Atheist TV: Who is the Richard Dawkins-endorsed channel really trying to reach?

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Richard Dawkins at the 34th American Atheists Conference in Minneapolis. Photo by Mike Cornwell, via Wikimedia Commons.

Richard Dawkins at the 34th American Atheists Conference in Minneapolis. Photo by Mike Cornwell, via Wikimedia Commons.

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The first channel specifically for atheists launched this week. But their decision to feature figures like Richard Dawkins and Jaclyn Glenn so prominently has guest columnist Sarah Jones wondering which atheists the channel is designed to attract.

  • Doc Anthony

    Okay, Larry and Max. This kind of stuff is YOUR specialty. So I’d like to hear your honest opinions on the matter. What do you guys think of this new Atheist TV gig? Would you recommend it to other atheists?

    And by the way, who’s in charge of keeping these atheist TV entertainers honest? The Christians are being watched by the secular media, the ECFA, the National Religious Broadcasters, and occasionally Congress or the IRS as well. But who is keeping an eye on the atheists?

  • Larry

    Love the concept. Certainly looks less cheesy than the various Christian broadcasters. At least they don’t have the equivalent of televangelists preying upon the poor, elderly and naive for funding.

    Dawkins seems to be suffering from “Noam Chomsky Syndrome” as of late. A brilliant person who says really ridiculous when speaking outside the scope of their professional expertise.

    “And by the way, who’s in charge of keeping these atheist TV entertainers honest? ”

    Its on the internet, so its pretty much “the wild west” there.

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  • Chris

    “without pandering to the pseudo-intellectual nonsense peddled by theologians.”

    Whew! I was worried they’d try to live out the tenants of humanism and actually treat their opponents with dignity and respect.

  • Larry

    “Whew! I was worried they’d try to live out the tenants of humanism and actually treat their opponents with dignity and respect.”

    Yes, voicing one’s opinion of an opponent in a public forum is treating with dignity and respect. Much better than trying to force by the color of law, engaging in discrimination, petty attacks and vandalism, or trying to have an opponent’s views banned.

    This cartoon pretty much describes the difference

  • I agree that even atheists look upon O’Hair as a nut case, she’s an embarrassment. This channel is a great idea! I will love watching some of the documentaries and commentaries. We need alternatives to the 700 Club and all those big-haired jewel-encrusted egomaniacs who will sell you anything from holy water to condos; they are not “godly” men, they are hawkers who will steal the last dime from your grandmother. The “New Atheism” seeks to bring atheists out of the closet and into the mainstream so we can start having some meaningful dialogue with religious people and start changing some minds. Why preach to the choir all the time? In Austin we even have food drives for the needy. Fair review, by the way.

  • gilhcan

    Unfortunately, very unfortunately, this reads like an apology for the opposition, not a writing by someone working for Americans United for Separation of Church and State–as our Constitution just happens to require–and as the history of religion proves is absolutely necessary in any society.

    This history of religion shows its violence against those who held differing beliefs as well as against the freedom from religion. Knowing their history well is the very reason the Framers of our Constitution set the separation of church and state, the freedom of religion and the freedom from religion, as the very first item in our Bill of Rights.

    After only a single episode of Atheist TV, questions are raised about its purpose and its potential in a put-down manner? That is something one would expect from the far right evangelicals or their mouthpieces on Fox News, from Pat Robertson, in their lame attempts to force their childish notions of religion onto everyone else in this country–and to do that by violating the very Constitution that supposedly protects religious freedom. Religious freedom includes freedom from religion!

    The very fact that there are any “closeted atheists” in this country of supposed freedom betrays the fact that we are free, that we are a democracy, or that our current House of Representatives with its religious extremists and tea party hasn’t made a mockery of being a legislative body by doing nothing out of opposition to the rights of all and out of ugly prejudice toward President Obama simply because he is half-black. There illiterate extremists do not even realize that their ugly prejudice extends to themselves because Obama is also half-white.

    The right talks of suing, even impeaching Obama. They would only be suing or impeaching him because of his white and black racial background! That’s religious? That’s humane? That’s respectful? That’s democratic?

    As for sources to support David Silverman’s claim that atheism, at least non-religion, “is the fastest growing religious demographic in all 50 states,” we do not need to depend on numbers, especially unreliable poll numbers, to decide our religious or non-religious directions. The fact that mainline churches are diminishing and the Catholic Church’s real growth is in backward, illiterate countries, leaves any continuing strength in religious numbers to the evangelicals. Such numbers are as weak as they are large.

    Evangelicals can easily be demonstrated as relying on emotion rather than intellectual pursuits, least of all respectable philosophy and theology, for their religious convictions. Those are the numbers that matter, not what Pew publishes after its shallow surveys. Pew’s questions show exactly how respondents provide the answers they think are popular at the moment and what’s expected of them so they do not seem to be out of the mainstream.

    “Broad category,” to say the least about any claim that the number of religious devotees is increasing in this country. Why have secular pursuits replaced the formerly “sacred” Sunday mornings? It appears that Sarah Jones, the author of this criticism, is more selective yet produces less real evidence about any growth in religion in this country.

    Remember one thing, the vast majority of religious people are not much versed in the basic tenets of religion. They have been brain-washed with their beliefs since before they were able to conceive beliefs or ideas of their own, based on knowledge. Those who accept religious beliefs do so because they think those tenets are somewhat popular among the majority. How many have done any serious study of philosophy or theology? How many have much understanding or respect for the sciences? How many are aware of the evils that have been committed in the name of religion throughout its history?

