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. more2bits

    Religious people threaten more lives than all the bacteria and viruses put together.

    September 13, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  2. Philosophy

    Hatred is a religious thing. Religion breeds hatred." sure whatever...and all the while Nuclear weapons still sit dormant in their silos...

    September 13, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  3. The Decline

    As an athiest i must say...who cares?! Seriously, why does this matter? Most reps from the atheist camp are weirdos who just hate religion altogether so they dont represent me either. That is not the type of person I am and I really dont care if my beliefs have a prominent voice in either party. My life goes on regardless. Im much more concerned with the state of the economy, the massive national debt, unemployment etc. My rep can pray to the Easter Bunny for all I care.

    September 13, 2012 at 3:20 pm |
  4. Fernando

    Back to fundamentals.....
    atheism: The disbelief in the existence of a god or gods.
    disbelief: lack of faith in something,
    There is a vastly different meaning between the two statements;
    "I do not believe there is a god."
    "I do believe there is no god."
    I'm seeing a preponderance of the latter here – atheists who are fervent believers in the non-existence of god. I'm not judging them, but I'd like them to produce what I've requested believers of traditional religions to produce – evidence. Where is it?
    Pointing out illogical religious beliefs is like shooting fish in a barrel, but that is a totally different argument than that of challenging the existence of a god. The only thing accomplished in these debates seems to be the attempted deification of one's own three-pound mass of concentrated nervous tissue. "My gooey mass of something that looks like an Italian marinara pasta dish knows more about the existence of god than yours does."
    Well, my humble lump of brain matter cannot predict where we will all be in a hundred years, but it has deduced that we won't smell very good.

    September 13, 2012 at 2:54 pm |
  5. Glenn

    I am an atheist but I'm not a radical atheist. All atheists are not alike. I do find it disturbing, however, when both parties get in a 'who can be more Christ-y' war. I had hoped that with increasing science and technology we'd be moving away from our puritanical days.

    September 13, 2012 at 2:51 pm |
  6. Kacie

    I'm pretty sure that President Obama did say this should be a nation where people could "believe what they wanted to believe, achieve what they wanted to achieve and love who they wanted to love." (not exact quote) To me that includes Atheists as well. He may not have called you out by name, but that statement does include you. The fact is these guys want to get elected and a large percentage of the country falls under a religious affiliation of some sort (seeking that vote). I think Atheists and any others that felt left out need to decide what measures/issues are important to them and see where the candidate lies. Then make the best decision possible. No one is going to fulfill every single viewpoint of every American. And that is actually a good thing.

    September 13, 2012 at 2:16 pm |
  7. Jon

    I'm an atheist and I don't vote because I refuse to be played for a fool by these politicians. The Dems inserted the word God into their platform because they will get more votes which shows that these people use religion to manipulate people out of their votes. I can't vote for anyone who bases their world view on a religious belief and they all claim to do that so I don't vote. Right now we have a choice between a Mormon and a Christians. I don't want either.

    September 13, 2012 at 1:50 pm |
    • OOO

      No party is going to give you 100% of what you want. Otherwise there would be 350 million parties in this country.
      Just boil down your essentials and pick the guy that comes closest.

      September 13, 2012 at 1:53 pm |
    • Jon

      of course but I refuse to vote for a candidate that bases his policy on his religious beliefs and seeing as how world view and religion go hand in hand it's impossible to have a religious President who doesn't base his decisions his religious beliefs.

      September 13, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
    • lcbouquet

      I have my problems with politics as well but honestly obama doesnt base his beliefs off of religion. I am not really religious, i am not atheist either, and i dont have a problem with people having religion INFORM their political beliefs. Obama is religious but he seems to take the what is good for my country is following my religion. Obama could never really say he isnt basing religion off of beliefs because the country probably wouldn't accept it. But if you really have a problem with religion,itd make more sense to vote for the candidate that is closer to your views because if you don't vote you only make it more likely that the side that really does followw religion to decide politics,which is rimney i

      September 13, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • lcbouquet

      Romney in this race, will win. Which will likely only get you farther away from your ideal.

      September 13, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  8. Pritch

    I thought Atheists didn't believe in god, not that they hated those that did. Seems like they are just confused. The Atheist movement has turned into utter hatred for those that are religious, or more specific, christian. Funny they don't seem to have the same sort of contempt for other religions such as judaism or muslim. Curious why that is.

    September 13, 2012 at 1:41 pm |
    • Fernando

      There are devoted atheists who will hate all people of all faiths equally.

      September 13, 2012 at 2:15 pm |
    • Jon

      It's not hatred it's frustration with policy being dictated by religion. We wouldn't be in any of the wars we are in right now if religion had no effect ton the world.

      September 13, 2012 at 2:30 pm |
    • Jon

      Hatred is a religious thing. Religion breeds hatred.

