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. Dr Olu Bamgbade

    Atheists are the minority iin both US parties. They shouldn't have any problem choosing a party to vote for. They only need to try and disregard the faith or God issues in the party and focus on the social, economic, justice, equality, global peace and freedom issues.

    September 7, 2012 at 6:20 am |
  2. Dan

    The whole thing is just so maddening. Why can both parties clearly ignore the whole "separation of church and state" thing? I don't care if you pray to a bar of soap, don't govern my life by the beliefs YOU hold.

    September 7, 2012 at 6:18 am |
    • Chick-a-dee

      Both major parties are private organizations of citizens. Neither are government enti.ties.

      September 7, 2012 at 6:49 am |
  3. larry5

    What's going on here. I heard the voice vote and the nays that meant exclude God clearly won and yet the person calling the vote ignored it. Either I'm confused or Liberals don't deal in facts and the truth. Is this an example of voter the fraud that Liberals claim has never happened in an election in America?

    September 7, 2012 at 6:17 am |
  4. saggyroy

    Well when you plan on screwing up, screwing people, and screwing around, what better way to relieve yourself of all responsibility for your actions than bringing god into it.

    September 7, 2012 at 6:16 am |
  5. Robert

    Headline, "Atheists feel left out". Well, duh. Atheists SHOULD BE left out. They ALREADY leave themselves out of reality. God exists. If you don't want to believe in the All Mighy. FINE. Do NOT impose your beliefs on me or society. Why do you want to punish an entire nation for your ignorance?

    September 7, 2012 at 6:13 am |
    • saggyroy

      How is that god thing working out for you concerning the economy and the wars? I'm glad I am left out of it.

      September 7, 2012 at 6:21 am |
    • footle

      You have wasted your life believing in nonsense, and seem 100% set on wasting the rest of it... at least have the courtesy to keep your nonsense to yourself. You don't know anything (you just think you do).

      September 7, 2012 at 6:25 am |
    • sam stone

      The same could be said about theists, Robert

      September 7, 2012 at 6:28 am |
    • Godless and loving it

      God does not exist you gullible a.s.s.

      September 7, 2012 at 6:51 am |
  6. Ralph


    September 7, 2012 at 6:10 am |
  7. Colin

    Please choose your favorite Catholic superst.ition from those below. For the one you choose, please say why it is any more ridiculous than the rest of the garbage Catholics swallow and give an example of a non-Catholic belief which is just as stupid.

    a. Grocery store bread and wine becomes the flesh and blood of a dead Jew from 2,000 years ago because a priest does some hocus pocus over it in church of a Sunday morning.

    b. When I pray for something like “please god help me pass my exam tomorrow,” an invisible being reads my mind and intervenes to alter what would otherwise be the course of history in small ways to meet my request.

    c. The entire Universe and its billions of galaxies were created about 6,000 years ago with one man, one woman and a talking snake.

    d. A god impregnated a virgin with himself, so he could give birth to himself and then sacrifice himself to himself to negate an “original sin” of a couple we now know never existed.

    Which of the following is makes the most sense?

    The best theory we currently have is that Universe was created about 13.7 billion years ago in what is (somewhat misleadingly) called the Big Bang. We should:

    a. Simply declare that, because we don’t know, the Hindu god Shiva must have created the Universe.

    b. Maintain that, because we have not yet answered all questions about the origin of the Universe, the Judeo-Christian god must have done it.

    c. Adopt the Australian Aboriginal belief that the Universe was created by a great snake in the Dreamtime; or

    d. Accept the limits on our current knowledge and acknowledge that this is the best explanation we currently have but may change if contrary evidence comes in and just stop there.

