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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. JeffinIL

    Atheists have nothing to worry about. Neither party believes in God. They just pander to the religious.

    September 6, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
  2. Tap-me-I-tap you.

    atheists don't believe in intercourse.

    September 6, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
    • Nodack

      I pretty certain you are wrong.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
  3. Ken

    The Athiest devil is surprised that no one wants to be associated with him? How is that surprising?

    September 6, 2012 at 10:21 pm |
    • Quid Malmborg in Plano TX

      Didn't know Atheist had a "devil." Who/what/where is this "devil" that you speak of? Doesn't exist. Just like your magic white dude wrapped in a bedsheet who lives up in the clouds looking down on everyone. Grow up- childhood has to end sometime. Peace.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
    • Nodack

      Devil? Atheists don't believe in the Devil.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:30 pm |
    • Hear This

      Ken:

      1. Atheists do not believe in the "devil".
      2. Your name-calling is as hateful as any "devil" could ever be.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
    • Nissim Levy

      He means that the atheist is the devil

      September 15, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
  4. superfed67

    In other news, the Dems voted to remove "Creator" from the Declaration of Independance and insert "Government" – because they believe all our unalienable rights derive from The State.

    September 6, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      They derive from ourselves....

      September 6, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
  5. Nodack

    All religions are man made cults. Yes the Democrats pandered. So do the Republicans. A vote is a vote. Go ahead and ignore us Agnostics and atheists. It's ok, we are used to it. Make us out to be evil mean angry people if it makes you feel better about it. I forgive you. I am filled with empathy and love for my fellow man. How is that possible without god? I don't know, but it is true. I see lots of religious people do all kinds of evil things every day. I guess as long as they repent they are off the hook for their actions.

    September 6, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
    • Henry

      Talk is cheap!

      September 6, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
    • truth seeker 47

      exactly. does it mean that obama is really religious just because he mentions faith or god every once in awhile..? more than likely, no. but we do live in america.. and he is smart for at least attempting to win a few votes by appealing to those who dont use their brains and just pick the most outspokenly "christian" candidate, regaurdless of anything else they have to say. if people would just look at the FACTS, and not go by their initial gut instinct or feelings, they would realize that neither romney OR obama is going to solve all our economic and social problems... the only way things are going to change for the better is if we change the fundamental central banking system in which our country is in debt to. why are we calling this a "presidential election" ?? It's hardly that. it should be called a presidential AUCTION. money, greed, and those who have power (money..) are at the root of our nation's problems, not obama or romney. they are simply the faces behind the wealthy shmucks who tell them what to say and do and what direction to take...! I'm leaving this country before it's too late.

      September 13, 2012 at 4:24 am |
  6. MarkinFL

    Its an easy choice for atheists really. The Democrats are far more open to personal freedoms of all kinds. Of course it is not a perfect fit since most Dems identify as religious. However, I do not mind at all since they are the ones least likely to want to force me to follow their personal religious beliefs. And reality is that it is very difficult to be elected to public office if you are an acknowledged atheist. The number of closet atheists would probably stagger the imagination of many religious people.

    September 6, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
    • johnh77

      You fool only yourself. This day has been clearly spoken of. The evils reached before the coming of the Lord will surprise even yourself. How you take pride in thinking this is as good as it gets truly amazes me.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      What are you talking about? I do not believe I wrote any such things....

      September 6, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
    • Quid Malmborg in Plano TX

      What's white, creamy, and squirts across the sky?

      THE COMING OF THE LORD!!!

      September 6, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
    • johnh77

      Martin, I was referring to your statement of, "The number of closet atheists would probably stagger the imagination of many religious people." It does not surprise me in the least. I completely understand it in many ways. One for certain is how horribly men have done with the teachings of the Lord. But men taking something that is really meant for good and making into evil is nothing new. Also the level of media that supports the idea of no god is not new. So no surprise when I think of how many people believe there is no god or for that matter, actually hate the idea of a god. God is real but you will not find it in most churches on Earth today. Many teach part truth but have denied the power of God.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:39 pm |
    • putty

      Good assessment of the reality of things. In a perfect world ALL Americans would feel included and represented by the government, but as I am frequently reminded, this isn't a perfect world.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:40 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      John,
      I see. As I noted though "some" religious people. Others are far more aware of the reality around them even if they do not believe in it.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
  7. I don't know who he is...but I do know this!

