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.
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.
Atheists belong in the Communist Party, so go ahead and join them, they will welcome you with open arms and you might even get a red flag as a sign on bonus
Stalin killed more people than Hitler did, and though Communism does espouse atheism, the vast majority of atheists are not and never will be Communists.
Two completely different subjects.
LOLOL. You must watch a lot of FOX News. If you don't like something, call it communist or socialist. A simple solution you don't have to think about. 🙂
George: You are an imbecile. Take your meds and pull the bible out of your a$$
Correct, George. Karl Marx, considered the founder of Communist Ideology was a proclaimed atheist. Vladimir Lenin, the charismatic personality that pushed Marxist ideology into power in the early 20th century was also a proclaimed atheist. Godlessness is the foundation of the philosophy.
Marx also quoted "Democracy is the road to Socialism." Wow, it is amazing how the atheists talk about Christians being so stupid. Just look at the history over the last 50 years. This political philosophy is maturing in the United States and you are right in the thick of it, promoting it without even knowing it. Or perhaps you do know and are lying about it?
Hey George, atheists are just as American as Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddists, etc. You sound like a small-minded insecure ignoramus.
Why is it that believers don't care so much that you believe in the same imaginary being, but just that you believe in _some_ imaginary being?
They think if someone else believes stuff as crazy, or even more so, than their avowed belieft that it somehow lends credence to it.
But hey, crazy is crazy.
Because once you agree there's a higher being, the debate is opened to convince you of THEIR higher being. If you don't believe at all then there's no chance of convincing you.
Why do unbelievers care so much in convincing others that they are stupid if they believe in something?
Your right... its crazy. Right?
Because there are very real consequences to irrational belief.
For example, islamic terrorism, christian crusades and inquisition.
Atheists don't care what you believe. The problem comes when your irrational beliefs impose on other people's freedom.
Statistics indicate that 85% of the American population identify with being religious. Atheists simply make up a very small percentage of this country, and having an expectation that either party DEM or GOP is going to recognize such a small group when other things are at stake is simply nonsense. Neither party is going to take on that request.
Think about it...
How is 15% extremely small? That's tens of millions of people and nearly the same percentage as the Hispanic demographic. Anyway, the point of democracy is not for a majority to lord it over the minority, which is precisely what the religious attempt to do with the non-religious.
78% of all statistics are made up on the spot.
I guess atheists think the government is representing everyone when it represents only atheists.
There is a difference between promoting religion and promoting "anti-religion".
Atheists want zero religious involvement in government. That does not in any way mean "anti" religion, it is absence of religious affiliation or support.
That means no bible in court, no 'god' on our money or in our pledge or in our laws.
It's not telling anyone "not" to believe.
The problem is that right now the government promotes belief in god and that is not appropriate.
Just leave the concept of god out of it and let people believe whatever they want.
I have a young friend who had a professor at a state university in Oregon tell him not to mention anything about the Bible or creation in her anthropology class or he would be asked to leave. That is exclusion. No one was asked to leave either political convention because she was not a believers. No one was excluded from taking part in the process because he was not a believer. To my knowledge no one even asked. That is inclusion.
The fact is, however, that Americans by a large majority believe in God – Christians, Muslims, Jews and others. Mentioning God, therefore, would be expected not unexpected.
As an atheist I'm happy to not be represented by a lowest-common denominator group like a political party.
Amen Flying Spaghetti Monster! Touched by his noodley appendage.
Don't mock the FSM!
My sky god can beat up your sky god any day!
RAmen! He also has bigger balls.
