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.

CNN’s Belief Blog: The faith angles behind the biggest stories

“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. lordnimrond

    Wow,...I've had to re-write this several times to get the craziest things past the auto-censors... Yuck!

    Hmnnn......The problem I see with either of these statements is that you are both avoiding the actual issue...

    Seethrough said..."Atheism is a terrible religion.".....and Hawk replied...."Atheism is a religion like not collecting stamps is a hobby. i.e. – it isn't one."....

    OK,...yeah,...Seethrough made an incorrect statement, obviously,...and I'm betting he did so to enrage any Atheist who read it, since most Atheists get upset when their activities they use to "get their message out" are compared to those used by Theists; when folks use phrases that make Atheists seem like religious z e a I o t s...

    But Hawk is ignoring the point Seethrough is trying to make.... What he's trying to say is that by doing something like these billboards, the Atheists who put them up are "fighting fire with fire" in ways that are just as a.n.n.o.y.i.n.g and "in your face" as the proseIytizing methods used by many Theists... These methods seek to "s.h.a.m.e" others for doing something different than they do by casting Theists' activities in a silly light, sometimes by vitrioIic name-calling, and by portraying others as s t u p : d for not thinking as they do...

    Perhaps Atheists do this with a "if it's good for the goose then it's good for the gander" att;tude, to see if Theists "like how that feels",...(after all those kinds of behaviors ARE incredibly a.n.n.o.y.ing and off-putting, no matter who is engaging in them, which should be a BIG hint to Theists to knock that c r @ p off!!!) but that "t;t for tat" att:tude merely makes Atheists look like as big of j e r k s as the Theists, to most general bystanders... And for Hawk to respond, saying Atheism is a religion like NOT collecting stamps is a hobby, makes it seem like we should believe that Atheism is nothing more than the "absence of a belief in a god",....INSTEAD of the "participatory movement" that it is...(i.e. one that actively seeks to grow its ranks, seeks to spread its message, seeks to denegrate alternative ways of thinking,...etc.)....

    Atheism, as I have seen it portrayed by those who host television and radio shows about it, put up signs and billboards, host websites and live talks, and engage in attempting to convince others as to why their way is the "right way" of thinking,...seems to engage in many of the EXACT same types of egregious public behaviors as those they seem to discourage... IF they did not do these things, then I'd be willing to accept that they are merely the "absence of belief in the divine/supernatural",...that they represent nothing more than the "lack of religion...

    But they don't,...they instead represent a group that, though they don't see themselves as a duck, they often "come off" like a duck, because they sometimes look like one, and quack like one...(with the exception of the whole "big dude in the sky" thing...)... I have HEARD Atheists say that they are just like Christians, they just believe in one less god than they do,...and unfortunately,...that is OFTEN the case.... They DO often act just like modern Christians, up to and including the "holier than thou" att;tude... Not pretty to look at...

    August 28, 2012 at 1:30 am |
    • lordnimrond

      As an aside,...the Belief Blog auto censors apparently don't like the word "att:tude" because the word t:t is nested inside it...

      Wow....really great filter system there Sparky...

      August 28, 2012 at 1:42 am |
    • lordnimrond

      And just for that,...I'm going to spell it again in a different way:..... TlT,...TlTTY,.....Huge, pendulous TlTS!!!!

      August 28, 2012 at 1:47 am |
    • lordnimrond

      Please,..I beg you,...get really offended by these massive, sweaty, bouncing TlTTlES all you Puritans out there!

      August 28, 2012 at 1:49 am |
  2. Atheisticallyyours

    Maybe its about time American Atheists BOUGHT a billboard, and hung whatever THEY wanted from it!

    August 28, 2012 at 1:27 am |
  3. gandfs

    "Presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney is a Mormon, and President Barack Obama is also a Christian." Ahheem...Mormons are not Christians.

    August 28, 2012 at 1:25 am |
    • John

      How the crap are Mormons not Christians???!!! It's the called Church of JESUS CHRIST. Mormons are great people, although the missionaries are as annoying as heck.

