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. ri

    You stop being an Atheist once you open your mouth. You become an Atheistian. Atheism is a metaphysical conclusion based on critical thinking and opinion. It is not a group that you join. Once you organize it becomes a religion by proxy. If your an Atheist you only need to let 'reason' be your voice.

    September 13, 2012 at 11:34 am |
    • TheSchmaltz

      The how do you propose we defend ourselves from the enemies of reason?

      September 13, 2012 at 11:44 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      You could pray that some Christians intervene on your behalf.

      September 13, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
  2. Joe Jordan

    CHRISTIANITY: The belief that some cosmic Jewish zombie can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him that you accept him as your master so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake with legs to eat from a magical tree. Makes perfect sense!

    September 13, 2012 at 11:28 am |
    • asdf

      Alternatively, that god impregnated a woman with himself, so that he could kill himself to call a moral truce with himself.

      September 13, 2012 at 2:37 pm |
  3. Bob C.

    There are scientific studies that show people behave better if they think someone (or something or some force) is watching them. Whether it's your spouse, a cop, Santa Claus, God, or Karma. Religion helps keep people honest.

    There are other studies that show that most people are pre-programmed to believe in a higher power and to pray/mediate/connect to it. But some people simply aren't pre-programmed in this way. It's not their fault, they're just born this way. They're no less human. It's differences like this that have kept the human species going all this time.

    Obama put God back in because he knows he has the atheist vote, and unless he directly offends them they will vote for him over Romney.

    September 13, 2012 at 10:57 am |

    I won't vote till a candidate believes in Zeus.

    September 13, 2012 at 10:52 am |
  5. dr feel good

    I was an atheist until I found out that I had to work on religious holidays.

    September 13, 2012 at 8:53 am |

      Not a problem for Christians:......Col 2:16-17 Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath [days]: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body [is] of Christ.'

      September 13, 2012 at 9:19 am |
    • jacksonchambers

      I get my atheist x-mas on. Just because I don't believe in the ridiculous idea of santa clasu or even more ridiculous jesus doesn't mean I don't get down with x-mas. lol

      September 13, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  6. dr feel good

    I think all atheists should pray for recognition.

    September 13, 2012 at 8:52 am |
  7. russ

    you believe in nothing, so what's your problem?

    September 13, 2012 at 7:00 am |
    • sam stone

      our problem is with imbeciles like you who feel that atheists "believe in nothing", then go out and try to impose your religious beliefs into our secular laws.

      September 13, 2012 at 7:39 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      If your problem was with the law you wouldn't be here arguing with believers and patting other atheists on the back for each other's insults. You would be somewhere arguing about the law. You're a liar.

      September 13, 2012 at 11:20 am |
    • sam stone

      if you say so, billy boy

      September 13, 2012 at 1:01 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      So let me see if I understand your political strategy sam. You come on here and denigrate people who have faith, hoping to shock the realization into them that you are correct and God does not really exist. At which point these newly enlightened thinkers will abandon their political values and join the fight to create your secular utopia? Man that is some long range tactics there boy.

      September 13, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • sam stone

      if you say so, billy boy. you're not claiming that some christians don't come on here to insult atheists, are you?

      September 13, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      That's called deflection sam. It's another failed tactic and probably why religious people have dominated the political landscape. You guys have a lot of knowledge and a lot of facts but your don't really argue well much past the point of ridicule.

      September 13, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
  8. icon-design

    It is remarkable, very amusing phrase

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    September 13, 2012 at 6:46 am |
  9. truth seeker 47

    Wow, I can't believe all the negative comments about this article. Especially by the religious people. Aren't you supposed to be "good" people and obediently follow god's special ten rules?? what happened to "loving others" ? oh right, i guess it is ok to hate every once in awhile, god forgives right? I just wish us atheists had that excuse like that. instead, we are forced to try our best to do the right thing whether there is a reward waiting for us in the afterlife or not. the only thing I believe for sure is that if god IS real, more likely than not, I'm sure he is ashamed of his followers.