    Likewise, we know that life on Earth evolved over the last approximately 3.5 billion years and likely began in a planet wide “organic soup” of complex organic chemicals in the primordial oceans, in an increasingly well understood process. Accordingly:

    a. Let’s look for any limitation in our knowledge and, when we find one, jump up and say “aha, scientists cannot yet fully explain (for example) how DNA synthesis first occurred, therefore the Judeo-Christian god did it.”

    b. Let’s look for any limitation in our knowledge and, when we find one, jump up and say “aha, scientists cannot yet fully explain (for example) how DNA synthesis first occurred, therefore the Hindu god Shiva did it.”

    c. We can simply read our Bibles and find the answers there; or

    d. We should continue our scientific research and experimentation and not make the bald faced assertion that any god, ghost or goblin must have conjured up life through some inexplicable act of magic.

    The statement “I believe in God because the Bible tells me to and the reason I follow the Bible is because it is the word of God” is:

    a. The reason 99% of Christians believe what they do;

    b. Circular reasoning at its most obvious;

    c. Specific to the Judeo-Christian parts of the World and totally rejected by all other parts of the World; or

    d. All of the above.

    Probably the most fundamental tenet of Christian faith is that God sent his son Jesus to Earth to die and save us from the original sin of Adam and Eve. We now know that Adam and Eve was a myth. As such, any thinking Christian should:

    a. Honestly and courageously question this and other aspects of their faith that don’t make sense.

    b. Make up some euphemistic nonsense like “well, we didn’t mean that literally” after having done exactly that for the last 1900 years until science comprehensively disproved it.

    c. Just ignore the blatant contradiction and sweep it under the mat.

    d. Hold on to the myth because it makes us feel good.

    September 7, 2012 at 6:07 am |
    • saggyroy

      I like the one where demons churn the ocean of milk to create the earth. Oops my bad. It's from Thailand, and not catholic.

      September 7, 2012 at 6:13 am |
    • Robert

      I honestly will pray for you. I hope it's not too late for you. Soon enough, you will understand the truth, at the end of your life. All of this doesn't end when you die. It's really pretty obvious. Your attempts are pathetic.

      September 7, 2012 at 6:15 am |
    • Colin

      Thanks Robert. You pray for me and I'll think for both of us.

      September 7, 2012 at 6:17 am |
    • sam stone

      Robert: Get off your knees and try to be a man.

      September 7, 2012 at 6:30 am |
    • Chick-a-dee

      @ Colin: Sorry. You've got some evangelical beliefs listed, some protestant ones and some that I don't identify at all...but you don't have ANY Catholic beliefs here. Thanks for playing, we have some lovely consolation prizes backstage.

      September 7, 2012 at 7:00 am |
    • Takawalk

      Well I am trying to respect the post, but I hope you will enlighten me. Was or is there any proof that Adam and Eve did or didn't exist.

      September 11, 2012 at 4:25 am |
  8. Joe

    “"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.”"

    Surely he's not threatening to vote for Romney? As an atheist myself, this baffles me.

    September 7, 2012 at 6:01 am |
    • Colin

      It's a bit like when the Republicans do something that pi.sses off a religious nut. Let's face it, we have nowhere else to go.

      September 7, 2012 at 6:08 am |
    • Takawalk

      Colin. > true that, and the pols pandering or not pandering to a atheistic believe system knows your statement to be true.

      September 11, 2012 at 4:30 am |
  9. Kris Wood

    Religion has no place in politics, it has no place outside of one's own heart. Vocalizing that you hear voices and are told what to do directly by God has somehow become acceptable...why is it so bad to govern from a position of reality rather than from a position of trying to please an ethereal angry old man?

    September 7, 2012 at 5:52 am |
    • Tom

      Marketplace of ideas. Look it up.

      September 7, 2012 at 6:05 am |
    • Epidi

      I'm Pagan and I know our community is not represented either. However, I don't think one's religious flavor, or lack of, has any place in govt. In history whenever that happened there were burnings at the stake, hangings, torture, gas chambers, etc. We Pagans call them the Burning Times. Religious involvment in govt is a dangerous game. If prayers are wanted or a ritual plea for luck or wisdom made, may we all just take a moment of SILENCE to either pray or reflecct on the biz at hand. Why does this always have to be about ones faith? Where is the faith in ourselves to govern ourselves in a manner fit for all without deference to any group?

