Catholic League’s Bill Donohue: ‘Intelligent People Normally’ Believe in God

American Atheists’ President David Silverman appeared on Fox News Channel yesterday to discuss the recent billboard placed by an 85-year-old man in Janesville, Wisconsin reading “Enjoy Life Now: There Is No Afterlife”:

Silverman, not surprisingly, approved of the message, adding that it was a good legacy for future generations: “Take care of your fellow man because, of course, God is not going to do it.”

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, having no sensible response, only responded with insults. Because that’s the language he speaks.

Gretchen Carlson: If you’re a Christian, Bill, you want to live every day to the fullest and be good to your fellow man, right?

Donohue: Absolutely.

Carlson: … But you also believe that there’s a higher life and a higher being that’s going to be there when you pass.

Donohue: Right. Usually, intelligent people normally do.

Silverman: Oh, you’re going to insult my intelligence now?

Donohue: … I don’t know how much intelligence you have to insult.

Silverman: I didn’t know that intelligent people believed in an invisible man in the sky.

Donohue: You have to understand tolerance, sir.

It’s amazing how Silverman insulted religious people for believing in a higher power… yet it went virtually unnoticed because Donohue was too busy talking over him, coming up with even more dickish things to say.

It’s hard to make the Catholic Church look even worse than it already does, but Donohue makes it look easy.

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.

  • baal

    I’m a little surprised that the catholics think Donahue is doing them any good as a spokesperson. The man is odious. I wouldn’t go in any door he’s standing in front of.

    EDIT: I should have been more clear. I mean the catholic hierarchy or the folks at the catholic League and not the catholic laity.

    • C Peterson

      Donahue represents nobody but himself. But the confusion is understandable. How many people watching similarly think that Silverman is some sort of spokesman for atheists, or represents their views?

      • baal

        Me and probably most folks baring a disclaimer.

        While I don’t think folks assume that every person of a group agrees with the statements of any one person in a group, spokes people are seen as speaking on behalf of a group or that their opinion is representative of a plurality of that group.

        Would you expect Mr.Silverman to be representing anything other than an atheistic position?

        Note that public personalities often have their 3rd party appearances spelled out as part of the contract with their primary employer. It’s done exactly for the reason that publicly speaking figures are assumed by default as representatives of their groups and not as sole individuals.

        • C Peterson

          And yet, Silverman doesn’t represent atheism. He is the head of a small organization that counts as its membership just the tiniest fraction of atheists. Just like the Catholic League. Certainly, Silverman says many things that can’t be seen as representing the views of atheists in general, just as Donahue says many things that don’t represent the views of Catholics in general.

          All I’m doing is pointing out the sort of confusion that viewers of news shows and other largely unfocused outlets are naturally going to encounter when people are presented as experts or spokesmen. Just who such people actually represent can be difficult to discern. Catholics probably have some idea what the Catholic League is. Many atheists probably have some idea what American Atheists is. But most of the audience of shows like this? Probably not. They just hear the organization names and assume they have some sort of “official” status.

          • baal

            I think you’re overstating your case. Formally, logically, ‘reality’ is Bill and Dave are just single guys saying what’s on their mind.

            In audiences, however, the bucket named “catholic” and the bucket named “atheist” just went plunk and plunk as two talking heads were dropped in. Unless and until those buckets get more heads (voices), Bill and Dave are the voices of those groups.

            • C Peterson

              Well, I think there are other voices. It depends on the forum. These particular guys show up often, but not exclusively. The problem is neither is a very good voice for the groups they claim to represent. I don’t blame them (much) for that, but rather blame the way that certain media (TV in particular) present experts or spokesmen.

              • baal

                Were I the pope or a catholic bishop, I’d pressure the catholic League to stop him from speaking in public. I think Dave, otoh, does a fine job and don’t mind if folks make the error that he’s speaking for all of us.

