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. hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

    To learn causes of mayhem among humanity please visit http://www.limitisthetruth.com/

    September 7, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
  2. Ally

    I am extremely happy for you and I am glad religion helped you get there. Trust me, its truly glad to hear that and I hope you continue to enjoy jubilation and celebrate and be proud of your religion. The main reason I am atheist is believe it or not, not because a lack of proof of god. I just see one flaw in every religion and if I am going to choose something as important as faith I really want to fully support everything about it. The one flaw with every religion it seems is God holds you to HIS standard of a good person. For example, say you were catholic that would mean that no matter how many people I helped and how wonderful a person I was I would not be granted into heaven because I've never been baptized and I have never repented any sins to a priest. In my mind that wouldn't make me any less of a good person but, in you and every catholics opinion that would mean I would get sent to hell.
    In every religion there is something that insenuates that God judges you by what he thinks is best and if you don't fit the description, you get punished. Whether you get reincarnated into a snail or thrust into a pit of fire and misery every religion has punishment for not abiding by what God thinks is right. I just have fundamental disagreements with being held to a standard because every person is different and some people will just be born out of the standard or, some might disagree with something that religion and "God" supports. I hope that you continue to listen to the teachings of Jesus because he truly was and honorable man. I'm also ecstatic you wished the same happiness for me but, though alot of people love religion it's just not my thing though don't let that detract you from loving Jesus to your hearts content! 😉

    September 7, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
    • Low n slow

      I would suspect that you are actually an agnostic. There has been an effort on the part of atheists to redefine the word atheist to mean one who does not believe in God, as opposed to the very similar sounding and generally re widely accepted meaning which is one that believes there is no god. While these sound very similar, they have very different meanings. It is as if one said that hot is any state other than cold, democrats are all people who are not republican and anyone who is not poor is rich.
      If as many atheists condend, agnostics are atheists, then atheist is a truly unique word, being the only word I am familiar with that means both extreme and neutral states, when there already exists a term for the neutral state...agnostic.

      September 8, 2012 at 12:21 am |
  3. DC

    The Islamic Republic of Iran is a case study in why religion in government / politics is a dangerous mix.

    September 7, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
    • ono

      why? they all seem happy, we don't hear a peep out of them

      September 7, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
  4. Anon

    Christianity in a nutshell.

    September 7, 2012 at 11:33 pm |
  5. PrimeNumber

    For many hundreds of thousands of years (millions?), humans have been surviving. Humans have outlived pestelence, diseases too many to count, heat waves, earthquakes, tnunamies, droughts, famines, wars, hurricanes (like one hive of bees trying to wipe another hive), and even his own attempts at suicide (Social Darwinism). To what has this process led? Look at the pic of the bearded angry guy at the head of this article. In humanity, evolution has produced a creature who can survive the worst nature has to offer, but nearly has an emotional breakdown over the word "god".

    September 7, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • Tom, Tom Two

      If your post were subject to survival of the fittest, PN, you'd be going down in flames.

      September 7, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
    • Tom, Tom Two

      You idiots are a hoot and a half!

      September 7, 2012 at 11:24 pm |
    • ono

      Interesting observation...so what is it about that one word that illicts that reaction?

      September 7, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
    • Tom, Tom Two

      What "one word" do you mean?

      September 7, 2012 at 11:27 pm |
    • ono

      the word that sent the guy in the pic into a frenzy

      September 7, 2012 at 11:29 pm |
    • Tom, Tom Two

      What pic and what frenzy?

      September 7, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • ono

      the picture attched to this article

      September 7, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
    • Tom, Tom Two

      Your guess is as good as mine. For all I know, the dude could be having an epileptic seizure.

      September 7, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      Truth absolute God, is foundation of existence, how about some education, knowledge in Quantum physics to cure your hinduism, ignorance, please visit http://www.limitisthetruth.com/ it is good for your hindu sick mind.

      September 7, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
  6. I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

    So we have 2,500 comments of hullaballoo over rewriting the following sentence:

    "We need a government that stands up for the hopes, values, and interests of working people, and gives everyone willing to work hard the chance to make the most of their God-given potential."


    "We gather to reclaim the basic bargain that built the largest middle class and the most prosperous nation on Earth-the simple principle that in America, hard work should pay off, responsibility should be rewarded, and each one of us should be able to go as far as our talent and drive take us."

