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.
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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.
Atheist are hypocrites. They get tired of religious people preaching to them and they complain about how they are being targeted. But Atheists do the same thing, they preach no god, and take bill board signs down to put up an Atheist sign. I dont believe in bigfoot or aliens, but I dont spend my life trying to prove bigfoot and aliens dont exist because whether or not bigfoot exist does not effect me. So if Atheist dont believe in God what do they have to worry about.
Not all atheists. Some of us, like myself, are perfectly content with our own absence of beliefs and let others be. I don't care what religion anyone is; so long as they do not force it on me, I will not force my ways on them. I don't go around preaching that all religious people are brainwashed, so please don't go around preaching that all atheists are hypocrites. Good day.
Not only to atheists do a type of preaching, but it usually involves ridiculing people of faith. It's hard to come across a collection of their statements without running across things like "fairy tales", "big guy in the sky", and other put-downs and plain old arrogance. How can they expect anyone to take them seriously when all they see and hear is "Those guys are a bunch of stupid gullible morons, and we're just so darned smart".
But people who do believe in bigfoot and aliens aren't demanding that they be taught to your children in school and starting wars over your or others' lack of belief. I suspect if that were the case, you would be a little more proactive in your non-belief.
Jack, that is a whole different can of worms. There is a big difference between religious beliefs and scientific facts. Religion should be taught in a religion class, and science in a science class.
And its not that I am not proactive-I just choose not to stoop to a criticizing, childish, ignorant level. Believe me, if someone were to teach my child creationism in a biology class, I would squash that out immediately. But if the teacher went home and read his Bible, that is up to him.
You can scream god and do what ever you desire to prove your devotion to him...just don't make me...
Not just Atheists. Some of us just believe that there should be separation of church and state.
seperation of church and state.... then at some point people who are religious wont be allowed to vote because they may vote based on a religious belief so then they would be mixing religion and politics.
I've never understood the american desire to have God involved in the politics. God rules the afterlive (if He exists at all) and if people want to live by the bible I don't see a problem with that. But why involve him in the lawmaking machinery? If people dislike abortion (just an example), don't do one, but don't tell other people what they can and can't do based on your most personal religious beliefs.
Now I know that not all people against abortion believes in God but as I said, it was just an example.
Embrase God if you want to, there is nothing wrong about that, but keep him out of the politics. You need rational and down to earth-discussions there.
GOOD SHABBOS EVERYONE
PRAY FOR SHALOM
SHALOM, YOM TOV.
Personaly I think atheism is kind of rediculas. How can anyone expect me to believe that this incredibly intracite and complex universe just came into existence...my common sense tells me otherwise.
By the way, from where did your "god" (in whichever one you happen to believe) materialize?
Your common sense tells you that there were talking snakes and enough room on a boat for two of every species in the world?
I take the bible for what it is... The writings of men who were inspired by their meditiations on god and whos words have been interpreted by countless others into the book it is today. That being said its still IMO the best life guide and spiritual guide ever created by men and inspired by mens interpretations of gods messages to them. Do I think snakes talked....no.
..And an all powerful being creating the universe out of the power of his mind makes more sense than science?
If you really took the Bible for what it is you would realize it is a bunch of babbling non sense!
Yes, how can they expect you to believe that?!!!! Especially when you can't even spell! Silly atheists!
Hey David O...have you ever sat down and read theories of how the unvierse came into existence? Think of this- small molecules zapped with a vast amount of energy create bonds and simplistic organic molecules that led to the more complex molecules that exist now. If you take a "soup" of these simplistic molecules in a lab and feed it with energy, you can forge the bonds and molecules that eventually led to the ones we have today. Sure, it sounds ridiculous because spontaneous generation doesn't happen today. But, the Earth was not in this same condition 4 billion years ago, and perhaps the conditions then were more conducive to such a thing. I would be curious to hear your thoughts on evolution.
I have to admit that I would rather see people not believe in God than Hate him. Unfortunately what we have here are people who claim to not believe in him but in reality hate him. This is a much different thing than just a lack of belief. This is more of an anger and hatred towards the belief itself to a degree where anything that is claimed to be of God is seen as a target to be destroyed by them, There is no differentiating between good and bad only hatred towards all things that come from God or are written in he bible as the way to live.
Wrong, Kraven. You can't hate something that doesn't exist. You can however, hate the religions formed around that nothing, and I'm sure many do.
I like how many Christians can read atheist's minds and tell us what we really believe.
