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. Transcending

    Let me try again in different words, was wondering how do you explain ghost and such since many of us have had experiences and it is undeniable?

    September 6, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • electcongress

      I don't believe in ghosts. I have never heard of factual evidence that supports ghosts. Why haven't well respected universities conducted research on ghosts? They don't exist.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:05 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Because it is deniable? Personal experience is the least reliable source of data.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:10 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Actually, some seious research has been done. Give you one guess as to the results.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
    • Jamielee

      I don't believe in ghost or goblins or the devil. And it is deniable there is not evidence of ghosts only paranoid people hoping that death isn't really then end of life. Atheists have accepted it and don't need the cushion of an imaginary afterlife with clouds and angels.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:14 pm |
    • Transcending

      I know people make things up but many have been reliable sources. Just know anybody that played with Ouiji board says evil things happen. I'm too scared to mess with it to find out lol Have you?

      September 6, 2012 at 11:15 pm |
    • Jamielee

      Did you just refer to a Hasbro game board sold at toys r us as your undeniable evidence of ghosts?

      September 6, 2012 at 11:20 pm |
    • electcongress

      I own an ouija board. It is a prop for my halloween parties. They are pretty stupid to play with because you can always feel who is moving the cursor. I didn't know something trademarked by Milton-Bradley could summon ghosts.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:21 pm |
    • electcongress

      Jamielee is right, it is Hasbro. My bad.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:23 pm |
    • Transcending

      No Jamielee I was speaking of other things but that was one that others have brought up.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:30 pm |
    • Bob

      Transcending, nothing you presented is "undeniable". The courageous and appropriate answer when you don't know the cause of something, is simply to acknowledge that you don't know. Saying "god did it", or "it was a supernatural being", when you really don't know, is merely a response of laziness and cowardice.

      So get off your lazy ass and look for a reasonable explanation. Usually there is one, and if you can't find one, at least find the courage to say that you don't know, rather than taking the typical Christian "god did it"wimp-out or claiming it was a ghost.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:37 pm |
    • Transcending

      Wow Bob you sound angry, I have been doing my search thank you very much, you might need to take meds for your anger issue and name calling, they have done proven research on that!

      September 21, 2012 at 9:25 am |
  2. MommytoanE

    What the heck happened to the seperation of church and government? Who cares what religion you are...or what you believe in, those beliefs should not affect our laws.

    September 6, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
  3. IndyMike

    Maybe it is time for the atheists to start their own political party. The liberal Democrats blow whichever way the wind is blowing and we all know where the Republicans stand. The Libertarians aren't the answer as they are very attractive to evangelicals who are fed up with the Republicans.

    September 6, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      The liberal dems are stil our best bet since they do not seem hell-bent on jamming their religious beliefs down my throat and the libertarians are just to callous for my tastes.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
  4. shawn

    I will not argue or try to reason to anyone who wants a debate.their minds are made up. The only people I see who try to force their beliefs down peoples throats are gays , liberals , atheists ,or middle eastern ,etc etc. Fact is this country was founded upon christian based principals with the ( right to believe and worship as you want) ok( read that again please !)...this does not mean that people are not allowed to worship god or mention god as they choose either. The principal of separation of church and state is a fable!. or anyone who chooses the right to speak about their faith in public or just make a simple statement about it should not be deemed evil as example in what happened with all the dust up over chick fil a.. anyone can and should be granted a right to speak and believe as they choose and worship as they choose but you people who will not allow others to do this by trying to say its your right and separation of church and state etc are dead wrong and are hypocrites ! Be a true American and be free and let others be free to do as they wish. After all God will be the one who judges all in the end.

    September 6, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • Joe

      How is the separation of church and state a fable?

      September 6, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • Gadflie

      Shawn, the man who wrote the Bill of Rights strongly disagreed with you.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Shawn, you stack delusion upon delusion.... You should take a course on the Consti.tution. (And not in Lynchburg)

      September 6, 2012 at 11:09 pm |
    • lynnmarie2u

      You have just eliminated a major portion of the country! So in essence what you have said,is that anyone who does not agree with you,is not worth talking/listening to.And yes,everyone has the right to worship/believe,as they choose. And others who do not believe also have the same right,and also to not be told that they have to believe to be true American's. We need to be inclusive in this country,be respectful,stop judging based on a word,or an ideology.And in this country,those that feel that they are being oppressed,have for generations spoke out to make changes,and that is how our country has progressed all these yrs

      September 6, 2012 at 11:11 pm |
    • old ben

      At least three huge fallacies, shawn, but I'll just hit on three:

      1+2. "Fact is this country was founded upon christian based principals . ." Dead wrong. It was founded on the principle of freedom. It is because we have the first amendment that we know how strongly they, as a ratifying group, wanted to protect the union from being a theocracy in any direction. That you see that the founders' values align with your christian values makes you think that other people don't have those values. If you've already taken high school government, I strongly urge you repeat that course.