    And this is construed as omitting "God" from the platform (by the Christian Broadcasting Network), despite existing references to faith such as:

    Faith ... "has always been a central part of the American story, and it has been a driving force of progress and justice throughout our history."

    "There is no conflict between supporting faith-based inst'tutions and respecting our Const'tution, and a full commitment to both principles is essential for the continued flourishing of both faith and country"



    September 7, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
  7. GOD's children

    Any person who dies without accepting the one true risen savior will spend eternity in a lake of fire. Sorry if you don't agree name one thing that the bible prophesied that has ever been proven wrong................yeah good luck finding it

    September 7, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • GOD's children

      I know plenty of atheist and their main reason for not believing is because their parents took them
      To church and instilled moral values that are difficult to uphold , so they give up and blame God for their misfortunes and unanswered prayers. For All the Godless people must understand God doesn't hear the prayers of the unrighteous

      September 7, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      @GOD's children,

      anyone who "blames God" isn't an atheist. You can't blame something you don't believe in.

      September 7, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
    • DC

      How do you know your god is the true God?

      September 7, 2012 at 11:18 pm |
    • GOD's children

      Because he's the only one who was crucified , he died and three days later he rose from the dead , Buddha died and stayed dead, Allah same story as Buddha, many other so called gods all died and stayed that way so I know he's the one and only God be not decieved you live your life full of doubt when I live mine with peace and faith

      September 7, 2012 at 11:43 pm |
    • What IF

      GOD's children:
      "Because he's the only one who was crucified , he died and three days later he rose from the dead"

      - There is not a shred of verified evidence that this ever happened.

      " Buddha died and stayed dead, Allah same story as Buddha,"

      - Buddha was not considered to be a god.
      - Allah, the imaginary god of Islam, did not die in their story (you are confusing that with the Quran writer, Mohammad)

      September 8, 2012 at 12:17 am |
    • no gods

      GODS TARD,
      Jesus stayed dead like all the rest. His body decomposed and was assimilated into the earth's ground like every human buried before and after him....if he was even real. All written accounts of your "savior" where written at least 60 years after the supposed man lived and are all third, fourth person accounts, or hearsay. Only a brainwashed fool would believe any of it as truth. All prophets and false and all gods are non existent.

      September 8, 2012 at 12:19 am |
    • Low n slow

      No gods.. That is an interesting statement of your faith based opinion. Thank you for sharing.

      September 8, 2012 at 12:26 am |
    • sybaris

      "Because he's the only one who was crucified ,"


      Your alleged god-man willingly killed itself and returned to its natural form.

      Some sacrifice

      September 8, 2012 at 1:04 am |
  8. 2357

    Atheism is God's bug zapper.

    September 7, 2012 at 10:35 pm |
    • Nope!

      I luv it ! ! !
      zap'em! 🙂

      September 7, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
  9. Batman

    Who's intolerant now? Wow, atheists are some haters.

    September 7, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      OH? More hateful than believers? Prove it.

      September 7, 2012 at 9:29 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      Unfortunately for you Batman, religious intolerance breeds intolerance from the sane and reasonable.

      September 7, 2012 at 9:36 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      What's all this about haters, Batman? I was wondering. Are you a Mod or a Rocker?

      September 7, 2012 at 9:39 pm |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      Holy Christ Batman! There's an Atheist! POW! BANG! UGH! BOINK! SMASH!

      Good work there Robin! You just made this world a better place. Come on, let's go to church and pray.

      September 7, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      Expect any thing from a Atheist, self centered, with nature of a pig, self centered living by hindu Judaism, filthy self center ism, To learn causes of mayhem among humanity please visit http://www.limitisthetruth.com/

      September 7, 2012 at 9:43 pm |
  10. Stuart

    Psalms 14:1 The FOOL has said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that does good.

    September 7, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • Blessed are the Cheesemakers

      Cult logic

      September 7, 2012 at 9:20 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Can you quote from other works of fiction?

      September 7, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
    • old ben

      Psalms – give me a break. Well, to be fair, it is the part of the bible that feels the most like Charmin on my ass.

      September 7, 2012 at 10:49 pm |
    • Anon

      Cultist christard logic like always.

      September 7, 2012 at 11:32 pm |
    • Athy

      Shit, Stuart. If fools have it figured out, why haven't you?

      September 8, 2012 at 1:38 am |
  11. tuvia

    מלחמה בלתי נגמרת

    September 7, 2012 at 9:03 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son


      SHUT the FIck up, No one cares.