I really like this differentiation. I have friends who don't believe in God and others who "hate" God/Believers. I think there is a big difference.
Your grey matter seems a wee bit black.... not believe = hate... not believing in the lock ness = hate for the loch ness? How about the Bermuda triangle? or zombies?
I like zombies..they never argue, they don't eat much (of your food), they can do remedial work without pay, hang a few fresheners from them and ta-dah! you got yourself a perfect room mate...
Unfortunately Amniculi, you live in the human world. Someone is always going to disagree with you; they have the right too, as much as you do. Until you can prove that nothing exists over something, people will always argue with you if you must post on a board that is here for the very point of arguing. Psychologically, I think that the belief in self annihilation is somewhat disturbing, but if it gets you through the night, then good for you
"Self annihilation"? Where did that come from? I'm not the one belonging to the death cult, post.
Silly atheists, God is for Americans.
Then how come that the vast majority of the christian world exist outside of America?
No one represents those that are not Christian. This nation was a Christian nation once and we will trample those in the way to return it to Christianity.
Wow, change Christian to Muslim and Christianity to Islam and you'd sound just like the Taliban.
Half of the 13 original colonies were founded with little or no religious sway. Rhode Island, in particular, was founded by a man who was expelled from Mass for preaching the separation of church and state. Roger Williams founded Rhode Island in 1636 as the Western world's first sanctuary of religious freedom, and based on a STRICT adherence to the separation of church and state. Were you not taught about Rhode Island when you were in school Amanda, or did you think it was part of New York?
People like you are why Dawkins feels religion has absolutely nothing to teach us. Ewwww.
Frankenstein: as much as I'd love to agree with you... do you know why Roger Williams named his new home "Providence" ??
What most religious fail to understand is that those who are atheist/agnostic make up a far great porportion of this country than you think. Also, according to several other countries "God, Yahweh, Allah, etc" favors them- so either everyone else is lying and America has a direct line to god or maybe we're a bit mistaken. Finally, as an atheist, I am a humanist. I believe in good, moral living. I have studied countless religiouns (which ironically all plagiarize each other) and found them void. I volunteer more than most Christians I know, I have more diverse relationships, I don't judge others for their lifestyles and rather than waste my life spreading hateful hurtful messages, I spend it fighting for those who need my help. I am far more Christian in my deeds than many I know. I think 'god' would be more impressed by someone doing good for the sake of morality than for getting in good with him/her/it.
yes, the people that were ALREADY here had no type of their own religion at all... yeah, no... this nation was already FOUNDED by the people that lived here.
I suspect "Amanda" is trolling by pretending to espouse such a ridiculous position. However evangelical some Christians might be, they would not say they will "trample those in the way."
Yes, Roger Williams was a Baptist minister, who was devoutly christian, and yes, he named his new home Providence because he personally felt that it was god's divine hand that led him to this location. But Williams was expelled from Mass Bay Colony for his belief that religion had no role in government. One of Williams' more famous quotes is that "forced worship stinks in the nostrils of god". Williams (and Anne Hutchinson later in Portsmouth and Newport) founded RI as a haven to all religions, even those that competed with his own views, because Williams believed that a man's faith had no place in public governance. Because of this RI is home to both the first Jewish Synagogue in America and the first Baptist church in America. In that Jewish temple, the word's of President George Washington are inscribed into a column, praising Williams decision 150 years earlier for establishing RI as a fully separated state that was independent of his own religious views. So yes, Williams was a religious man, but he was also a vocal advocate of strict separation of church and state; a novelty for his time, and ours today!
So let me get this straight....Atheists can erect billboards in convention cities ridiculing the Presidential candidates' faiths but get angry that they can't get their way? If this group wants to be respected, they need to show respect for other groups.
Just as religious groups show respect for each other. Hypocrite much?
Actually, Amniculi, I'm not a hypocrite. I am an atheist. And I am appalled at the actions of this group. I think it is ridiculous to take offense to the word God. If you don't believe in it, take it as just another word in the language. If you don't want to pray while a cardinal is blessing the convention, don't. But do not, by any means, stoop a such a level and ridicule people's beliefs. I do not appreciate it when people criticize my absence of beliefs, so I would not criticize someone else's.
No, they need to show LESS respect. That is how you get noticed. Look at all the attack ads that are airing. Respectful people go the way of Colin Powell: they want nothing to do with any of it.
