Atheist group removes billboards targeting presidential candidates' religious faith
American Atheists says it took down billboards critical of the candidates' religions in Charlotte, North Carolina, after threats.
August 27th, 2012
09:55 AM ET

Atheist group removes billboards targeting presidential candidates' religious faith

By Dan Gilgoff and Dan Merica, CNN

(CNN) - An atheist group that raised a pair of billboards taking aim at the presidential candidates’ religion at the site of next month’s Democratic National Convention has pulled the signs after what the group called a “large volume of threats.”

The billboards, sponsored by American Atheists, took aim at Mormonism and Christianity and went up this month in Charlotte, North Carolina, which will play host to the Democratic convention.

Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney is a Mormon, and President Barack Obama is also a Christian.

The billboard targeting Christianity featured 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.’ ”

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The billboard targeting Mormonism lambasted - and, Mormons would say, distorted - specific Mormon doctrines: "God is a Space Alien, Baptizes Dead People, Big Money, Big Bigotry.”

The Mormon billboard featured a man in white underwear, a reference to special Mormon garments.

American Atheists said the billboards provoked a “large volume of threats” by phone and e-mail and that the group reported the threats to police.

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“It is with regret that we tell our members and all of those who treasure free speech and the separation of religion and government that American Atheists and Adams Outdoor Advertising have mutually agreed to remove the billboards immediately,” Amanda Knief, American Atheists’ managing director, said in a statement last week.

“No subject, no idea should be above scrutiny - and this includes religion in all forms,” Knief said. “We are saddened that by choosing to express our rights as atheists through questioning the religious beliefs of the men who want to be our president that our fellow citizens have responded with vitriol, threats and hate speech against our staff, volunteers and Adams Outdoor Advertising.”

American Atheists had wanted to put the anti-Mormon billboard in Tampa, Florida, to coincide with this week's Republican National Convention.

When no billboard company in the city would lease the group space for such a sign, American Atheists President David Silverman said the organization decided to focus solely on the Democrats in Charlotte.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: 2012 Election • Atheism • Politics

soundoff (1,780 Responses)
  1. ericgoestoholland

    Wow. Not sure if a "large volume of threats" is going to convince the atheists they were misguided.

    August 27, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • CurmudgeonTx

      I would like to see what they determined was a large volume...

      August 28, 2012 at 6:28 am |
  2. TheTraveler

    Completely useless rhetoric from both sides, as usual.

    August 27, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
  3. mlr

    funny- christians – over the years – have been willing to be rediculed and even die for their beliefs. I guess the atheists are not if a few threats over stupid billboards has them pull them down. losers

    August 27, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • ericgoestoholland

      name calling will probably encourage them to change their ways.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
  4. bryanbeus

    The thing that the American Atheists Association didn't report was the fact that the entire atheist community condoned the incendiary billboards, and that the majority of the negative feedback came from their own followers. Don't believe me? Go look at their own website. The comments section on their posting was full of thousands of protests from registered members.

    I'd also like to know from whom those threats actually claim, and see the legitimate evidence.

    I'm calling their bluff.

    August 27, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
    • facepalm

      I don't think you know what the word 'condone' means. I won't even start on the 'claim' thing..

      August 27, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
    • bryanbeus

      facepalm: ya. some screw ups in editing, and I can't believe that I've been using that word wrong for so long:) ha ha. glad you noticed.

      How about this:
      The atheist group administrators that put up the billboards realized that they just practiced the very same bigotry they denounce.
      With the fury of their own members coming at them, the administration threw down a smoke bomb of baseless "violent threats from anonymous sources." They allowed their audience to assume that the guilty parties are the ones the group originally attacked. Then the group tried to run away, but observant people don't think their story is fully honest.
      The atheist group is playing politics, not searching for Truth.

      How's that? All clear? (It's 3:40 AM, I just finished work, and my eyes are drooping; let's keep any further responses on the actual issues, rather than playing around with technicalities).

      August 29, 2012 at 5:49 am |
  5. Vicki

    I'm not an atheist, but as a believer in free speech, i think it's ridiculous that this group had to take their billboards down. I guarantee you that those same religious Christians and Mormons are the ones that are calling in the threats. As usual, these supposedly loving religions create the most vile hypocrites.

    August 27, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
    • bryanbeus


      August 27, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • TheTraveler

      Freedom of speech, or expression, does not guarantee freedom from consequence ...

      August 27, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
  6. Danny

    So atheists put up a board, attracted no attention, and now crying foul blaming religions to attract more attention? LOL.

    August 27, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
    • Mark

      Wow Danny, way to read the story... You nailed it right on the head with that sharp wit of yours... Did the big scary story have too many big words for you?

      August 27, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
  7. Santa Claus

    I exist unless you can prove that I don't.

