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. TomPaine

    "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."

    I don't think it's because of Republican ties to conservative Christianity; rather, I think it's because of Democrats seeming to be more willing to help their fellow human beings, which, despite popular misrepresentation, is how atheists also seem to approach the world.

    September 12, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  2. Sam

    Hey do you see this guy's picture. Who is yelling at ? He looks like a Muslim and is mad American is not a lover of Islam. Ya know the the Religion of MUDHAMMEND.

    September 12, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • sam stone

      Oooh....LOOKS like a Muslim. You don't get any more damning that that....

      September 12, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      SimperingSam, you're got your head up your backside again, my feeble-minded friend. How can look at a photo and know anything about it? Do the attendants know where you are? Did you skip your morning medications? Are you loose on the grounds? Did you steal the doctor's laptop? Go back to your room and curl up with your teddy bear.

      September 12, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
  3. QB

    Steve O, Lets replace the word God with Allah.. Interestingly the Hebrew uses the word Alah about 170 times which is already translated as God in the English version of the Bible..

    And if you really want to change someones perspective, all you need to do is type in a few Biblical verses.

    Matthew 10:34. "Do not think that I (Jesus ) came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. 35 "For I have come to 'set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law'; 36 "and 'a man's enemies will be those of his own household.'

    Numbers 31:17-18 God commands Moses to kill all the Medianite people including children and women. To top it off he commands that the virgins be saved for later raping by Moses’ soldiers.

    Deuteronomy 3:3-7 God ordered Moses’ army to “utterly destroy” 60 cities, killing all the women and children within!

    Numbers 21:27-35 God abetted Moses in utterly destroying the Amorites at Heshbon – “…the men, the women, and the little ones.”

    Numbers 31:17-18 God commands Moses to kill all the Medianite people including children and women. To top it off he commands that the virgins be saved for later raping by Moses’ soldiers.

    Deuteronomy 3:3-7 God ordered Moses’ army to “utterly destroy” 60 cities, killing all the women and children within!

    Deuteronomy 7:12 God ordered the Israelites to kill all the people of seven nations. He even adds, “show no mercy unto them”.
    Deuteronomy 20:16 God orders that we kill everything that breathes in the cities that he gives us for an inheritance

    September 12, 2012 at 2:44 pm |
    • ken

      blah, blah, blah

      September 12, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
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    September 12, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  5. Megan

    Believe in God or don't... who cares... you are all wasting your life arguing a topic that has no winner. I'm going for drinks on the beach & a bike ride... it's called enjoying life before you die.

    September 12, 2012 at 12:55 pm |

      Carnality is your answer?

      September 12, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • sam stone

      Don't diss carnality. It has it's charms

      September 12, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • ken

      Go Megan, I am an atheist also but do not believe in making a religion of my disbelief. (I am a right wing reactionary fascist republican)

      September 12, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • T-Max73

      Megan wrote: "Believe in God or don't... who cares"

      Well, about 1.2 billion Muslims want you and I to believe their claims or submit or be killed. Christians want you to believe their nonsense so badly that they spend billions trying to elect Christian candidates who openly claim to speak to invisible beings and consulte them on policy matters. To say nothing of repeated attempts to teach nonsensical pseudo-science to our children (creationism) without a shred of scientific evidence. Heck, we even allow tax breaks and exemptions to churches and organizations who only have to say they believe in some crackpot religious ideas in order to gain 501(c) status and avoid paying income tax on revenues. So, who does it hurt to allow people to believe this nonsense? It hurts all of us, and may very well be the end for humanity if we don't grow up and face the world without comforting delusions. Peace.

      September 12, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • Dippy

      T-max73: It's "you and me", not "you and I" in your first sentence. Grammar, grammar, grammar. It's a real challenge to some.

      September 12, 2012 at 8:11 pm |

    The BIG O would just throw the A&A's under the bus anyway, just like he did to Rev Wright. Why would they want to get humiliated? The ol' something from nothing rears its ugly head.

    September 12, 2012 at 12:01 pm |
    • sam stone

      something from nothing?

      September 12, 2012 at 12:24 pm |

      That s&n was for eeel and steve o.

      September 12, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
  7. Steve O

    We're all non-believers at our core. At some level we recognize that it's all fake, but many still put on a charade to impress the neighbors. Atheists are just more honest.