Jane, as atheist I have no respect for religion because it asks for respect but gives none back. To each their own I guess.
The thing is, any criticism of religion is considered ridicule by the religious.
I kind of agree. People are shocked to learn that I am an atheist because I seem so 'decent'. Go figure. I don't begrudge a person their beliefs and find it disrespect archaic. You win people over by showing respect and opening their eyes. Not by bullying- a hallmark of many other organizations. I completely disagree that God be mentioned anywhere in official statements by any governement (aside from athiest, not everyone is Christian/Jewish after all)- however, that kind of change needs to be well thought out. Lead by example, don't stoop to their level.
Athiests are gay
Robbin is a d!ck...or b!tch, which ever he/she finds more appropriate.
I'm sure some are. In fact I know some. Not all though. Not all.
Maybe I'm IGNORANT, but what atheists were complaining about God being in the platform? The only people who seem to be complaining are religious folk who think the atheist folk are complaining too much because one dummy from CNN tries to create warring factions between the religious and the non religious. But I don't really picture atheists crying as much as people seem to think they are.
I am an atheist and a Democrat. The voice vote to put a god back into the platform actually lost despite that it was declared to have won. A 2/3 majority was needed and anyone listening to it knew that it lost. It was a sham. OTH, politically the whole thing was a mistake for the Democrats. I don't care that it was in the platform. The platform means nothing. The Democratic leaders do not use religious dogma to make decisions. That is what is important.
I agree. Would I like it if religion wasn't part of the platform? Yes. But I also accept the political realities out there, and know that there are a lot of majority-Christians out there who won't vote for anyone who is not their religion because they feel like a persecuted minority. As long as no one god's followers determine the course of events based on faith in historically significant mythology books, I don't think it matters that much.
I'm sorry you're an atheist...God loves you whether you recognize Him or not.
Hey LL, here's your god.
I do find the atheists = socialists argument to be a bit unsettling. After all, I equate atheism with a view that the universe is self forming and self regulating, which is more consistent with capitalism than socialism. In fact, I would say that any socialist who is an atheist is displaying inconsistent views; how can the universe work best if it's self regulating but the economy needs the guiding hand of a benevolent government. They can't both be true, so to me atheism and capitalism are like ideologies, not atheism and socialism.
" In fact, I would say that any socialist who is an atheist is displaying inconsistent views; how can the universe work best if it's self regulating but the economy needs the guiding hand of a benevolent government. "
Interesting points. I would tend to agree with a lot of your thinking.
Just musing now... I'm now thinking of Economic Theory and Smith's "Invisible Hand" which would make atheists sound more like Intelligent Designers. Or... one could look at Smith's "Invisible Hand" as just normal capitalistic phenomena that just happens when the proper environment is in place, which would fit into your model of atheism is more like capitalism, yes ?
Thats a compelling argument.
I'd say that Smith's "invisible hand" is somewhat of a misnomer; it's not a hand in any sentient sense, but rather the Nash equilibria resulting from a collection of independent and dependent decision makers acting in mostly self-preserving ways. So it's more akin to meteorological disturbances the result from the confluence of other disturbances and patterns. It's random, it's chaotic, but that doesn't mean that it doesn't form convergent patterns.
"how can the universe work best if it's self regulating but the economy needs the guiding hand of a benevolent government. They can't both be true."
I appreciate your attempt but I don't think your analogy is very accurate. The universe is governed by laws of physics that cannot be manipulated. Capitalism has patterns that tend to be true, but they can easily be manipulated by people with other motives. Socialism (and many other economic structures) are governed by laws that (in theory) cant and wont be manipulated by people.
You Said: " I'd say that Smith's "invisible hand" is somewhat of a misnomer; it's not a hand in any sentient sense. "
Of course... that was one of my points in agreement with yours.
You Said: " It's[the invisible hand] is random, chaotic, but that doesn't mean it doesn't form convergent patterns. "
Yes, I think we are in agreement. My point being is that ... atheism = capitalism = evolution = economic's "invisible hand." If i were to quickly short-hand our discussion.