Why in the world do Atheists want to be treated the same as believers? That makes no sense to me. Also you don't see believers getting on the stage at the RNC or DNC and ridiculing non-believers, but yet atheists want the right to get on the stage and/or put up signs against the candidates religion? They want the right to express themselves simply because they are atheist and they want to get up there and express their non-belief and ridicule the believers who are the majority of voters? How does that have anything to do with the economy and politics and how does that help anything? Somewhere I saw a comment of well atheists make up 16% of the population, and we vote. Okay, so what are you really going to vote against the Obama simply because they didn't let you get on the stage and share your anti-God comments? Religious leaders were given the opportunity to speak at these conventions because they represent the majority of the voting populations and their belief systems. They were there as national speakers to appeal to the majority in order to sway them to vote for their candidate. They didn't get on the stage to preach to the non-believers. You find a speaker that happens to be atheist, and that represents enough of a majority to sway voters that isn't just about anti-God bashing, and I wouldn't see a problem with letting him speak. I'm just tired of seeing atheists who want to be treated as if atheism is a religion when it isn't. That isn't an attack, just my two cents on how it appears to me.
19.2% of the american population are unbelievers. Another 30% of the american population list themselves as christians just because they like being in the social club and don't want their loving christian friends and family alienating them even though they have realized over the years that all this garbage they were brainwashed with as children is really quite laughable.
Those numbers are the truth (or at least just as true as the Bible is anyway).
heh, I've always gotten the feeling that a lot of Christians don't believe as strongly as they claim
And 75% of Atheists posting on this board are condescending jerks who are so insecure that they have to belittle other peoples beliefs.
I personally grew out of that when I was around 12. Hopefully one day the atheists who feel the need to mock people will grow up as well.
🙂 Since you don't believe the Bible to be truth (I assume) does that mean your statistics are equally untrue?
Please site your statistics, because you are way off.
Don and Matt ... like the hundreds of goat farmers who wrote the Bible, I just made the 30% number up. 🙂
The 19.2% is accurate though.
Sarcastro ... it's time for your meds.
Sarcastro has a point. American Atheists feel the need to belittle religion and mock people who believe. Although they are atheists, the vast majority of atheists are NOT activists.
I might have frank discussions with my friends about the pros and cons of organized religion, but our family doesn't go out trying to convert others to atheism. I feel that a person's set of beliefs are their own, just like their choice of s3xual partner is their own. We live our lives such that most people don't know that we are atheists, and if anyone asks, we mention it and do not feel an explanation, or dissing anyone else's religion, is necessary.
American Atheists do not represent the majority of atheists.
And actually, I'm a little offended by the term "non-believer". I don't believe in a god or other supreme being, but I do believe in a lot of things that many religious folks believe in, like being honest, being honorable, and being civil. Atheist is a completely fine term which fits the bill – "non-believer" is a derogatory term to imply that atheists are amoral, which is not true. Or rather, as many of us are amoral as Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, etc. are amoral...
Religion isn't about God. Never has been. Never will be. It is simply crowd control and power grabs by the priestly class, many of whom are the worst sorts of people (ask the alter boys.) If one has faith, God is everywhere, in every moment, in every tree or flower, or the face of a child. If one has fear and dysfunction, God is in the hands of organized religion, bound up in 2000-year old books and cruel repression.
"Religion is the opium of the masses." – Karl Marx
See, the communist party is for you.
I wonder why atheists spend so much time and money fighting something that they say doesn't exist?
But nutjob Christians do exist.
because the followers of what does not exist attempt to get their religious text codified into secular laws
I can only assume it's insecurity.
The BIG question to consider: Was this Peter Stark of California re elected after coming out? Hmmmm, I think I'll google that.
Yes he was re-elected. He's currently serving in fact.
Atheists are atheists because they are shallow losers.
Actually Mike, you’ll find that most (ex-Christian) atheists don’t believe for one or more of the following reasons:
The concept of an immortal being makes no sense to us.
The concept of an all-powerful being makes no sense to us.
The concept of an all-knowing being makes no sense to us.
Throwing the three together into one being cubes its implausibility.
We tend to have a good working knowledge of the age, size and history of the Universe. The idea that a being would create the entire thing – with 400,000,000,000 galaxies, EACH with 100, 000,000,000 starts and even more planets, then sit back and wait 13,720,000,000 years for human beings to evolve on one planet so he could “love them” and send his son to Earth to talk to a nomadic group of Jews about sheep and goats in Iron Age Palestine (while ignoring the rest of the 200 million people then alive) makes no sense to us. Did God make the Jews or did the Jews make God?