    Here is what you don't understand, and I mean this as an atheist who really loves god. You can't sway the majority to believe in facts that are not true. That is why all must agree on the one party system.

    September 6, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
  8. zeus_z

    lol.. listen to all the atheists crying because not everyone is an atheist. If you are a atheist good for you, dont try to cry foul because no party represents you.

    how pathetic.

    September 6, 2012 at 10:16 pm |
    • Linda

      I'm an atheist and I agree with you. Frankly I don't give a *** if a politician wants to pretend he/she love Jesus. Just do your job when you get elected and get results.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:20 pm |
    • Nodack

      So much compassion and love from you. Did you learn that from the bible?

      September 6, 2012 at 10:24 pm |
    • sleepytime

      I'm pretty sure that's not what the atheists are "crying" about. The problem isn't democrats who are religious, it's democrats who are making religion a part of the platform.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:27 pm |
    • adibese

      How many Christians cry if they don't feel their politician is Christian enough?

      September 6, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
    • putty

      Note that it's the Christians who are crying about how THEY are persecuted, THEIR religious beliefs are not tolerated, people don't believe in THEIR beliefs or put THEIR policies as law of the land.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
  9. St Jim

    Lord, help us evolve faster or we'll never get out of this world alive. Amen

    September 6, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
  10. tomnikoly

    It doesn't matter as long as the founder's intention of a wall of separation is maintained between religion and the government.

    September 6, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
    • Atheists get in and be heard!

      On the contrary, it matters a great deal. Policy based on relgious beliefs is dangerous and unsound.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
    • Andrew

      that begs the question though, what counts as a breach of separation?

      September 6, 2012 at 10:19 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      Atheists get in..., I agree, but that doesn't necessarily mean that all policy made by people who hold religious beliefs is unsound. Policy should be evaluated on the basis of its soundness, not on the basis of the religious views of the policymaker. We as non-believers should understand that more than anyone.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
  11. johnh77

    The atheists have had numerous political parties. The communist party seems to exclude God. Nazis did a really good job. And I think hell will have a very active party for them to feel at home with.

    September 6, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
    • adibese

      Shut up. The Nazis were Christians by the way. Communism is a religion onto itself. Religion has killed and affected so many people, it's unfathomable to think about. Your retorts about a few dictators who didn't run on a religious platform pale in comparison to the deaths from religion. Also, look up the stats regarding how many religious people are in prison.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
    • tomnikoly

      " Nazis did a really good job."

      Wrong. They encouraged belief and used it in the loyalty oath to Adolf Hitler. You might want to search "German army WWII belt buckles" also. Do you know what "Gott Mit Uns" means?

      September 6, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
    • Free Thinker

      "The National Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and co-operation. It will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life." -Adolf Hitler (February 1, 1933)

      September 6, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
    • steve

      Actually the Nazis did believe in God and believed they were doing God's work. Many of them were devout Christians.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
    • Ally

      You obviously have no idea of history if you believe the nazi's were a political party seperated from religion. If so, you chose the farthest party from being seperated from religion. I can't explain to you how much nazism had to do with christianity or more specificly catholism because there isn't enough room in this text for that but, I can give two examples: 1.) A major belief Hitler had and shared was that a select group of people, Aryans, were god's chosen people and that a perfect word would be full of only blonde haired blue eyed people. 2.) Hitler was a Christian and even though he only used hatred towards jews to spark outrage across Germany and help fuel their fire when he started the war, he also used religion as a huge weapon for the entire Nazi Campaign. You wanna hear more examples fee free to ask.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
    • karl

      ur an idiot troll

      September 6, 2012 at 10:26 pm |
    • johnh77

      I do understand that Nazis were "Christians". I also understand the scriptures well enough to know about wolves in sheep clothing. And I also understand the concept of judging a tree by it's fruit. Or whoops I mentioned judging and therefore I must not be Christian. I'll accept that condemnation as I understand it to be judged as I have judged. I also understand that men can take any great and good thing and make evil of it. And I also believe that I chose to live under the rule of a divine and merciful God and will allow you to live under the tyranny of men as you refuse at this point of your life to kneel before the rule of God

      September 6, 2012 at 10:34 pm |
    • EricInNC

      Belt buckles on Nazi uniforms said "Gott mit uns", or "God (is) with us". They were NOT atheists, and often appealed to Germans' religious values to support their agenda. The Communists under Stalin and Mao all installed themselves as 'God' and obedience to them was the state religion. It went so far under Kim Jung Il that his dead dad was never allowed to be referred to as dead - an immortal being. So yeah, some bad people did bad things "for God" and some did bad things "against God". So what? And you believe in God. And I don't. So what?

