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. NorthVanCan

    Religion is on its way to haven or hell. Mathematically it won't be around much longer. The internet and flow of information will leave religion in its dust. Its already happening. Children are being liberated every day, more and more the percentage grows with increasing ferocity. Fear not my simple ones, there never was a hell, it only existed in you minds.

    September 7, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Wannabe Canuck

      Argh! You Canadians are always so civilized and polite and intelligent and reasonable and will ya just cut it out, 'cas you're making the rest of us look bad!

      September 7, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
  2. Libertyforall

    We are a group of real people that want the world to know what Mormonism is all about...it's not a safe religion to have with our President!


    September 7, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
    • End Religion

      where's the pitch for what you feel is a "safe" religion?

      September 7, 2012 at 5:15 pm |
  3. Love Rhino

    The only deity I observe is the one between my legs and I need some broads to pay respects

    September 7, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Ethel the Aardvark Goes Quanti-ty Surveying

      Bad news, Rhino – despite searching for evidence of that claimed deity, it is nowhere to be seen. Say, have you been swimming in cold water recently/ Either that or there really IS a god, you ticked him off, and he has punished you accordingly.

      September 7, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  4. Carni74

    This is what they really do. Say NO to Mitt Romney!


    September 7, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • End Religion

      awesome sauce! frighteningly no more or less ridiculous than any other religion. talking snakes? god is an alien? leaving a religion requires death? sad to say it goes on nearly endlessly. bug nutty, each and every religion.

      September 7, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
  5. Jesus Christ


    September 7, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
  6. Anon

    Nearly all Christians are like this in the head.

    September 7, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
  7. saggyroy

    Here's an idea that might save the taxpayers millions. Let the atheists collection Social Security and Medicare, while the believers god takes care of them.

    September 7, 2012 at 12:00 pm |
    • Lauren

      That's a great idea! I mean, we christians do believe that God will provide! Let's all stop working and let him provide! Our faith will be proven finally!!

      September 7, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • saggyroy

      See how that works out for you.

      September 7, 2012 at 12:04 pm |
    • brother esau

      As an aethiest you lack faith in the existence of God, but apparently in yourself as well. Take medicare and social security, you can have them. Exempt me from the taxes, give me back what I've paid in over the last 30 years, i'll do more with the money than the government can.

      September 7, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • therealpeace2all


      I'm trying to decide if I should call you on "POE's Law" or not here ?


      September 7, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • PrimeNumber

      How will that work? For forty years atheist liberals have been busily disposing of about 50,000,000 potential taxpayers. You atheists have gotten rid of your own tax base.

      September 7, 2012 at 3:31 pm |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      PrimeNumber, are you referring to the number of abortions in the USA over the last 50 years? If yes, the vast majority (70+% in recent years) were had by believers.

      September 8, 2012 at 8:25 am |
  8. Lauren

    As someone with an extensive background in Psychology pointed out earlier in theses posts; I have a personality disorder. So much like Mitt Romney (who also has a personality disorder) I will flip-flop back and forth on my opinions, because I like to stir the pot and cause trouble...the down side to that, is that I don't always remember what I said before. Ah...flip-flopping! The grand GOP way!!!

    September 7, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  9. ripariumguy

    Sam: Where did these pre-Christian morals come from?

    September 7, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • old ben

      Well the solid ones came from people who were bright enough to not be hoodwinked by the early charlatans.

      September 7, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • saggyroy

      From Buddha.

      September 7, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Huebert

      It is quite probable that morals are a product of evolution. After all a moral individual is better able to function in society which in turn would increase their chance of reproducing and passing on their genes.

      September 7, 2012 at 11:59 am |
    • sybaris

      They came from the success of the group. They weren't handed down to some old guy standing on a mountain top

      Please take a course in anthropolgy

      September 7, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • sam

      Uh, yeah, feel free to see the comments above. Humans didn't get magically moral because 'god' handed down commandments. One caveman smacked another; when he got smacked back, he discovered he didn't like it. After that, it comes down to 'I will be a douche and kill everyone I don't like' or 'Oh, hey. Less smacking = better peace and hunting.'

      Most humans learn this in preschool.

      September 7, 2012 at 1:18 pm |
  10. AtheismIsCrap

    From the ti.tle itself:

    "Conventions leave atheists asking: What political party represents me?"

    The answer is, NAY!

    September 7, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Amniculi

      The Nay Party? So Republicans then. Good to know.

      September 7, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
  11. damo12345

    Had atheists made death threats to the owners and families of a Billboard company putting up religious ads, it would be considered a hate crime.

    September 7, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • old ben

      Are you replying to someone??