    No non-believer of religion should have timidity in admitting that position out of fear of the reaction from religious moderates, absolutely not out of fear of the reaction from extremists on the evangelical religious right. It is long past the time that non-believers respect themselves, their study, their knowledge, their thinking, and their convictions.

    There is one important lesson to be learned from the history of religion by non-believers, and that is not to copy any of the ugliness of which religious history is so full. We can defend our positions with respect for those who disagree by using history and the sciences. We can disagree respectfully, and we must require that any religious opposition return that respect. There should be nothing snide on either side. We should not show that, and we must never accept that. We must agree to disagree–with respect.

  • The Great God Pan

    An old roommate and I used to amuse ourselves by watching Christian televangelists on the dozen-or-so Christian channels “offered” by our satellite TV package. You were stuck paying for them whether you wanted them or not, so why not make the most of it?

    Our favorites were “Dr.” Mike Murdock and the improbably named Reverend Peter Popoff. We also enjoyed seeing a clip of Brigham Young University’s production of “Starlight Express.” We wondered, did the administration at BYU realize their drama department had been infiltrated by gays on skates? Christian music videos were also fun.

    Atheist TV sounds less funny. I will probably take a pass unless they develop a news show that reports ugly, silly or otherwise embarrassing religious news from around the world. That would be cool.

  • gilhcan

    Chris: That is a must if we ever expect to get anywhere in changing this fight into a discussion. We must all be dignified and show others, even the opposition, respect. And we should require it of the opposition, too. One need not watch, listen, or read much to see how defensively ugly religious extremists have been. We must not copy them. We must show them better ways. And we must expect changes on their part to respect us.

  • Curious

    “Unfortunately, very unfortunately, this reads like an apology for the opposition, not a writing by someone working for Americans United for Separation of Church and State…”

    Well, yeah. That is par for the course with Stedman and his “faitheist” crew. What else is new?

  • gilhcan

    Great god Pan: It seems that life is important enough that it requires some serious attention in the midst of all the escapism of humor and comedy–or only laughing at the opposition. Everything has its place, but balance seems to be the real salvation.

  • gilhcan

    Sadly, Larry, when people do not have competence in the areas in which they attempt for work, worst of all, areas where they seek profit, they often seem like buffoons. But worst of all, consider the harm they can do to others with their deceits.

  • “But who is keeping an eye on the atheists?”


  • And by the way, who’s in charge of keeping these atheist TV entertainers honest?</blockquote.

    The Discordians?

  • Atheist TV is a good start
    and there is so much it can offer on so many topics.

    The first day of broadcasts had lots of repetition, but that was great because it gave the curious a glimpse of how large the number of Atheists is in the USA and it broke the stereotype – these folks were just regular people.

    I think Atheist TV will accomplish great things.
    The world has no future unless people find new ways to be swept away, entertained, satisfied, and thoroughly inspired without referring to gods or other such superstition.

    For most Atheists it is art, music, film, literature, science, poetry, theatre, philosophy and culture which fills the need once filled with religion – along with being available to help friends and others.

    Compare that to Christian TV where every hour is full of head-scratching abjection (“you are not worthy”), indulgences (“send money and god will help you”), rip offs (send money), promises of miracles (if you send money) mumbo jumbo (speaking in tongues), clowns (Joyce Meyers), frauds (Creflo Dollar) and outright superstition (Pat Robertson).

    Too bad Christian belief is so damaging to society – because it is awesome entertainment.

    Atheist TV won’t be for everyone
    but it will be perfect for the doubters and the curious who may be wondering whether their church is based on something real or even harmful.

    Evidence leads to smarter questions.
    I think Atheist TV will be a bit like CSPAN for awhile until the favorite shows emerge.

    There are dangers.
    Atheism is not a religion and it is not a cult. It is just a lack of belief
    in gods. If, in an attempt to gain ratings it cultivates certain personalities and starts to promote religiosity or present certain humans as worthy of worship, etc. It will have strayed into the danger zone.

    Atheism has no ‘gods’; neither of Reason nor Science.

    To stay safe and positive and godless,
    Atheist TV needs to commit itself to skepticism.

    I don’t know if it has done that yet.
    But it will lose my vote if it doesn’t.

  • Libertarian Joe

    I just hope it doesn’t turn into a liberal love-in.

  • Libertarian Joe

    Or maybe they want to impeach him because he uses executive orders like he’s handing out candy.

  • Earthworm Jim

    Because you would be annoyed that liberals are getting some, while you are sitting in front of a computer in your mom’s basement.

  • Harry S. Truman

    Like me!

  • Libertarian Joe

    No, because it would reenforce the stereotype that all atheists are liberals.

  • Libertarian Joe

    To be fair to Barry O, he’s not the first to abuse the power.

  • Libertarian Joe


  • Earthworm Jim

    Waitaminute, I thought conservatives killed and ate all of the atheists in their midst.

  • Harry S. Truman

    Like when I desegregated the military. Whooeee that caught a lot of flak. Abuse of executive power is what they called it. Going to lead to the end of society as we know it, is what they said. As I figured it, why give them commies a real gripe. We needed all our boys to fight them

  • “I will probably take a pass unless they develop a news show that reports ugly, silly or otherwise embarrassing religious news from around the world. That would be cool.”

    Would this count? “What Religion Has Contributed to the World This Month” by Religion Hurts Humanity:

  • Listen Ning

    This was written by a Communications Associate for Americans United for Separation of Church and State? Seriously?? Stedman and crew seem determined to undermine unbelief while elevating his “brand”. Good luck with that. It’s not as if atheists can’t see through this guy.

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