    Don't believe me? If you truly believed in an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent being, you would do everything in your power to obey its law and please it. You would murder adulterers, blasphemers and disobedient children. You would adhere to a strict diet and kill anyone who did not. You would not waste a moment of your life on earthly needs, but instead learn Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and ancient Arabic and scour the original texts for meaning. You would never cut your hair, eat shellfish, or be rude to someone in your home.

    Most of us don't adhere to any of the prescribed rules, and certainly not one of us does them all. If you truly believed that everlasting torment and everlasting joy were in the balance, you'd have to be insane not to obey, regardless of the Earthly consequences.

    It's time to come to terms that you all just pay lip service to this religious thing. Come clean, drop the facade, and start using logic to make your decisions. Or start killing each other. Whichever.

    September 12, 2012 at 11:47 am |

      Do I need to get permission from you first, stevie?

      September 12, 2012 at 12:45 pm |
    • Sly

      Plenty of people have been convinced enough of God's existence that they have willingly died for that belief, sometimes in horrific ways that could have been avoided if they had simply denied God. People have experience with God and the divine all the time, and there have even been public miracle such as Fatima that no atheist has been able to explain away with any facts or reason.

      The problem for atheists is that their declarations against God literally cut them off from Him by their own choice, then they complain that He isn' t talking to them. This is a plainly explainable phenomenon within Christian theology. God wants us to want to serve Him, and if we want to live without Him, he lets us, and then you get to die forever like you wanted.

      To say that nobody has ever been convinced of God's existence is beyond ridiculous. Atheists simply want everyone to share their death and misery.

      September 12, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Sly wrote, " then they complain that He isn' t talking to them. "

      That's because rational people don't suffer from schizoaffective disorders.

      September 12, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
    • sam stone

      sly: 39 people died in the heaven's gate scenario. does that mean that marshall applewhite was a prophet?

      September 13, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  8. eell

    Something comes before nothing. If you have nothing, then don't ask "who's representing me?" And don't expect people with "something" to give it up for you who believes in nothing.

    September 12, 2012 at 10:48 am |
    • Steve O

      I tried to glean "something" from your comment, but nothing from something came out because "nothing" was nothing. Or something.

      September 12, 2012 at 11:51 am |
  9. LOL

    You atheist are so funny. Vote Green, that would be great! One day you will believe in God. If not here on earth, then you will on Judgement day. On Judgement day it will be too late. I pray you find His saving grace here and not after life. Jesus is the only way.

    September 12, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • TheSchmaltz

      If there was any chance of that being true, then I wouldn't be here typing that I don't believe in God, the Holy Spirit, or Judgement Day.

      September 12, 2012 at 10:29 am |

      God is green.......'Lev 18:27-28 (For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which [were] before you, and the land is defiled;) That the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that [were] before you.'

      September 12, 2012 at 12:22 pm |
    • sam stone

      And I hope that one day you will get off your knees and stop being such a subservient little cvnt.

      your empty proxy threats are laughable

      September 12, 2012 at 12:26 pm |

      Very green, sam.......'Rev 11:18 And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth.'

      September 12, 2012 at 12:38 pm |
    • Primewonk

      Seriously! Why are the nutters unable to comprehend the flaw in Pascal's Gambit?

      September 12, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
  10. Toby

    I think that the GOP would fit Atheists more than any other party.

    September 12, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • truth be trolled

      NOT. Total Fail.

      September 12, 2012 at 8:29 am |
    • Toby

      Don’t ya want smaller government, less environmental friendly laws, and upper class tax cuts like most atheists?

      September 12, 2012 at 8:33 am |
  11. Jojo

    Atheist are so scared of God...why do they want to remove Gods name????? I thought a real atheist dont give a damn???? if you dont believe in God why worried?????and if you dont believe in anything..why would i want to believe you???...but now they are fighting like scary cats hahahaha....Atheist is another NEW RELIGION...who knows??? LOL

    September 12, 2012 at 6:29 am |
    • sam stone

      how can someone be scared of a being in which they do not believe>

      September 12, 2012 at 8:02 am |
    • sam stone

      "Atheist are so scared of God"

      We cannot be "scared" of beings in which we do not believe

      "why do they want to remove Gods name?????"
      Plaster your house with god's name, plaster your church with god's name. Just don't put it on PUBLIC PROPERTY. Is that too hard to grasp, JoJo?

