First on CNN: Atheists ratchet up rhetoric, use billboards to attack Republican politicians
March 3rd, 2013
05:00 AM ET

First on CNN: Atheists ratchet up rhetoric, use billboards to attack Republican politicians

By Dan Merica, CNN
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Washington (CNN) – An atheist organization known for being provocative plans to take that reputation to the next level this week by putting up seven billboards that call out prominent politicians and religious leaders.

American Atheists plans to target three Republican politicians: former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, former House Speak Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

The seven signs will go up around Dallas and Austin, Texas.

In one billboard, a picture of Palin is featured on the left, with a quote attributed to her. "We should create law based on the God of the Bible," the quote reads. Underneath the graphic is a tag line "GO GODLESS INSTEAD."

The billboard, however, misquotes Palin. In an interview with Fox News’ Bill O'Reilly, Palin addressed the growth in American secularism by saying America's founding fathers "would create law based on the God of the Bible and the Ten Commandments," not "should."

Each of the billboards has a similar format and includes a pitch for the group’s 50th anniversary convention in Austin.

Santorum is condemned for when he told an Iowa crowd last November that, "our civil laws have to comport with a higher law: God's law," while Gingrich is criticized for a remark he made at a CNN debate on October 18, 2011, in Las Vegas. "How can I trust you with power if you don't pray," Gingrich posited.

Virginia Davis, spokeswoman for Santorum, thanked American Atheists for the publicity.

"At a time when many are trying to remove God from the public square, the senator is appreciative of someone helping him very publicly express his strong belief that we are one nation under God," Davis wrote in an e-mail to CNN.

American Atheists President David Silverman, however, sees the billboards as a way to shame the targets.

"We at American Atheists are shaming these leaders for their bigoted and backwards remarks and attitudes, and conveying a message to today's atheists that we need not take it anymore," Silverman wrote in an e-mail to CNN.

Two religious leaders, the Rev. Robert Jeffress, pastor at the First Baptist Dallas, and Benedict XVI, now the pope emeritus, also are featured on billboards.

Jeffress' billboard includes a quote the pastor said during a 2008 sermon titled, "Gay Is Not OK." "What they [homosexuals] do is filthy," reads the billboard. Under the quote is the phrase "Go Godless Instead" and a rainbow flag, a symbol of gay rights.

This will be the only ad placed in Dallas, featured in a busy stretch of Interstate 30 and only a few miles from Jeffress' large church.

The First Baptist Church of Dallas is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention. Jeffress, who has been in its pulpit since 2007, is no stranger to controversy, including comments about Judiasm and Catholicism. After introducing Texas Gov. Rick Perry at the Values Voter Summit in Washington in October 2011, Jeffress told reporters he believed Mormonism was a cult, expressing a personal position and one held by his denomination. The move was seen as a particular slight to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a lifelong Mormon.

The billboard featuring Benedict XVI, who stepped down Thursday, cites a New York Times article entitled, "Vatican Declined to Defrock U.S. Priest Who Abused Boys." "The Church Protected Priests Who Abused Children," reads the billboard.

Silverman says the group plans to spend $25,000 on the billboards, which will go up on Monday and remain up for the rest of March.

"Everyone should be allowed to profess their faith, of course, but that does not shield them from criticism," Silverman wrote. "Everyone has the responsibility to lead moral lives, and 'It's my religion' is not an excuse for bigotry or immorality."

Silverman continued: "Some Americans seem to think that bigotry in the name of religion is somehow permissible. It is not. We hope that the believers of Austin place anti-atheist bigotry in the same category as anti-Semitism or racism - a relic of the past that needs to be jettisoned for all the right reasons."

Six of the billboards will be dispersed around the Austin area, with four placed on high traffic freeways.

This is not the first time American Atheists has used billboards to get its message out.

Last March, the group targeted Muslims and Jews with billboards that called God a "myth" in both Arabic and Hebrew.

In November 2010, the same group posted a billboard around the holiday season that read, "You KNOW it's a Myth. This Season, Celebrate REASON."

Silverman, who has been criticized for this in-your-face atheism, has long defended the tactic, saying that the confrontation is meant to "grow the cause and benefit the country."

"That's why companies buy billboards - to get attention," Silverman wrote.

- Dan Merica

Filed under: Atheism • Belief • Catholic Church • Newt Gingrich • Politics • Pope • Rick Santorum • Sarah Palin

soundoff (3,513 Responses)
  1. Thinkergal

    I am not an atheist, but I am sick of the attempts to intrude the narrow confines of the far-right Christian conservatives into every aspect of my life! Go Silverman.