      August 28, 2012 at 1:40 am |
  4. Ron Martin

    If god is all knowing and all-powerful then god is NOT all-good. The existence of evil in the universe excludes this possibility.

    August 28, 2012 at 1:23 am |
  5. Hadenuffyet

    "And you will be persecuted in my names sake"

    August 28, 2012 at 1:20 am |
  6. JohnBoy

    It's wrong to say Romney is a Mormon and Obama is "ALSO" a Christian – Mormonism rejects basic tenets of Christianity, it is NOT a Christian denomination.

    August 28, 2012 at 1:19 am |
    • tffl

      The reason there are so many Christian sects is because they all reject some tenets of each other. As a non-Christian, it appears that the only criterion for whether you are Christian or not is a belief in the divinity of Jesus – everything else is just details.

      August 28, 2012 at 2:30 am |
  7. Alicia

    Reminds me of the time I was walking Venice Beach in Southern Calif... amongst all the kooks & nuts were 2 old guys, sitting at a card table with some handouts.... and a sign.. "Atheists".....lol...lol... I kinda yelled over asking "whats there to read on pamphlets"?.... you don't believe in anything.... well, wait!, at least you're getting your vitamin D"!....

    August 28, 2012 at 1:18 am |
  8. YBP

    My Billboard:

    They tell you what to do
    They tell you what to think
    They take your money
    They have their way with your kids (teenage boys in particular)
    And you allow it
    But you can make it stop
    Education is the remedy

    August 28, 2012 at 1:17 am |
    • johnny

      Are you referring to Mormon, Christians, Catholics, or pretty well any religion? Probably any and all of them.

      August 28, 2012 at 1:34 am |
  9. Alicia

    Atheists think that the candidates really believe in God????? (insert, belly laughing smiley)

    August 28, 2012 at 1:15 am |
  10. wj

    Slander of one's beliefs is going to raise ire. "Useless savior?" PLEASE.
    Jesus is God. Blasphemy will get God Himself angry.

    August 28, 2012 at 1:14 am |
    • damo12345

      Well it would, if he was real.

      He's not.

      But yeah, these were terrible signs. Ugly and stupid.

      August 28, 2012 at 1:18 am |
    • Mirosal

      Then tell your "god" to get off its ass, and come on out here to make an official statement. Don't use scribes, secretaries, or third and fourth hand stories. I'm sure He'll show up with Santa driving your "god" around in a sleigh, beibg escorted by Apollo's chariot, the Easter Bunny as his valet, and Thor as a bodyguard, although why your "god " needs a bodyguard is beyond me. Come to think of it, why does your "god" need others to speak for "him"? Why can't "he" do it him/herself? Is your "god" dumb as in mute, or just dumb?

      August 28, 2012 at 1:26 am |
  11. Geoff

    Why do atheists feel so threatened by Christianity? The biggest threat to atheists is themselves.

    August 28, 2012 at 1:14 am |
    • John in Vegas

      We don't feel threatened by Christianity. We feel threatened by Christians.

      August 28, 2012 at 1:18 am |
    • damo12345

      We feel threatened by all religions that come with books of laws. Christianity does. Ancient laws written by primitive uneducated tribal nomads in the desert, who pretended the laws were commands from an infallible being. And because they're supposedly the commands of an infallible being, we're not allowed point out how horrible and stupid some of them are.

      We feel threatened not because you believe in a fairy tale, but because you reference an ancient set of laws often unsuitable for the modern world, and because those laws are meant to be perfect because a fictional being said so.

      That's the big problem. Not the fact that you believe in some being that isn't real, but because that belief comes with a rule book written by primitives, and you want the world to follow their rules.

      August 28, 2012 at 1:22 am |
  12. Mike in SA

    What a fun group of people these atheists...I should invite them for bourbon and cigars on the patio where they can attempt to prove to me there is no God and I attempt to prove to them there is one. In the end, since neither group can prove either premise, the atheist's leave patting each other on the back laughing at the idiocy of the Christians while the Christians realize that just like always, faith IS the key to Heaven.