    August 27, 2012 at 10:42 pm |
    • John Hammon

      Nice, Santa. Love it. I am an atheist, but I think we have to focus on people understanding what we DO believe, not what we don't. We won't be understood or accepted by ridiculing. Dawkins speech "We are going to die..." (able to be found by searching youtube with those search terms) or Neil deGrasse Tyson's speech "Greatest Sermon Ever" are great examples of the fact that atheists aren't just angry naysayers. We have beliefs. Beautiful beliefs. We should be advertising that, not ridicule.

      August 27, 2012 at 10:46 pm |
    • Jax Wolff

      You cannot prove something doesn't exist

      August 27, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • Esteban

      Hmmm...religious people threatening the lives of others...they couldn't possibly be Christian. Only non-Christian religious groups from the middle east would do such a thing. PLT

      August 27, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
  8. Dana

    It's too bad that they were threatened by brain-washed religious fanatics.

    August 27, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
    • Jax Wolff

      That's how those "peace loving" religions work, they disagree so they threaten violence.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
  9. Pete

    Freedom of speech means that you are free to express your views, not necessarily publically and falsely attack another person or group of people. That is considered libel and is punishable under civil law. I'm guessing what really happened here is that a bunch of high powered churches got together and had their lawyers talk to the atheist.org lawyers and kindly suggest they remove the libelous advertising or face a legal battle. Knowing they were wrong in first place, the atheist lawyers likely backed down. I am certain if there were really threats of violence, the lame stream media would have been all over it like a pack of wolves on a dead deer carcass.

    August 27, 2012 at 9:42 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      so you don't think that a bunch of rednecks with shotguns made annonymous calls to Adams Outdoor Advertising saying "we're gonna shoot that f'ing billboard full o' holes if yer don' take darn that there athest sign"?

      August 27, 2012 at 10:06 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      These billboards were in Charlotte, NC, only a 50 minute drive by full-sized pickup from Maiden, NC, home of Charles L Worley and his "Put Gays And Lesbians In Electrified Pen To Kill Them Off" sermon.

      You really don't think that the local good ol' boys didn't take offence, or someone didn't put them up to it?

      August 27, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
    • commentsguy

      No lawyers were involved here. Death threats from hicks in a country full of guns is what brought down the billboards. From these 'loving' christians.....

      August 27, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      What was false about the billboards?

      August 27, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
    • Greyhound37

      Why invent your own version of reality when you don't like the facts of the matter?
      Oh wait...you have faith. Nevermind.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
  10. Sam Yaza

    you know what funny back when Christians were a young religion they were just like Muslims,.. its called growing up,.. going from the murderous child of god to the back stabbing child of god

    say what you want Christians but remember


    August 27, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
  11. PRISM 1234

    "Why would anyone want to be compared to a group of dimwitted animals whose entire lot in life consists of standing around a field for a few months waiting to be shorn and then eaten?"
    And you can't see picture of yourself in it? Why, that's exactly what you do, not even knowing that you're lead to the slaughter by satan, the enemy of your soul who has deceived you.

    August 27, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • Fallacy Spotting 101

      Post by 'PRISM 1234' contains an instance of the Begging the Question fallacy.


      August 27, 2012 at 8:28 pm |

      Fallacy Spotting is a PARROT on the loose....... Squawk! Squawk!
      Polly wanna cra/cker!

      August 27, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
  12. Near East

    With Christianity, the 38,000 denominations is what's sad. This means that Christianity does not know what, or who Jesus was.

    August 27, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
    • Anon

      Even better the motherfu*ker probably didn't exist in the first place.

      August 27, 2012 at 7:51 pm |
    • Realist

      Well put, Anon.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
    • Jax Wolff

      and it's very odd that non of those denominations are Jewish, like Jesus was.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
  13. Jared

    Making fun of religions on billboards to promote your own organization? Sounds like a hate tactic to me. And what were they thinking, North Carolina? I am surprised that it was just death threats

    August 27, 2012 at 7:01 pm |
    • Moby Schtick

      Death threats-it's how gods get things done. See Osama Bin Laden and the fundamentalists threat of hell.

      August 27, 2012 at 7:06 pm |
    • Realist

      It's only a matter of time before the house of cards that is Christianity comes crashing down. I have many Christian family members involved with churches, and the word behind closed doors is that there are many, many churches about to shut their doors forever. They've lost their flocks and can no longer pay their bills. I know of 3 churches that will close in the next year–and I'm not out there looking for them, I just hear about them. While I lament the loss of tradition, I welcome the age of truth.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
  14. Sam Yaza

    i was enjoying those but i guess the truth hearts,. my atheist brothers we pagans are always on your side even if you think we crazy and magic is a bunch of fohwee
    after all you guys had it almost as bad as us,.. remember when there wasn't any Christians/Jews/Muslims and we lived in harmony regrades of what you believed or didn't believe, sure their was war but that was for resources or political reasons gods i miss those days

    August 27, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • niknak

      When and where was that exactly?
      The history of mankind has been violence, mostly done over religion.
      Nothing proves to your neighbors your god is the correct one then when you kill their children.