    March 3, 2013 at 10:55 am |
    • Frank Bonora

      Thinker gal please don't get too frustrated and give up arguing your point. As fruitless as it may seem the more we discuss our opinions and arguments the more exposure we get on religion the closer we get to separating church from state.

      March 3, 2013 at 11:14 am |
    • anthony

      Yet you enjoy atheism who try to run the show and strip everything away from people who believe because they disagree? They are no different from each other since they are trying to dictate the way people think and live life. This is America where we are suppose to be free yet they take those freedoms away from select people they disagree with. No one is keeping them from their lack of religion yet because they feel infringed on they feel the need to strip Americans of their freedoms. Its very sad.

      March 3, 2013 at 11:20 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What rights have YOU lost, anthony?

      Yet you and the religious right are attempting to take away the rights of women and prevent people from marrying.

      March 3, 2013 at 11:22 am |
    • HotAirAce

      anthony, please itemize the rights that have been taken away by atheists. Before answering, consider that there is not a single atheist on the Supreme Court – you more properly should be blaming the jews and the catholics.

      March 3, 2013 at 11:24 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Funny, anthony is silent here but is spouting off in answer to another post.


      March 3, 2013 at 11:30 am |
    • Mike

      Hi, Who from the "Christian Right" has intruded in your life. I find atheists to be bigoted bullies who want me to alter my life just so they can denude the nation from anything that is good and moral. I know this is bragging, but the Christians I hang with are really cool. They are a lot of fun to be around...and when things really get tough, they stick like glue. But everything I've just said is absolutely true of Jesus. I apologize for others of my faith who have offended you. Again, there are a lot of us out there who are fun to be around.

      March 3, 2013 at 1:26 pm |
    • Scott

      So weak that you feel you're being intruded on, get a spine you coward.

      March 3, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
    • Doobs

      @ mike

      You are welcome to believe what you wish. However, you do not have the right to have your beliefs encoded into civil law that affects everyone, including those who do not share your beliefs.

      People who espouse denying others their civil rights are not "fun" for me to be around, but that's just me.

      March 3, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Hours later and Anthony cannot itemize a single lost right. Typical christian blow hard.

      March 3, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
  2. us_1776

    The Sky Fairy does not exist.

    Get over it.


    March 3, 2013 at 10:55 am |
    • confused person

      holy cr*p - that was one heck of an original statement you just said there!! Your intellect is so overwhelming I just cannot resist...wait...no...I must declare my recent acceptance of Atheism!!

      March 3, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
  3. Peter

    Why are these people kicking dead horses? Palin, Gingrich, and Santorum are all has-beens, their careers are already over, and election season has been over for more than four months. I don't believe in religion either, but these new AA's are starting to look a lot like the people they are attacking.

    March 3, 2013 at 10:55 am |
    • anthony

      Especially when they do not even quote them correctly seems more like attacks on each of their characters, and for what? What is their goal? To show the country how much they hate people who they disagree with? Makes no sense why they would rather attack then show people why its such a good idea to be an atheist? Remember this is america none of those people are in leadership they are allowed to feel what and how they do and if they run for office then you can remind people of what they stand for, but for now your attacking americans based on their beliefs. Very poor if you ask me.

      March 3, 2013 at 11:23 am |
    • Doobs

      There's no reason to stop fighting against the continuing infringement of religion into civil law. The next Sarah Palin or Newt Gingrich is just a few Fox News sound bites away. These people want to deny rights to those who don't believe what they do.

      March 3, 2013 at 11:59 am |
    • NJreader

      Well said.

      March 3, 2013 at 12:37 pm |
  4. Rick

    If we open the door widely to religious extremists and allow them in government, how long before Muslims start getting elected?

    March 3, 2013 at 10:54 am |
    • Frank Bonora

      That is an excellent point. The war on terrorism is really a war against Islam. I think we should never lose sight of the objective to separate church from state.

      March 3, 2013 at 11:08 am |
    • anthony

      the war on terriosm is not a war on islam just extremism and people trying to kill others. We waged war on the taliban and al quada both groups that were killing and destroying their own population. I have seen 1st hand what both groups have done to their own population they needed to be stopped.

      March 3, 2013 at 11:25 am |
    • Mike

      So are you saying we should open the door to secular extremists? They did that in Germany in 1933...hmmm?

      March 3, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • Wilbur

      Muslims already have been elected.

      March 3, 2013 at 4:49 pm |
  5. keeth

    Yes, Sarah. Let's do create laws based on the God of the Bible. Shut your mouth, get in the kitchen, and make me a turkey pot pie like a good little subservient Christian woman.

    March 3, 2013 at 10:54 am |
  6. Roscoe Chait

    In response to Sarah Palin's comments, as I recall, the God of the Bible is depicted IN THE BIBLE as a ruthless, vengeful, murdering creature who keeps thinking up new and better ways to make human beings pay for being... well, human. Is this the God dear Sarah wants us to follow? Is this the God GOP politicians want us to worship?

