In a one-on-one interview with Bill Maher Friday night on Maher’s HBO show Real Time with Bill Maher, President Obama took a few minutes to discuss atheism with Maher.
He did okay but missed a few important points.
“I guess my question would be whether there is active persecution of atheists?” Obama asked. “I think that there is certain… well, I think for a candidate… I think you’re right, that there are certain occupations probably, most prominently, politics — where there would be a bias against somebody who’s Agnostic or atheist in running for office. I think that’s still true. Outside of that arena, though? You seem to have done alright with your TV show… I mean, I don’t get a sense… to the extent that they’re boycotting you, it’s because of your other wacky views rather than your particular views on religion.”
The president added: “I think the average American if they go to the workplace, somebody’s next to ’em, they’re not poking around trying to figure out what their religious beliefs are.”
This, of course, all depends on where you live in this country. Sure, someone in Los Angeles or San Francisco may not seem out of place as an atheist and the conversion may never come up. I am betting this isn’t the same in Louisiana or Arkansas.
Obama wrongfully assumes that this discrimination only happens in politics, when we know for a fact it happens all over this country. Atheists are discriminated against on a regular basis.
Obama did bring a good point home with Maher, however, after the two started discussing science and religion. The president, of course, defended the mixing of the two and said there are many religious scientists, and then turned his focus on a big issue; schools.
“[W]ith school boards around the country that are mandating curriculums and textbooks, you start seeing this weird watering down of scientific fact so that our kids are growing up in an environment […] where everything’s contested,” the president said.
He connected that people don’t seem to know the difference between scientific facts and something they read on Facebook written by someone who may not have finished the fourth grade. My words, not his exactly.
Overall, I was happy to see the president discussing atheism but wish he would have done more to speak in favor of nonbelievers and the real discrimination they do face in this nation. Not act as though it’s just politics and everyone else is fine.