      September 7, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
    • old ben

      I don't read backward backwards.

      September 7, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
  12. Savannah

    If you are an atheist you do not have a religion. You believe that others who do have faith in God and express this through their religion are wrong. So you try and take away their symbols of that faith. You think by doing this you are gaining equality but you can never take away the faith of a person by wanting recognition. It will never change because the world is not filled with an atheist's belief in nothingness. Why do you try so hard to be heard when you have nothing to preach?

    September 7, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • Athy

      You can have as many symbols of your faith that you want, just keep them private – don't put them on our money, in our schools or in public view. We atheist don't do this. Actually, we don't have any symbols, come to think of it, but if we did we wouldn't force them on anyone.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:01 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      What do you mean by public view? Should Christians not be allowed to put a cross on their front lawn?

      September 7, 2012 at 8:08 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      Savannah, I actually agreed with you up until this point...

      "You think by doing this you are gaining equality but you can never take away the faith of a person by wanting recognition. It will never change because the world is not filled with an atheist's belief in nothingness."

      Atheists do not think that taking away another person's faith will make them gain equality. In fact, this doesn't jive with the criticism that atheists think they are better or smarter than religious people. To gain equality would be to first believe that we lack something that makes us less than equal. You'll have a really hard time finding an atheist that feels that they're some how less or "lacking" something religious people have.

      Also, atheists don't only believe in nothingness, we also believe in "somethingness". It's just that our somethingness needs a little more than someone's personal opinion in order for it to be accepted as true. That being said, I know many religious people who also believe in the concept of "nothingness".

      September 7, 2012 at 8:10 pm |
    • Athy

      Why would they? To demonstrate their stupidity to everyone else?

      September 7, 2012 at 8:12 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      That's not the point. Would you make it illegal for Christians to put a cross on their front lawn?

      September 7, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      @Rational Libertarian, That only seems to be a point YOU are trying to make...

      September 7, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • Athy

      Of course not, it's private property. I'm talking about public areas. Money is public property. Government buildings are public property, sporting events are public property. Get it yet?

      September 7, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      'don't put them on our money, in our schools or in public view.'

      No, Athy made the point first with the term public view. Stay out of the discussion unless you fully comprehend please.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:19 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      You said public view Athy . Be distinct in your meaning and then I'll 'get it'.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:20 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      Pot meets kettle...

      Obviously, you didn't understand what Athy was saying, felt you had some brilliant point to contribute and made your point. Clearly you must also think that if you can see in someone's house window, that must also be considered "public".

      But you said it best... "Stay out of the discussion unless you fully comprehend please."

      September 7, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • Rational Libertarian

      How is it pot/kettle? Is it my fault Athy made a semantic error? If somebody has a cross on their front lawn, it's in public view.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:34 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      You are the one that interjected about crosses on a person's lawn. Athy didn't say that. Again, to quote you and emphasize your words... "Stay out of the discussion unless you FULLY comprehend please." That is unless you think you should be held to a different standard than the one you hold others to.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son


      GET BENT

      September 7, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • hinduism source of hindufilthyracism.

      No just on their graves, for people to know they worship hindu racist sign of Pharaoh's. THE cross. To learn causes of mayhem among humanity please visit http://www.limitisthetruth.com/

      September 7, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
  13. truth be told

    Which political party represents atheists?Thank God, None do !

    September 7, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Which "God" did you have in mind? There have been so many...

      September 7, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
    • no gods

      No gawds exist or have ever existed. Gawds are a figment of the human imagination just like ghosts, or any other mythical creature.

      September 8, 2012 at 12:24 am |
  14. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things ..

    September 7, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
    • End Religion

      i wish prayer would change my adult diaper. Its a dirty business.

      September 7, 2012 at 8:45 pm |
    • CraigCA

      If prayer changes things, why are there not believers on constant vigil praying that bad things don't happen in the first place? Every time I see someone in a horrible situation that's getting better saying, "Thanks for all your prayers, they're working!", I think how irresponsible it was for all those people to not be praying that it didn't happen in the first place. If it's all part of God's plan, why are you screwing that up by praying?

      September 7, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
  15. Patricksday

    The Athiest should of gone to the GOP they dont believe in God either. You cant do or plan to do to humanity and the Earth that these monsters will do once given the chance for ultimate profits. Materialism, Greed and Selfishness are not of God.