The answers usually proffered for what we see as basic logical flaws in Christianity – “you have been blinded by your lack of faith” “God moves in mysterious ways” “God is outside the Universe” or “our minds are too small to understand the greatness of God” are never satisfying to us. We see a retreat to mysticism as the first refuge of the cornered fool.
The common argument, “well, what caused the Big Bang?” with the implication that, because we have only theories and no iron clad explanation for the Big Bang yet, [the Christian] god must have caused it – does not make sense to us. “I don’t know” does not equal “god” to us, much less the Judeo-Christian god. We feel the answers to such a question are much more likely to be found in Einstein’s equations, quantum physics, large particle accelerators and radio telescopes than in Genesis Chapters 1 through 20. We’re crazy aren’t we?
We do not see miracles in things like tornadoes missing a certain trailer in a trailer park, cancer going into remission or Tim Tebow winning a football game.
We understand that Christianity is one of many, many religions in the World, and we don’t think that we were lucky enough to have been born in the one part of the World that “got it right”. Likewise, we know how all faiths evolve, morph and change over time and do not think we were lucky enough to have been born in the one generation that “got it right.”
We tend to have a basic knowledge of history and know that there is nothing magical or special about the supposed history of the Jews, gospels, letters, apocalyptic story (Revelations) and other materials that found their way into the Bible, in that they are largely indistinguishable from the other mythology and religious writings of the pre Dark Ages Mediterranean.
Human beings are terrified of their own deaths and we see the various religious beliefs that try to “wish it away,” such as reincarnation, living happily ever after in Heaven with Jesus, having your own Mormon planet etc. as nothing more than childish stories for the more näive, timid minds among us.
We do not see morality as predicated upon a belief in the supernatural. We accept that one can be moral without believing in the supernatural and that doing so is no guaranty that one will conform to the norms of society that people call “morality”.
“You can’t prove God doesn’t exist” is not a convincing argument to us, or even a relevant point, as in inability to disprove something is a far cry from it being true. We cannot prove that the Hindu gods Shiva or Vishnu do not exist either, nor Santa Claus for that matter, but that is hardly a reason to believe in them, or even evidence for their existence. It is impossible to prove a negative in this context.
When one looks at the various Christian beliefs that were once firmly believed – Adam and Eve, Noah’s flood, people living to be 700 or 900 years old, the Red Sea splitting, water turning into wine, a talking snake, a man living in a whale’s belly, people rising from the dead, Jesus driving demons out of people and into pigs – but which are now acknowledged by most thinking people to be mere mythology, it is pretty hard to give a lot of credibility to what’s left.
It is hard not to consider Christianity as based on circular reasoning. Most Christians believe in God because the Bible says so, then turn around and say they believe the Bible because it is the word of God. To draw an analogy, “I believe Mao Zedong was a great man because The Little Red Book says so, and the reason I believe The Little Red Book is that it was written by Mao Zedong, who was a great man.” Do you even have the slightest idea of how your Bible was compiled over the centuries or who decided what to include and what to exclude and on what grounds? Can you even name one of hundred plus authors who contributed to it? One of the many people who decided what got in and what didn’t?
To be bluntly honest, the more one comes to understand mother nature, the less reason there is to believe in a god and the more one understands human nature, the more one sees why so many of us still do.
So, before you next proudly proclaim that you know the secrets to life, death, the origins of life on Earth and the origins of the Universe, simply because your parents or priest taught you some comforting stories from late Bronze Age Palestine as a child, you might like to reflect upon the overwhelming enormity of the claims you are about to make and the complete paucity of evidence that underwrites those claims.
Or, put another way, stop cuddling your Bible and wallowing in your ignorance and face the uncertainty of life and the certainty of death with a bit of emotional and intellectual courage. If you want to spend your entire life groveling before and supplicating yourself to something, at least make it something that exists. You pathetic, insipid coward.
Cool story Colin.
