I Don’t Understand S.E. Cupp’s Atheism

The video below, part of The Atheist Voice series, discusses conservative commentator S.E. Cupp‘s atheism:

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the project — more videos will be posted soon — and we’d also appreciate your suggestions as to which questions we ought to tackle next!

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.

  • fry

    the woman is a total fraud – Pope Franky is more atheist than she is.

  • Len Nobs

    I think she is being cynical about human morality in general. Perhaps S.E. Cupp thinks believing in the “eye in the sky” makes you a better person. Thus don’t be militant (meaning don’t reaffirm atheism publicly) so more people will remain having fear of supernatural consequences for their immoral behavior. Just a guess.

  • Bruce Long

    It’s a form of Humean snobbery. She is trying to be Humean. Hume is famous for his conservatism. He did not like what would have been called overt atheism. His very aggressive (for the time) response to religion (See ‘On Miracles’ in ) was a response to what was thought of as religious ‘enthusiasm’ – being really convinced and fanatical about one’s faith. The only reason that Hume could get away with his attacks on religion at the time was that he was supported by the conservative elite. After all – this is the way pragmatic monarchs work anyway. They don’t actually believe the crap they tell everyone else to believe.

    She is probably a Jamesian Pragmatist in part (people should believe what works for them and hold to it but not say much about it.) She is probably also a Masonic (although this is a wilder guess) – order of the Eastern Star or Royal Lodge or something. She is looking down her nose at the ‘village atheist’.

    However, there is a plain error in this thinking – the Humean skepticism about knowledge (certain knowledge) that accompanies it aside. Hume was still an empiricist (took data gathered empirically to be the basis of sound epistemology) and there is not really any such thing as atheist ‘enthusiasm’. Atheist enthusiasm is usually in fact a very healthy sceptical incredulity.

    I prefer the Madeleine Murray OHairs of the world. They are not trying to avoid offending the horeshit conservative sensibilities of a bunch of rich people who are more interested in oiling the wheels of commerce than getting to the facts, and looking down on others to make themselves feel superior.

    Conservative thinkers are often heirarchical thinkers and frequently assume a didactic position with respect to anyone else. The simple explanation is that they are just needy and a bit insecure, and often closed minded annoying assholes. John Stuart Mill had the best take on conservatives: some of their thinking – that which they most think is superior – is just stoopid.

  • Rain

    Conservative thinkers are often heirarchical thinkers and frequently assume a didactic position with respect to anyone else. The simple explanation is that they are just needy and a bit insecure, and often closed minded annoying assholes.

    Yes by all means let’s demonize people we don’t know. Kinda like the pope except he really means literal demons, lol. That pope, he’s a laugh a minute when he’s talking down about people he has no idea about.

  • David McNerney

    I’m sure at some TV production meeting someone said:

    “Hey, what if we get an actor to pretend they’re atheist and present all the moronic stereotypes that religious people have about atheists as if they were his actual views! The ultimate Strawman!”

    “I like it – but it needs something else…. wait! wait! What about a Strawwoman?”

  • popeyoni

    She is just playing a character that will produce her money. By calling herself atheist she fills a token spot in talk shows, and by spewing her idiocy, she ingratiates herself with the theist masses.

  • Jeffery Nelson

    Her “Atheism” (note my use of quotes) is nothing more than a gimmick, that gets her some paid gigs. Think about it, what is she without it? just another conservative talking head that Roger Ailes watches with the sound muted.

  • fry

    And now we’re just waiting for the inevitable “I’ve seen the light! Jesus is Lord!!!! which is followed up with, of course, the book (How I was Blind But Now I Can See..), the movie, speaking tour, new show on Fox, … $$$$$$$$$$.

    Hemant is spot on when he asks why doesn’t anyone call this appalling fake out?

    I can only guess Bill Maher goes easy coz he wants to bang her.

  • Bitter Lizard

    I really wish I was a person of faith. I wish I believed in things that are clearly not true, and don’t want to vote for anyone who doesn’t have an imaginary genocidal dictator screaming in their ears about important policy questions that affect billions of people. I know that religion is lies that kill people, but it is much more important to defend lies that kill people than it is to be a militant atheist who expresses any sort of distaste for the idea that maybe the truth is better than lies and maybe not killing innocent people is better than killing them.

    If only one lie can be saved, it doesn’t matter how many people have to die for it.

  • Bitter Lizard

    Now, now…you don’t need to turn this into some sort of a contest. The important thing is to focus on what we can agree on: that they’re both just plain fucking awful excuses for human beings.

  • fry

    Pope Frank, even though CEO of “Pedophiles ‘R Us”, is at least pretty honest about what he is and stands for – unlike C-Cup.

  • Greg Scott

    She’s a charlatan. she wrote a book ‘Losing my religion’– up next– ”Finding my religion”

  • Bitter Lizard

    I’m not sure I agree with that. He says things that sound vaguely progressive every other week, but nobody can be sure what he really means by it because Popes just aren’t honest people.

  • Bitter Lizard

    S.E. Cupp–the Borat of atheists.