      September 7, 2012 at 6:15 am |
    • cm

      Your faith, spirituality and/or beliefs are what gives you character to decide and act upon your decisions no matter what "god" you believe in or don't believe in. That is why faith will always have a place in politics, like it or not. How can you watch your child being born or lay on your death bed and not have a belief that there is a higher power at work. At birth, the real, raw power of love you feel for your child instantly and at death, your "spirit" living on in another way, Faith and spirituality is an important part of being human, it's what makes us human. It's called emotion. It's so tiring to watch everyone wave their "label" banner barking that they should be accepted. Acceptance is what you should strive for only for yourself. Faith, belief, spirituality and even non-belief is a personal journey. If someone's belief doesn't impede on your way of life, what's the problem? We live is a great country that allows us to celebrate, understand and respect many different beliefs. What's important is the human emotion and intention behind these beliefs. Intellect and emotion are the ying and yang of humanity. It is impossible to live without both and faith is emotion. This is why is will never be separated, ever, no matter how long we debate this.

      September 7, 2012 at 6:36 am |
  10. Tom

    I wonder how many atheists vote libertarian?

    September 7, 2012 at 5:37 am |
  11. Alex

    What cracks me up is that one of the most important things about being a Christian is not judging others and if you read the comments on here every Christian derides Athiesm as the result of anger and hatred. Do you know me? Do you know if I'm an angry person? I take it all with a smile and a laugh because the hatred these Christians are displaying towards me cannot and will not bring me down. Oh and remember Christians Judge not, that ye be not judged!

    September 7, 2012 at 5:31 am |
    • truth

      John 12

      37Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. 38This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet:
      “Lord, who has believed our message
      and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”g
      39For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere:
      40“He has blinded their eyes
      and deadened their hearts,
      so they can neither see with their eyes,
      nor understand with their hearts,
      nor turn—and I would heal them.”h
      47“As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him. For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it. 48There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. 49For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it. 50I know that his command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told me to say.”

      September 7, 2012 at 5:38 am |
    • Alex

      Lines in a fiction novel do not change the fact that I am judged by Christians on a regular basis, nor make it acceptable.

      September 7, 2012 at 5:45 am |
    • Kris Wood

      "Old mother Hubbard went to the cupboard to get her old dog a bone."

      September 7, 2012 at 5:54 am |
    • Epidi

      As a Pagan I get that alot myself. I don't worship a deity so much as go with the flow of nature and my biology and my evolution made me. But when some Christians hear you are Pagan or Athiest they are either banging on your door trying to convert you, or failing that, want to burn you at the town square or ostracize you from the community. They assume that you are then the property of their Satan and are dangerous. Go figure.

      September 7, 2012 at 6:20 am |
  12. terri

    Atheists need to find their own candidate rather than trying to change the Democratic party to be like them....

    September 7, 2012 at 5:30 am |
    • Epidi

      What about the Independents?

      September 7, 2012 at 6:21 am |
  13. Kamrankasi

    It is sad that atheists will burn in torment hell for ever I really feel sorry for them as they are the most unlucky creatures on the face of the earth.Think again about your beliefs un lucky guys before it's too late for all of you .

    September 7, 2012 at 5:28 am |
    • truth

      1 Corinthians 13 >>
      New International Version 1984


      1If I speak in the tonguesa of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames,b but have not love, I gain nothing.

      You are not helping and your rehtoric is sending millions to hell and you will be judged for that.

      September 7, 2012 at 5:43 am |
    • Kris Wood

      I'm sad that you're going to rot in perpetual torture on Jupiter when you die...

      It's not more or less likely, after all.

      September 7, 2012 at 5:50 am |
    • Robert

      EXACTLY! I will pray for them, also.