Ah Colin, that was beautiful!
Well argued Collin.
Problem is, you can't reason with religious people. "If you could reason with religious people, there would be no religious people." – Dr. House.
I am an atheist, but I believe in "Live and Let Live" and have no problem with God being left in the text of the platform. My biggest complaint is that we allow churches and religion to get away without paying taxes... That is not right.
We should tax the churches, their belief is mysticism and the supernatural should not give them tax-free status.
johncnlv makes a very important point. All this posturing by "American Atheists" is bullcrap, we will not have ANY freedom from religion as long as we give religious organizations special dispensation.
My solution is to instead give tax-breaks based on disposition of funds to charity or doing good works. If a church happens to run a soup kitchen, gives money and housing the poor, fine, give them a tax break based on that. But there are too many "super churches" that are money makers, and not making them pay taxes is an insult to any organization, religious or not, that does do charity.
Judge not lest ye be judged. Honestly, of those slinging mud here you clearly stand out as a very eloquent writer. However, your entire message is undone by your shallow intolerance. What do I mean? To wit: To state your case and voice open disagreement with another person's faith or any other belief system for that matter is your prerogative. However, to disparage, insult, name-call, and intentionally disrespect those who believe differently than you makes you no better than a groveling dog hiding behind a keyboard. Basically, you and most other's of your ilk come off no better than the shallow, judgmental "religious" types whom you rail against. You, sir, have become exactly that which you disparage. You are clearly none the better for your beliefs, and possibly worse actually. So much for your enlightened human-centric hogwash. If you are the crown jewel of evolution and an advanced, moral mind then please take your moral, kind, selfless and educated self and have a merry life. I'll take no part in the seething intolerance spilling from your fingers here. I hope one day God grabs you by the neck and shakes your reality to its core before you go to your grave carrying this hatred in your heart.
well said and written Colin, bravo
“We had 24 hours of joy as we felt (that) finally our government values all people,”
That was the atheists' mistake. Governments don't value ANY people, they value votes.
And by "all people" you mean yourself. You want to exclude the majority so you can feel better about yourself.
I'm not sure I buy this story. Most of us who do not believe in god are pragmatic people. We understand that you can't have any chance of success in mainstream politics without acknowledging that the majority of the country is still Christian. It comes down to deeds. Which party is trying to use scripture as the basis of legislation? The answer to that question is obvious.
And one of the things that leads some of us away from organized religion is the organization of it, the hierarchy, the implication that someone else tells me what to do.
Therefore, the idea of a platform at all, whether it includes "God" or not, is not something I believe in.
But Jerusalem is a geopolitical issue not a religious issue.
The power of church is to nag churchgoers into giving it money. Atheists have no church and have no mechanism to make people coughing up money, and therefore have no lobbying power.
And activist atheist are almost as annoying to the average atheist as activist Christians are to average Christians, or activist gays are to average gays.
I'm not trying to sound mean just practical. What you said is absolutely true and it is yet another indication that atheists are not the super rational, free thinkers they claim to be. Coming up with a money making gimmick for your cause is simply common sense 101. Nothing illegal or even unethical about that.
If they don't want to do this because they want to appear of higher morality and superior, then they are really WAY off. Since they believe in NO God, then the rules of right and wrong are dictated by not a deity, but society. Society says that this particular practice is pefectly okay, therefore it IS.
If they were truly smart, they would be rolling in money by now. Just like the person who conviced folks that designer dogs (mutts) should be bought for k2 a piece, or the guy who took a rock, painted it up and put eye balls on it managed to retire at such a young age. ANYONE can do it, they just arent' that smart.
Politicians put their faith in polls and donations. They couldn't spell god is you spotted them the g and the d.
Oo, oo, I know – d-o-g. Did I get it right?
There is always the Communist Party.
Communists were responsible for the Holodomor, arguably the worst genocide perpetrated on a people.
You just don't get it if you think there is a direct connection between atheism and communism.
