Bill Maher Promotes the Secular Student Alliance

This is quite an endorsement for the Secular Student Alliance, courtesy of the Real Time with Bill Maher blog:

A group called the Secular Student Alliance is starting to get requests from teens who want to start atheist clubs at their high schools. These are kids who happen to believe that life can be lived fully and ethically through reason, and that studying is much more effective than prayer for, say, preparing for an American History final.

The kicker is the Florida high school that refuses to approve an atheist club on the grounds that it doesn’t allow any religious clubs. But an atheist club, by definition, is not a religious club. That’s the whole point. Atheism is a religion like abstinence is a sex position. Like not being hungry is a meal. Like not believing in magic is a trick. What is it about non-belief that believers find so threatening?

Maher doesn’t get all the details right at the end regarding when high schools are required to allow atheist groups and when they can legally say no, and it’s not like the information he cites is new… but no matter. His support means a lot.

Now when’s he going to invite a representative from the SSA on his show? :) (Incidentally, Maher invited a member of the Center For Inquiry On Campus — before it was called that — to appear on the panel for his old show, Politically Incorrect, back in the late 90s.)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • LookFortheUnionLabel


    Are you one of the striking teachers in Chicago? If so, I think it seems appropriate that you comment on this strike and how it negatively affects the students. Why are you striking? Seems a bit hypocritical, but I would love to hear otherwise. Since it seems you have a lot of time on your hands and are being very prolific of late, you should comment on the strike and how the students are being harmed to better teachers.

  • Steven Sword
  • maxiderm

    I usually agree with Maher 99% of the time; however, as a secularist I would not be that offended if I was denied the ability to start a secular club at school, given that no other religious-related clubs are allowed as policy. A secular club is not, by definition, the absence of religion, as some secularists are agnostic (like myself), apatheistic, or even somewhat religious but realize the importance of church/state separation.

    Now, if the school did allow religious-related clubs on campus while denying a secular club, that would be a clear gross injustice to civil liberty. This is not the case here.

  • RobMcCune

     Sadly uniontroll will have to find a blogger who is actually striking.

  • Neil Terry

    Wow, a disingenuous screen name, the incorrect assumptions that Hemant is striking and that such a strike must of course be “harmful to students” (as if no other consideration could ever matter), an accusation of hypocrisy, a snide comment about having a lot of time on his hands, all summed up by a demand that a teacher should focus on how a strike “harms students to better teachers”, as if there is something inherently morally wrong with teachers seeking fair compensation.  But you, of course, would “love to hear otherwise”…….of course.

    So, hear this….go eat shit, loser.

  • Hemant Mehta

    Not striking. Working full time right now and have been for weeks.

  • Gordon Duffy

     Strikes are the fault of management not unions.

  • The Other Weirdo

     (Cough) Funny! (Choke) (Cough) Bwahahaha! (Choke) (Faint from laughter)

  • Gus Snarp

    This is certainly an interesting question. Secular is by definition the absence of religion, but secular clubs, I would think, are going to tend to talk about religion a lot: its role in public life, the harm it can do, how it affects people who are trying to live without it, the issues that non-religious students face. I can certainly see how it makes sense to not allow the club at a school that doesn’t allow religious clubs. If they’re serious and consistent about it, I’m OK with it too. I believe there’s also some legal precedent that for purposes of first amendment issues, atheism is a religion, at least in as much as it is a group that cannot be discriminated against for religious reasons. Someone else might be able to clarify that. If so, it may put the school on strong legal footing here.

  • Guest

    I absolutely love it when atheists invoke Bill Maher.  

  • Guest

    Oh, and hat tip to those atheists for spilling the beans, however unintentionally, about their desires to found a secular nation where atheism is promoted on the tax payer dime, while linguistic gymnastics are used to exploit stupidity and/or bigotry in order to censor and banish the free and open exercise of religion at the same tax supported institutions.  It’s so seldom that those pining for tyranny so flagrantly let the cat out the bag, but it does happen. 

  • Guest

    Kudos for noticing the obvious by the way. 

  • Xeon2000

    He’s not the most popular figure in atheist circles due to some of his wacky beliefs.

    It’s funny that if you are a theist you’d find any room to comment considering your life is based on delusion.

  • Guest

    That’s refreshing to hear actually.  All too often I see atheists cheering as if he’s a sage guru of religious knowledge.   But then, given your second sentence, I wonder if the reasons you think he has some wacky beliefs are the reasons why folks who’ve done their homework know he has wacky beliefs. 

  • Arthur Byrne

     Except the federal Equal Access Act and the SCOTUS ruling in Good News Club v. Milford Central Schools mean that if schools allow ANY clubs that are not purely academic, they have to allow ones related to religion.

    So, if there’s a chess club, there can be a Bible Study Club… or a Secular Student Alliance branch.

  • Xeon2000

    Why do you think he has wacky beliefs?

