Jimmy Kimmel Doesn’t Get Atheism

In the latest issue of Rolling Stone, Jonah Weiner writes about comedian and late-night talk-show host Jimmy Kimmel (the story is behind a paywall):

At one point — almost as an aside — Weiner tells us this about Kimmel:

Kimmel was raised Catholic, and he’s still religious. (“I don’t understand atheism,” he says. “I don’t know how anyone could be sure there isn’t a God.”) But when he discovered Late Night [with David Letterman], it seemed like he’d discovered another, secret congregation…

That’s a definition of atheism that most atheists don’t even subscribe to. It’s known as “strong atheism,” suggesting that we have absolute knowledge that God doesn’t exist. Even Richard Dawkins wouldn’t describe himself this way.

Most atheists don’t say that. Like Dawkins, we say there’s no evidence of God’s existence and that’s why we don’t believe in a higher power. That’s neither wishy-washy nor agnosticism. That’s atheism as I’ve always known it and it’s the definition that most of the atheists I know accept, too.

To base your view of a category of people off of what only a small fraction of them believe is unfair — it’s just as bad as atheists who say all Christians share the same beliefs as Mark Driscoll or Rick Warren when it’s so obviously untrue.

Obviously, Kimmel isn’t a philosopher. The conversation wasn’t even important enough to merit its own section in the piece. But Kimmel has plenty of atheist celebrities appear on his show and I’m sure most of them could set him straight on this. He should take advantage of that opportunity.

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