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.
Hey Christians, we atheists don't really give a flying fu*k if you worship Yahweh/Jesus/Jehovah 24/7.
The reason we're complaining is because your religious views are influencing way too much in politics that eventually turn into laws. Don't you fu*king get it or is the concept of separation of church and state non-existent in your minds?
Well said, I think?
The separation of church and state is only in your mind.
Aye, aye captain! I concur. We don't care, especially not as much as this article and these billboard athiests portray our "group". In my perspective religion and fear are the two main drivers for current legislation action. Either legislating to a "moral obligation" – which is rooted in religion – or over a fear of the "other" which mostly comes back to religious convictions of one form or another.
As a Christian, I don't think that atheists are evil and I don't think they are bad people (although some are as is evident from these remarks). My husband falls somewhere between an atheist and agnostic, and we get along just fine. He also doesn't care if God is mentioned at the RNC, DNC, or anywhere else because he knows that religion can be a part of people's lives without dictating their every move. Some people follow religious dogma to the "T" and those people probably shouldn't be in politics. However, the simply fact that the word "God" is spoken shouldn't be offensive to anyone, unless you are that uncertain in your position that you feel the need to defend it at every turn.
The problem with articles like this is they paint a false face on atheists. No actual atheists were offended by the language. The problem is people like the author who say that maybe he personally knew one atheist who overreacted, so he assumes ALL NON BELIEVERS EVERYWHERE feel exactly the same. To be honest, most non believers are like your husband. We don't care. The only people who DO care are the ones who complained that it was absent in the first place.
"I don't think they are bad people (although some are as is evident from these remarks)".
Translation: "Anyone who disagreed with me or mocked me is a bad person."
While I don't really have a problem with it, I can certainly see why people would have an issue with religion being part of a political party platform when we are guaranteed separation of church and state.
Automatic Translator – people who mocked me, I would argue may not have the highest moral standards. People who disagree with me (i.e. my own husband), I am fine with.
So if we sleep with you, will that make our comments better?
Interesting discussion, but not interesting enough to keep me here.
The Dem platform re: god or Israel has no relevance for my intent to vote to re-elect the President.
The reality is that Democrats do not have a choice but to appeal to religious voters if they want to win the election. Democratic Atheist voters will not vote against their party if God is mentioned in the platform, but religious voters might.
Since existance of a god cannot be proven or disproven belief either way is an act of faith.
Actually, since their is no evidence for god's existence it is appropriate to accept the null hypothesis, which is that god does not exist.
Sort of like the existence of unicorns?
Athiest are cry baby's . What about us? Well what about you? What do you want us to know thats so special? You have no impacting life changing message to the world. Your just trying to claw at the only message that founded our whole country. The Christian message of love, hope forgiveness and faith!
Interesting... As I don't find any mention in the U.S. consti tution of the words... God, Jesus, Bible, Christian, Christianity, Jesus Christ, savior, etc...
Seems like a pretty big mistake if this whole (christian) message of love, etc... is what 'founded' this country.
Love how the christians try to hijack – love, forgiveness, etc... makes me chuckle 😀
Jesus, are you done with the landscaping yet?
What founded our country was the desire to escape religious persecution. What made us separate from our parent country was not liking being governed without representation.
Jesus.....learn to spell, d-bag
Atheists rewriting history. Nothing new under the sun.
michael......theists on their knees, begging for salvation like subservient slaves....nothing new here
We do not need these religion people at political conventions.
Fellow atheists, there is a canidate running for President that doesn't give a rats a** what you believe or don't believe. Vote Libertarian people. Vote for freedom to really choose. Vote for Gary Johnson!
Sometimes I really wish that Sean Faircloth would actually run for President one day.
Unfortunately for Atheists, the founding fathers of our country were very religious and believed in God. You can't change history. Bottom line, no one is forcing you to believe in anything. Especially in politics. The choices you make about God or no god is your own. You have the freedom to believe or not to believe - as it should be. You don't need government to enforce personal beliefs.
But then again, when I actually LEARN history I know that the founding fathers created this country on the basis of Unitarian beliefs...and those beliefs were SO different from crazy christian beliefs today!
I hope you pick up a history book and figure out your revisionist worldview is slightly off base.
Our founding fathers believed in a God. That's all I'm saying. Getting technical about the "beliefs" is another subject for another day. I did stay awake while LEARNING my history.
Ah. While your were LEARNING it, apparently you only chose to REMEMBER selective parts that you like.
Really Sam? You're killing me..........
The founding fathers were not 'very religious'. 3.3 seconds on Google will help you guys with that.
Unfortunately, the biggest problem is that so many politicians are trying to use government to force their religious beliefs on us.
The religious affiliations of these individuals are summarized as such, as found on Google: Total of 204 – 88 Episcpalian/Anglican; 30 Presbyterian; 27 Congretationalist; 7 Quaker; 6 Dutch Reformed/GermanReformed; 5 Lutheran; 3 Catholic; 3 Huguenot; 3 Unitarian; 2 Methodist; 1 Calvinist.
