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. Rational Libertarian

    Libertarian Party.

    September 7, 2012 at 8:32 am |
  2. Rock100

    Why is so much anger over organized religion? I'm amused when I see televangelists and grown adults with true convictions, but it doesn't anger me... I get it. Believing in a higher has always been part of the human existence no matter how goofy or far flung it may seem. Most people need something in their life to help make sense of it all. So long as there are missing gaps in science, we as humans, will continue to question and try to make sense of it all - hence religion. I don't believe in a higher power, but again, I get it. Religion bring comfort and solidarity to many peoples lives. So long as I'm not forced to believe or persecuted for my non beliefs, it's a non issue. I have much more important thing to be concerned about.

    September 7, 2012 at 8:31 am |
    • Ethel the Aardvark Goes Quanti-ty Surveying

      Religion doesn't just bring cookies and kittens to people. On 9/11 religion brought a couple of jets hijacked by religious extremists to Manhattan.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • SuZieCoyote

      Why the anger? Because organized religion is a way of ranking, judging and excluding people. It is a way of controlling populations and repressing large groups of people, be they female people, brown people or people without "stars upon thars." Organized religion gets no one close to God, but does result in wars, overpopulation, and all manner of human misery, while alleviating tiny bits of that misery with "charity" work (if one is willing to bend knee to stories of imaginary sky friends who love me and and my kind, but hate everyone else.) That's why the anger.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:50 am |
    • SuZieCoyote

      The persecution is built-in. Anyone not in the "special group" is continually hounded to join up and there is obsessive and constant campaigns to create laws favorable to religions at the expense of others.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:51 am |
    • Rock100

      Of cource, history has proven that religion can be the root of horrible things. However, if religion is removed entirely, there will cetainly be wars when religion tries to make its way back into people's lives. A belief in a higher power will always play a role in the human existence. An attempt to rid of it is futile. With that being said, humans also have the power to temper the actions of religious extremists. A balance has to be made and accepted.

      September 7, 2012 at 9:33 am |
    • Anon

      Rock do some research on the Piranha Tribe. A linguist professor was planning to convert them to evangelical Christianity but instead he turns into an atheist. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BNajfMZGnuo

      September 8, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  3. Gemeniguy

    Atheists: What political party represents us? Pedophiles: What political party represents us?

    September 7, 2012 at 8:31 am |
    • midwest rail

      Tell that one to the Catholic Church.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:35 am |
  4. Jan

    Atheism offers the world nothing. No hope, no purpose, no truth, no right, no wrong, no good, no evil. Who in his right mind can take any atheist seriously?

    September 7, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • Ethel the Aardvark Goes Quanti-ty Surveying

      Non-belief in leprechauns offers the world nothing. No hope, no purpose, no truth, no right, no wrong, no good, no evil. Who in his right mind can take any non-believer of leprechauns seriously?

      September 7, 2012 at 8:32 am |
    • Mirosal

      You can thank an Atheist for that computer you're using to trash Atheists. So quit your bit'ching. If you think your "god" can do it all, then vote for "god" in November, and we'll see what happens. Just which "god" would you be voting for? You have over 10,000 to choose from.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:37 am |
    • Jan

      Still, no right, no wrong, just your puny opinion, and that counts for what...

      September 7, 2012 at 8:40 am |
    • Roger

      Jan, you can thank the military for the computer and the internet you use. Last time I looked, there were no atheists serving when the bullets flew and the bombs were dropped. Everyone prayed to God.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:47 am |
    • niknak

      And what is the first thing you do when you or a family member get really sick?
      Yeah, thats right, you run as fast as you can to go see a doctor who will use SCIENCE, not religion, to cure you.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:53 am |
    • Jan

      Why would an Atheist want to keep any sickling alive? Just so he can die tomorrow? For what purpose? It destroys the gene-pool and he uses up precious and scarce resources? Atheism is useless as it is purposeless!!

      September 7, 2012 at 9:00 am |
    • niknak

      You prove exactly why the rest of us are atheists Jan.
      A mind is a terrible thing to lose, to religion.

      September 7, 2012 at 9:28 am |
  5. NorCalMojo

    The new breed of militant, evangelical atheists is annoying. They're as self righteous and narrow minded as any religious fundy.

    September 7, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • lookbothweis

      Agreed. So many of those "representing" Atheism now give Atheists just as bad of a name as the most vocal Christian evangelists give to Christianity (and other religions). This isn't about my beliefs versus yours. It is about people who just want to fight and argue.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • I came here for an argument

      @ lookbothweis: you said, It is about people who just want to fight and argue.

