Who Died and Made You King of Atheism?

Who Died and Made You King of Atheism? May 18, 2016

Monstrance

This video sums up everything that’s wrong with the way the atheist movement presents itself:

Bill Maher spilled the beans about a concept for a movie called The Kings of Atheism that Maher says he is creating with Michael Moore…. The Kings of Atheism movie will feature Maher and other famous atheists on a tour throughout the Bible belt.

Bill Maher and Michael Moore, on Maher’s show, announced their plan to collaborate on a comedy tour-slash-documentary that involves them and some other public figures taking a road trip through the Bible Belt. After all the messy public fights we’ve had over race and gender diversity, you’d think big-name atheists would have learned something by now, but apparently not. It demands serious cluelessness to propose, in 2016, a “Kings of Atheism” movie that features yet another uniform lineup of white faces. And one of them isn’t even an atheist:

Moore admitted that he’s not an atheist, but he quipped that The Kings of Atheism challenge would give Maher and others on the atheism tour 10 days to try and convert Michael over to their way of thinking.

Whatever you think of Michael Moore’s politics, he’s not an atheist by his own admission (he’s a liberal Catholic), and he’s never shown any particular interest in secularism or other issues that are important to atheists. It’s nonsensical to give him a high-profile role in a film that’s supposed to be about atheism. And it compounds the insult when he’s given prominence above any women or people of color who’ve genuinely contributed to the secular community.

Nor is Bill Maher a better choice of headliner. Although he says he’s an atheist now, he’s often given mixed signals in the past, sometimes accepting the label and sometimes disavowing it. But what’s not ambiguous about Maher is that he’s an anti-science crank. He’s a notorious vaccine denier and has even flirted with denying all of germ theory. Whether or not he rejects religion, he’s a bad skeptic, a poor rationalist and a terrible choice to put himself forward as a spokesman for the atheist community.

Some of the other names floated for this project are scarcely better. There’s Seth MacFarlane: yet another white guy, and one who’s best known for banal, faux-edgy, “ironic” racism and sexism – especially his shockingly misogynist Oscar-hosting stint. He helped produce the new Cosmos, I’ll give him credit for that; but other than that, it’s hard to imagine what makes him a worthwhile choice for a project like this. Ricky Gervais, too, has an extremely mixed record.

Sarah Silverman was another name they put forward. I have no particular objection to her, but her awkward fit with the decidedly masculine title – the article suggested they could change it to “The Kings of Atheism Plus One Queen of Atheism” – shows how the creators of this film seemed to consider women only as an afterthought. And people of color seem to be utterly outside their universe. Did it not occur to them to ask anyone outside the usual crew of wealthy white celebrities?

Last but not least, there’s the obnoxious title, in which these celebrity comedians seek to declare themselves the “kings” of atheism. Kings, seriously? Atheists don’t have kings – remember “No Gods, No Masters?” – and even if we did, these people wouldn’t be the ones to wear the crowns. The real atheist community, though it’s not without flaws, is far broader and more diverse than it’s given credit for. It deserves better than yet another oblivious bunch of wealthy white guys – again, including one who isn’t even an atheist – anointing themselves leaders or spokesmen for the secular community.

Image credit: Wolfgang Sauber, released under CC BY-SA 1.0 license

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