    September 13, 2012 at 4:37 am |
    • Kraven

      The Jews are the ones who Have to follow the 10 rules as you put it. The Gentiles Which covers most of Christianity have the Holy Spirit to guide them and keep them on the right path. Having stated the Obvious to anyone with knowledge of the Bible I also have to state that there is no one good on the earth Not Even One as the Bible also states. Following t he lessons of the Bible means a lot of things but the two most difficult of the10 mentioned are the ones which are impossible for Man to do on his own no matter what his religion and they are to love the lord your God with all of your heart soul and mind and to love your neighbors as you love yourself. This last one is really tough because many people do not love themselves at all and definitely do not love their neighbors. For these reasons the LAW or the 10 commandments are there to show you that you cannot do it on your own and that you need help.... I would like to see 1 Atheist try to follow that one rule.. I know they cannot love their neighbor because if they did they would not work so hard to try to demean them for their beliefs.

      September 13, 2012 at 8:14 am |

      Many Christians can't hear this.....'Phl 3:18-19 (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, [that they are] the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end [is] destruction, whose God [is their] belly, and [whose] glory [is] in their shame, who mind earthly things.)'........Maybe an atheist might get it. See, everyone has a God in the end.

      September 13, 2012 at 8:33 am |

    No affirmative action for atheists and antichrists this time around from the dems. Maybe you should spend some money at the other party and get some action. At least bring a bottle of wine.

    September 12, 2012 at 10:33 pm |
  11. Iqbal Khan


    September 12, 2012 at 10:23 pm |

      You left a 2 hour comment. Are you nutso? Nutsoism is all the rage these days.

      September 12, 2012 at 10:29 pm |

      It's getting late in the race for humans. If a prophet can't speed up his msg I ain't listening.

      September 12, 2012 at 10:35 pm |

      Maybe somebody could instruct him in the art of tweeting?

      September 12, 2012 at 10:41 pm |
  12. icon-design

    You have hit the mark. In it something is also I think, what is it good idea.

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    September 12, 2012 at 9:26 pm |
  13. wharfrat

    As an atheist, I really never expected either party to leave out god. It's not realistic in this country. And if that is enough for an atheist to decide not to vote Democratic (change to Romney over that?), he or she would be as stupid as a Jew or Christian who votes are which candidate is better for Isreal.

    We live in America. Make you choice on who is better for own life and your own country.

    September 12, 2012 at 9:07 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 4:20 am |
  14. In God We Trust

    Than GOP? Nope

    September 12, 2012 at 9:06 pm |
  15. In God We Trust

    To Athy...so you're saying that even Dems who are also atheists will go so far as to mention "God" to pander to the masses?

    September 12, 2012 at 8:36 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      If they're running for office, they probably will.

      You seem to put a huge amount of stock in party platforms, IGWT. They really don't amount to a hill of beans.

      Which is why you haven't been able to prove that most atheists care about what's in them.

      September 12, 2012 at 8:39 pm |
    • nope

      @tom tom...

      September 12, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • Athy

      I can't possibly know that, but it wouldn't surprise me. I would if I were campaigning.

      September 12, 2012 at 9:01 pm |
    • snopes says

      nope to nope

      September 12, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
  16. In God We Trust

    Message to atheists.....If you were not such an angry bunch you might have more followers and more of a platform in politics

    September 12, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Why would an atheist want "followers"?

      September 12, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
    • In God We Trust

      America is 12% non believers.....I think you need more followers!

      September 12, 2012 at 8:04 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son


      September 12, 2012 at 8:06 pm |
    • In God We Trust

      I don't think a 12%vote is going to remove God from the Dems platform. That's what you want but it ain't happening is it?

      September 12, 2012 at 8:11 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Where did you get the idea that I care whether religion is mentioned in a party platform?

      September 12, 2012 at 8:13 pm |
    • In God We Trust

      I don't know about you Tom but I bet most atheists care...

      September 12, 2012 at 8:15 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      I'll take that bet. Prove it.

      September 12, 2012 at 8:16 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You seem to think that all atheists believe the same things. They don't. That's why they don't want or need "followers."

      September 12, 2012 at 8:17 pm |
    • In God We Trust

      Ok...I will. Watch my next question then..

