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Conventions leave atheists asking: What political party represents me?
A voice vote to change the DNC party platform turned to chaos Wednesday night.
September 6th, 2012
03:24 PM ET

Conventions leave atheists asking: What political party represents me?

By Dan Merica, CNN

Washington (CNN) – This convention season has not been good for atheists.

The word "God" was reinserted in the Democratic platform after it had been removed. A plan to raise atheist billboards in the convention cities was stymied by opponents. And though there were preachers and rabbis and other religious leaders opening and closing each day of each convention, there wasn’t an avowed atheist talking up unbelief on either convention’s speaking list.

The political lockout has left many nonbelievers asking, “What political party represents me?”

“We are deeply saddened by the exclusion of a large number of Americans by both parties,” said Teresa MacBain, a spokeswoman for the group American Atheists, in an interview on Thursday. “It amazes me that in modern-day America, so much prejudice still exists.”

After word spread Wednesday that Democrats left God out of their platform, atheists rejoiced. “Truly amazing news,” wrote Loren Miller on Atheist Nexus, a popular atheist blog. “The Republicans remain in the firm grasp of right-wing Christian religiosity, and I really don't know what it's going to take to free them from it.”

But the convention committee immediately received huge pressure get God back in the platform. Even President Obama, according to CNN reporting, said, “Why on earth would that have been taken out?” when he first heard of the omission.

In an awkward session that required three voice votes on the convention floor, the Democrats opted to add “God” back to the platform.

For atheists, the Democrats were seen to be taking away a hard-fought victory. “We had 24 hours of joy as we felt (that) finally our government values all people,” said MacBain. “But that was short-lived. The vote last night angered many atheists and left them feeling excluded once again.”

Online, atheist websites and Facebook pages went from upbeat to downcast as news spread of the platform revision.

“Obama was the first president to acknowledge non believers,” Mark Musante wrote on the American Atheists’ Facebook page. “I wish he would stick to his guns.”

Musante was referring to Obama’s 2009 inauguration speech, when the president said, “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers.”

Beverly Sitherwood, on the Friendly Atheist blog Facebook page, accused the Democrats of “Pandering for power.”

Some atheist leaders used the platform defeat as a rallying call.

“I guess a tiny step was too much to ask for,” David Silverman, president of the American Atheists, told CNN. “This was a clear message to the 16% of the voting population - we don’t count. Well, guess what, Dems - we do. And we vote.”

Silverman says that 16% of the voting public identify as nonbelievers. According to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, 12% of the electorate in 2008 was made up of people with no religious affiliation, though experts say the number of avowed atheists is much smaller.

While acknowledging atheists, Obama has given platforms to high-profile religious leaders, including Rick Warren, a megachurch pastor who prayed at his inauguration, and Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who is giving the final prayer of the convention on Thursday night.

American Atheists’ plans to raise billboards ridiculing the presidential candidates’ faith ended in failure. After the group put up billboards in Charlotte, North Carolina, the site of the Democratic National Convention, last month, it quickly removed them due to “physical threats to not only our staff, but the billboard company as well.”

American Atheists had also planned on a billboard in Tampa, Florida, to coincide with the Republican National Convention there. But American Atheists said that all the billboard companies in Tampa rejected a sign taking aim at GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s Mormon faith.

Perhaps because of the Republican Party’s ties to conservative Christianity, atheists tend to be Democrats. According to a 2012 Pew study, 71% of Americans who identified as atheist were Democrats.

“The Republicans who spoke at the RNC seemed more like televangelists than politicians,” MacBain said. “The message was clear from the RNC: Get God, or get out.”

The Republican’s 2012 platform mentions God 12 times, many of which describe the “God-given” rights that the Republican Party says are inherent to the American idea.

Though most atheist groups claim that there are closeted atheists serving as representatives and senators, only one has come out as such.