      September 7, 2012 at 6:17 am |
    • Richard J Smith

      The religious believer, and I as an atheist, believe in this president, and what he can bring to this suffering world. As I looked out at the diversity in the crowd at Charlotte, it is clear that whether I believe in God is as irrelevant as any other factor in a Party that is so inclusive. Atheism has time on it's side, and there is no command in any book I have read in the world of atheism that says to proselytize and convert others. That is what education in a world that can change may accomplish. Under the Republicans there is no such possibility, and only the probability that a really ugly world view will be with us for a long time. He got it right-I have hope.

      September 7, 2012 at 6:17 am |
    • John

      To those "Atheists will burn in torment" posters:

      You claim your god is a wise god
      You claim your god is loving and/or just
      You claim that those who don't share your beliefs will burn in hell.

      The above position is logically inconsistent, and therefore your dogma is wrong. A wise/just being would not condemn someone for simple lack of belief in the absence of hard evidence.

      No religion that espouses the above will ever find me as a member, simply because the logical gap in the above is far too massive for me to ever accept.

      September 7, 2012 at 6:31 am |
    • sam stone

      Get down on your knees and open your mouth, Kamrankasi, Jesus is coming again

      September 7, 2012 at 6:34 am |
  14. Barb

    Oh Well.

    September 7, 2012 at 5:24 am |
  15. Bob

    It's ok atheists... assuming you're correct, you'll only feel bad about being left out as long as you're alive. Actually, I guess that's true even if you're wrong. Either way, everyone can't always be included in everything – think about all those people who are neither Republicans nor Democrats. Get over it.

    September 7, 2012 at 5:21 am |
  16. Semantics101

    I know a lot of athiests and I have allways felt that their denial was their choice. But there are a lot of them who are antagonistic towards other beliefs and those are people who put themselves above others who have faith. Which is the foundation to people's spiritual relations.

    September 7, 2012 at 5:09 am |
    • Godless and loving it

      Being atheist is not a choice. We can't live a lie. Simple as that.

      September 7, 2012 at 6:58 am |
  17. Tom

    You don't need a political party to represent you. You just need one that defends your individual liberty and treats you equal to everyone else.

    September 7, 2012 at 5:05 am |
  18. GayAtheist

    Apes evolved from creationists.

    September 7, 2012 at 4:44 am |
    • Llama Bob

      What a mean thing to say . . . about apes.

      September 7, 2012 at 4:51 am |
    • geofmckimmie

      Atheist should feel left out...they have opted out. Lonely is a place they should be use to

      September 7, 2012 at 4:53 am |
    • Colin

      "Lonely is a place they should be use to." Not really. Refreshingly liberated is closer to the point for most. We don't need an invisible father figure. We face the uncertainty of life and the certainty of death with courage and honesty.

      September 7, 2012 at 4:59 am |
    • terri

      To Colin:

      I am sure that there are a lot of people on death row who face their life and death with courage and honesty too. Unfortunately, this has no effect on the inaccuracy of their choices.

      September 7, 2012 at 5:28 am |
    • Colin

      to terri:

      Yes, that's right, and I think about 99% of them are Christians, aren't they?

      September 7, 2012 at 6:14 am |
  19. truth be told

    Which political party represents atheists? None, thank God ! A so called atheist is nothing more than an impediment to a better America. Without the lying atheists undercutting our values Hope and Change would have been the norm by now, as it is the whole country has to struggle just for the ego of a lousy 1 % that think they are "smarter" than God.

    September 7, 2012 at 4:43 am |
    • jdoe

      Uh... can you cite an example of how atheists impeded "hope and change"?

      September 7, 2012 at 4:45 am |
    • You told BS

      Name all the lies you accuse atheists of. Be specific. Provide evidence.