      September 12, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • thecollegeadmissionsguru

      We don't want followers and some of us don't really want to be in politics. What we want is for Christians to keep their religion where it belongs, in their homes and churches and out of the realm of the public. Christians do NOT have a right to force their belief system on others who are not Christians. simple

      September 12, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • In God We Trust

      For atheists only: Because the Democrat Party re-installed the word "God" in their platform, would that affect your vote in any way?

      September 12, 2012 at 8:25 pm |
    • Athy

      A candidate can't get elected unless he panders to a majority of the electorate. Since the majority of the electorate are cross clutchers, the candidates have to at least pretend that they are too. That doesn't have a fucking thing to do with the truth about religion; it's still just superstitious nonsense.

      September 12, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • hawaiiguest


      September 12, 2012 at 8:26 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      My nope was for "In God".

      September 12, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      No, it won't affect my vote at all.

      September 12, 2012 at 8:28 pm |
    • In God We Trust

      Ok, so what you're saying is you'll still vote for the Dems even though they are double crossers or you won't vote at all.

      September 12, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      They better represent my views on most issues than do the Republicans.

      Why is this such an enormous revelation to you? Do you agree with every single thing Romney or Ryan says?

      September 12, 2012 at 8:46 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      I don't really give a shit what the original platform says, since it's just a huge joke anyway. I'm more interested in the actual individuals and their views, history, and integrity.

      September 12, 2012 at 8:47 pm |
    • In God We Trust

      Romney / Ryan doesn't stir me....I wish there was better premium but I have to settle for regular.

      September 12, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Then you're no different than most atheists.

      September 12, 2012 at 8:55 pm |
    • In God We Trust

      Going for the ride?

      September 12, 2012 at 9:00 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What part of this do you fail to grasp? Do you have a better alternative?

      September 12, 2012 at 9:02 pm |
    • In God We Trust

      I did vote for Obama in 08 expecting the economy to rebound and jobs would return. It hasn't happened. I need more bang!

      September 12, 2012 at 9:12 pm |
    • sam stone

      To Christians: If you weren't such a pompous bunch of inbred f's, you may have more converts

      September 12, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      @In God

      You act like the president has some supreme awesome power to magically wave his hand and the economy is fixed. Sorry but that's not how it goes. Yes some of the proposals were bad, but the republicans share a huge part of the blame for the past three years. They've made no secret of being obstructionists, and their priority has been to make Obama look as bad as possible from the very beginning.

      September 12, 2012 at 9:45 pm |
    • In God We Trust

      Tut, tut..why so hostile Sam ? Did I say something to offend you?

      September 12, 2012 at 9:48 pm |
    • In God We Trust

      Obama has had a long leash with taxpayer funded bailouts and never ending promises. I gave him the benefit the first time but not this time around.

      September 12, 2012 at 9:53 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Um, do you realize the first bailout was signed in by bush and went into effect after he left office, and the second was drafted by his cabinet with very little revision before signed in by Obama?

      September 12, 2012 at 9:59 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Anyway, gotta go.

      September 12, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
    • Kraven

      Dude Atheist do not follow or lead they only complain. Do you see any Atheist groups starting up food pantries or helping out the elderly with simple things like grocery shopping. No Never . They do not have followers because they do not have leaders. They do not have leaders because the do not have FAITH in something. The do not have FAITH in something because the reject even the idea or possibility of GOD or that there is a higher purpose to life than whatever it is they want for themselves. I do not write these things as a put down. All of us are sinners and are Born that way. In this regard I guess that one could even say gays are born that way if by saying it you mean they are born to be sinners. Of course you have to perform a Gay act to become gay but that's not something they want to believe either..

      September 13, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • TheSchmaltz

      Kraven: What we don't have is a unifying ideology, other than "keep your delusions from controlling my life:" Also don't have a pathological need to have someone to follow.

      September 13, 2012 at 11:51 am |
    • Bill Deacon

      So Shmalts, with no unifying ideology how can anyone expect representation?