      3. "The only people I see who try to force their beliefs down peoples throats are gays , liberals , atheists ,or middle eastern ,etc etc. " Christians force their beliefs down the throats of other people every day. You, like many christian lemmings, are just numb to the effects of the other lemmings around you.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
  5. Jamielee

    I'm Atheist. What is your question?

    September 6, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
  6. Liz the First

    This is a secular country. The Democrats want to keep it that way! who do you think represents you? the party that respects freedom of and from religion, or the party that wants to make this country a theocracy? get real!

    September 6, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Yep, as I noted earlier, an easy, obvious choice. No need to whine about it.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
  7. Joe

    Why can't religion be the answer to "why" and science the answer to "how"? Why does there have to be so much divisiveness over the issue? Whether or not they put the word "God" into their party platform doesn't mean they care about Christians' issues and if they leave it out, then it doesn't mean they care about non-theists' issues either. If Christians and non-theists could learn to accept their differences and stop trying to each convert the other, through faith or reason or whatever, then we could be a peaceful and respectful place to live that has the presence of mind to focus on issues that we have in common and that really matter.

    September 6, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
  8. bibleverse1

    If Americans can stop making others feel small. Stop attacking people because of what they believe or do not believe and just try to love. You may not always succeed but good will come.

    September 6, 2012 at 10:57 pm |
  9. John in Snyrna

    As a fiscally conservative atheist, I feel that I fit in very well in the Libertarian Party.

    September 6, 2012 at 10:55 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Frankly the ONLY two real choices are Dems and libertarians.. I still get a chuckle from the Log Cabin Repubs....They must have had a HUGE closet at Tropicana field for the RNC. Do atheists and gays get their own closets or is it shared? Must be real uncomfortable for the ones in self-denial.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
  10. bigdoggie

    "But, the Babel Fish is a dead giveaway!"

    September 6, 2012 at 10:54 pm |
  11. Jimbo

    Athiest and agnostics unite and vote Libertarian!

    September 6, 2012 at 10:52 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Nah, I'm much more aligned with the Dems on this one....
      I used to be an independent. Technically I still am, but ever since the Republicans let the far right dictate terms and completely gave up on the middle I've become an independent in name only.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • EZdidit

      No way. I'm agnostic and would never "unite" with atheists. They're way too full of themselves.

      September 7, 2012 at 12:10 am |
  12. Stephen

    My son asked me not to vote this year because neither party recognized Santa Claus in their platforms. He's also tweaked about the Tooth Fairy omission but the Santa thing really lit him up.

    September 6, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • Rodboy

      Stephen , did also explain to your son that you do not know where matter came from , nor how the atoms are held together in the beginning. So while you try to think up a good answer better than the one " it has always been here, that your science people believe. Sleep tight.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:03 pm |
    • Stephen

      I would rather admit to my son that I do not know and that science does not know rather than cop out with the idea that a mythical being made it happen. I do not know is a reasonable answer while god did it is not.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
  13. Transcending

    Hey any atheist on this board? I have a serious question please.

    September 6, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
    • hawaiiguest

      Right here. Make it quick though I only got like 10 mins.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:51 pm |
    • electcongress

      i am, ask away

      September 6, 2012 at 10:53 pm |
    • Transcending

      Well I'm trying to ask but don't think it is posting, my computer is messing up.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
    • Jimbo

      Ok let's hear it? And I don't want to see any bible versus.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:56 pm |
    • Jimbo

      CNN, blah, I feel for you man.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • Transcending

      No bible verses but everytime I ask it does not go through, can't be too long cause see other post on here are going through, geez.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      You are probably using a word with a banned word embedded in it. i.e. Consti.tution or as.sumption. or circu.mstance.....