  • BobaFuct

    Does she make her friends call her “S.E.”? I bet she does…

  • Mike De Fleuriot

    I would have phrased this differently. Something like “I do not care about Cups Atheism”.

  • compl3x

    That’s always been my belief. She’ll cement herself as an atheist and then have some magical conversion and sell a shitload of books to the conservative Christian crowd.

  • Rationalist1

    Imagine if she was anything different from an “atheist” and saying this. How long would the media put up with a “Muslim” person who really wished they were Christian and would never vote for a Muslim president? It would be a joke. Well, actually not on Fox news. In fact they probably have someone like that on their network to reassure the Christians.

  • busterggi

    Atheists don’t whine about how hard they are trying to find sufficient faith in any god. Cupp does.

  • busterggi

    Maher banged Ann Coulter – he has no standards.

  • Eric

    It would be impolite for me to assert that S.E.C. is being intentionally deceptive (a fraud). Maybe I just don’t understand her or maybe she is actually deeply conflicted and is in a kind of denial (think: anti-gay legislators who practice homosexuality). That said, her behaviors and statements are consistent with my perceptions of how people act when they have disingenuous intent. Perhaps she is trying to provide some sort of “bridge” between conflicted ideologies. Maybe she just likes to “stir the pot.” Maybe her agenda is to claim an allegiance (to atheism) to win acceptance from the skeptical community, but is ultimately interested in making it susceptible. I just find it hard to believe that there are many Conservatives that would welcome her in their camp either. Maybe she’s ok with taking the fall from Conservative circles if it ultimately supports the cause (think: CIA agents who perform knowing their government will disavow them if caught). Whatever the case may be, it seems that her presence in the media is greater than her actual contributions to the discussion.

  • SeekerLancer

    I understand S.E. Cupp perfectly. She’s a fraud. She’s a self-made straw woman. She put herself into this token position so that when a conservative talk show needs an atheist opinion that agrees with them, she’s there. It works great for her. This caricature gets her lots of money and attention.

    She’s the self-hating Uncle Ruckus from “The Boondocks” of atheists.

  • http://goldentalon.tumblr.com/ Jinho Choi

    Sarah Cupp is not an atheist. The simplest explanation is the correct one. Sarah is a media tart who pretends to be an atheist for money. Sarah is a woman with no morals.

  • baal

    Bruce is largely accurate in the quote you pull out. Actual conservatives don’t think like I do (weighted probability of potential scenarios rationalism). We often even see comments on how the conservatives have trouble understanding basic irony.

  • http://www.theartolater.com/ Jeff

    Actually, her book was called “Losing Our Religion,” and had to do with the media’s treatment of religion.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    My thoughts: Why should anyone care what S.E. Cupp has to say about anything? She is obviously a total dope on the subjects of atheism and separation of church and state. Is there any subject on which her views are not dopey?

  • C Peterson

    Everything about Cupp makes perfect sense if you realize she is simply an entertainer, not an intellectual. Entertainers invent a persona that has some kind of market value. It need not be intellectually consistent, and it need not represent in any way their actual views, which may not be known.

  • WallofSleep

    “I Don’t Understand S.E. Cupp’s Atheism”

    S’okay.Cupp doesn’t understand anyone’s atheism.

  • Tainda

    Hey! Don’t lump her in with the C cups!

  • The Other Weirdo

    The man is not dead.

  • LaurenceQuint

    What’s to understand beyond shamelessly pandering to her conservative base.

    “I’m an atheist but I hate atheists just like you,” is the most childishly illogical bit of cognitive dissonance that it could only come from a conservative.

  • LaurenceQuint

    In fairness, he used to have Ann on his show and defend her vehemently as “his friend.”

    But stopped doing that a long time ago.

  • Yoav

    There are more then enough reasons to go after Ann Coulter for being an evil despicable excuse for a human being, her attractiveness or lack thereof, according to your standards, is not relevant and commenting on it instead of her politics just make you look like an ass.

  • 3lemenope


    (For what it’s worth, my irony deficiency is a direct result of me assuming everyone’s joking. They have to be joking. Otherwise, I’m surrounded by crazy people.)

  • gg

    She’s not an atheist. It is financially expedient for her to pose as one. When she has more to gain to pose as a christian, she will be magically ‘saved’ and make a boatload of money off her very public conversion.

  • Hilton

    I not so sure that we should buy Ms. Cupp’s shtick. Perhaps should is just acting as a shill to the theist/faith camp.

  • Forrest Cahoon

    I thought he _was_ talking about her politics. Who said anything about her appearance? Don’t sleep with mean people!

  • God’s Starship

    I don’t think SE Cupp understands SE Cupp’s atheism. I think SE Cupp just needs a gimmick to get on tv, because she has even less imagination than the other conservative talking heads on tv. And that says a lot about SE Cupp

  • Artor

    Does she have friends?

  • God’s Starship

    On the rare occasions I found myself sitting through the Cycle, she was always referred to as S.E.
    It was always as awkward as it sounds.