    March 3, 2013 at 10:51 am |
    • counter

      Try reading the Gospels with and open mind and you won't feel that way. The god of the O.T. does not do those things any longer.

      March 3, 2013 at 11:26 am |
    • P. R.

      Yes, but supposedly the "God" of the Old Testament IS the same deity as of the New, right? I mean, it IS the same "God" yes?

      So, even if "He" stopped being such an evil, horrid, spiteful supernatural creature, it can never negate that "He" WAS as such.

      Wake up. Please. Think for yourself for a change. Books are WRITTEN by people (just as was your Bible...HUMAN authors and many, MANY of them)...they cannot think for us. Unless we let them.

      March 3, 2013 at 12:00 pm |
    • Counter

      i woke up a long time ago when i realized that Jesus Christ died for me and overcame my sin. Sorry, not playing your silly game of thinking there is no creator. You materialists can talk when you actually do things like start hospitals, soup kitchens, start charities like World Vision , Compassion , and help those that are less fortunate than us. I don't see atheists do those things, as your philsophy is just an excuse for self aggrandizement and promotion.

      March 3, 2013 at 6:23 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      What evidence do you have that unbelievers aren't involved in charity? That they don't donate money to help others?
      Where does a good bit of the money you put in the collection plate go? To the upkeep of the church building? To buy hymnbooks and vestments? To pay the minister?

      You give to your church. I'll give directly to those who need it.

      March 3, 2013 at 6:26 pm |
    • P. R.

      @counter – Your willful ignorance and blindness is the illness of your ilk. Those that CHOOSE to believe in mystical foolishness and mythological tomfoolery are children of both mind and spirit. Your fear consumes you and causes you to abandon all responsibility to your "Sky Father" and so you CHOOSE an oppressive dogma designed to relieve you of your money, free will, and self-destiny. You point the finger at those who CHOOSE (remember, you CHOOSE to believe in that which isn't there...akin to Santa and the Tooth Fairy as children) a life of science, fact, logic, reason AND compassion, morality, and love...all of these things based in REALITY and not dependent upon one of the most confusing, contradictory, and mistranslated historical texts of our species. Go run and hide behind your precious Xtianity all you want, but only if you admit that your hateful religion has FAR MORE EVILS to answer for than good. Go ahead...make me line them all out here for you...I dare you...

      Religions of ALL kinds, your days are numbered. Enjoy your active myths while you can...

      March 4, 2013 at 9:09 am |
  7. SkepticalOne

    I would be happy to just get the creationists off the science committee. If you don't believe in science, you have no business making decisions about it.

    March 3, 2013 at 10:50 am |
  8. Neil S

    One of the poster here posted the following:


    I believe Christianity is the only true religion on earth since it is based on the Bible which is the word of our Lord in heaven. He sent his Son Lord Jesus to die for our sins. We ignore HIM at out own peril. Scientists say all the complicated stuff like nothing can go faster than light (light is everywhere; if there is speed of light how can it be everywhere), quantum theory which says a thing is both a wave and a particle (how absurd is that!!) and that we came from Monkeys and Chimpanzees (but we do not have a single record of a Monkey or Chimpanzee turning into a human being). They say they have proof but offer complicated equations and other stuff 99.99% of people do not understand. How funny is that? Seek our Lord and be saved. Science is but a tool of Satan to take us away from our Lord, for all we know..."

    It is the unfortunate blithering pathetic tragedy of comments as this astounding above stupidity and Ignorance which represents the greatest threat to culture and civilization.

    March 3, 2013 at 10:47 am |
    • SkepticalOne

      The ignorance you just displayed is a perfect argument for why we don't want those blinded by religion to be making laws.

      March 3, 2013 at 10:53 am |
    • Roland R

      If you are talking about the Christian God, his name is JEALOUS (Exodus 34:14) so by using wrong names you're breaking, one if not a couple of commandments. So be careful. And may Jealous be with you.

      March 3, 2013 at 10:55 am |
    • Aydin

      Reread that original post very carefully and ask yourself if it is a real post? No wonder trolls have it so easy.

      March 3, 2013 at 10:59 am |
    • holly

      seriously neil, you have never read ANYTHING on evolution, NEVER EVER did we come from apes or monkeys! that is not why do you spout off about something you know nothing of?? we share a common ancestor millions of years ago with what are now modern monkeys!! learn to read and then apply that new skill to learning about evolution before you make yourself seem any more stupid!!!

      March 3, 2013 at 5:29 pm |
  9. Grampa

    Refrigerators are great, but why waste time trying to sell them to polar bears?