      "I thought a real atheist dont give a damn????"
      You thought wrong.

      "if you dont believe in God why worried?????"
      becuase we are wary of the influence those that do believe in god have on our SECULAR GOVERNMENT

      "and if you dont believe in anything..why would i want to believe you???"
      I don't give a flying fvck whether you believe me.

      "but now they are fighting like scary cats hahahaha"
      Who is running, d-bag?

      "Atheist is another NEW RELIGION...who knows???"
      Atheism has been around longer than Christianity

      September 12, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • sam stone

      jojo appears to be yet another hit and run. a total blowhard who spews his vitriol and then runs like a coward.

      September 12, 2012 at 9:06 am |
    • Toby

      I don’t think atheists are scared of God.

      September 12, 2012 at 9:09 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      I was intrigued that many devout Jews write "G_d". Out of respect? Out of fear of God? If an atheist were afraid of God he might do likewise.

      September 12, 2012 at 9:14 am |
    • TheSchmaltz

      "Atheist are so scared of God"

      I'm not. I'm afraid of his fan club. There are a bunch of nutjobs who want to take my freedoms away because their imaginary friend commands it. They are enacting laws based on that. That's awful and terrifying.

      September 12, 2012 at 10:11 am |
    • Steve O

      Tell you what. Let's replace the word God with Allah and see if your perspective changes.

      September 12, 2012 at 11:54 am |

      Tom Tom, if you know or have befriended any devout Jews attempting to practice their 'faith', you might delicately bring up a little matter of ahem, divorce. The potter has reformed the clay of Israel and the requirements now are to posses a born-again birthright. The semitic wars are a lost cause.

      September 12, 2012 at 1:23 pm |
    • T-Max73

      Because some people who DO believe in Gods, gods, Allah, etc. are busy blowing themselves up, flying planes into buildings whilst shouting "Allah Akbar!", storming US embassies and killing people for offending their religion, arresting 12 year-old girls and threatening them with death for burning pages of the Q'uran, need I go on? Just turn on your TV or visit any online news outlet and see how much death, destruction, and misery is caused by those who "just want to believe and be left in peace." Religion is a killer, and it may well be the undoing for humanity if we don't outgrow this childish nonsense. Peace.

      September 12, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  12. 2357

    There are some pretty hard atheists that are republican, and baptist or catholic. They work in defense.

    September 12, 2012 at 4:33 am |
  13. 2357

    There are some pretty hard atheists that are republican, and baptist. Let's just say they have careers in defense.

    September 12, 2012 at 4:32 am |
  14. brian

    i don't understand why people who are logical and believe in science are discriminated against. religion poisons the world. wake up

    September 11, 2012 at 11:39 pm |
    • Athy

      I think maybe some people are starting to. Let's hope so anyway.

      September 11, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • nitl

      well said.

      September 12, 2012 at 7:46 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      How is it that they are discriminated against? Don't you mean not pandered to?

      September 12, 2012 at 9:22 am |
    • sam stone

      "How is it that they are discriminated against? Don't you mean not pandered to?"

      Yet the pious feel that eliminating (their version of) god from the public square is discrimination

      September 12, 2012 at 10:10 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      Doesn't answer the question directed a the original assertion sam but nice segue

      September 12, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • sam stone

      Bill: Thanks. I knew that, of all people here, you could appreciate it

      September 12, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  15. fritz

    Yep, the Dems are pandering to the christians. Really disgusting. I guess I won't be voting establishment ....again.

    September 11, 2012 at 11:38 pm |
    • Athy

      They have to pander. All politicians pander. They go to college to take Pandering 101. Pandering is like eating or sleeping to them. It's part of their psyche.

      September 11, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
  16. Bill

    Many politicians have supported an Atheist platform: Pol Pot, Joseph Stalin, Vladimr Lenin, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, Napoleon Bonaparte, Than Shwe, Kim Jong IL, Benito Mussolini, Mao Zedong, Nicolae Ceausescu, Slobodan Milosevic, etc. Won't you vote for an Atheist this year???