      September 13, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • TheSchmaltz

      I thought Atheists didn't believe in god, not that they hated those that did. Seems like they are just confused. The Atheist movement has turned into utter hatred for those that are religious, or more specific, christian. Funny they don't seem to have the same sort of contempt for other religions such as judaism or muslim. Curious why that is

      I don't hate religious people. I hate stupid, violent, bigoted people. Many of those are religious and many of those are due to their religion or justify their actions with their religion. Many other religious people are fine and I count many of them among my friends.

      Christianity and Islam are the two that normally have these issues. Jews don't evangelize. Neither do Buddhists, nor Hindus as far as I know. No problem with any of them. Their extremists keep to themselves. If they start killing people or threatening my freedoms, I'll take issue. Right now that comes from two places, and I will defend freedom from them where needed.

      September 14, 2012 at 10:27 am |
  9. Whatever

    Allied Athiest Alliance is the only true Science! Sea Otters Unite!

    September 13, 2012 at 1:38 pm |
  10. T Reynolds

    Create your own party... Call it: " I am going to Hell party because I do not acknowledge that there is a God" Party....

    September 13, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
    • OOO

      Sign me up !

      September 13, 2012 at 1:21 pm |

      Where do I sign up?


      September 13, 2012 at 1:29 pm |
    • FormerChristian

      Actually, it should just be called the "Thomas Jefferson party".

      It seems that religious people would like use to go to a theocracy, ignoring the modern dangers of muslim theocracies, or historic christian theocracies.

      Regarding your comment specifically, what about a party named:
      "I believe in Hell and God with no evidence, and believe that others should be tortured for not believing" Party...

      September 13, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • Interested Observer

      correct me if I'm wrong but Thomas Jefferson was a deist, as were many of the founding fathers. They believed in the existence of God, but perhaps took issue with some of the details that people quibble about, found new religions over and kill each other over.

      September 14, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
  11. Chris


    So in this country we have something called freedom of religion.
    That means people have their right to practice their faiths etc.
    I do not have any quarrels with people who do not believe in a God etc. or any particular religion.
    I do not have any quarrels with people who have different faiths then mine.
    What I do have a problem with is people forcing their beliefs etc. on me.
    " In God we trust" I see as a traditional saying on the $1 bill etc. This country was founded by people of a certain faith.
    Let's stop taking it so literally people.

    September 13, 2012 at 12:57 pm |
    • east

      I strongly agree. Atheists have the right and freedom to not believe and I'll fight for that right, but please don't force your faith of atheism on me.

      September 13, 2012 at 1:24 pm |

      East........atheism is NOT a religion. BY DEFINITION, IT IS TEH ABSENSE OF RELIGION. THINK DUDE!

      September 13, 2012 at 1:30 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      No, by definition, atheism is the absence of belief in God. Some just cling to it religiously.

      September 13, 2012 at 1:35 pm |
    • asdf

      "In god we trust" was added in 1956, it's not that traditional.

      September 13, 2012 at 2:32 pm |
  12. Anthony Coggins

    I look at it this way...

    You choose not to believe. Fine – GREAT! I fully support that, and your right to promote that belief. I even support your asking to have the mention of "God" taken out of the platform.

    But, it was voted on. The MAJORITY of people wanted it in. This is called a "democracy"(actually we are a republic, but that is a different argument). This is how things work – we vote, most votes wins. You had your say and lost. Why should the majority pander to a vocal minority. We accept your right NOT to believe. What about my right to believe?

    September 13, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • sam stone

      Who is blocking your right to believe?

      September 13, 2012 at 12:56 pm |
    • Athy

      But it's contrary to the constitution. Are you suggesting a majority vote should override our constitution?

      September 13, 2012 at 1:15 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Athy, I think this is where things get over leveraged. The separation clause doesn't guarantee you the right to never here about another person's religion, nor does it prohibit the acknowledgement of God in public statements from private organizations (like the DNC).

      September 13, 2012 at 1:20 pm |
    • OOO

      Watch the video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cncbOEoQbOg
      The chairman held 3 votes. Each time NO go louder!
      But the teleprompter already had it written that the vote was yes.

      It was a sham.

      September 13, 2012 at 1:25 pm |
    • Athy

      It's "hear", not "here". And the separation clause would clearly apply to religious mottos on government-issued documents, which money clearly is.

      September 13, 2012 at 1:26 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      OOO, All I can say to that is welcome to Obama's Amerika.

      September 13, 2012 at 1:37 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      I agree Athy, I think the Dems should start a campaign to remove "In God We Trust" from all Federal buildings and monies.

      September 13, 2012 at 1:39 pm |
  13. granger

    FTA -period

    September 13, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  14. Sunnylovetts

    Atheists, lol... what ignorant fools.

    God is so real, you can't discover his truth without faith. Doubt will blind you too him, at least try at least once to have faith in him, he WILL show himself to you.

    This is coming from a once starch atheist.

    September 13, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • sam stone

      Sunny.....what a pompous a$$

      September 13, 2012 at 12:50 pm |
    • FactoidLover

      I see your acceptance of a god hasn't improved your charitable thinking. It would seem to me a true believer would extend compassion, not hurl insults.