      September 6, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
  12. Atheists get in and be heard!

    @homeschool23

    Funny, you made an atheist argument. Yes, God IS just like the tooth fairy. Also, you can't hate something that does not exist. You are a big silly.

    September 6, 2012 at 10:14 pm |
  13. caesarbc

    Although it is less likely that a God or Allah actually exists... it is still possible to accept the fact that people do take something away from gathering with others to seek peace through their own means.

    September 6, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
    • Andrew

      well, not everyone is seeking peace

      September 6, 2012 at 10:23 pm |
  14. Scientificpoetry

    The knowledge that they (the religious) fear, is a weapon to be used against them... (From "The Weapon" by Rush)

    Religion is slowly dying. I wish it would die more quickly – but these things take time. As each generation is educated, the knowledge gained will slowly but surely erode the hold that religion has on the ignorant. The less ignorant people there are, the less religious people there will be... Education and science will ultimately defeat religious dogma...

    September 6, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
    • pvt4jc@nc.rr.com

      you will be dead soon enough as well. hope you like heat and smoke

      September 6, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      What has always seemed to me to be the most prescient allegory in the bible is the story of Adam and Eve and the eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge. From the start it was realized that knowledge is the enemy of faith.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:18 pm |
    • Takawalk

      Rufus It was not knowledge in and of it's self but the knowledge of sin. Once aware of it they became guilty of it.

      September 10, 2012 at 12:32 am |
  15. pvt4jc@nc.rr.com

    dont worry you godless dirt bags...there will always be a warm welcome for your ignorant butts in hell

    September 6, 2012 at 10:10 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Awww how cute, the militant religious nutjob is showing his sociopathic tendencies.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
    • sleepytime

      So you believe in torturing people eternally for being ignorant? That seems a bit harsh.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:31 pm |
    • putty

      Don't worry, I'll be saving a seat for you, too.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
    • Dick Izinya

      Believe what I say or you'll get hurt. LOL, has that argument EVER worked? 😀

      September 6, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
  16. indyreader

    As an atheist, I don't give much of a flip about the conventions, personally. Obama explicitly included "nonbelievers" in his inaugural speech – which took more ba11s than any Republican electee would have demonstrated in a million years – and that's enough for me.

    September 6, 2012 at 10:09 pm |
  17. Billy

    The party for atheists would be the Republican. The GOP talks about Christianity, but fairly clear from the hypocrisy, none actually believe in God.

    September 6, 2012 at 10:08 pm |
  18. SPW

    I don't need a party to represent me, I need a party that treats god fearing folk the same as any other person.

    September 6, 2012 at 10:07 pm |
    • davecu

      Well said.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
  19. Larry

    Do you really think it will take only 20 years for Christians to renounce God. We have been 70 years getting pot legalized for medical use in this country. It is still illegal at the federal level. Get rid of God? Think about 2000 more years for that one. If you don't believe don't sweat it that others do – you will just give yourself high blood pressure trying to change their minds. Have a good life and put it on a shelf.

    September 6, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
  20. Jeremiah Upton

    Gotta love all the hateful and derogatory comments being made by the godly people on this article. You wanna believe in god, believe in him. Don't want to, then don't. At the end of the day your beliefs don't affect myself or anyone else.

    To say that an atheists has no use in our society is not true, not believing in a higher power does not make them a bad person or a drain on society. All to often I find my fellow Christians are the ones who have there nose stuck so far in the bible, that they cant see the world around them.

    Your too busy judging other people when you should be looking at your own actions and not worrying about everyone else.

    September 6, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
    • Kiki

      Wonderful post. Personally, though, I don't even see why Atheists need to have "groups" or care which party represents them. Atheists are in the minority. People need to look at the bigger picture. List what issues are important to them and then vote for the person who is most in line with their thinking. My favorite part of being a non-believer is not associating with a group with an agenda. That, and scaring people. 🙂

      September 6, 2012 at 10:25 pm |
    • Takawalk

      I agree.

      September 10, 2012 at 12:35 am |
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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.