Jack, you assume that those "manipulations of capitalism" aren't themselves governed by laws of the universe, and what's more, that those laws of manipulation are not the same laws of the universe. They in fact all are. I teach economics to undergrads, and one of the things that I teach freshmen is that economics and physics are actually the same subject, governed by the same laws of physics, written in the same mathematical code, but they're translated in different languages, one of which is like old Latin and the other is everday English. Beyond that, every law of the universe has an analogue in economics and human manipulations are just as neatly government by these universal laws. Some excellent examples are how the mathematical form of decision making under uncertainty is governed by the laws of thermo dyanamics, and two men won the Nobel prize in the 90s for deriving this mathetmatical form back in the early 70s. Other examples are how preferences for goods are actually random and make large, discreet quantum leaps, which the economis Keynes referred to as "animal spirits", but essentially, decision making is governed by a combination of thermo dynamics and quantum mechanics, which is not surprising, because the electrons that send messages between our nerves and synapses are governed by quantum mechanics themselves. Capitalism is the belief that capital takes the burden of the risk in any economic system, and should therefore earn the lion's share of the returns. Free market capitalism is the belief that the best system for ensuring optimal allocation of returns and rationing of capital is the free market, and this is consistent with the view that the laws of the free markets are governed by the same laws of the universe, but they're not as intuitively decomposed because the system is more like a meteorlogical system than a controlled experiment in a vacuum. So you shouldn't construe the difficulty of duplicating controlled environments, like we face in economics, with the violaton of fundamental laws of the universe.
"This was a clear message to the 16% (actually 9, the additional 7 just aren't religious)... we don't count (what an unreasonable conclusion). Well, guess what... We do. And we vote."
So your rational, intelligent response to the Democratic party continuing to support a belief in God officially (while not condemning atheism) is to threaten not to vote for them, despite the fact the other side actually demonizes you and there is no atheist candidate to support (furthermore, they would have a snowball's chance in.. umm.. a volcano to be in serious contention for any public office in the present day USA)."
I am with you. I have been an atheist since I can remember. But I am also realistic and pragmatic. I see no threat from the Democratic platform. They are just paying lipservice to the dummies. Most these people are far too smart to believe in a literal god. I have no problem with them speaking of a metaphorical god.
They don't believe in anything, and no one believes in them. So? Who do YOU pray to when your daughter is sick? The GOVERNMENT??
If my daughter got sick, I would take her to a doctor. Do you not do that? That's not good parenting...
You pray when your daughter is sick? Good. But you certainly also take her to the doctor, no? I do that, just without the praying. The results tend to be the same.
I have always found atheists to be less concerned with other people's lifestyles, and a little more concerned with their own. Believing in no god tends to make them a little more attached with this life and the contributions to the world that they make than their religious counterparts.
40% of America believes the world is flat, 10 gees old and theres a little red devil with pointy ears who lives in the centre of the earth. Thats not funny people , no , thats sad really sad. Do Americans not have TV, or something like radio?
Yes, they have TV – and many of them get their world view from Fox and the evangelist channels, and they also have Radios – the better to listen to the likes of Rush Limbaugh... some of them also have satellite reception, for those that have withdrawal symptoms from their Glen Beck addiction...
When did atheism become a radical religion in and of itself? I always thought the great thing about being atheist was not caring what other people did, not it becoming a movement where you had to save people from themselves like a jahovah's witness going door to door.
When you belong to a group that has a platform like this, then, sorry atheists that are offended by the DNC, you're a religion too. You're an ideological movement at this stage. You're everything you hate about organized religion.
I agree. As a solid agnostic I really don't get the atheistic rabid nuttiness. It seems that most people have a strong desire to (1) believe in stuff they know nothing about (which I'm actually OK with, I do it all the time) and (2) loudly proclaim this stuff to everyone and their dog, because due to their innate insecurity they view other opinions as a threat to their own.
Well, see, the Fundamental Atheists don't believe in God or proselyting or being insufferable zealots. But the Reformed Atheist sect doesn't believe it's fair for Theists to have those things if they don't, so they adopted them despite hypocritically opposing them. The Latter-Day Atheists follow the path of their Exemplar, Richard Dawkins, and teach that aggressive ridicule and arrogance are the one true path. They have adopted his books as Scripture.
This statement is way too simplistic and that is why it is easy and coherent for you to make your point. Atheist that form an organized group like this do so because religions want or try to impose their believes through the goverment. They have a common interest and that is that no public money is spent where religion is involved. That's about it. Common ideology does not make a movement religious. There are no dogmas, no cult traits, not anything else that's similar to religion or blind faith. This specific group of atheist have organized to lobby for the one president that might acknowledge them (the other candidate will %100 ignore them). They do not represent atheist outside of the group because all atheist just have one thing in common: absence of a believe in god.
Atheists have the right to remain stupid.