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. jasie

    In America we have freedom OF religion not freedom FROM religion.

    September 7, 2012 at 8:11 am |
    • z


      September 7, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • Karen

      So, because I choose not to believe or worship an immoral sky daddy, I should not be afforded my freedom as an American? Who are you, or any other American to tell me I cannot have life, liberty and the freedom to pursue happiness without religion? Your freedom to religion does not give you the right to abuse or deny those who choose no religion the same freedoms you enjoy.

      September 7, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
  2. CuriosityKilledTheCat

    As an atheist and an American- Im glad to see that my elected officials are busy arguing about all this important material like the existence of some deity or the capital of some renegade state (Israel) around the world and not doing anything like- getting us back to work, back to morality, back to rationality- but no, they will simply pray for solutions (it's called sticking your head in the sand). Screw Israel, i've got an idea, lets stop arguing about some dead guy who talked to one of many deity's time has produced!- than we can tell all these religous fanatics (Christain,Jew,or Muslim) that God hasent ever fixed anyones problems, or no more than Zues did for the Greeks, Jupiter for the Romans, and i could keep going all around the world for everyone- God diddnt get us to the moon- Man did. I've mocked god all my life- no either he's imaginary- or hes more afraid of me than i am of him. Get the picture yet you religous, simpleminded fools?

    September 7, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • Big Joe

      You've mocked something you don't believe exists?

      Good use of time and energy.

      September 7, 2012 at 9:09 am |
    • Takawalk

      Big Joe has a good point

      September 11, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  3. Canuck

    I understand that there was a need to create religion a long time ago to keep the masses under control and make it easier to uphold the law. Some people need to be told there is someone watching their every move for them to be good people. There are some good things about Christianism, it teaches you to respect others and encourages communities to stick together. I wish we would do those things not because we fear reprisal from a god but just because we are good people. Humanity will probably evolve away from god over time, we will just have to be careful about those people that were just being good because they were afraid of their god. There has been some truly awful things done in the name of religion but also some great things. I think religion will slowly wither away, I know priests are getting more and more difficult to find around here so smaller communities will probably need to share priests or start closing churches. I think the idea for communities to meet once a week should be kept alive even if it has nothing to do with religion, there could be talks about upcoming events, talk of the needs of the community, etc. Yes I am an atheist but I do see some good things that came from religion, I wish humanity could grow above the need for religion to make them be good people.

    September 7, 2012 at 8:09 am |
  4. capnmike

    Why should a pile of lies and fairytales and utter nonsense be so important that we have to include it in everything? Religion is crap, and those of us who can see clearly enough to understand what an enormous hoax it is should not suffer in the hands of the ignorant and brainwashed.

    September 7, 2012 at 8:07 am |
  5. ViK100

    Atheists should move to their ow planet. This is a country that lives UNDER GOD.

    September 7, 2012 at 8:03 am |
    • Staff God

      Yes, this is a country that lives under the STAFF GOD.

      ALL HAIL THE STAFF GOD!!! Jesus is fake. This is my land. Leave Christianity and follow me.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • Derp

      Jesus loves you and you're hatred.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:15 am |
    • mememememememe

      we say we live under god, but we do not treat our neighbors like christians are supposed to. you have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • Simran

      No, I am the oldest God of America. Mine is the true religion. Jesus never came to America.


      September 7, 2012 at 8:17 am |
    • sam stone

      Vik: You should extract the battery powered Jeebus marital aid out of your rectum

      September 7, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • jocelynplease

      "Under God" wasn't added to the Pledge until the 1950's and the Red Scare. Google it.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:41 am |
  6. John

    In a Republic, the people vote for their representatives. The representative (except when selecting the President) with the simple majority of votes wins. I continue to be amazed that extreme minority groups keep failing to understand why they are "underrepresented". They are the minority. They don't have the votes. It really is nothing more than basic math.

    Politicians who think they can continue to cater to the minority without losing the majority vote are in danger of losing.

    September 7, 2012 at 8:02 am |
  7. LIberal

    What's the big deal? It's just politics. I could care less if the democrats use God or not because they typically believe in separation of church and state. Republican leaders use of God is typically for nefarious purposes. To confuse and manipulate Christian followers in order to proliferate an agenda. In reality neither party has nothing to do with God or the Christian walk. The followers may think so, but it doesn't. It's just a tool to the parties.

    September 7, 2012 at 8:00 am |
  8. Ralph

    Belief should be a private thing. It should not be something that is pushed on others! Politics and Religion, in my opinion should not be mixed. My problem is not whether you believe or don't believe. My problem is when you try to force your beliefs on others. Winning elections is about getting votes, that is not rocket science. If 80% believe, you had better not alienate them if you want to get elected. On the other hand all people, who are good people, respect and be respected, regardless of their beliefs. That is my opinion!