      August 27, 2012 at 6:27 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      the Romans nor the Greeks did conquered to prove their gods the did it to bolster their wallets going into battle with divine help was a way for people to get more moral and nothing more

      August 27, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • Wow

      Do Pagans not believe in education? I don't know whether to laugh or to cry at your post.

      August 27, 2012 at 8:54 pm |
  15. Yeah, right

    I really doubt they pulled the adds due to threats. Most people wouldn't waste their time with these lame attacks. At least come up with something new...

    August 27, 2012 at 6:20 pm |
    • Greyhound37

      I hear if you wish hard enough your wishes will come true!

      August 27, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
  16. Jeanie

    “I’ll tell you what you [Christians] did with Atheists for about 1500 years. You outlawed them from the universities or any teaching careers, besmirched their reputations, banned or burned their books or their writings of any kind, drove them into exile, humiliated them, seized their properties, arrested them for blasphemy. You dehumanized them with beatings and exquisite torture, gouged out their eyes, slit their tongues, stretched, crushed, or broke their limbs, tore off breasts if they were women, crushed their scrotums if they were men, imprisoned them, stabbed them, disemboweled the, hung them, burnt them alive. And you have nerve enough to complain to me that I laugh at you.”
    Dr. Madalyn Murray O’Hair

    August 27, 2012 at 5:56 pm |
    • JC

      And have you looked at how Ms. Ohara's son is now a devout christian and defender of the faith? Shows how ridiculous her assertions were...

      August 27, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • JC

      And have you looked at how Ms. O’Hair's son is now a devout christian and defender of the faith? Shows how ridiculous her assertions were...

      August 27, 2012 at 8:09 pm |
    • Soo...

      Does that mean I am guilty of those atrocities because I am a Christian? I'm not sure what you are trying to argue here with that quote beside the fact that the Catholic Church really screwed some stuff up.

      August 27, 2012 at 8:57 pm |
    • Pete

      At the risk of using a cliche'... Two wrongs do not make a right.

      August 27, 2012 at 9:34 pm |
    • Listen, Jeanie.....

      The woman you quoted was modern day Jezebel. God gave her the portion with her 'sister' in THIS LIFE AND THE NEXT.
      Jeanie, don't' boast yourself using this woman's quotes. You don't' know what your tomorrow brings. Some people's curses are far reaching. That woman has 'CURSE' written by her name .
      That's just a caring advice from someone who understands some things little more then your foolish pride may allow you to acknowledge. Just listen and ponder .....
      Even a fool is counted to be wise if he shuts his mouth about the things he don't understand...

      August 27, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • Mayflower

      You forget that all those terrible things Christians were doing? Everybody did it. For power, political gain, whatever. I am not saying it was right, only that Christians weren't the only ones guilty of such atrocities. I agree that Christians should have held themselves to a higher standard, but still. This is a moot point. Atheists weren't the only ones wrongly persecuted.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
  17. toad

    I told you so.

    August 27, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • niknak

      If the I told you so was referring to the "i love jebus" so much fundies who then sent in death threats over the billboards, then I am in your camp. I remember posting that the fundies would resort to violence over this. Glad it was not real violence, but if those signs had stayed up longer it most likely would have been.
      I found out long ago that you can't question a fundie without them resorting to violence.
      It is all they have as they have no proof of their magic man.
      They will kill your children to show you how much they love god.

      August 27, 2012 at 6:25 pm |
  18. haha Christians are violent and ignorant haha

    lol they're so full of sh!t...........
    biggest hypocrites in the history of mankind

    August 27, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
  19. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    August 27, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs! ~ '

      August 27, 2012 at 5:33 pm |
    • Jeanie

      Name ONE thing prayer has changed...

      August 27, 2012 at 5:36 pm |
    • another repentant sinner

      My life has been changed by prayer.

      August 27, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • Paul

      My marriage was saved by prayer.

      August 27, 2012 at 8:49 pm |
    • Dana

      Prayer makes you look foolish. That is all that it changes.
      Religion is not healthy for altar boys.

      August 27, 2012 at 10:37 pm |
  20. Reality

    Expressing my freedom of speech and liberty from all forms of religion with my personal billboard:

    The Apostles' Creed 2012: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

    Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
    and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
    human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

    I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
    preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
    named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
    girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

    Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
    the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

    He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
    a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

    Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
    many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
    and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
    Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
    grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
    and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
    called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

    (references used are available upon request)

    August 27, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
    • ....


      August 27, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • Jeanie

      Bravo! Well written:)

      August 27, 2012 at 5:38 pm |
    • ....


      August 27, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • waaah waaah baby herbie/just sayin/truth be told/captain america/etc etc

      waaaah waaaaah
      the idiot want all the space on the page for him and his 100 gimmick accounts
      waaaaah waaaah Reality took some of my page waaaah wahhhhhhhh!

      August 27, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • Marla

      I like this. You should post it over at FreeThoughtsBlogs.

      August 27, 2012 at 11:30 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.