      September 13, 2012 at 1:31 pm |
    • Colin

      @ Kraven, "Do you see any atheist groups starting up food pantries..." Apparently CNN won't let me post the list I came up with. So I leave it to you to answer your own question. Run an internet search for "atheist charities." There's plenty to choose from.

      September 13, 2012 at 2:01 pm |
    • hawaiiguest


      Oh how I sometimes envy the simplistic flawed logic of the believer, then I remember how much I like having complex and independent thought.

      September 13, 2012 at 2:20 pm |
  17. truth

    Eh, it is either voting for a party that still has god was is not hell bent on it, or voting for a party that is the American version of the Taliban. I vote Democrat

    September 12, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  18. Lokust

    Whatever, I'm an atheist and I don't expect our leaders to be atheists. It's clear to me which major party is more accepting of diversity, especially after the DNC.

    September 12, 2012 at 4:56 pm |

      Good ol' diversity will get you every time.....'Dan 7:19 Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, which was diverse from all the others, exceeding dreadful, whose teeth [were of] iron, and his nails [of] brass; [which] devoured, brake in pieces, and stamped the residue with his feet;'

      September 12, 2012 at 10:22 pm |
  19. Isabel

    Well Atheists are ignored because they ignore - that's the basis of atheism - "to ignore" - what can they expect?

    September 12, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
    • sam stone

      isabel: that is not the basis. you are either intentionally lying, or you are just plain misinformed. you choose

      September 12, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
      • Isabel

        I can't hear you, sorry.

        September 15, 2012 at 3:22 am |
      • Isabel

        psycho babble sam - its an art form to say the least, and the best of us are trapped by it at one time or another: its the two sides of the coin: good and evil; and so on... there comes a point where the decision is personal and the walk is by yourself to the destiny you choose... but I know who gave me the ability of FREE WILL and it was no accident, it was part of His plan. Once I saw the Light, I can not turn back.

        October 6, 2012 at 3:47 pm |
    • WDinDallas

      Ignored?? What's an atheist?

      September 12, 2012 at 5:48 pm |

      Why not just say it? Willful ignorance. That's a common human condition.

      September 12, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
      • Isabel

        never heard that phrase "willfill ignorance" - i'll have to try and remember it - good phrase

        September 15, 2012 at 3:21 am |
    • kmfraser

      Ignore? I think you are ignoring how amazing nature and the universe are by asserting that it was created by some higher power. The fact that we exist at all is one big serendipitous accident that I find more beautiful than any kind of "God." I'm not ignoring anything; I'm not limiting myself to one believe or one book or one god. I appreciate everything 🙂

      September 13, 2012 at 9:29 am |
      • Isabel

        what did you say? i couldn't hear you! 🙂

        September 15, 2012 at 3:20 am |

      kmfraser, you have a god,....'Phl 3:19 Whose end [is] destruction, whose God [is their] belly, and [whose] glory [is] in their shame, who mind earthly things.)'

      September 13, 2012 at 9:36 am |
  20. mikey

    This world is going down, and no one is going to stop it. It's written, and also coming to pass. More natural disasters, wars, more evil in the streets, shootings, public displays of hate, the world is getting more wicked. The birthpains to the end times are already here.

    I'm not here to impose my beliefs on this worthless blog. I read the truth, and I see it all over the news.

    God is going to come back in a way that will bring a smile to my face, and a horrifying shout of those who do not know Him.

    September 12, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • sam stone

      darn near makes you wet yourself in anticipation, doesn't it mikey?

      September 12, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • sam stone

      no, mikey, you are just here to bloviate empty proxy threats. go home, boy, and get your shinebox

      September 12, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • Skyler

      you have no right so say that about the people of the world.

      September 12, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • NickZadick

      you religious nûtjobs have been predicting the endtimes since 50 AD ... the earth could indeed be destroyed, but not by your fairy tale man in the sky!!

      September 13, 2012 at 8:16 am |
    • tacc2

      I wish these end times would hurry up already. You religious freaks have been babbling on about them since before anyone can remember.

      September 13, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • TheSchmaltz

      I love when people revel in the suffering of others and claim to be righteous.

      September 13, 2012 at 11:54 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.