In September 2007, Rep. Pete Stark, Democrat of California, affirmed his atheism in a speech at the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard University.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: 2012 Election • Atheism • God • Politics

soundoff (3,922 Responses)
  1. smendler

    I would think that most atheists, generally speaking, would find a home either amongst Greens or Libertarians, depending on the bent of the rest of their belief systems...

    September 6, 2012 at 4:38 pm |
  2. open400

    If we had true separation of Chrurch and State, it should n ot matter. It is the GOP with their religious fanatics that have made this an issue/

    September 6, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
  3. HJS

    I believe in God to some extent, but not organized religion...I guess I'm one of the non-affiliate. Guess I'm ok with it. The two up you up top voting Green, PLEASE tell me you're not in a swing state?

    September 6, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Amniculi

      Nope. Idaho is strongly and backwardly Republican.

      September 6, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
  4. Glenn Doty

    No atheist should care. There's absolutely no reason that an atheist should be motivated to be evangelical.

    Militant atheism is a religion, and a particularly abrasive one at that. It's a CREED, or system of beliefs about topics that cannot be scientifically quantified or tested; and has a strong evangelical element to it that calls on its adherents to "save" others from their "false beliefs".

    It's complete theatre of the absurd.

    That said, I am a Christian, and I have several TRUE atheist friends that I respect and who respect me... They don't feel some need to bully me into a religious conversion, and they don't feel like I'm somehow harming them when I talk about issues of faith, or debate issues of the day through the lens of my faith. So if my faith offends you, you aren't actually living up to what you believe, because NO GOD doesn't give a hoot about whether I worship God or not.

    If you're a militant atheist, then you are a confused annoyance and I frankly just don't care if you're offended by the DNC.

    September 6, 2012 at 4:32 pm |
    • William Demuth

      I am glad to hear it, but that doesn’t change the fact you are going to be thrown in the same death camps as they are.

      Like the Jeebus freak Bush said, you are either with us or against us, and if you're against us, we intend to exterminate you.

      We call it the Atheist Doctrine

      September 6, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Amniculi

      You should see what your friends say about you calling atheism a religion. If you say they agree then I say you are a liar. Saying atheism is a religion is like saying "off" is a TV channel or clear is a color. Furthermore, the burden of proof does not fall on the side of atheism. Atheists did not forward the hypothesis that there is a deity. You don't ask someone to prove unicorns don't exist. Atheism is a default state.

      September 6, 2012 at 4:37 pm |
    • nope

      @Glenn Doty
      nope

      September 6, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Glenn Doty

      Amniculi,

      My friends agree on MILITANT atheism, which is what I call a religion. Atheism is simply a state of removing yourself from the religious affiliations at large... but if you get worked up that what you believe is RIGHT and what someone else believes is WRONG... then you're exercising an evangelical creed at that point. It's no longer a lack of belief, its a faith structure that has an evangelical calling.

      I have no problem with atheists. It's MILITANT atheists that have an extremely confused and abrasive religion.

      September 6, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • Amniculi

      You are wrong.There is only one definition of atheism. Atheism is not "simply a state of removing yourself from the religious affiliations at large". It is the rejection of the belief in a deity. You can remove yourself from religious affiliation and still be religious or believe in God.

      September 6, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • Bill

      @Glenn Doty.........how exactly do you "remove yourself" from something you were never part of? Did you remove yourself from atheism, Islam or Judaism to join Christianity? Also, should I consider Christians who knock on my door, trying to convert me as "militant" Christians? Do "militant" atheists organise, raise millions of dollars and send people worldwide to try to convert others? And no, atheism is NOT a religion as defined in any English-language dictionary.

      Religion = the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:43 pm |
  5. Amniculi

    Seeing as the Green Party's candidate has a snowball's chance in hell of getting elected, I will stick with the party that does the most to advance tolerance and community in this country. Let's go Dems!

    September 6, 2012 at 4:18 pm |
    • smendler

      "Seeing as the Green Party's candidate has a snowball's chance in hell of getting elected..."

      Why should that make a difference? Do you get a prize for voting for "the winner" instead of a candidate who more truly reflects your values? Do they give you a toaster?