  • Rain

    I’m having trouble picturing Ann Coulter and William F. Buckley Jr. as irony deficient! Peter Hitchens! I’m not even a conservative! You might be right but pigeonholing always makes me a little nervous. As it should!

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    There are plenty of atheists who are economic conservatives. You’d think they would find one of those. But they are mostly libertarians or serious Austrian School economist folks and I don’t think they want that. They want someone who will pander to the religious right folks and tea party morons who want bigger medicare coverage but no government health care!!!

  • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

    She’s not that clever. She’s more the Ann Coulter of atheists. She says things that get talked about which makes her money. It’s a rather lucrative show she has going there. Best of all there’s no actual thinking or research or reasoning necessary.

  • Lori Griffin Simon

    I’m glad I’m not the only one weirded out by her views.

  • Dglas Raeat

    Well, people often are confronted with truths that goes against their wishes, and mourn that fact. Perhaps it is the same with S.E.Cupp; she wants faith, but reality simply doesn’t allow it for her.

    Or perhaps she is simply one of those “benevolent liars,” the sort who doesn’t believe, but thinks it is vitally important that others do for some “greater good.” Presenting herself as a tormented atheist could fit that description.

    Such people do exist.

    Or maybe she is just fitting a role, a public persona, a media entity…

  • http://skepticink.com/dangeroustalk Dangerous Talk

    It about the money Lebowski!

  • The Captain

    Not going to call her a fraud or stupid, but I think she’s at least a “house atheist”.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    No worries, I don’t get it either.

  • xagaros

    Well, she’s inconsistent and tries to get publicity (and succeeds) by playing both sides of this. But for many many people, she (as a conservative) is the only person who they know, who is an open atheist and is someone they listen to. She’s normalizing being an atheist to a very big piece of the American public that most of us could never get to, and that counts for something.

  • dougreardon

    Why do you believe she’s an atheist? Just because she says so?

  • qbsmd

    The consensus here seems to be that she’s acting in order to keep getting TV appearances. I’m uncomfortable with this conclusion. I’ve seen too many other situations where people conclude that a point they don’t understand or agree with must be dishonest.

    Maybe most of the people she’s friends with are right-wing Christians. Maybe she really believes Christian propaganda, like atheists being less moral, or Christians being happier. Maybe she takes the conservative side of lots of issues and sees an atheist movement that ties itself to lots of liberal issues as unwelcoming and acting to oppose things she believes in.

    I think someone should invite her to speak at an atheist conference on the topic of why she thinks the conference attendees are “militant” and why they should behave differently. It would allow her to directly address an audience that she should want to address, it would answer the questions Hemant and others have, and it would allow her to meet some of the people she considers political opponents. At the very least it would be a change from the usual speakers giving the usual speaches.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    Cupp might very well just be ignorant of atheism and secularism, or just a terrible thinker, but the glaring contradictions suggest that this is not so. She has a M.A. in Religious Studies, yet she says things like the nonsense quoted in the several Friendly Atheist posts about her. She has said that she agrees with “pretty much all the Ten Commandments.” How in the world can you be an atheist with that kind of education and say things like that? How can you be an atheist while slandering all atheists to the point of claiming that you, yourself, as an atheist, have no trustworthy morals? It doesn’t make any sense, and gives the impression that she is either playing a game or dumb as a post. And while she might be a terrible thinker, she didn’t get to where she is now by being dumb.

  • Brian Adair


    I apologize in advance to anyone who takes offense, but whenever I see S.E. Cupp I have a visceral emotional response that I think is similar to what Malcolm X so eloquently described in this speech.

  • stefan

    Her book is called “Losing Our Religion: The Liberal Media’s Attack on Christianity”. That title says it all: Not an Atheist, but a christian.

  • NathanExplosion

    Sarah Cupp is a troll.


    At some point in the future, she will undoubtedly put forth a I-was-once-an-atheist book.

    Don’t feed the trolls.

  • qbsmd

    I don’t claim to know much about what she believes or advocates; I hadn’t read anything by her before a few days ago. And I’m not claiming that it isn’t a plausible hypothesis that she’s pretending. My problems are 1) it’s unfalsifiable 2) it’s uncharitable and 3) it’s a good idea to be skeptical of any claim that people accept so widely and quickly.

    Richard Dawkins has frequently said that any creationist is either ignorant or stupid (or wicked, but he prefers not to consider that). This is a comment about the quantity and quality of evidence for evolution, not a formula that can be applied to anyone who disagrees with you (or me). I’m also tempted to think that everyone would agree with me on everything given the same information, but I know it isn’t true.

    I watched the interview where she gave the Ten Commandments quote. She actually claimed that she has the same morals as religious people, but gets them from a different place, which is counter to your claim that she claimed she has no trustworthy morals. And while I prefer Christopher Hitchen’s take on the commandments, it’s likely that religious studies classes teach some Christian interpretation of them. Maybe she found it convincing.

    There are Christians who are intelligent people. Is it that surprising that they can convince some atheists to agree with them on some issues? You and I don’t have to find something convincing for someone to believe it without being ignorant or stupid.