    September 7, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • Athy

      "should have", not "should of". You don't read much, do you? Most cross clutchers don't so don't feel bad.

      September 7, 2012 at 7:55 pm |
  16. HeathanMike

    Why are atheists so shocked at this social reality? Politicians are always going to try to appeal to emotional sentiments of the majority. And last I checked, the vast majority of Americans were still pretty darned religious. I don't believe in fairytales for one minute, but I certainly can interpet the religious speak metaphorically, let it go at that, and focus on the more important messages behind the religious verbage. For people who are honestly religious, expression of that religious faith is going to be very important to them. And politicians that ignore that entirely in this country tend to lose. It's a simple matter of political strategy. If we insist on throwing a hissy fit anytime "god" is mentioned, we will just succeed in splitting the Democratic party further and helping to guarantee that the really rabid right-wing zealots will win. I generally jump into debate mode if a devout god-believer starts insisting that I must agree with them. Then they had better watch out. But for those people who are simply expressing themselves in the verbage of their belief system, I don't see the point in being disrespectful to them.

    September 7, 2012 at 7:30 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      I agree. I think we expect our politicians to deal more honestly than used car salesmen, but really they are indistinguishable from each other. Both will say or do practically anything to get you to buy their product. They know it's not worth buying on the face value so they have to create stories to make the swallowing of it more digestible. I would say the real issue is the political structure and not the religious one.

      September 7, 2012 at 7:37 pm |
    • Mark From Middle River

      Yep, Oba was against Gay Marriage until he discovered that the Romney came out of the primaries and he discovered that he needed the LGBT vote.

      September 7, 2012 at 9:09 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Oh, goodness me. We'd never have discovered that if not for you, oh savior Mark the Piddler of all Piddlers.

      September 7, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV


      If the Dems had to wimp out and nail God back onto a plank in the platform to not lose more marginal votes to the Republicans, who cares?

      Pandering to those few people in OH, PA, and maybe MI and FL will actually elect the president is the price of what passes as 'democracy' in our system.

      With all the reporting of 'no God in the Democratic platform' did anyone see it reported as to when it was originally included?

      September 7, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
  17. Rational Libertarian

    Republicans want to take all our rights away while the Democrats want to take all our money and our rights away. Vote Libertarian.

    September 7, 2012 at 7:20 pm |
  18. xfiler93

    who cares about atheists? jeez

    September 7, 2012 at 7:05 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      Their parents and loved ones I'd guess.

      September 7, 2012 at 7:07 pm |
    • PraiseTheLard

      Obviously not members of the brainwashed brigade...

      September 7, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
  19. Karen

    I am so happy to see so much bashing of non-religious people on here. And they wonder why we are becoming more outspoken. Have your religion, have your faith, but please realize the rest of us are sick of it being shoved in our faces every single day.

    September 7, 2012 at 6:57 pm |
    • Mark From Middle River

      Do you feel the same about all the bashing of the religious on here as well? Both sides have extremist sides that are breeding more followers each year. If you only see one side as the victim or perpetrators then you are also part of the problem.

      September 7, 2012 at 9:16 pm |
    • Nope!

      Why do you Godhaters shove YOUR worthless garbage in OUR faces, boasting yourself and parading as if you were gods yourself! And you dare to indoctrinate our children with your lewd views of life, and we should 'just take it' and not speak the truth?! You are the enemies of freedom of which you boast yourself having, not knowing that without God who blest humanity with all knowledge, and especially this country so abundantly, you would still have horses pulling carriages and would die from UTI's and pneumonias! You are fools, and NO! don't give me your "you're judging" crap... GOD said you're fools! But that's NOTHING... you've seen NOTHING YET. And when it comes, just remember – YOU ASKED FOR IT!

      September 7, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Bwahahah. NOPE the dope is exposed as the moron he/she is.

      Guess what, moron? Nobody cares what delusions you suffer from.

      Get a clue, moron, you're an irrelevant boob.

      September 7, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
    • Athy

      Geez, Nope!, calm down, please. We don't hate god. How can we hate something that doesn't even exist? Frankly, the rest of your rant didn't make a whole lot of sense. Maybe you could try it again in eighth-grade English?

      September 8, 2012 at 2:39 am |
  20. Mohammad A Dar

    To learn causes of mayhem among humanity please visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1uwOL4rB-go

    September 7, 2012 at 6:53 pm |
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About this blog

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