      Don't be afraid to VOTE OTHER. http://www.voteother.us

      September 6, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • Amniculi

      I didn't say I wasn't going to vote Green! When the Dems win though, I will support them.

      September 6, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
  6. freedomamendment

    I'm not a theist, but I have no problem with the DNC platform. The platform's phrase "God given potential" is easy to look at in a metaphorical sense. Notice Michelle Obama and Bill Clinton both said "God bless the United States of America" at the end of their speeches. These are just general phrases of praise, and hope that nobody should be offended by.

    So long as there is nothing prescriptive in the platform, that says we must do or not do X because God wants us to, I've got no problem with some religious language in the political realm. It's when politicians start saying we have to protect Israel at all costs, ban all abortion, restrict contraception, treat gay couples differently than straight ones, etc. because God says so, that's when I have a huge problem.

    I think that atheists need to make this distinction.

    September 6, 2012 at 4:15 pm |
    • jackthegeek

      Thanks for your explanation, Welcome back to America ...

      September 6, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • William Demuth

      We do.

      We realize when someone says "Holy Sh1t" we know he doesn’t mean divine defecation.

      Alas some of the rubes in the South do believe it.

      September 6, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      So it's OK to believe as long as you don't take it seriously? Is that the first corollary to Pascal's wager?

      September 6, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Bill Deacon

      No, I believe he means it's ok to lie while we plot.

      If we admitted we intend to gas all of you, you might offer more resistance.

      September 6, 2012 at 4:57 pm |
    • Glenn Doty

      William Demuth,

      What Freedomamendment very correctly is stating is that if you don't have any backing for your policy other than your (often deranged) interpretation of a religious book then there it is unreasonable and in fact ILLEGAL to force that policy on others that do not believe as you do.

      Helping the poor, feeding the sick, protecting the weak, caring for the lost, refusing to be baited into a fight... all of these can be argued based on genuine gain for society. The fact that they were the crux of Jesus's teachings merely verifies that Jesus taught a philosophy that helped mankind. However, claiming that YOU BELIEVE, without a shred of evidence, that a 2-celled zygote has a human soul and therefore has more rights than a fully developed human female that is a member of society... Well, that's a religious belief, and cannot be the sole basis of law in America.

      September 6, 2012 at 5:02 pm |
    • ram

      I don't personally care whether a person believes in God, magic trees, no deity at all, sacred fairies, or whatever. I don't care if God is mentioned in the platform. What I object to is the idea of based your platform on religious views held by some members of the group. So why the big deal if Dem platform has that in it as long as there is no declaration that we should have lows based on the Bible or that church and state aren't separate.

      Get mad all you want for wording, but the Dem party in general is supportive and inclusive of atheism as well as Christianity and whatever other flavors you happen to be. I wouldn't think of not voting or voting for Romney just because "God" happens to be there once or twice, although I see no reason for him to be mentioned any more than any other group's deity in there. The Republican platform is based on religious beliefs, and any atheist who considers not voting or voting for Romney in protest is not thinking straight. They just aren't into anyone who isn't just like them, and the idea is to persecute anyone who doesn't cooperate by avowing what they believe. Fight your battles...you want Romney and Ryan trying to make this a religious country, or you want the party who at least respects your right to be who you are (not saying there are no obnoxious Democrats on this subject) in power? Don't shoot yourself in the foot over this.

      September 7, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  7. Also a Norm

    It's obvious they are still going to pander to the majority of voters if that's what it takes to get their guy elected. Something like 80% of Americans are Christian, and it's clearly perceived by the campaign that many of them don't understand that they can be religious and secular at the same time. Considering the blatant theocratic and totalitarian nature of their opposition, I'm willing to let this slide.

    September 6, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
  8. david

    I'm atheist and don't believe in god. We shouldn't be giving free money to israel and becomes their puppet for war in the middle east.

    September 6, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  9. uvula

    !

