that explicitly mocked Scientology?

    August 13, 2012 at 11:17 am |
  12. Jonathan

    If you do not believe in god then be quiet. It is not ok to announce in a news paper or Billboards. People of earth needs religion to keep a check on scoundrels. If you have realized the truth [there is no god] then it is a horrible realization.
    Religious preachings are like invisible fences. It is sad that idiot Al-Qaeda believes in something similar as well.
    But you do not need to form a group if you do not believe in god [like me].

    August 13, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • James Ison

      As long as you are trying to legislate your beliefs on me then I will not be quiet. If you keep it to YOUR self and worship in the privacy of your own home or church instead of the congress then I will shut up and leave you alone... Make sense?

      August 13, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      I'm not getting it there Jonathan.

      August 13, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Peter

      No

      August 13, 2012 at 11:22 am |
  13. TheVocalAtheist

    "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."

    Here ya go! Another expert on atheists. It's just incredible the ignorance and misinformation that people cling-on to.

    Rev. James Martin, you need to educate yourself there sonny boy!

    August 13, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • Peter

      I'll hear you out. Can you explain then why does it specifically even mention Mormonism and Christianity?

      August 13, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      @Peter

      I'm not getting your question in association to my post but I'll answer it anyway. The Mormon and Christianity distinction is because of the Presidential race, Romney Mormon, Obama Christian.

      August 13, 2012 at 11:40 am |
  14. glorydays

    I don't care what anybody does or does not believe, just keep it to yourself and out of the government.

    August 13, 2012 at 11:16 am |
    • fintastic

      @glory, you've said it best. Why don't they get it? Keep your god out of government and all is good.

      August 13, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  15. Peter

    jimmer

    "The Bile was composed by Saint Jerome in the 4th Century"

    And here I was thinking that it was supposed to be the divine word of god. Turns out some guy named Jerry penned it 400 years after the made up super hero croaked.
    ----
    Saint Jerome was part of the Body of Christ which was established by Jesus it has apostolic succession from Christ himself, even still has it today. He would have easily known based on traditions of the body of Christ what texts were divine and which were not. He is more credited with getting the correct translation into Latin from Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic especially of the Septigant.

    August 13, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • Gaunt

      Well, no: the NT was actually written between 80 and 200 AD, the OT much earlier. It was assembled into the current 'gospel' around 400 AD.

      August 13, 2012 at 11:18 am |
  16. Agnostic Humanist

    Some people have turned away from religious belief because of abusive behavior by religious people. Instead of objecting to the signs, Christians would be wise to read the words and contemplate why people are saying these things about them: "Sadistic God; Useless Savior; 30,000+ Versions of 'Truth;' Promotes Hate, Calls it 'Love.'"

    I made a profession of faith and asked Christ into my heart at the age of 14 and followed conservative Evangelical Christianity for the 15 years that followed. When I left the church, I'd been a born again Christian for over half my life. I have studied the Bible at length and in detail. I've taken college level courses from some big, well-known churches. I know the Bible well, but I've also personally observed that religious people can be really mean.

    Christians talk lots about protecting their "witness," or their credibility to non-believers. These signs are SHOWING YOU that you've lost your witness. Read them. They're saying that to non-believers, the actions of politicized Christianity have brought you to a point where people no longer care what you have to say. They don't even want to hear you say it. You have become a clanging cymbal—noise. Because of your Church's actions, as soon as believers open their mouths, non-believers close their ears. They have hardened their hearts, and they've done so because of your behavior.

    Every person on this planet is the sum total of his or her experiences and knowledge. You cannot pretend that in the face of your god, their beliefs are invalid. It's disrespectful. You cannot use legislation to impose your lifestyle on others and pretend that you're doing it out of love.

    And if you can't grasp that and change your behavior, then your religion is doomed to failure. You'll say it's not a religion, but a relationship, but the facts remain: Lost Witness, Clanging Cymbals.

    August 13, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      You are almost God free, keep going brother as it gets better!

      August 13, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • OnlyOne

      Oh, well said, well said! From a Christian that's almost deafened by all the clanging cymbals around him.

      August 13, 2012 at 11:19 am |
    • Etalan

      People are leaving religion, when education and the value of life is increasing. America still have it stronger religion state, while also have the lowest education and annual income. The country with the highest in science and math also have the lowest religion while 3rd world counties have the most strongest religion.

      August 13, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • OnlyOne

      May I repost? Clearly, it's going to be difficult to provide suitable attribution!

      August 13, 2012 at 11:21 am |
    • Agnostic Humanist

      @OnlyOne — Please feel free if it would provoke thought somewhere.