                • C Peterson

                  Yes, if I were the Pope I’d shut down Donahue. If I were the atheist pope, I’d shut down Silverman as well, but luckily, there are no atheist popes. Well, actually, I expect there have been quite a few. Perhaps I should say there is no pope of atheism? :)

                  Although Silverman often says things that contradict the beliefs of many atheists, he is certainly a far better spokesman for atheists than Donahue is for Catholics.

    • Stev84

      They don’t necessarily think so, but he appointed himself as a spokesperson. It’s not like that it’s his official job.

    • Rain

      Possibly the most annoying person on Earth other than the guy that invented the Chihuahua.

      • allein

        Hey, Chihuahuas are awesome!

        • RobertoTheChi

          Yes, they are. :)

      • Timothy McLean

        You underestimate the annoyingness of people.

    • SeekerLancer

      I’m not sure how many Catholics even know who Bill Donahue is, to be fair.

      • baal

        reversibility error
        The catholic poster child is a monster. 1:1!

        how many catholics know who he is is irrelevant (a few percent?)
        the folks in charge at the US branch of the RCC must know who he is or have media watch alerts set up somewhere to monitor news on catholics. The laity doesn’t need to have a clue about Billy D. in order for my point to be valid.

  • TiltedHorizon

    “Donohue: Right. Usually, intelligent people normally do.
    Silverman: Oh, you’re going to insult my intelligence now?
    Donohue: … I don’t know how much intelligence you have to insult.
    Silverman: I didn’t know that intelligent people believed in an invisible man in the sky.
    Donohue: You have to understand tolerance, sir.”

    So, insult, insult, then declare the need for “tolerance”. How is it Catholics think Bill represents them well?

    • joey_in_NC

      How is it Catholics think Bill represents them well?

      That’s because many don’t.

      If I want someone to represent American Catholicism, then I’ll point to Archbishop Chaput, not Bill Donohue.

      • baal

        Tell Faux News.

        So long as Billy D. (not the sexy one) is up there playing talking bobble-head with RCC next to his name, he’s the voice of the Church.

        • joey_in_NC

          Well, yes. And that is a shame.

          That’s like having Bill Maher up there to represent atheism.

          • Amor DeCosmos

            The only thing I share with Bill Maher is that neither of us believe in gods. What Catholics and Chaput and Donohue have in common is that they all believe in the same god, the same book, the same prophets, the same dogma, the same creed, the same rituals, and the same Pope. I share nothing else with Maher except a lack of belief in one thing, so he can’t represent anything else about me but that one lack of belief we share.

        • CultOfReason

          That’s not necessarily a bad thing. I bet Billy D.’s been responsible for more de-conversions than Silverman has.

          • WallofSleep

            I’ve not met any catholics who have left their faith because of Donohue, but I have met some who have stopped tithing to their local diocese and instead began donating that money to charities in their area, out of disgust for the way the church and folks like Donohue have chosen to “run cover” for the child molesters in their ranks.

        • BillyDee4

          Sexy? Me?

      • WallofSleep

        “That’s because many don’t.”

        That’s because many, catholic or not, recognize him for the despicable pedo-protector that he is.

        • Gunner Miller

          Some of his comments on that issue have shocked me…and I don’t shock easily. It is almost as if he wants people to dislike Catholics.

          • WallofSleep

            The catholics I know were shocked and disgusted as well, both with Donohue and the church. I commiserate, but stop just short of “Ya know, if the church is wrong about this…” After all, if I see someone taking a step in the right direction, I’m not about to stop them and tell them they’re wearing the wrong shoes. They have to figure that out on their own for the lesson to have any meaning.

          • Carpinions

            I really think Donohue truly sees himself as a man among boys, a soldier on the field fighting for his religion. Like any Christian sect, the persecution complex is strong with Catholics. I come from a completely RCC family and can recall several times within the last 10 years one or two of them expressing disdain for popular media and how Catholicism gets slammed by it.

            Likewise, Donohue goes into every “debate” or situation in which someone stands counter, and assumes this persecution position by default, accepts it as the norm rather than the exception it is, and stays in attack mode the entire time. “Of course my opponents are opposed to the very existence of Catholicism! They can’t help but be that way so why should I worry about it?” It’s all he does. He’s a water carrier’s water carrier.