    September 7, 2012 at 8:00 am |
    • ViK100

      If I'm a democrat and the republicans win does that mean the majority of people are wrong?

      September 7, 2012 at 8:05 am |
  9. brian

    Boo hoo hoo, since when was there a check off list for exclusions.

    September 7, 2012 at 7:56 am |
  10. Jeanie

    Truly astounding, how a figment of ancient desert nomads imagination, can continue to imprison the minds of people in this modern era.
    I was elated hearing the speakers at the convention, but each time, the mention of an imaginary god caused my bile to rise, and my pride was dampened, and I was left feeling like John Lewis must have felt when he fought for civil rights, or Dr. Martin Luther King felt when he marched in Selma, or when Jesus was turned on by his family and Romans. Atheists are the voice of reason in this unreasonable world that no one wants to hear, as evidenced by our elected leaders sticking their fingers in their ears, closing their eyes and yelling at the top of their lungs that their "faith" is unmovable, we must all abide by it, and if we don't like it, too bad.

    September 7, 2012 at 7:55 am |
    • Sarcastro

      Yes, I'm sure you felt what MLK did.

      Ironic that you spent your post deriding others as inferior to you.... Hmm, that almost seems like the type of thing that those MLK was protesting against would do.

      September 7, 2012 at 7:59 am |
    • merlinfire

      And you're trying to liberate us, and if we don't agree, we have small, imprisoned minds. Am I hitting the mark? Take your high minded pseudo-religion elsewhere.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:58 am |
  11. RichD

    Pray to be included in the next conventions.... oops – never mind....

    September 7, 2012 at 7:53 am |
    • Takawalk


      September 11, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  12. Instigator

    Actually the Freedom from Religion Foundation was successful at putting up billboards in Tampa during the RNC relaying the message, "God Fixation won't Fix the Nation" The fact is, American Atheists' billboards were simply over the top and even atheists objected to them.

    September 7, 2012 at 7:53 am |
  13. Reality

    The wishful thinking done by five Christian scribes approximately 2000 years ago continued the embellishment and fiction tradition of the Jewish scribes. The locals paid for a good story of myth and imminent second coming. There was no money in the truth but now we know the truth and it boils down to three simple statements, There are no gods, Do No Harm and Love Thy Neighbor as yourself.

    September 7, 2012 at 7:48 am |
  14. Fighting for America's Future

    The Religious Right must be stopped. America needs to put away childish things, and more into the 21st century. Education, not religion, is the key. In fact, religion is one of America's biggest weaknesses.

    September 7, 2012 at 7:46 am |
  15. God is not real

    Separation of church and state....unless it gets me elected.

    Typical politicians.

    September 7, 2012 at 7:44 am |
    • John

      You forgot the rest. Here, let me add:

      Separation of Church and State, unless it gets me elected.
      Separation of Corporation and State, unless it gets me elected.
      Separation of Unions and State, unless it gets me elected.
      Separation of Money and State, unless it gets me elected.
      Separation of Lying and State, unless it gets me elected.
      Separation of Greed and State, unless it gets me elected.


      September 7, 2012 at 7:59 am |
  16. Silas Scarborough

    These are not apparently very bright atheists if there's any question of which party warrants their support.

    September 7, 2012 at 7:44 am |
  17. John

    Many of these comments lament on atheists bashing religion, but in actuality, it seems that every religious person here is bashing atheists. It is as if atheist has become an evil label.
    At my place of work, the first question that comes up is “which church do you go to?” Then it’s a question game to see who goes to the better church, who is closer to Jesus, who is saved more.
    Another point; why would a Christian revert to threats of violence towards an organization and a advertising firm? What are the Christian’s true beliefs? Read through these comments and it becomes evident that it is the Christians that are in fact evil. Easy to see!

    September 7, 2012 at 7:44 am |
    • Silas Scarborough

      It's not a contest or a sales campaign. The majority of Americans are believers and any judgment that they're stupid is a personal problem as they get a vote in any case. My choice is to move out of this hellhole as I'm tired of the pseudo-religious hypocrisy. Expecting them to change is just fantasy.

      September 7, 2012 at 7:48 am |
    • gdouglaso

      So, you plan on making things better by calling those you disagree with evil or call on people for standing up for what they believe as wrong...unless you believe it. Would not want to share a car ride with you for too long...

      September 7, 2012 at 8:02 am |
    • stwords

      (After all you may be a son of immigrant; your father/mother have to move to America, now it your turn)
      If you don't like Christians, I will say move to a country where there are no Christians and have a taste of life. You will quickly learn that life is a means of destruction and that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:31 am |
    • Takawalk

      Christians and religious bigots are not the same thing.