      September 7, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • The Christian Lot

      Do onto others what you would have them do onto you=but do it first. Onward christian soldiers, onward onto war, with the cross of DUH JESUS going on before; and make sure you win.

      September 7, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Michael

      Damo, you do and did. You just claim to be a Christian while doing your dastardly deeds.

      September 7, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  12. david o

    For what is a universe except a very cleverly conveived reality. Made of stuff we refer to as matter and energy (really only energy e=mc2)

    September 7, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • david o

      How could their not be anything greater than ourselves? Even a civilization 1 million years older than ours would seem godlike to us, and the universe is believed to be some 13? Billion years old.

      September 7, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • Michael

      Is that the latest lie of the atheists? I wished they'd make up their minds how old the planet is. Then again, they never answer the question where it all came from.

      September 7, 2012 at 12:18 pm |
  13. Anon

    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?

    September 7, 2012 at 11:43 am |
    • Michael

      No such thing. You really should have focused on American history.

      September 7, 2012 at 12:20 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      If that were true you would be blogging on the boards relating to pending legislation and making a logic and fact filled case against any laws you opposed. Instead you are here. It doesn't seem like a very logical or efficient use of your energy.

      September 7, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
    • MaddieMoss

      What separation of Church and State? You guys are quick to quote the Establishment Clause, but conveniently forget the part that says "nor prohibit the free exercise thereof."

      There are any number of things that one person can say with which another might disagree, doesn't mean we shouldn't talk about those things in public.

      September 7, 2012 at 12:24 pm |
  14. Smooth Criminal

    We are all atheist to some god or the other, but dont be fooled by these so called blvers they dont blv either, its all in their head not in their heart.

    September 7, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • Michael

      Criminal escaped.

      September 7, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • MaddieMoss

      What separation of Church and State? You guys are quick to quote the Establishment Clause, but conveniently forget the part that says "nor prohibit the free exercise thereof."

      There are any number of things that one person can say with which another might disagree, doesn't mean we shouldn't talk about those things in public.

      September 7, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  15. mcarreroschmidt

    A lot of people vacillate, or even sometimes hypocritically hold opinions that are at odds with one another with regard to God and religion. But a big problem for public atheists is that atheism, while perfectly legitimate and probably held by many more americans that we think, is a very difficult position to feel much empathy for. It comes across cold and heartless, and often, quite depressing. Many of us would rather hold on to some hope of the existence of some form of God, perhaps even harmonious with the tangible scientific evidence around us, than to give into the very antiseptic and sobering notion that nothing greater than us or what we plainly see in front of us exists. Not arguing that this is correct, just that that's how it is.

    September 7, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • Michael

      The spread of atheism proves that our educational system is in dire need of improvement.

      September 7, 2012 at 12:23 pm |
  16. david o

    I also propose that any civilization sufficiently advanced could create their own universe.

    September 7, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • Hadron Collider

      Working on it.

      September 7, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • Doc Vestibule

      I'm a believer in pantheistic solipsism.
      Every idea anyone has, conscious or sub-conscious, creates its own universe.

      September 7, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • david o

      The hadron collider is like a chimp club compared to the complexity of the task of creating a functioning universe humility sir please.

      September 7, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Michael

      I believe that doc vestibule should be locked inside his room and never be let out into society.

      September 7, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • therealpeace2all

      @Doc V.

      "Pantheistic Solipsism" ... Love it !


      September 7, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
  17. Just a John

    The greatest danger to religion is not agnostics/atheists forming into organized groups to challenge the fallacies of all religions, most doubters/non-believers would rather wait and watch as the religions slowly die off. It will be social media and the internet that will allow the young to see other points of view other than those preached to them by parents and their religions. The Arab spring shows that knowledge is the key and has always been the great enemy of religion. The suppresion of knowledge to the sheepies has always been the aim of the religions, that plus brainwashing the children before they can make rational decisions of their own. How long it will take? no one can tell but the sooner the better.

    September 7, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • Wrenn_NYC

      It's too soon to tell about the Arab Spring.

      Most westerners don't know about the first Arab Rennaissance, in the 12th and 13th centuries, before religion clamped down hard and stifled science, philosophy and literature.

      September 7, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Lauren

      Religious people are not kept in a locked closet all their lives with a Bible (or whatever your book of worship may be). We go to schools, some of us public schools, where we learned about science, history, etc. We are not suppressed. We just believe in something else – in addition to what science teaches us. Science and religion (as one example) do not always oppose each other. I know a lot of irrational people who are not religious – and I know a lot of rational people who are. So it goes both ways really.

      September 7, 2012 at 11:54 am |
    • Michael

      John, just remember that Satan come back first.

      September 7, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
  18. david o

    I propose that a universe without a creator is impossible. Where did it come from?

    September 7, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • mama kindless

      No one knows.

