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Peggy Fletcher Stack
Peggy Fletcher Stack has been producing stories for The Salt Lake Tribune's award-winning Faith section for nearly two decades. Writing about contemporary faith, rituals, and spirituality as well as religion's conflicts and cohesion has always been Stack's passion. Follow her at facebook.com/peggy.fletcherstack, Twitter @religiongal

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Atheists rip Mormons, Christians in bipartisan billboard blitz

You have to give it to American Atheists — when it comes to mocking people of faith, they are completely nonpartisan.

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The group has purchased billboard space in Charlotte, N.C., which will host the Democratic National Convention from Sept. 3 through 6, for an attack on Christianity, espoused by President Barack Obama. The ad features a drawing of Jesus on a piece of toast and these words: "Sadistic God; Useless Savior, 30,000+ Versions of ‘Truth,’ Promotes Hates, Calls it ‘Love.’ "

The billboard kicker in bold letters – "Atheism: Simply Reasonable."

A similar format reduces Mormonism, the faith of Republican nominee-in-waiting Mitt Romney, to this: "God is a Space Alien, Baptizes Dead People, Big Money, Big Bigotry." The words are accompanied by a man in white underwear, alluding to the LDS Church's sacred undergarments.

It also concludes with the line about atheism being "simply reasonable."

But GOP delegates, who meet in Tampa, Fla., starting Aug. 27, won't see the sign.

Atheist spokeswoman Teresa MacBain told USA Today's religion reporter Cathy Grossman that "no one in Tampa would rent them billboard space."

The ads are meant to display the "silliness of religion," MacBain said, further explaining in an email to Grossman that "questioning the religious views of men who want to lead the free world is essential. ... If a person believes stupid things, then we have every right to question his or her judgment, and that directly impacts how the nonreligious voter votes."

It's unclear if the billboard strategy will persuade a lot of new people to be nonbelievers, but a new poll shows that atheism seems to be on the rise.

As reported Monday by Religion News Service, the survey, called "The Global Index of Religiosity and Atheism," found that "the number of Americans who say they are 'religious' dropped from 73 percent in 2005 [the last time the poll was conducted] to 60 percent."

At the same time, it reported, the number of Americans who say they are atheists jumped, from 1 percent to 5 percent.

Some religious folks, however, think the billboards misunderstand the nature of faith.

The Rev. James Martin, a Jesuit priest and author, told CNN, they are "not arguing against the existence of God, but against religion. The American Atheists need to go back to school on this one."

Peggy Fletcher Stack

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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