            Go find his “debate” from 1999 with Christopher Hitchens on Youtube. Donohue hasn’t changed one shred in a long time. The way we have seen him on camera for years now is how he is off cable news cameras (and in front of a room of compatriots) as well. He is the judge, you are in his court, and he has hardly anything good to say about you or anything associated with you. Other than the pedo-priests and their enablers/protectors, Donohue is easily on the short list for most disgusting Catholic figure in media. To say the man is smug is a fatuous injustice to understatement.

    • CultOfReason

      My de-conversion from Catholicism was a slow, steady process. But reading Bill’s diatribes definitely helped speed up the process.See, he’s useful for something.

      • Mitch

        True, no one is useless. They can always be used as a bad example.

  • icecreamassassin

    “…intelligent people normally do” (believe claims regarding objective reality that have no evidence to back up those claims, or believe claims regarding objective reality that directly contradict fact or basic logic).

  • ShoeUnited

    Poor Silverman is losing his cool. His tongue is getting a bit sharper.

    • Artor

      Sharper than what? I don’t recall Silverman being soft on theists ever.

  • Baby_Raptor

    You mean like the die-hard Jesus loving TeaBagger I live with who hasn’t mastered google despite owning a laptop for 3 years and regularly has to ask me or his son how to spell such complicated words as “because”?

    Yup. Believers sure are intelligent.

    (Note: I am aware that there are intelligent theists out there. But the example was too apt to not use.)

    • joey_in_NC

      The highlighted phrase is intelligent people normally believe in God. Even if the statement is taken to the extreme and claims that all intelligent people believe in God, your example of a non-intelligent person who believes in God still doesn’t contradict it one iota. Just sayin’.

      • Baby_Raptor

        My point was to highlight the average (at least down here in the South) intelligence level of the type of person who buys into this man’s beliefs.

        So my example is apparently what Donohue considers “intelligent.”

      • GeraardSpergen

        >your example of a non-intelligent person who believes in God still doesn’t contradict it one iota

        Good point – a more relevant response might have been “Stupid people normally believe in God too.” Not a contradiction – an expansion of the statement.

      • Spuddie

        The highlighted phrase is intelligent people normally believe in God. Even if the statement is taken to the extreme and claims that all intelligent people believe in God

        Actually it is the intended message, not the extreme. Of course it was meant as a fictional counter the typical example, the non-intelligent believer which is very much the norm.

  • Timmah

    David Silverman – The Tanking Atheist. Taking on multiple idiots all at once. Logic is his shield, and his sharp wit his sword.

    • katiehippie

      He needs a healer.

      • GCBill

        Especially since Ignorance has such high DPS.

        • 3lemenope

          And wielding it confers Immunity to Mind-Affecting Spells and Effects.


          • Timothy McLean

            Meh, just whip out a different Save-Or-Die. If Dominate Monster is your only trick, you’re not playing right.

      • Timmah

        Thankfuly for Dave I have Tauren Priest named “Atheismoo”. Obvously he is a Discipline Priest cause no way I’d be HOLY.

        • katiehippie

          I’m better at damage with my night elf rogue.

    • Lagerbaer

      He does have some pretty powerful taunts, too. He just has to be there and immediately draws all the aggro.

    • Ash Pagan

      /cast [target=DONOHUE] Devouring Plague

      • 3lemenope

        No, no. Creeping Doom. Because there’s no kill like overkill!

  • Roadie

    I’m offended by the catholic dick, of course. I’m mostly just annoyed by the rabbi on his High Holy Horse. But what really pisses me off is the show using Led Zeppelin that way. I wonder if the viewers would enjoy the full lyrics:
    [blockquote]Let me take you to the movies. Can I take you to the show
    Let me be yours ever truly. Can I make your garden grow

    From the houses of the holy, we can watch the white doves go
    From the door comes Satan’s daughter, and it only goes to show. You know.