      September 7, 2012 at 11:38 am |
    • mama kindless

      But then again, as soon as you say something is impossible, you're narrowing the possibilities, so be careful with that.

      September 7, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • Anon

      Then who created that creator? Who's the creator of that creator and so on? Infinite regression makes your imagined creator redundant and unnecessary.

      September 7, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • The creator

      I was hanging around in a parallel universe but the dummies there couldn't figure out who created their universe, so I decided to create my own and become a god like figure, cool. In the other universe I was just a janitor cleaning out black holes, now look at me (actually I really preferred being Zues but what the Hades).

      September 7, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Santa did it,

      I propose presents don't just appear out of nowhere.....therefore Santa is real.

      September 7, 2012 at 11:53 am |
    • Smooth Criminal

      Then ask your self one simple question, where did the GOD come from?

      September 7, 2012 at 11:55 am |
    • old ben

      @Smooth Criminal – there is simply no reason to ask about something for which you have no evidence, no communication with. If the evidence presents itself, then we learn more.

      September 7, 2012 at 11:58 am |
    • Michael

      Atheists trying to reason God's existence. Don't stretch your minds, they just may break for usage.

      September 7, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
    • sam

      Michael, shove the smug BS. No one buys it, or cares.

      September 7, 2012 at 1:21 pm |
  19. Atheism is Great for Kids and Grown-Ups Too!

    It's really best for all people including children to have an agnostic approach to god, and an atheistic approach to all religion. It keeps things simple for kids, and let's them be all that they can be. They just need to be taught that some things, like all religions, were just made up by salesmen and politicians from long ago; and that other things, like god, we really don't know a damn thing about.

    Atheists have strong minds, and don't run and hide their misdeeds within their religion (and by doing so, disserving society).

    So instead of praying to make-believe people, get a good cup of tea and go on and sit down and collect your damn thoughts. My goodness.

    mama kindless

    September 7, 2012 at 11:33 am |
    • AtheismIsCrap

      Tell it to the marines.LOL!

      September 7, 2012 at 11:47 am |
    • sybaris

      I"t's really best for all people including children to have an agnostic approach to god, and an atheistic approach to all religion."

      Yep and we are all born that way.

      The sheeple don't put much thought into WHY they follow a particular religion.

      September 7, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • Barb

      What are "misdeeds" to an athiest? They have no standard for right and wrong. If there is no God, then all things are permissible.

      September 7, 2012 at 11:50 am |
    • sybaris

      Barb, you are sorely misguided.

      By your logic everywhere christians aren't should be in total chaos. That is simply not the case.

      BTW, morals and ethics evolved through the success of the group. They weren't handed down to an old man standing on a mountain.

      Take a college level course in anthropology...........please

      September 7, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers


      You are arguing that there are Absolute morals that can only be derived from a personal god.

      1. Prove that they exist and your god exists.

      2. Assuming you are a Christian explain how your god did such a poor job of explaining those absolute morals with all of the killing of innocents, slavery, ect. ect. in the bible.

      September 7, 2012 at 12:02 pm |
    • old ben

      Barb wrote: "What are "misdeeds" to an athiest? They have no standard for right and wrong. If there is no God, then all things are permissible."

      1. learn to spell atheist.

      2. religious people are deluded by thinking they are the only ones with morals

      3. moral tendency is built into the species

      4. The poster might have been referring to what we've read in recent time about bishops and cardinals protecting priests. Just a guess, but that's what immediately jumps into my mind.

      September 7, 2012 at 12:03 pm |
    • Michael

      Atheists rebel against their Christian parents, and the saga continues.

      September 7, 2012 at 12:32 pm |
  20. James PDX

    When someone says they believe in the Christian god, but they don't pray, don't attend church, don't follow the Christian tenets, and rarely think about god except when their mortality comes calling, we seem to be counting them as being theists. If we removed them from the rolls, I think the number of actual Christians in this country would be cut in half. Counting non-practicing Christians as Christians is like an NBA team saying they have 500 players because all of the retired/inactive players still count. Maybe we can just place these people on the injured reserve list.

    September 7, 2012 at 11:32 am |
    • sam

      Good point. Are they more like the National Guard, who get called up on special occasions?

      September 7, 2012 at 11:41 am |
    • Lauren

      I would say the same for Muslims, Jews, etc. You can't just call yourself a Christian (or a Muslim, or a Jew, etc.) and then not live according to those religious values and beliefs. I don't think that would raise the number of atheists in America – but it would significantly increase the number of agnostics.

      September 7, 2012 at 11:42 am |
    • sybaris

      Oooo, great slant on the "true christian" position.

      Funny that your god has a checklist to join it's club.

      September 7, 2012 at 11:52 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.