  • Gus Snarp

    So in order to get an SSA branch we have to cite a terrible precedent and argue in favor of schools allowing religious student organizations in general? That doesn’t sound like a path I want to go down.

  • Gus Snarp

    It’s only refreshing because you see things from a religious mindset and just can’t grasp the concept that someone can be respected for one view or statement even while we disagree with others. Simply because someone is quoted for one statement, or because some of his video clips or his movie are recommended, doesn’t mean anyone sees him as a sage guru. Besides, atheists don’t have gurus. Not only that, but once again we’re confronted with the problem as someone posting under the name “Guest” where I can only assume that you are the same “Guest” who has previously made similar statements, and previously had it pointed out to you that Bill Maher is not seen the way you want him to be by many atheists. That most of us have many problems with many of his ideas, but agree with him on others and find that sometimes he expresses things that we agree with in a way that we appreciate. As such, I can only assume you are willfully ignorant, or rather, that you are pretending to be surprised by something you already knew because you prefer the straw man of your own making to real atheists.

  • Guest

    Atheists don’t have gurus?   Dawkins anyone?  My problem with Maher should be the problem anyone – atheist or otherwise – has with Maher: he has no clue what he is talking about.  He says things that are wrong, are easily shown to be wrong, and he seems dumbfounded when confronted with the fact that they are wrong.  It’s like religious people running to Glenn Beck.  Atheists can have their heroes.  Just don’t make them people who informed observers know have no clue what they are talking about.
    Oh, and I keep it at ‘guest’ for a couple reasons.  One, for some odd reason, ever since I updated my Google, it won’t save my actual name I used and I grew tired of retyping it.  Two, the last time I used a name I grew tired of the adolescent insults that hit me.  At least now, folks have to wonder, since there are a couple who leave it at ‘guest’.  That may actually force them to read what I wrote, rather than having folks boast that as soon as they saw my name, they decided to throw out childish (and often vulgar) insults.   

  • Guest

    Because he has no clue what he is talking about.  He bases his digs at religion on statements that have less depth than a bumper sticker, and often less facts to back them up.  Like so many modern atheists, he seems to think the entire 2000 year history of religion is summed up in an appraisal of American Protestant Fundamentalist Dispensationalist Christianity, and doesn’t seem to understand most Christians (let alone any other religious tradition) have little to nothing to do with that expression of religious understanding.  It usually goes south from there. 

  • Gus Snarp

    I will ask you the same thing I asked the last “Guest” who sounded exactly like (probably was) you: Be specific. Make a claim. Don’t tell me Maher is clueless and says things that are demonstrably wrong, name one and defend it.

    Dawkins is no guru either. As I said, you simply cannot seem to grasp a skeptical or atheist mindset. You can’t get it through your head that we don’t think like you. Dawkins happens to have been right about a great many things, and he is certainly highly intelligent. His contributions not just to atheism, but to science, are significant. He’s also an asshole. That’s how we do it, we can see that one person can have both positive and negative aspects and no one is perfect.

    Maybe the reason you get insults when you turn up and identify themselves is that you show up on an atheist blog not to learn anything, not to have a real discussion, but simply to antagonize while ignoring everything anyone tells you. You’re a troll and nothing more.

  • Gus Snarp

    That’s still not very specific, but I can say that I certainly don’t turn to Maher to be an authority on the spectrum of religious thought. He is useful for jokes making fun of the kind of fundamentalist Christianity that has taken on a disproportionate political power in the United States in recent years though.

  • 3lemenope

    I really don’t understand the resistance to religious student groups. Can you explain your concerns a bit?

  • cipher

    It’s so seldom that those pining for tyranny so flagrantly let the cat out the bag, but it does happen.

    By contrast, you reveal your idiocy every time you express yourself.

  • Gus Snarp

    I don’t think there need to be specific concerns, but it’s similar to religious displays on public property. To be constitutional you have two choices: allow none, or allow all. I simply think allowing none is the better, more secular choice.

    But I do have some actual concerns. I don’t have the facts on this, but it seems likely to me that most schools in the United States do allow religious student groups and that in many, if not most of those the predominate student groups are Christian. SSA is expanding, but most schools still probably don’t have one.Meanwhile, Christians in America don’t particularly need to have a student organization at school. They already have a church where they can hold meetings, and most churches have a weekly youth group meeting. So the real reason Christian groups want to be able to meet at schools is that they want to proselytize and keep religion in school. They want at least the appearance of state endorsement, even when all the school is really giving them is a room. And that is in fact what they get. They do everything they legally can to appear to be officially endorsed.But if you really want a specific concern, look into the Good News Club referenced in the court ruling. They are absolutely doing what I described above – getting into schools to proselytize while appearing to have official endorsement.

  • 3lemenope

    Thanks for the details!

  • Arthur Byrne

     More that, since the terrible precedent exists, we may as well turn it against those who unleashed it.