    September 11, 2012 at 11:13 pm |
    • Athy

      No atheist is running for any office. Maybe next time.

      September 11, 2012 at 11:34 pm |
    • Athy

      No "known" atheists, anyway. Who knows what they're really thinking.

      September 11, 2012 at 11:40 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      Bull, that's a pretty broad brush you're wielding. Napoleon? Since when?

      September 12, 2012 at 2:54 am |
    • TheSchmaltz

      Oh I get it. Some atheists are bad, therefore we all are. Good thing no Christian has ever committed an atrocity or run an oppressive regime, right?

      Besides the ideologies pushed by most of the people you listed involved worship of the state, so banning religion was an important first step. One authoritarian group can't tolerate another.

      September 12, 2012 at 2:50 pm |
    • pat

      Good, sign me up.

      September 12, 2012 at 2:55 pm |
  17. poopfactory

    As an Atheist, I am offended by these wanna-be-atheists for acknowledging the cross at the WTC.

    True Atheists don't give a damn.

    September 11, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
    • Athy

      Yeah, I don't really care all that much either. It placates the cross clutchers and doesn't really offend me that much. I actually have a small collection of religious symbols, like Buddhas, kachina dolls, Incan artifacts, etc. In addition to their artistic pleasure (and conversation catalysts) they serve to remind me of how silly all religions really are.

      September 11, 2012 at 11:31 pm |
  18. Trollalert

    I am not sue what the "party" calls itself these days but its leader goes by the name of Lucifer (among others).

    September 11, 2012 at 7:04 pm |
    • Athy

      Who's "sue"?

      September 11, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
    • Peteyroo

      Trollop, really? Lucifer? All leaders?

      September 12, 2012 at 2:49 am |
  19. Colin

    As an atheist, I'm confused as to why I need an "atheist leader." Atheism is the absence of a belief. How does the absence of something unite me with others, or make for a commonality that requires a spokesman? May as well have an organization for people who don't own a table saw. Why would I want to listen to someone stand in front of me and talk about things they *don't* believe in? Could make for a pretty long list, and a pretty boring speech, but it wouldn't make for something we have "in common" and it sure wouldn't make for an area in which I need to be "led." The majority want fellow believers to represent them. Works for me, though I think the majority generally finds that their representatives' "beliefs" are about as much of a defining factor for them as my atheism is for me

    September 11, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • jj

      It's not so much the absence of a belief that concerns me, its the willful adoption of a delusional fantasy that stands counter to science, history, and logic.

      September 11, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • GodFreeNow

      I agree with all of your points, but I think the leader is not for our benefit but the benefit of believers who need a face to stick ideas to and possibly inspire others to see the light of reason.

      September 11, 2012 at 6:50 pm |
    • DG

      I'd say it is not an atheist leader we crave for, but a leader who would put reason ahead of his faith. A leader who can see things free of the colored lens of his religion.

      September 11, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • Athy

      Well said, DG. That's all we can realistically hope for at this point.

      September 11, 2012 at 9:13 pm |
    • W. R. Martin

      Confused is a good thing in this case. I hope this explains what I want to assume is a rhetorical question but here goes anyway–
      The theist needs someone or something to tell them what to do, who to hate, who to kill, who to ostracize, etc. It's a system built on 'being in charge'. Whether you are in charge of a group of people that give you 10% of their earnings (best gig ever since, well, since the first con-man) or you are in charge of the parking lot before morning services, or you are in charge of coffee before service. Being led is a common theme. Ever hear the term 'sheep'? That applies here.
      Combine that with the fact that the theist's brain doesn't work very well and it all starts to make sense.
      Try holding your breath for about 2.5 minutes while someone hits you with a 2×4 and you'll understand their mental handicap they face all day every day. That same mental handicap allows them to reconcile the idiocy that they follow.

      September 12, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
  20. Coccodre

    Let them start their own party – or play nice at ours. Don' play well with others, then go somewhere else.

    September 11, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
    • Amniculi

      Good thing most non-religious are reasonable. Dems would be hurting if we 16% all decided to leave.

      September 11, 2012 at 4:26 pm |
    • maikeru48

      This atheist is voting Green, and hoping others follow suit. Good luck winning without us, bigot.

      September 11, 2012 at 10:59 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.