      September 13, 2012 at 12:53 pm |

      I pitty you!

      September 13, 2012 at 1:32 pm |
    • Athy

      "pitty"? Try "pity" next time.

      September 13, 2012 at 2:28 pm |
  15. Patrick

    Even Satanist's are above Atheist's. Atheist's are the proverbial Ostridge, they have their heads in the sand!!

    September 13, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • FactoidLover

      That is simple bigotry. It's like saying Jews, Blacks, Asians, Muslims, Gays, etc. are less than you. Do you make your accusation out of fear, ignorance, or both?

      September 13, 2012 at 12:51 pm |
    • sam stone

      Still begging for salvation, Patty?

      September 13, 2012 at 12:52 pm |

      When you pressed "ENTER" to post your NONSESE did you pray to your imaginary god that the info will be transmitted to CNN or DID YOU COUNT ON SCIENTIFIC FACT?

      September 13, 2012 at 1:34 pm |
    • EnjaySea

      And you feel that I am sub-human for what reason? Does this kindness, compassion, and tolerance come from your devotion to Jesus?

      September 13, 2012 at 3:15 pm |
  16. FADUTA

    The answer to who represents these clowns is apparently no one does. Might that be their clue. Ya think?!

    September 13, 2012 at 12:44 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Theological reality 101 right there folks!

      September 13, 2012 at 1:22 pm |
  17. James

    Since our country was founded on God and his premise it would be kind of hard to represent someone who doesn't beleve in it, not too hard to understand,eh?

    September 13, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
    • Atheist Soldier

      Our country was founded on religious freedom...not god.

      September 13, 2012 at 12:19 pm |
    • FactoidLover

      The US was founded on impartiality to religion – meaning the government doesn't take a religious point of view. The founders felt the best way to have all religious and non-religious sentiments acknowledged was to remain impartial. That's separation of church and state.

      Politicians may be religious and may reveal that their personal religious beliefs influence them as humans. Secularists take that knowledge into calculation when they vote. Those of us who are non-religious and non-theistic feel our voice is devalued when a political party doesn't adhere to this governmental principle.

      September 13, 2012 at 12:48 pm |
    • sam stone

      James: Country was founded on freedom of religion.

      September 13, 2012 at 12:53 pm |
    • Joe800

      ....our country was founded by businessmen looking for a place to escape the bigotry and taxation of a church led State....if you werent the 'right' religion you were blocked from access to State leaders and certain business and privileges...sorta like trying to be christian and do business in Iran...never gonna get fair opportunity....the pilgrims that came to this country were the minority religion but were led and financed by business....

      September 13, 2012 at 1:14 pm |
  18. TheSchmaltz

    (thought we already had one)

    Which one? We have one party that doesn't beat the Bible like a wardrum and one that does. They're plenty religious without being jerks about it.

    September 13, 2012 at 11:59 am |
  19. i12bphil

    American atheists are nothing but self-made victims. They feel persecuted whenever someone mentions "God" (a generic word, not a name) because the paranoia in their minds is so ridiculously inflated they feel someone has a gun to their head telling them what to believe. Freedom of religion includes your right to not believe, so get over it already.

    September 13, 2012 at 11:45 am |
    • Atheist Soldier

      No, we feel threatened when we are FORCED to endure religious action is all. Big difference. Yes, there are some radicals out there though that at the very mention of a religious figure, go on some tirade against religion. I am a former Christian and although I think it is a primitive way of explaining existence and the "meaning of life" and so much more, I respect other people's right to practice their religion.

      September 13, 2012 at 12:25 pm |
    • sam stone

      interesting statement, given how many christians are on these boards, complaining that they are being persecuted for jeebus

      September 13, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • FactoidLover

      I don't feel threatened and certainly don't feel a victim. But I do experience the more general bigotry that exists. I was born in the 50s and most adults I knew then felt a person of color as a politician was dangerous because they were not admirable, moral, etc., etc. Today there is a lot that same feeling towards atheists. Bigotry is unfounded, but when pervasive it causes problems.

      September 13, 2012 at 1:02 pm |
  20. Festivus for the rest of us

    I am offended by the offended. Look what this lead to at the Libyan Consulate. We all need to toughen up, the world is dangerous place and stop dumbing down our society to pander to every groups interest or offense. This type of victimhood is a CANCER on our society. If you want a Godless party (thought we already had one) then have at it. Start with action not whining and CNN stop enabling this type unproductive behavior (cover page REALLY?)

    September 13, 2012 at 11:39 am |
    • T Reynolds

      Amen... At the rate we are going, The U.S. will fall to Political Correctness. Boo hoo , whine whine....

      September 13, 2012 at 1:13 pm |
    • jim

      Actually I think a new Atheist party would be a bad idea. You would end up vote splitting with the democratic party and then the republicans would win every time.

      September 13, 2012 at 1:24 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.