      September 7, 2012 at 4:46 am |
    • Colin

      "a lousy 1 % that think they are "smarter" than God." Actually, it is closer to 10% and growing rapidly. The internet has given young people unprecedented access to differing views, allowing them to question the Dark Ages dogma they have been fed by parents and priests.

      Second, saying atheists thinks we are smarter than God is like saying we think we are in better shape than Santa Clause or have a better family environment than Cindarella.

      September 7, 2012 at 4:57 am |
    • Not important

      Ha ha 1% huh..... You realize the majority of Athiest don't admit to being Athiest because they know how crazy believers are. I just say god bless cause you all live in a fantasy land and when asked if I believe in God I always say yes and all Christians believe me. The majority of Athiest are like me because most of us were raised in the church and we know how believers want atheists to die. So we keep our real beliefs to our selfs. I'd say the us is at least 30% Athiest but the believes don't know it. Some day it will be 100% once the human brain evolves.

      September 7, 2012 at 5:02 am |
    • Ilene Bilenky

      More than once, in the last election cycle, Pres. Obama referred to people of different faiths (naming the Big Three, as a rule) and mentioning "and our other friends" or something like that. He did it more than once, "our friends with no particular faith." Maybe he even said "no faith." Whatever the precise words, I know I felt included as an atheist for the first time amidst all the god hoopla all the time. It's a start.

      September 7, 2012 at 5:11 am |
    • Epidi

      I'm not an Athiest and even I know that statement isn't true, lol. My my my. Aren't we the superior one?

      September 7, 2012 at 6:26 am |
    • sam stone

      tbt is a diseased jesus sucking gash

      September 7, 2012 at 6:37 am |
  20. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things .

    September 7, 2012 at 4:33 am |
    • GayAtheist

      If one of you would pray for an end to starvation, some children might not die tonight...I mean...prayer changes things...right?

      Could you do that for me? Could you please end starvation tonight...that'd be great. thanx

      September 7, 2012 at 4:45 am |
    • Mystikef

      With all of the horror and death and suffering and starvation in the world, it is obvious you religious people are not praying hard enough to your God. Please, pray harder. Fix everything. ANYTHING! and maybe the rest of us will start to believe your God has any powers at all. But while the world suffers around us... either your ability to pray is inadequate, or your God does not exsist. Or is it that he just doesn't care? Or maybe he is powerless? Either way... the world still suffers and prayer does nothing.

      September 7, 2012 at 5:16 am |
    • Mirosal

      @Mystikef... Epicurus got it right didn't he? 🙂

      September 7, 2012 at 5:38 am |
    • Mystikef

      @Mirosal... Very much so. Especially in a time where so little about the world around us was known. It seems that in a time and on a planet when infomation flows globally in seconds, people would realize that prayer has not fixed ONE THING. EVER! People still die of cancer. Children still starve. War still exsists. Suffering abounds in every country. Loved ones die in car crashes. Yet people still want to sit in their homes and wish it away! How about we PEOPLE actually start doing something to help ourselves, since God hasn't raised a single finger to help any of us do anything in any way ever! If God is doing his best, his best sucks ass! And anyone who worships him has VERY low expectations in a God. I demand better for my worship dollars. But.... on a lighter note, I don't worship make-believe peeps and I go about my life trying to be kind and help others and find ways to make the world a bettter place because I am a good person. Not because some all-powerful Leprachaun threatens to send me to hell if I don't worship him and pray to him. Seriously... aren't you zealots, those who pray often, even a little disapointed that your prayers are never answered? Or are you not wishing for the big stuff like ending hunger or world peace? Why hasn't your god done ANYTHIHNG to help ANYONE ever if you are always praying to him/her?!? Is he powerless? Does he hate your prayers? Is he secretly evil and likes people to suffer? Is it the free will thing? Cause seriously... a God should be able to give us free will yet KEEP US FROM DYING HORRIBLY EVERY DAY!! What the hell does CANCER have to do with free will? Seriously, WHAT?

      September 7, 2012 at 6:02 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.