    ****

    *

    Media Release : Charlotte, NC USA

    Democratic Mormons have Promised Land to Abraham and Issac and Jacob. According to Democratic minority leaders, their seed is an everlasting inheritance.

    **#

    President Obama is quoted as saying that this addition to the Mormon/Jewish bi-partisan platform is a step towards further world confusion and should lead to nuclear war with any luck.

    Rabbi’s around the world are converting to Mormonism in a show of solidarity amongst Israeli Mormons.

    September 6, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  10. Steve

    My religion forbids the consumption of Sardines and Clark bars during the month of February. (our high holy month). Also all women are required to wear sleeveless flannel shirts and combat boots to bed. (a sign of chasteness). Despite all of this i find no political party that represents me. I would buy billboard space but we are forbidden to look at them. I guess i'll vote anyway.

    September 6, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • Amniculi

      Curse you and your women's combat boots! True believers make their women wear crocs! A jihad upon you!

      September 6, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • inthe12

      Steve, your mentioned Clark Bars–are you from Pittsburgh by any chance?
      As for the topic of this article, same-old same-old. Faith is not science. A person believes in something which cannot be proven scientifically. That's why it's called "faith". It's when one side gets all bent out of shape trying to convince the other side of its folly. I wish that both sides of this argument would just stop beating up on each other. I mean, when they start renting billboards that claim there is or isn't a god (I've seen both sides), I have to ask myself, do these people perhaps have nothing better to do with their time, or to spend their money on? You know, there actually are some democratic countries where the religion of the head of state is not an issue, nor is it even discussed. Believing or not believing is personal.

      September 7, 2012 at 5:32 am |
    • TheSchmaltz

      If my wife wore sleeveless flannel shirts and combat boots to bed, it wouldn't lead to chasteness 😉

      September 12, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  11. jackthegeek

    Thank you Mr. President for standing what is right in this country. These pathetic losers don't need representation and they can create there own political party, and go to hell !!!

    September 6, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      they have
      http://www.usanap.org/

      September 6, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • religion; a way to control the weak minded

      very christ-like of you.....

      September 6, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Jack

      We are taking our country back, so bury your butt in the 14th century if you like, but we have had it with the hill billy nonesense.

      We have defeated 3000 Gods before yours, and in truth, yours is a very weak contender.

      September 6, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Amniculi

      Hit the road, Jack and don't you come back no more...

      September 6, 2012 at 4:27 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I love that weak contender remark! Imagine Jesus, a weakling.

      September 6, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Bill Deacon

      Yes a weakling

      Got nailed up while his momma watched, and then lied to her saying he was going to return.

      She died waiting, as shall you.

      September 6, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      um will

      We have defeated 3000 Gods before yours, and in truth, yours is a very weak contender.

      um will the atheist did not defeat 3000 gods the Yahweh did

      ze is quite powerful actually, because he is the god of hatred, deception, and destruction
      ze is a powerful God

      ze conquered heaven, destroyed Olympias, and burnt Yggdrasil to the ground
      Yahweh may be powerful but ze is evil

      September 6, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
    • ram

      Geez, is that all taken from the Bible or is that what your church talks about on Sundays? Calling people names doesn't look very good on you or further your obvious agenda.

      September 7, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • ram

      And William, what exactly do you accomplish from saying the things you do? If you don't believe in God I get that, but who cares if someone else does? Payback? Maybe you personally feel that way, but the majority of atheists just go about their lives and don't wish anyone harm. You give atheism a bad name.

      September 7, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • ram

      How can you defeat that many Gods if you don't believe in God? I don't get it. I don't happen to believe in God, but why the nastiness and talking about "your" country? Why not pick your battles with real issues like making sure laws aren't passed that don't meet that separation idea? Why call names? Your issue isn't what you believe or don't, but just as some Christians are full of anger and vengeance you seem to be as well. It is the person who chooses behavior, and you have no God telling you to go forth and convert people, so why be that way? Makes everyone else look angry and nasty.