    August 28, 2012 at 1:14 am |
    • johnny


      August 28, 2012 at 1:37 am |
  13. brian

    ""Sadistic God; Useless Savior, 30,000+ Versions of ‘Truth,’ Promotes Hate, Calls it ‘Love.’ ”"

    All who call themselves christians should read this not as an attack, but as a call to learn how to be better. As something to be discussed and learned from. Your namesake promoted love, tolerance, forgiveness and charity. He is only useless in that he is not used.

    Another said it far more diplomatically.

    “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
    “If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, as found in the Bible, all of India would be Christian today.”
    Mahatma Gandhi

    Christians should study the life of an outsider who understood their religion better than they do.

    ( also editors should edit better, the quote in the article says "hates" not hate like the photo does. )

    August 28, 2012 at 1:12 am |
  14. thinksense1

    Both sides have gone away from disagreeing with each other respectfully. Not everyone does this, but the ones who are intolerant seem to be making the most noise.

    August 28, 2012 at 1:04 am |
    • Gadflie

      Hmm, I'm trying to think of a time before this century where being an atheist wasn't a life threatening decision. And you complain about atheists not being nice?

      August 28, 2012 at 1:05 am |
    • YBP

      @ Gadflie: Awesome reply.

      August 28, 2012 at 1:20 am |
  15. Reality

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

    -only for the new members of the blog:

    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 28, 2012 at 12:57 am |
    • johnny

      The earliest gospel written was Mark. It is blatantly obvious it was a rip-off of a very early Greek text The Odyssey by Homer. Now, the remaining three gospels were copied, with annotations, from Mark at later dates by different individuals. Now seeing that the first gospel is simply fiction, that would make all remaining gospels fiction also. Therefore Jesus of Nazareth was simply a fairy tale. Now, don't get me started on Paul. What a gay........ Oooops, I won't start on that.

      August 28, 2012 at 1:43 am |
    • Reality

      From Professors Crossan and Watts' book, Who is Jesus.

      "That Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate, as the Creed states, is as certain as anything historical can ever be.

      “ The Jewish historian, Josephus and the pagan historian Tacitus both agree that Jesus was executed by order of the Roman governor of Judea. And is very hard to imagine that Jesus' followers would have invented such a story unless it indeed happened.

      “While the brute fact that of Jesus' death by crucifixion is historically certain, however, those detailed narratives in our present gospels are much more problematic. "

      “My best historical reconstruction would be something like this. Jesus was arrested during the Passover festival, most likely in response to his action in the Temple. Those who were closest to him ran away for their own safety.

      I do not presume that there were any high-level confrontations between Caiaphas and Pilate and Herod Antipas either about Jesus or with Jesus. No doubt they would have agreed before the festival that fast action was to be taken against any disturbance and that a few examples by crucifixion might be especially useful at the outset. And I doubt very much if Jewish police or Roman soldiers needed to go too far up the chain of command in handling a Galilean peasant like Jesus. It is hard for us to imagine the casual brutality with which Jesus was probably taken and executed. All those "last week" details in our gospels, as distinct from the brute facts just mentioned, are prophecy turned into history, rather than history remembered."

      See also Professor Crossan's reviews of the existence of Jesus in his other books especially, The Historical Jesus and also Excavating Jesus (with Professor Jonathan Reed doing the archeology discussion) .

      Other NT exegetes to include members of the Jesus Seminar have published similar books with appropriate supporting references.

      Part of Crossan's The Historical Jesus has been published online at books.google.com/books.

      There is also a search engine for this book on the right hand side of the opening page. e.g. Search Josephus

      See also Wikipedia's review on the historical Jesus to include the Tacitus' reference to the crucifixion of Jesus.

      From ask.com,

      "One of the greatest historians of ancient Rome, Cornelius Tacitus is a primary source for much of what is known about life the first and second centuries after the life of Jesus. His most famous works, Histories and Annals, exist in fragmentary form, though many of his earlier writings were lost to time. Tacitus is known for being generally reliable (if somewhat biased toward what he saw as Roman immorality) and for having a uniquely direct (if not blunt) writing style.