"You don't need government to enforce personal beliefs."
Unfortunately, that is precisely what a great many Christians appear to want
Atheists rewriting history to fit their world view is nothing new under the sun.
Keep Religion Out Of Politics.
That's what this country was founded on: Separation of Church and State!!!
Show me where that is written. Oh wait, let me provide you with your own roll of toilet paper.
Had this emailed to me today:
"God created atheists to teach us the most important lesson of them all – the lesson of true compassion.
When an atheist performs an act of charity, visits someone who is sick, helps someone in need and cares for the world, he is not doing so becuase of some religious teaching. he does not believe that God commanded him to perform this act. In fact, he does not believe in God at all, so his actions are based on his inner sense of morality. And look at the kindness he could bestow upon others simply becuase he feels it to be right.
This means that when someone reaches out to you for help, you should never say "Ill pray that God will help you."
Instead, for that moment, you should become an atheist, imagine there is no God who could help and say "I will help you."
Be more selective about which emails you read. You probably are considering enlargement as well
And what do you find objectionable in that little diatribe?
What's wrong with enlargement? I hear Tony's wife is pretty large.
Doc Vestibule, I am not holding my breath that an atheist will do any thing for any one other than themselves.
Ha ha, atheists and Dems. You like down with dogs, you wake up with fleas. Hilarious.
What is this 'like down'? Is it a new dance, like Gangnam Style?
Anders, I have never once lay down with a Republican. Of course, I'm a liberal, independent agnostic.
Reading these comments are just upsetting. Here is the Atheist Viewpoint: Athiests don't believe the Bible should be the source for law-making. Separation of church and state. When people are arguing about things like changing the definition of the word Marriage from "A man and a woman" to "A couple" we want more reason against it other than "But the Bible says..." This is the Atheist problem/agenda. To use consensus and personal judgement for laws and now an ancient copy of Dungeons and Dragons someone wrote back in the days when people were less connected and a lot more gullible, then rewritten and re-translated a half dozen times after for personal political gain of the ruling class.
Seriously. At least D&D is entertaining.
Not to mention that D&D accepts all religions, monotheistic and polytheistic.
Ok, I admit that I am inferior to Atheists and that is my greatest fear so I have to attack them. Truthfully I am as dumb as a box of rocks, but it makes me feel good to build myself up and put other people down.
I didn't attack anyone. Sorry if you feel that way.
You just did Lauren.
Michael, you ignorant fool! Can't you read? I never attack anyone!!!
Lauren: not cool. Let's discuss this like adults. There's no need for name calling. That's very un-Christian of you.
@bob... shove it you twit. Atheists don't matter. God's rules can be bent when arguing against them because atheists are not even human in God's eyes.
This is like being at an 8th grade dance! Grow up, you morons.
I despise overzealous anybody. Atheist will have to be patient. They came up the higher profile ranks pretty quickly
in the last 10 years, even behind Gays and Lesbians. This race might be tight. Let Obama trounce the opposition first.
Otherwise, a defeat will put them even further back. It's sadly the nature of politics. This is just my opinion- enhance the
cause for victory of a party that may have a greater chance for tolerance ( the lessor of 2 evils).
Just logged my post and saw Tony's post. Instead of "evil," let me say "the lessor of the parties that's filled with hatred
and intolerance for those that don't want to play their game."
You atheists finally realized that you are the anchors around the necks of the democrats.
@Michael: as a God-Fearing Christian woman I am offended at your incivility. Even the barely human Atheists deserves more from you. I am writing a letter to the Pope to ask he burn you at the stake after exorcising the demons from your rectum.
Without religion, there is no such thing as evil. Just selfish or stupid people doing bad things, which they would do anyway.
Were the Tsunami's evil?
More truthfully, one of the things that religion was created to explain is the existence of evil.
This site won't let me publish the fourth verse of our national anthem, why not? I'd encourage everyone to go read it.
The freedom you have to voice your disbelief was forged from a foundation of belief!
I assume it's the abrahamic god of the three desert blood cults.
Atheists spread more dung than the RCC.
Atheist's priorities for fixing America aren't clouded by worrying about what some particular imaginary god might think first.
Atheists priorities. Let's see. First, make sure there are no sticks and seeds remaining. Second, they forgot, except they sure do know where everyone's fridge is located.
If atheists are truly evil, then surely God & Jesus will come & smite them. I guess it's just a matter of time...
I've been waiting for years.
Not MY god, but one of those other gods. I'm sure ONE of them will come down to smite. God has 1000 eyes in Jesus's ear or some silly thing, right?
Maybe we have the definition of smite wrong after all this time. What if it's just kind of a tickle?
I had a tickle in my throat last week. God was trying to smite me, but I just got some ice cream and it was ok.
I smited myself for about 10 minutes last night. I'm not sure what part god had in it, but I could have used some help with the cleanup.