      No it isn't.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:35 am |
    • Big Joe

      @I Came Here For An Argument

      Yes it is

      September 7, 2012 at 8:46 am |
    • I came here for an argument

      I told you once

      September 7, 2012 at 8:49 am |
    • niknak

      And they are really violent, have many high powered military grade weapons, and have no problems with using them to kill you and your family if you don't conform to their stone age myth.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:50 am |
    • Takawalk

      That I agree with.

      September 11, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  6. Scoto

    As long as they create REAL jobs I don't mind them having IMAGINARY friends

    September 7, 2012 at 8:28 am |
  7. Planet Kolob Wants its Magic Underwear Back

    Can we at least agree on one thing? Keeping that nutbar Romney out of the White House? Look at me! I'm rich from breaking up companies, I wear magic underwear, and I like to baptize the dead (and eat the brains of kittens). Planet Kolob, here I come! He's out-wacko'ed Tom Cruise and the Scientologists – and THAT is a mighty tall order!

    September 7, 2012 at 8:27 am |
  8. mymanekineko

    As a non-believer, I really don't have a problem with the DNC mentioning God. I heard it, was nothing but people sharing their belief, had nothing to do with the political stances... and let's be serious, it was nothing even close to the republican party that actually wants to control EVERYBODY'S life over their belief in the "christian" god.

    There is a big difference in people who acknowledge their faith and people that push their faith. I don't believe that the Democratic Party was "pushing" their faith.

    I would also like to mention that American Atheists don't speak / represent all non-believers, nor do all non-believers support all of american atheists actions or stances.

    As for the religious people insulting the atheists in the comment section. Thank you for reminding me why I walked away from the faith.

    September 7, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • issak

      Well said.
      That's pretty much my thought process too

      September 7, 2012 at 8:28 am |
  9. Dan Green

    Most Americans identify with a higher power, including Democrats. Sure, Republicans wear it on their sleeves, but that doesn't mean that there aren't Democrats who have some faith. I, for one, think religion should stay out of politics, but I think the Democratic leaders realized that it could cost votes. This is likely to be a close election, so every vote counts. This was a political move. It may alienate the atheists, but, as the article implies, where can they go? If they are "pro science", they will probably vote Democrat anyway, or stay at home.

    September 7, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • niknak

      If they stay at home, then I will lose alot of respect for them.
      As I will the OWS movement if they too stay home.
      Maybe the Dem party is not perfect, but there is absolutely nothing in the goober party that is for us.
      At least the Dem party can be reasoned with. The goobers cannot be reasoned with, as you can't reason with someone who is delusional.
      A non vote for a dem is just as good as a vote for the goobers.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:48 am |
  10. 1+1=2

    @david o. So quit jerking us off, unless you get a thrill from it.

    September 7, 2012 at 8:23 am |
  11. Steve

    Here's a clear view of the shirt he's wearing, but they don't show the woman next to him holding up the "Arab American Democrat" sign. Do you think he's more upset about God or Jerusalem being added to the platform taking into account the views of the organization portrayed on his shirt?



    September 7, 2012 at 8:23 am |
    • niknak

      I am personally more upset about the Isreal stance then the god stance.
      It is time Isreal came to the table and settled the Palastinian issue. They have become an apartheid nation, and I for one am sick and tired of supporting them with our tax dollars and our young service members.
      And part of the reason we do is because of the whole god myth the fundies believe in.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:43 am |
  12. Bible Clown©

    Too many suggestible people, and many of them are here right now, assume Atheist=criminal. They were taught that when they were five, and they can't be taught different. That is a basic truth that any unbeliever knows well. We must hide from you murderers for our very lives, for you will burn our houses and shoot us as we run. Anyone running for public office must be seen to attend church, or they have no chance. But heck, that's how it always will be; religion is incredibly wealthy and powerful and can buy or threaten its way around any law or custom, so why feel left out? Belief is easy, and free thought is difficult, and truth doesn't neatly explain everything; priests will control our society forever.

    September 7, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • niknak

      All that you said is very true, especially about the fundies wanting to control, or kill you if they can't control you.
      That has been true of all and every religion since the dawn of mankind. Conform or be cast out.
      But is is slowely getting better. The percentage worldwide of atheist has grown from 3% to 7% in just 10 years.
      And I suspect it is much higher, but as others have said, many of us are scared to "come out" because of fear of having their loved ones and friends cast them out.
      Science is pushing the fundies further and further into a corner. Many more will come to understand that bronze age myths are just that, myths, and will free themselves from religion.
      It just takes time.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:39 am |
  13. jericho

    Is this a joke??? Why would athiests need representation? They believe in nothing, but still rally together to form a "group" like other religions.... Their slogan should be "Nothing means anything, and when you die nothing happens".... I would just think being a athiest you would want to seperate yourself from these groups instead of becoming one.