      Then there are these scriptural references:

      Crucifixion of Jesus:(1) 1 Cor 15:3b; (2a) Gos. Pet. 4:10-5:16,18-20; 6:22; (2b) Mark 15:22-38 = Matt 27:33-51a = Luke 23:32-46; (2c) John 19:17b-25a,28-36; (3) Barn. 7:3-5; (4a) 1 Clem. 16:3-4 (=Isaiah 53:1-12); (4b) 1 Clem. 16.15-16 (=Psalm 22:6-8); (5a) Ign. Mag. 11; (5b) Ign. Trall. 9:1b; (5c) Ign. Smyrn. 1.2.- (read them all at wiki.faithfutures. Crucifixion org/index.php/005_Crucifixion_Of_Jesus )

      August 28, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • Reality

      Added suggested readings:

      o 1. Historical Jesus Theories, earlychristianwritings.com/theories.htm – the names of many of the contemporary historical Jesus scholars and the ti-tles of their over 100 books on the subject.
      2. Early Christian Writings, earlychristianwritings.com/
      – a list of early Christian doc-uments to include the year of publication–

      30-60 CE Passion Narrative
      40-80 Lost Sayings Gospel Q
      50-60 1 Thessalonians
      50-60 Philippians
      50-60 Galatians
      50-60 1 Corinthians
      50-60 2 Corinthians
      50-60 Romans
      50-60 Philemon
      50-80 Colossians
      50-90 Signs Gospel
      50-95 Book of Hebrews
      50-120 Didache
      50-140 Gospel of Thomas
      50-140 Oxyrhynchus 1224 Gospel
      50-200 Sophia of Jesus Christ
      65-80 Gospel of Mark
      70-100 Epistle of James
      70-120 Egerton Gospel
      70-160 Gospel of Peter
      70-160 Secret Mark
      70-200 Fayyum Fragment
      70-200 Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs
      73-200 Mara Bar Serapion
      80-100 2 Thessalonians
      80-100 Ephesians
      80-100 Gospel of Matthew
      80-110 1 Peter
      80-120 Epistle of Barnabas
      80-130 Gospel of Luke
      80-130 Acts of the Apostles
      80-140 1 Clement
      80-150 Gospel of the Egyptians
      80-150 Gospel of the Hebrews
      80-250 Christian Sibyllines
      90-95 Apocalypse of John
      90-120 Gospel of John
      90-120 1 John
      90-120 2 John
      90-120 3 John
      90-120 Epistle of Jude
      93 Flavius Josephus
      100-150 1 Timothy
      100-150 2 Timothy
      100-150 T-itus
      100-150 Apocalypse of Peter
      100-150 Secret Book of James
      100-150 Preaching of Peter
      100-160 Gospel of the Ebionites
      100-160 Gospel of the Nazoreans
      100-160 Shepherd of Hermas
      100-160 2 Peter

      3. Historical Jesus Studies, faithfutures.org/HJstudies.html,
      – "an extensive and constantly expanding literature on historical research into the person and cultural context of Jesus of Nazareth"
      4. Jesus Database, faithfutures.org/JDB/intro.html–"The JESUS DATABASE is an online annotated inventory of the traditions concerning the life and teachings of Jesus that have survived from the first three centuries of the Common Era. It includes both canonical and extra-canonical materials, and is not limited to the traditions found within the Christian New Testament."
      5. Josephus on Jesus mtio.com/articles/bissar24.htm
      6. The Jesus Seminar, mystae.com/restricted/reflections/messiah/seminar.html#Criteria
      7. Writing the New Testament- mystae.com/restricted/reflections/messiah/testament.html
      8. Health and Healing in the Land of Israel By Joe Zias
      9. Economics in First Century Palestine, K.C. Hanson and D. E. Oakman, Palestine in the Time of Jesus, Fortress Press, 1998.
      10.The Gnostic Jesus
      (Part One in a Two-Part Series on Ancient and Modern Gnosticism)
      by Douglas Groothuis: equip.org/free/DG040-1.htm
      11. The interpretation of the Bible in the Church, Pontifical Biblical Commission
      Presented on March 18, 1994
      12. The Jesus Database- newer site:
      13. Jesus Database with the example of Supper and Eucharist:

      August 28, 2012 at 8:19 am |
  16. I don't know

    But athiests often claim to be so much smarter than everyone elsw, so you'd think they could get their facts straight. God love 'um though.