    March 3, 2013 at 10:47 am |
    • HarryGP

      Cash on the table never stopped anyone.

      March 3, 2013 at 11:22 am |
  10. P. R.

    The only problem with this ad campaign is that it ISN'T being run nationally.

    Were that there was funding for 1000s of these VERY NECESSARY billboards!!

    The United States is NOT a theocracy nor was it EVER INTENDED TO BE a theocracy. Period.

    If you want to live in a theocracy based upon antiquarian hateful mysticism, misogyny, bigotry, lies, and control just head to the Middle East and pick your favorite Sharia law nation...just leave legislation based upon your CHOSEN religious "morality" the hell out of American governance!!

    A godless America is a thinking, progressive, compassionate, logical America. No spiteful, petty deities necessary, thank you very much.

    March 3, 2013 at 10:47 am |
    • counter

      The history of atheistic governments does not back up your compassionate claim. Those that have had Christianity as a basis and influenced their societies have been very compassionate in contrast. Your statement is not backed up by history in any way , shape or form.

      March 3, 2013 at 11:29 am |
    • Doobs

      Do you mean countries like Japan, Norway, Denmark, Australia, the Czech Republic, Sweden and Austria? Those places seem to be doing pretty well.

      March 3, 2013 at 12:13 pm |
    • P. R.

      @counter – The foolishness of your arguments needs no counter. When you become an adult and care to chat about REALITY with the rest of us, you just come on back, K?

      March 4, 2013 at 9:11 am |
    • Daddy

      Hmmmm. Let's take care of some of your logical fallacies. There has never been an atheist government on the face of the planet. The communist ones you hint at were personality cults that spread the worship of the state and leadership the same way as a religion promotes worship of its god and its leaders. It was intentional. That's why Marx called religion the opiate of the masses. It makes them compliant, obedient, and passive and the Soviet leaders harnessed it for themselves. So when they killed, they did it for the same reasons religious countries did. It was just for a different moral center.

      Next fallacy is that religious governments have been compassionate. Sorry to burst your bubble, but most religious governments have been dictatorships and monarchies based on divine right to lead. It took the first secular government, the United States, to give the right to lead to the people and begin to address the human rights abuses that religious governments embraced, like punishing those that believed in other gods, or no god. Religious government can justify any abuse on the grounds that their god approves of it, and have throughout history made people subservient to the state. So let's get this whole religious government put in the proper perspective. No religious government has ever given power to the people or been free and clear of restricting liberty.

      March 8, 2013 at 11:15 am |
  11. AB

    America is broken. Atheists must work diligently to fix it. Work hard and don't quit. We can do this.

    March 3, 2013 at 10:46 am |
    • P. R.

      Yes, yes, a billion times yes. We can and will fix the problems of the theist anachronisms.

      March 3, 2013 at 10:47 am |
  12. K. in Miami

    I think it's a mistake to focus on Sarah Palin and the other nutcases, they will think we care about what they say, thats bad..

    March 3, 2013 at 10:45 am |
  13. Thelma

    I don't care if people want to practice a religion or not. As far as I'm concerned, the billboards should simply read:" Mind your own beliefs. Don't force them on me".

    March 3, 2013 at 10:44 am |
  14. vidal808

    I am not a Billboard fan but this one I approve!

    March 3, 2013 at 10:44 am |
  15. sean

    Holy crap Dan Merica, could this article be a little more slanted?

    March 3, 2013 at 10:44 am |
  16. Gordo

    It's nice that they allow the anti Christ to post here.

    Oops, that would disqualify them as atheists.

    March 3, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      Freedom of speech seems to be an issue for people who believe in the imaginary friend god.

      March 3, 2013 at 10:56 am |
    • holly

      gordo, I am anti religion.

      March 3, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
  17. Paul

    As a former atheist I respect and understand what they are trying to say, but this campaign will just backfire and draw more support to the people they are targeting.

    March 3, 2013 at 10:43 am |
    • mark scott ducharme

      former? what are you now? And what changed your beliefs?

      March 3, 2013 at 10:46 am |
  18. 1nd3p3nd3nt

    great, what we need are more billboard arguments : (

    March 3, 2013 at 10:37 am |

    Rev. Robert JeffrAss, can you honestly say, never came a weaker moment in your life, in shower, and you fantasized "what they [H.........S] do" in your pious mind with young altar boys?

    March 3, 2013 at 10:34 am |
    • confused person

      ...Baptists don't have altar boys. FYI – being an atheist doesn't necessarily make you any less ignorant than you were before. It just makes you feel that your particular brand of ignorance is much more superior.

      March 3, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
  20. ss

    a cult is a religion with no political power – Tom Wolfe

    March 3, 2013 at 10:33 am |
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