      September 11, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
  18. Polls

    I wonder who the guys running these polls are beholden too. Most of the folks I know are religious in name only, that is they state they have a religion in order not to be descriminated against for the lack of some sort of belief. I also noticed at the convention that the charman had to call three voice votes, all of them ambiguous as to what view won, and only heard the voices he wanted to hear. I guess the point I am trying to make, if polls and voice votes have a predetermined conclusion decided by the powers that be, how valid are they?

    September 7, 2012 at 7:41 am |
  19. Agreed

    Ahhh, what's an atheist to do? I guess we should just start our own party with the gays. Let's call it the left-out party.

    September 7, 2012 at 7:40 am |
  20. happyprimate

    I am very sad for our country that its citizens continue to be as deluded with religion as the theocratic muslim countries they deride. There seems to be no mirror that they can look into to see the resemblance. As a Secular Humanist and an atheist who loves this country, I will always side with the Democrats in the sphere of politics because of their inclusion of all citizens regardless of their beliefs or nonbeliefs. The President may be a deluded god believer, but he isn't going to exclude me and others because we do not believe as he does. The number of nonbelievers is growing at staggering proportions and there will come a day, maybe not in my lifetime, when we can finally have a nation that will live in reality. Mythology is not a path to enlightenment.

    September 7, 2012 at 7:35 am |
    • Ethel the Aardvark Goes Quanti-ty Surveying

      Atheism appears to be what being gay was 30 years ago. I suspect that there are many, many "closeted" atheists, certainly in the government (Mr. Obama, I'm guessing) and in the general population. This is a movement – make no bones about it, and like the fight for equal rights for women, for non-whites, and for members of the LGBT community, the fight will get loud, but eventually inroads will be made

      September 7, 2012 at 7:51 am |
    • John

      As a atheist, I don't feel that the GOP is necessarily excluding me. Guess I just overlook all their references to god. Besides the rest of the platform is what I am really interested in.

      September 7, 2012 at 7:53 am |
    • Sarcastro

      I don't know- if all "secular humanists" come across as being such arrogant, boorish, close-minded jerks it might be a hard sell to those that aren't cowardly trolls getting off on hiding behind their computer screens deriding others beliefs...

      September 7, 2012 at 7:53 am |
    • Muhammad Kashif Akam

      My GOD My Lord! What an earth is seeing these days that Atheists (Non-believers, Infidles) proudly feel themselves as part of this Universe and some particular country. Just think for a second, is there any Power (rays, form of energy) who can destroy "MATTER" or create "MATTER" Truely NO... Only the ALMIGHTY created this Universe alone and created humans who refute HIS existence... Look at Gigantic Oceans, Mountains, microscopic organisms like Bacteria Viruses, Still ATHEISTS delude that there is no NO CREATER... Allah (the Only GOD, as all religions call in different languages) created everything... and How A woman can give birth to a baby if she does not have intercourse or in modern means, AN EGG can not be fertilized without sperm... Who creates sperms? who puts life in deads things? DNA is still DNA for a dead or alive human, BUT WHO PUT LIFE IN CELLS>>> IT IS ALLAH... FEAR HIS WRATH and ask for forgiveness... On the day of Judgement no one will support you and you may burn billions times in HELL still no end to your evil deeds. THINK SERIOUSLY... Atheists are actually DEVIL worshippers... ONLY DEVIL feel glad for NON-Beleivers....

      September 7, 2012 at 7:58 am |
    • capnmike

      Muhammad Kashif Akam, you are simply filled with a pathetic load of lies and ridiculous nonsense. Wake up and understand YOU HAVE BEEN BRAINWASHED.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:09 am |
    • capnmike

      Happyprimate...YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

      September 7, 2012 at 8:11 am |
    • 1+1=2

      @happyprimate. I'm on your side, brother.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:20 am |
    • Canuck

      And here comes Muhammad Kashif Akam to show us exactly why it is very difficult for atheists to stay silent when we see such drivel. I am happy that separation of church and state is more respected in my country than it seems to be in the US. Even our Conservative party seems to be almost left wing compared to the Republican party.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • stwords

      It time to move to Cuba, please move to Cuba

      September 7, 2012 at 8:36 am |
    • Muhammad Kashif Akam

      my dear friends, I know you are betrayed by Worldly things, Politicians' wrong doings, evil deeds of Bishops for supporting Kings and misuse of Church against Democracies and People... But does wrong doings of other poor wrong people prompts you to deny everything which is related to beliefs and reality. Do not be deluded by Satan in the name of LBGT GAYS etc. etc. If you think you are also humans then you must be believing in human History... the people of LUT used to be GAY as well (about 3000 B.C.), People of Noah were mostly polytheists and atheist, people of Saleh Thamud were also Atheists, you are not new to this world... Your forefathers are dead and you are new generation of them. Just read what happened in past to people like you... Go wikipedia and search old nations and see what they got finally... DEATH CURSE and HELL...

      September 7, 2012 at 10:02 am |
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About this blog

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.