    There’s an angel on my shoulder, In my hand a sword of gold
    Let me wander in your garden. And the seeds of love I’ll sow. You know.

    So the world is spinning faster. Are you dizzy when you’re stoned
    Let the music be your master. Will you heed the master’s call
    Oh… Satan and man.

    Said there ain’t no use in crying. Cause it will only, only drive you mad
    Does it hurt to hear them lying? Was this the only world you had? Oh-oh

    So let me take you, take you to the movie. Can I take you, baby, to the show.
    Why don’t you let me be yours ever truly. Can I make your garden grow
    You know.

    • Ron

      Fox News: Proudly trolling the airwaves and mocking our viewers since 1996.

    • Carpinions

      And therein lies the quieter forms of hypocrisy practiced on that channel. Oh let’s take this great rock-n-roll song from one of the most loved bands in history (though they were widely HATED by religious conservatives) and use it because, HAHA, we have 2 religious people on the panel and it’s Halloween! Even the reference is so thin it’s pathetic. But on top of that, the kind of people Faux usually has on today are a great many of the same kinds of people that were lambasting the “hedonism” and “satanism” of bands like Led Zeppelin back in the 70s. But now that 35-40 years have passed and Zeppelin is an immutable part of cultural and music history, well gee HAHA we were just kidding about all that rock-n-roll hate!

  • Jasper

    So, Donahue insults Silverman, and is apparently not a “tolerance” issue, but as soon as Silverman shoots one back, all of a sudden there’s a problem?

    • David Kopp

      Cognitive dissonance extends beyond just not questioning their beliefs. They require that others not question them, either.

    • Jasper

      Incidentally, this came to mind

      • Kevin_Of_Bangor

        That was the first thing I thought of.

  • closetatheist

    As most people learn in logic or debate classes, or from common sense, the social standing, personal beliefs, actions, emotional state, intelligence etc. of a person does not affect the truthfulness of the arguments they make. Though they may poorly make the argument, their point is either true or false based on its own merits. Thus, some smart people believing in a magic sky fairy has nothing to do with whether or not that sky fairy is real.

    But really, just once, I want an interviewer to interject, “citation please!” is that so hard?

  • Without Malice

    Well, since most people are intelligent – at least to some extent – and most people believe in a God, I suppose we have to concede him his point. Of course, all this proves is that most people, whether intelligent or not, are more than willing to turn off their brains and refuse to actually confront any contradictory views when it comes to their particular religious beliefs.

  • John Herling

    Religious beliefs, based as they are on emotionalism, ignorance, and superstition, are not worthy of educated, intelligent people.

  • John Herling

    Why should anyone be tolerant of religious beliefs, which deserve to be viewed with contempt? However, the right of people to speak about and practice their beliefs must be respected.

  • cryofly

    “Donohue: You have to understand tolerance, sir.”

    No way out. You try to teach a kid how to write the letter ‘A’ and the kid says, you have to be tolerant of his wish to be illiterate. We can only be tolerant of the fact that it takes patience and time to teach a kid to write the letter ‘A’.

  • Rain

    Masterful brilliant stroke from Dave of making a big “hoo-haw” of oh shock and horror whoopty-doo, the atheist agrees with Bill Donohue on something. Bill went even more way over the top and made an even more bigger whoopty-doo-daw about it. They all laughed it off and now they are great friends with fantastic ties I might add.

  • JET

    I agree. Interviewers who can’t control their guests and guests that can’t control themselves drive me nuts. Not a discussion, just a yelling contest.

    • Carpinions

      Welcome to cable news in general, and Faux especially.

  • Mike De Fleuriot

    The problem is idiots like Bill and O’Reilly never say these things directly to atheists, in public. They always hide away on TV shows where they have access to the mute button. Let them come out into public and meet real street atheists, then we shall see how they survive. Someone invite them to the next Atheist conference. (And video it.)

  • Cyrus Palmer

    I saw it was the fox news faith panel, and said “Nope. I’m just going to save myself the stress”.