    September 7, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • Pragmatist


      Some of the organization you see is just people herding to self-aggrandizing leaders like David Silverman. Rational people usually aren't joiners.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:26 am |
    • MawcDrums

      I don't understand why the general understanding of atheism is that "nothing happened to nothing, then nothing evolved into something because of nothing, and that something randomly evolved by mistake into humans" No. Do some research and stop assuming you understand what atheists are talking about. You don't. Atheists don't say nothing happens when you die, they say you DIE when you die. That's what happens.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      Mawc, it's called 'beating a straw man.' They can't debate you honestly because their book doesn't allow for that, so they make up stuff, assure each other that it is an accurate depiction of your religion, then dismiss it as bosh.

      Here's how it works: "Christians believe that the Bible created humans out of ribs." Ha ha ha, who could possibly believe a book made people from BBQ, it's all false, so there." The straw man is down, and I have defeated Christianity without honestly engaging it. If my audience is dumb, they buy it, and I am a hero.

      September 7, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  14. MawcDrums

    I love all of the discrimination that atheists are subject to even in these comments.

    September 7, 2012 at 8:22 am |
  15. Hope

    Nothing good ever comes out of these discussions because the majority of posts are extreme views meant to make others feel inferior.

    September 7, 2012 at 8:21 am |
    • Bible Clown©

      My jaw fricken drops every time one of them emits a whopper like "All athiests(sic) go to da athieist(sic) church and duh believe in nothing dat made nothing out of nothing and they eat babies I heard." They pretend that they are going to be called to account for every sin, and they go all out with the lies and insults as if a universe creator needs them to supply snappy comebacks for His Almighty comedy routine.

      September 7, 2012 at 11:34 am |
  16. Steve

    I wonder how upset the guy in the photo is being portrayed as an athiest? If you watch the video, and see still shots, he's wearing a YALLA Vote shirt, which you can see part of the arabic on even in this picture.


    Now, what do you think is more likley given Palestine and being anti Israel is their platform, and nothing about athiesm. That' he's upset about God being added to the platform, or Jerusalem?

    September 7, 2012 at 8:20 am |
  17. Martin

    I'm an atheist but I don't care about this. This is politics and the parties have to do what's in their best interest. What matters is when politicians try to impose their religious beliefs thru their policies.

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

      exactly Martin. 🙂

      September 7, 2012 at 8:23 am |
    • mymanekineko

      I Agree!

      September 7, 2012 at 8:26 am |
    • susan`

      Then why are you reading this??

      September 7, 2012 at 8:30 am |
    • Johnny 5

      That's correct. They try to win by any means necessary. Even pretending to follow the no.1 mythical religion at that given time while insulting others who do not. Atheists don't pretend nor do we feel excluded. Its the religious who exclude others.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:41 am |
  18. Dev

    You leave yourself out. Quit whining.

    September 7, 2012 at 8:19 am |
  19. Jim

    Atheists needn't fear. "God" was not re-inserted into the Dem platform by a legitimate vote. Voice vote of two-thirds – yeah, right. A majority of delegates still opposed adding the word, so we atheists can take solace that there is a party who will recognize our position.

    September 7, 2012 at 8:19 am |
    • Dev

      Why are you even concerned? Your religion deserves no more time nor respect as anyone elses.

      Look at me! Hug me!

      Look inside to find out why you crave the attention and be suprised what you'll find.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:23 am |
  20. Randy

    I think we could all be happy if they had just changed it from "God" to "Invisible Magical Man in the Sky". It accurately discribes what most believers call God, + I think it would give us atheists a bit of satisfaction as well. : )

    September 7, 2012 at 8:13 am |
    • david o

      No wonder nobody wants athiests in there party looking at these comments...there a bunch of jerks lol.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:19 am |
    • Ethel the Aardvark Goes Quanti-ty Surveying

      David – you might want to learn to use the words their, there, and they're properly in your posts. It shouldn't matter, but some might classify you as uneducated. Given that some atheists believe that believers are uneducated, posts such as yours merely reinforces that viewpoint.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:21 am |
    • Dev

      Nice defelction ethyl

      September 7, 2012 at 8:24 am |
    • Randy

      David O. What part of my comment was wrong? No one has actually seen god, therefor, he is invisible. His believers claim he has supernatural powers, therefor he is said to be magical. Does he reside in the sky? I'm not sure. If not though, where? Graceland? : )

      September 7, 2012 at 1:45 pm |
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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.