    August 28, 2012 at 12:55 am |
    • Hawk

      What, exactly, did they get wrong?

      August 28, 2012 at 1:11 am |
    • JohnBoy

      Hawk: what did they get wrong? Well....EVERYTHING.

      August 28, 2012 at 1:21 am |
    • Hawk

      1 Corinthians 14:34, Luke 14:26, Matthew 10:34, Matthew 10:21, Matthew 5:17, Matthew 15:4-7, Matthew 19:29, Mark 7:9, Mark 11:13, Luke 12:47 – And that's *just* the New Testament! Remember, Jesus says that the laws of the Old Testament are still in force, Matthew 5:18-19 RSV – so all of the Old Testament law is *still* in force! And since Jesus is the same god as the god of the Old Testament...he did all the things that the Old Testament god did. LOTS of horrible stuff in there!

      August 28, 2012 at 1:57 am |
  17. BJ

    I can't speak for Mormons, but a true Christian would target hate with hate, make threats, etc. And for the comments on tolerance, explain where this atheist group is promoting tolerance with their own intolerance of religious groups in this country?

    August 28, 2012 at 12:54 am |
    • EnoughAlready

      "I can't speak for Mormons, but a true Christian would..."

      So mormons aren't christian? or at least "true" ones? Interesting way to start a rant about intolerance....

      August 28, 2012 at 1:10 am |
    • Hawk

      Aren't Christians supposed to, "Turn the other cheek"? "Love those that hate you"? Didn't somebody rather important say something like that?

      August 28, 2012 at 1:59 am |
  18. TheAlaskaCurmudgeon

    I Like Beer.

    – Tom T. Hall

    August 28, 2012 at 12:52 am |
  19. Trent

    So much for turning the other cheek. I'm not sure where in the bible it says threatening to kill people is ok.

    August 28, 2012 at 12:50 am |
    • James

      You turn your cheek in personal matters. We're not supposed to be complete passifists, thats called cowardice and shame. You should thank us, the day we stop fighting is the day we give up on people like you 🙂
      How can you be so certain there is no God when you have no knowledge of other worlds/dimensions/heaven/hell etc?
      If there is a GOD, he would try to communicate with you. If you study the Bible, the fullfilled prophecies alone prove it comes from the omniscient creator. Try it, I promise that as long as you do it with a pure heart you'll find something far better than that black nothingness of death you think you'll get (I used to look forward to that too but its simply not the case). God likes being tested, because as long as you do it with a PURE heart seeking truth, you'll find nothing but more validation of its truth (especially when reading books like the koran, tibetan book of the dead, the gnostic bible, and other knockoffs and foolishness). For starters though, I recommend FLATLAND. It's a short book about shapes and concepts that will help you realize how ignorant you are. Don't feel bad, I was there too.

      August 28, 2012 at 1:25 am |
    • Olaf Big

      You don't understand. Good thing about the Bible is that you can twist and turn it anyway that suits you. It's only in science that the same reaction under the same conditions always gives the same product. Somebody here posted that six days of creation can mean any desired period of time because the Bible does not specify how long God's days were.

      August 28, 2012 at 1:26 am |
    • johnny

      reply to James......Well of course the New testament is full of fulfilled prophecies. The writers of it simply had to peruse the Old testament and tweak their writings to make it look like the prophecies were fulfilled. Silly rabbit....

      August 28, 2012 at 1:49 am |
    • Orwell prefers Guyana punch

      James, if you are 100% in on Christianity, then you have to be 100% pacifist.
      Loosing your self control and faith, by being violent and later getting forgiven is cowardice, but Jeus still loves your worthless soul.

      August 28, 2012 at 2:36 am |
  20. thoroughlybaked

    Christians: "Yew make fun of mah beliefs, I'll hurt yew!" Love and tolerance? Seems legit.

    August 28, 2012 at 12:49 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.