Uhhhh, Karl Marx, considered the founder of Communist Ideology was a proclaimed atheist. Vladimir Lenin, the charismatic personality that pushed Marxist ideology into power in the early 20th century was also a proclaimed atheist. Godlessness is the foundation of the philosophy. Were you born yesterday?
You said Communism was formed by atheists, so therefore atheists must be Communists.
Last I checked, Jim Jones was a Christian. The shooter in Norway is a Christian. Does that mean all Christians therefore are mass murderers?
I don't give a crap what a few atheists who are NOT representative of my moral system do, that has nothing to do with my belief system. Do you think neo-Nazis are atheists? Do you think the kind folks who brought us the Inquisition were atheists?
If you as a Christian can distance yourself from pedophile priests, I as an atheist can also say that I am most assuredly not a Communist.
And agreeing that "religion is the opiate of the masses" doesn't make me a Communist.
You need to look at why the communists reviled religion. It was for the some of the same reasons we have separation of church and state; religious factions are often hierarchical with a given sect, and a source of political power between sects. They created and supported the rigid caste system in Europe to which the American, French, and Russian revolutions were all reactions. Not all religions are bad, but any attempt to mix religion and political power will come off badly for someone.
The sad fact of the matter is most Americans believe in nonsense and look to politicians to confirm it. For me, religion has no place in politics, Republicans don't vote for the good of the country they vote their "values" as if a politician actually shares those "values", they are fooling themselves. Religion one day will destory the human race and with it all hopes of humanity to shed the myths of the past and embrace the future. If you were to remove religion from every single argument on the planet there'd be nothing left to fight about. But given the fact that a majority of "believers" suffer from some kind of mental illness that doesn't seem to be in the cards.
I dont care about atheists. I care about unemployment and gas prices. Unemployment is still above 8% in general and gas prices now in my neighborhood is around $3.69 (of course it is more in Cali and NYC now).....remember this: On May 11th, 2008 the average price of gas was $3.78. On Aug 6, 2008, the price of gas was $3.91, in the southern tier of NY...THEREFORE the gas prices are higher now than 4 years ago. I know the president does not control the gas prices itself, but still obama is the president and he is responsible for any thing related to gas prices. Gas prices go up mean milk, ice cream, bread, grocery items are up too....and I blame obama for this.
Thanks for the comment. I will remember that 3.69 is more than 3.91 from now on.
" I care about unemployment and gas prices. Unemployment is still above 8% in general and gas prices now in my neighborhood is around $3.69 (of course it is more in Cali and NYC now).....remember this: On May 11th, 2008 the average price of gas was $3.78. On Aug 6, 2008, the price of gas was $3.91, in the southern tier of NY...THEREFORE the gas prices are higher now than 4 years ago. "
Ummm...according to YOUR figures gas prices are lower now than they were four years ago....
Athiests are the first to argue that the church is too ingrained into our state, so their answer is to get mad that the state isn't representing their religion. And yes, Athiesm is a religion. All this is is more proof that people just want something to whine about.
Atheism isn't a religion, it's a subset of non-belief in anything unfalsifiable. As an atheist I'm happy to not be represented by a lowest-common denominator group like a political party.
mike wrote in response to humtake who seems to think atheism is a religion:
"Atheism isn't a religion, it's a subset of non-belief in anything unfalsifiable. As an atheist I'm happy to not be represented by a lowest-common denominator group like a political party."
I agree that atheism is not a religion......so what is your "dog in this fight", if any. If none.....do you vote?
Atheism is not a religion – HOWEVER: groups like American Atheists are activist to the point of trying to "evangelizing atheism". That is not atheism, that is activism, and trying to recruit people to your view, and have some kind of hierarchy, DOES mean that they essentially are not happy with just not believing in a god, they want to make sure the whole world knows it and joins them.
American Atheists seem to want the "Church of No God" and that's extremely hypocritical. I do agree with some of their activities, but most are anathema to me and other atheists I know.
Marion – my dog in this fight is that I find the discussion interesting and entertaining.
rh, your comments are the most sensible thing I've read here today. 100% in agreement with you over here.