      September 6, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
    • Jimbo

      Some words don't work on these boards. If any of the words you are trying to use have a swear word just hidden in them like an a with 2 ss following even if it's not a bad word it will get rejected. Try writing with different words.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:01 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      There's probably a hidden "dirty word" that the filter is catching – something like "t.it" in const.itution.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • Helpful Hints

      Bad letter combinations / words to avoid if you want to get past the CNN automatic filter:
      Many, if not most, are buried within other words, so use your imagination.
      You can use dashes, spaces, or other characters or some html tricks to modify the "offending" letter combinations.
      ar-se.....as in ar-senic.
      co-ck.....as in co-ckatiel, co-ckatrice, co-ckleshell, co-ckles, etc.
      co-on.....as in racc-oon, coc-oon, etc.
      cu-m......as in doc-ument, accu-mulate, circu-mnavigate, circu-mstances, cu-mbersome, cuc-umber, etc.
      ef-fing...as in ef-fing filter
      ft-w......as in soft-ware, delft-ware, swift-water, drift-wood, etc.
      ho-mo.....as in ho-mo sapiens or ho-mose-xual, ho-mogenous, sopho-more, etc.
      ho-oters…as in sho-oters
      ho-rny....as in tho-rny, etc.
      hu-mp… as in th-ump, th-umper, th-umping
      jacka-ss...yet "ass" is allowed by itself.....
      ja-p......as in j-apanese, ja-pan, j-ape, etc.
      koo-ch....as in koo-chie koo..!
      o-rgy….as in po-rgy, zo-rgy, etc.
      pi-s......as in pi-stol, lapi-s, pi-ssed, therapi-st, etc.
      p-oon… as in sp-oon, lamp-oon, harp-oon
      p-orn… as in p-ornography
      pr-ick....as in pri-ckling, pri-ckles, etc.
      ra-pe.....as in scra-pe, tra-peze, gr-ape, thera-peutic, sara-pe, etc.
      se-x......as in Ess-ex, s-exual, etc.
      sm-ut…..as in transm-utation
      sp-ic.....as in desp-icable, hosp-ice, consp-icuous, susp-icious, sp-icule, sp-ice, etc.
      sp-ook… as in sp-ooky, sp-ooked
      ti-t......as in const-itution, att-itude, t-itle, ent-ity, alt-itude, beat-itude, etc.
      tw-at.....as in wristw-atch, nightw-atchman, salt-water, etc.
      va-g......as in extrava-gant, va-gina, va-grant, va-gue, sava-ge, etc.
      who-re....as in who're you kidding / don't forget to put in that apostrophe!
      There's another phrase that someone found, "wo-nderful us" (have no idea what sets that one off).

      September 6, 2012 at 11:02 pm |
    • Transcending

      What about Ouiji boards and the evil things people have happen to them?

      September 6, 2012 at 11:06 pm |
    • Gadflie

      Ouiji boards are laughable and bad things happen. Any other questions?

      September 6, 2012 at 11:12 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Ouija boards?!?!?!? You're kidding, right? I thought they were strictly the territory of teenage girls!

      September 6, 2012 at 11:17 pm |
    • Transcending

      Gadflie I think just don't know how to ask and when I do put it in elaborate words it don't go through.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:19 pm |
    • ssnowak


      You do realize Quiji Boards are made by Hasbro, right? Hasbro.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:22 pm |
    • Transcending

      Just find it strange that we need food, water, air and many other things, yet it is here for us to have in order to survive. How would a big bang or equivelent add up to that. Are we just parasites who found a way? LOL
      I'm a very curious and open minded person, guess want easy answers.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:25 pm |
    • Transcending

      ssnowak yes that I don't take serious, a friend made one and he had evil experiences after that such as seeing demons and such. I have talked to others who say they heard voices. I know you all laugh at it but these people are sincere.

      September 6, 2012 at 11:28 pm |
    • Rufus T. Firefly

      "Just find it strange that we need food, water, air and many other things, yet it is here for us..."

      Transcending, i would argue that you're thinking about that exactly backwards. Food, water, and air were here before us, and are thus the environment we are adapted to. Life evolved in water, and evolved to respire oxygen (we know from isotope ratios in marine rock that oxygen was not so abundant before land plants started producing it), and evolved to be able to eat the nutrients that are available.

      It's tempting to view the universe as centered on our needs, rather than our needs being a result of the universe; but that is ultimately the equivalent of arguing that hands have four fingers and a thumb so that they will fit into gloves. It's like arguing that air pressure exists so that planes can fly. It's entirely backwards.