    • WallofSleep

      Yeah, my daily “Gretchen Carlson” quota usually get’s filled up by random homeless folk gone mad.

  • Rain

    One more cheap shot: Bill accuses Dave of “exploiting Christ” and Bill makes $400,000 a year from the Catholic League. Not to mention all the speaking engagements where he makes tons of money exploiting his religion of the poor.

  • Matt D

    Theists disregarding a massive amount of recorded history could certainly create a premise that intelligent people normally believe in “God”, and I suspect they often use themselves as the example of someone intelligent.

    However, I do find it curious when people assert they are right under mere assumptions, and seem to fear saying “I don’t know” when confronted with outsiders, even if that’s blatantly obvious. Personally, I do not find it intelligent to waste time debating fantasies when we are trying to figure out how our universe works.

  • JA

    I liked that one South Park episode where Jesus killed Donohue with the Krull glaive.

  • Quintin van Zuijlen

    In the US, inteligent people do normaly believe in God. Morr to the point, they do so less than less inteligent people.

  • God’s Starship

    I’m just saying there is a god who is going to put you in an oven for eternity and I love him and worship him. WHY CAN’T YOU SHOW SOME TOLERANCE FOR THAT????

  • Ron

    Here is wisdom for the Fox “News” religious panel. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast:

    31 Oct = 25 Dec

    Coincidence? Disqus…

  • abb3w

    Defining “normally” based on the position of the median, and “intelligent” simply as above median, yes intelligent people still normally do believe in God; however, the more intelligent have a disproportionate tendency to disbelief.

  • guest

    Is it any wonder FAUX Noise keeps inviting Silverman on? He’s horrible in live interviews and debates and lets the talking heads at FAUX continually talk over him and/or cut him off. He is MR. Hindsight. Watch, after every interview he comes out and says,”I should have said this or that”. American Atheists in no way represents what many atheists think or stand for beyond the one thing that we all agree on. There probably isn’t any gawd/s. Beyond that, I wouldn’t associate myself with AA if they paid me to have a membership.

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    It is not that I cannot watch it, I just refuse.

  • SeekerLancer

    He called Silverman stupid and then chided him for being the intolerant one. OK.


    Bill Donohue is the living, breathing definition of a professional victim, for ever outraged at anything that might be insulting to his church. I have the feeling, he would be defending any tradition he happened to have been raised in, because he doesn’t exactly come across as much of a thinker.

  • Rick L.

    Apparently, so do the unintelligent.

  • Itarion

    I have to say, the Rabbi sounded most reasonable. It was probably a poor choice to set Donahue by Silverman.

    “Get over it. We live in the United States of America in 2013…” Best line. Best line of the WHOLE thing.

  • cyb pauli

    It doesn’t matter if intelligent people believe something. It matters if it is true.

  • Pofarmer

    The sad thing is, a lot of perfectly intelligent people do believe. The sadder fact is, other intellegent people are still teaching these myths as fact.

  • jdm8

    First, imply that your opponent is dumb, then tell them they need to tolerate those statements. That’s just rich.

  • Matthew Schumm

    David Silverman is really great. I am so grateful that he gives us a voice on these shows.

  • spacegod

    Bill Donohue is a great argument for atheism.

    • Guest

      I think he’s against “uppity niggers” like me too. I would think you would both be on the same page.

      • spacegod

        Your comments make wonder if you are real.
        The uppity part is at least.

        • Guest

          You’re reading these out of order. This was when we were fighting. Now were cool. What does real mean? Was I fake at some point?

  • Dirk

    Maybe Donahue is doing performance art like Ann Coulter.

  • TBP100

    It’s true that some very intelligent—even brilliant—people are religious. However, it’s also true that that the smarter and better educated (especially in the sciences) people are, the less likely they are to be religious. And the smart ones who are religious are, in my experience, more often than not religious in a mushy, ecumenical, everyone-will-be-OK-in-the-end sort of way, certainly not in the exclusivist way that Bill Donohue is religious.