      September 7, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  12. Sam Yaza

    http://www.usanap.org/

    September 6, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  13. dangeroustalk

    Democratic Party reinserts 'God' into platform with vocal opposition – http://t.co/ZljAi81r

    September 6, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  14. Norm

    Atheists don't need representation.
    They're going to h3II anyway.

    September 6, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • William Demuth

      With your Momma I am sure.

      Me and Satan are gonna pass her around like a two dollar wine bottle at a Who concert.

      September 6, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
    • Also a Norm

      You need me to swing by and pick anything up from Candyland? I think it's not too far out of the way.

      September 6, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
    • religion; a way to control the weak minded

      and bad kids dont need representation either......they will get no presents.

      Hes making a list, checking it twice....

      September 6, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • Amniculi

      Hell? Why would I want to go to Michigan? Winter is coming...

      September 6, 2012 at 4:19 pm |
    • Patriot Awesome

      Good thing we don't believe in hell.

      September 6, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • adibese

      What were the stats again? God killed 10 billion people in the bible, and Satan 10? God is an egotistical sadist, and Lucipher questioned him? I'd rather go to hell if it existed.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • Jugger75

      "As an athiest, having a christian threaten me with hell is like a hippy threatening to punch me in my aura." Josh Thomas, comedian

      September 7, 2012 at 8:27 am |
  15. Sam Yaza

    even better were do Pagans belong now that we lost are republican part
    its been completely taken over by the people who want to kill us

    September 6, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Pagan chicks can join my party.

      That chick at the candle shop in the mall (you know the one with the black nails) is sorta hot in some Medievil kinda way.

      And to think the Jeebus freaks used to torch them.

      September 6, 2012 at 4:30 pm |
    • Amniculi

      Pagan chicks are hot. And they put out.

      September 6, 2012 at 4:41 pm |
    • Sam Yaza

      yeah and responsibly

      September 6, 2012 at 9:37 pm |
  16. thatguywhojuggles

    We are talking about politics, right? Government? That which should not promote any religion? *sigh*

    September 6, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • Frank a NYC

      Government isn't "promoting" religon, you can believe whatever you want. The parties are saying, as a party they believe in god. Not every democrat believes in abortion, but the party promotes it.

      September 6, 2012 at 4:12 pm |
  17. kay

    who cares!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 6, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
  18. Tom, Tom, the Other One

    Rational people would be best represented by a pragmatist, not a cultist.

    September 6, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • Byzas1

      well said

      September 7, 2012 at 9:09 am |
  19. William Demuth

    Everyone know that was a fix.

    Even the Dems lie to keep the Jeebus freaks in line, doing as they are told.

    It was obvious even to a child that the NO's were in the majority by FAR

    September 6, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
  20. William Demuth

    WRONG

    This has been GREAT for us

    Visibility is the key. We shall become a bigger force day after day

    September 6, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • Colin

      Agreed. It would not have even been debated a few years ago.

      September 6, 2012 at 3:30 pm |
    • Chuckles

      I also agree. The fact that we're even discussing is enough lip service for me (for now at least) that the dems are thinking about us vs. the republicans who would consider it unthinkable NOT to include god.

      September 6, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • William Demuth

      With Colin AND Chuckles we are on a role.

      I shall begin designing the curriculim for the reeducation camps.

      This is gonna be a payback of historic proportions!

      September 6, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • Amniculi

      Christianity is dying – and good riddance too. I look forward to the day where there won't be one hateful, fear-mongering religious group promoting fear, hatred and violence against another. It's time that people set aside irrationality and superst.ition in favor of logic and reason.

      September 6, 2012 at 4:24 pm |
    • religion; a way to control the weak minded

      "I look forward to the day where there won't be one hateful, fear-mongering religious group promoting fear, hatred and violence against another. It's time that people set aside irrationality and superst.ition in favor of logic and reason."

      You will be dead long before that happens

      September 6, 2012 at 4:42 pm |
    • Amniculi

      I know. It's rather sad 🙁

      September 6, 2012 at 4:43 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.