      September 7, 2012 at 12:05 am |
  14. Terry

    Atheists do exist.. They may be the only relatively sane people ( i.e, not delusional) left in the USA...The only ones capable of actually accepting that others believe, as long as they do not force it down everyone's throat.... the only ones capable of making a difference between a social issue and a religious issue..
    Yes they should have a larger voice... and the Democratic Party should acknowledge that voice..( I am not expecting the GOP bigots to be able to)..
    ENOUGH ...ENOUGH of this "melange" between religion, social and political issues... Keep religion where it should be : in the hearts and minds of those who believe, not to get out and oppress others...If we keep putting God and Religion into everything, we will be no different from a theocracy like Iran..

    September 6, 2012 at 10:50 pm |
  15. Transcending


    September 6, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
  16. lynnmarie2u

    I am not an atheist,but more agnostic in my views. And while I respect those that do have faith and believe,the same should be applied to those that have chosen for whatever reasons not to.Non-believers are no less moral than those that do believe,no less responsible to their families,communities,etc.With so many ways to access information in this day and age,it truly is sad that so many judge by a word,and not on who the person is. If we want to make the world a better place,we need to start with ourselves,learning to be tolerant of those who are not only different in thinking,but color,race,etc.We each get one shot at how we leave the world for the future,and if we do not start to be better at it,tomorrow will surely be worse than what we have today.

    September 6, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
  17. Taleah


    September 6, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
  18. MarkinFL

    Some people are just to thin skinned. Maybe because I grew up around so many rabid right-wing religious folk, I can easily deal with the benign believers that aren't trying to shove their beliefs down my throat.
    You are just fooling yourself if you think this country is ready to acknowledge its true secular nature. Half the people can barely deal other religions( if at all), much less no religion.
    It does me no more harm to hear someone pray than a gay marriage does to anyone else's life. Live and let live. No harm, no foul.

    September 6, 2012 at 10:47 pm |
  19. LOLO Jones

    Why are Atheists so angry?

    September 6, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
    • lynnmarie2u

      Maybe for the same reasons those that believe are so angry-intolerance and bigotry.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:48 pm |
    • c'mon MAN

      because we're waiting for the rest of you to wake up and use your brain

      September 6, 2012 at 10:58 pm |
    • electcongress

      I'm actually very rarely angry. I get asked a lot why I smile so much. Life is too short to be angry. I realize that this is my only chance on this great Earth of ours so I try to enjoy every minute. Almost all other atheists I know are not angry people but the happiest, most understanding, individuals I know.

      September 6, 2012 at 10:59 pm |
    • MarkinFL

      Anger is usually counter-productive....Also, "atheists" are not a hom.ogenous group....you may as well address everyone between 6'1"" and 6' 3".

      I guess hom.ogenous is filtered as well.... :/

      September 6, 2012 at 11:04 pm |
  20. Ally

    I don't care whether or not a political party represents me, I just want to be able to represent myself. Everyone in my school is catholic (though you wouldn't guess by the things the guys say and the girls wear) so, anytime anyone asks about my beliefs I lie and say I'm christian. It makes me feel terrible though I don't want to tell them I'm atheist because, I have enough problems with my parents both gone and I don't need all my piers trying to shove their bible down my throat. I even tell my two best friends I'm agnostic and not atheist because they are both christian and they are the only people at my school I enjoy hanging out with and I can't risk losing them.
    It might sound stupid but, I just wish that I could tell people the truth about my faith at me school without being branded a terrible person. I could care less wether or not either party adds religious words to their platform, I'm an independent so they can do whatever they please. Though I want society to progress to the point where I and anyone else can say how they feel about this kind of stuff without being judged. I could say I wished for a magical wand that could achieve this but, than I wouldn't be an Atheist now would I? XD

    September 6, 2012 at 10:44 pm |
    • Timothy Richardson

      Ally, I feel for you. Not because you can't tell anyone, but because your an Atheist. You know I once was very similer to you, at one times I was Rocky about believing in GOD. But Jesus opened my Eyes one day and showed me how real he was. When he Knocked on my Heart and told me that I was Lost. Yes Jesus does speak to People, its NOT a Human Voice but like a Still Wind in your Heart. Its the BEST Feeling in the World. When Jesus Saved my Soul, it was the Best Night of my Life. I Pray Ally that you Recieve the same Gift I Recieved and that is SALVATION!

      September 6, 2012 at 11:01 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.