      August 13, 2012 at 11:25 am |
    • OnlyOne

      One more thing: You don't have to listen to the clanging cymbals. But if you were once a born-again Christian, and if you knew the Presence that spoke to your heart, then you must know that you can access this regardless of those clanging cymbals. They're a distraction, yes. But that's because the religious, being human, are fallible. It is is our humanity that messes us up, not our spirituality.. my fellow "humanists".

      August 13, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • OnlyOne

      Thank you – your post will be an example for my self-styled Christian friends.

      August 13, 2012 at 11:32 am |
  17. Prayer changes things

    Excellent billboard

    August 13, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  18. Ann

    "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.

    No religion is silly too... it's just another kind of belief, so shut up.

    August 13, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • Jon

      If I believe that a Frog is an animal and you think it's a bridge. My belief is right and your belief is stupid.

      August 13, 2012 at 11:17 am |
    • Independent Thinker....

      Another believer who can't understand simple words. Not believing in something is NOT a belief. I would agree with most commenting stating this billboard is a little fierce. I prefer the 'Thought Prevoking' billboards as 'slagging' each other off does no good. Believe me, most atheists are very good people and unfortunatley billboards like this put us in a negative light. As far as the religious thoughts, I simply require proof; that is all. Why do you believe in god? Why don't you believe in Allah? Why don't you believe in Shebah? Why don't you believe in Zeus? In order to believe in the many other gods you would likely require proof and that is all we, as atheists; require. If you can provide me proof (stating the bible is the word of god is NOT proof) please let me know.

      August 13, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  19. quinLee

    God Bless America.

    August 13, 2012 at 11:14 am |
    • Etalan

      God screw America

      August 13, 2012 at 11:15 am |
    • cronewinter

      For what? We really haven't earned any special blessings lately. We're pretty darn hateful towards each other and the rest of the world, not to mention the earth. If there is a god maybe instead of a blessing s/he should give us a kick in the buttocks and turn us towards a better way. We're sure messed up with the systems we've got.

      August 13, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • quinLee

      etalan and crone, your type of thinking quickly goes out the window during the moment of certain death or harm. When the time comes you will cry out.

      August 13, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • Independent Thinker....

      quinLee, for the sake of argument I am going to 'assume' you are a Christian. I don't care if you say 'God Bless America' as that is your right as silly as I might think it sounds. Where I take issue is with you threatening eternal damnation on the other two commenters. This is a commonly used tactic by the religious as they think it scares atheists. If we don't believe in heaven or hell then you are wasting your breath. Let me turn that question on you however. Let's just assume that there is a God. What if you have it wrong? What if you have been praying to the Christian God and you arrive at the 'Big Man/Woman' in the sky and it ends up being Allah, Zeus or one of the thousands of other possible gods that people worship around the world? Considering pretty much all god's state they must believe in one true god, you would be screwed and end up with me and the other two commentators in your hell. You can take your chances with believing in the one true god out of a possible 25,000+ god's in this world today; I just hope you have the right one. I however will enjoy the most this world has to offer as I know it's the only life I will have.

      August 13, 2012 at 11:46 am |
  20. Jon

    The sheer fact any American actually believes Mormonism is anything other than a joke scares me. Simply invoking the word God and eternal punishment gets people all scared and they'll follow anything I guess. Then again, Christianity isn't much better. To actually believe a supernatural guy created all the universe and skies in 6 days and was just so pooped he took a nap the 7th day.... It's just so stupid. How can anyone actually believe these things?

    August 13, 2012 at 11:13 am |
    • Peter

      By what authority do you have to interpert sacred scripture? Besides that it is easier to believe that something as complex as the earth and the natural order is made divinely than it is to believe that is came about randomly.

      August 13, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • Gaunt

      Peter, do you accept the 'sacred scripture' of The Odinites? The zarathustrians, Hindus? Mithrites? No, you reject them as fairy tales. Then you act all fdaux-shocked and surprised when your intellectual betters do the EXACT SAME to your personal book of myths and fairy tales. Hypocricy, thy name is religious zealot.

      And no, if you home-schooled lack-wits would ever pick up a science book, you would discover that not only is it vastly more plausible the earth and life came about through natural forces, but there is actual EVIDENCE (do you even know what that is?) of this: something your fairy tales utterly lack.

      August 13, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • Jon

      Peter- Since when do you need authority to read a book? And just because something is complicated doesn't mean God did it. To actually believe man is the center of the universe and that God only cares about us is just ridiculous. The universe was around before man and it will be after man. God doesn't care. Because there is no God. It's just the way of the universe.

      August 13, 2012 at 11:24 am |
    • Living History

      Jon – Have you ever thought about the LDS practice of baptism of the dead? Nobody can KNOW for sure if we have souls that survive the death of our physical bodies, but we do know that those who have died did have a LIFE. Baptism of the dead is TOTAL DISRESPECT FOR THE LIFE of the deceased. And they wonder why WE have a problem.

      August 13, 2012 at 11:29 am |
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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.