Flex your muscles a little, infidels

I’m seeing some mixed signals on the series “A Brief History of Disbelief” — it’s appearing in very few station’s schedules right now, and it’s tempting to suspect that it’s being buried by the media, especially since right wing groups detest it:

That "A Brief History of Disbelief" might be controversial is unsurprising. Right-wing groups, such as the Concerned Women of America, are already ramping up opposition to Miller’s program, which originally aired on the BBC in 2005. Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council deemed the work of the actor-director-author Miller to be "an evangelistic piece for atheism."

On the other hand, I’ve heard from the author of the article above that stations are also reporting that it’s a problem with the source — it’s being handled by an independent distributor, and the stations haven’t had an opportunity to review it — so the problems may be less nefarious than procedural. Either way, this is probably a good time to contact your local public broadcasting station and tell them you’d like to see them pick up this program, and pretty please, don’t show it at 3am. Let’s let the godless demographic make itself known, politely but firmly.

It’s not like we’re lobbying Fox News. Don’t you all suspect that public broadcasting’s viewership is skewed our way? All it takes is a phone call, so let’s make our existence known in this simple and unthreatening matter.


  1. Rey Fox says

    “Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council deemed the work of the actor-director-author Miller to be “an evangelistic piece for atheism.”


  2. Rey Fox says

    Seriously. These guys have whole TV stations for evangelizing, and they whine when atheists make one documentary that could be construed as evangelism?

    “Religious freedom” my ass.

  3. Skeptic8 says

    The Evangos are dithering until they can agree on tactics concerning “The War On Jesus”. They got together for “the war on christmas” so that they could pick on the checkers at retail stores for incorrect seasonal language. Just wait, they’ll have it together.
    Anyone seen Jesus Camp? Really scary stuff.

  4. AXOLOTL says

    Here in Oregon, the good news is that Oregon Public Broadcasting is going to broadcast all three episodes consequtively on the same day in June. The bad news is it will start at 2:00am!! Pretty wimpy, huh? I’m going to send an email to OPB requesting they broadcast it at a time more condusive to actually have an audience (besides insomniacs and vampires). I’ll let you know the response …

  5. CalGeorge says

    I emailed my local station a few days ago. I got an email back today:

    I am recording but do not have an air date as yet. I am looking at July. Keep an eye out for the program on our website….

  6. Bill says

    “Big” market Chicago:

    Unfortunately, “A Brief History of Disbelief” is not currently scheduled to air on WTTW11, but I will gladly submit a program request to our programming director on your behalf.
    You may check our scheduling information periodically at http://www.wttw.com or by calling the phone number below for automated scheduling.

  7. CalGeorge says

    My local chain bookstore (Borders) has 53 shelves devoted to religion or religious fiction.

    About 1 1/2 shelves are devoted to atheism. That’s an improvement from a year or so ago, when the atheism got only 1/2 of a shelf. But it’s still a sad state of affairs.

    I guess it takes lots and lots and lots of b.s. to convince people that god exists.

  8. Dustin says

    I was at Barnes & Noble looking for some Rudolph Carnap the other week. They had one side of one shelf dedicated to philosophy. And it wasn’t good philosophy. It was “The Philosophy of The Matrix”, “The Philosophy of Harley Davidson”, “Philosophy and The Matrix”, “Philosophy and the daVinci Code”, “The Philosophy of Star Wars”, “The Matrix and Philosophy”, and no Rudolph Carnap.

    Behind that, there were two full rows of Bibles. Those were next to a full row of Christian fiction (not that the Bible shouldn’t be lumped into that category, or anything).

  9. Jon H says

    “Don’t you all suspect that public broadcasting’s viewership is skewed our way?”

    As far as I can tell, PBS viewersip is skewed towards people who enjoy John Tesh-level music, and endless boring infomercials that make Leo Buscaglia look like U2.

    At least, that’s what they play during fund drives, so that must be what they think the audience really wants.

  10. Jon H says

    “I was at Barnes & Noble looking for some Rudolph Carnap”

    Was that a real Barnes & Noble or a little mall Barnes & Noble?

  11. Chakolate says

    PZ said, All it takes is a phone call

    I wish that were true. When it was not on the biggest Chicago-area PBS station, WTTW-11, I emailed them to ask when it would be shown, and they said they have no plans to show it. Not that they couldn’t get it, but that they have no plans to show it.

    Oh, and then they asked for a donation. Of course.

  12. Dustin says

    Oh, and then they asked for a donation. Of course.

    Yeah, that way they can have more money to bring you more of Wayne Dyer’s insipid crap. Once, a local classical station stopped playing Bach cantatas on Sunday mornings. I wrote them a letter asking them to rethink that. It should be a no-brainer. Bach is better than everyone else, and it’s Sunday morning. Duh.

    No dice. But they did ask me for money.

  13. says

    Just watched Dawkins on the CBC show ‘The Hour’ interviewed by George Stroumboulopoulos(I’ve linked it in by blog). He mentioned hes got a new series – ‘The Enemies of Reason’ coming out next month, taking on not religion but woo, and featuring a debate between himself and Deepak Chopra. (!)
    Thats another one to lobby your local TV station about.

  14. wisernow says

    E-mailed my request, and received the response that there is no plan to air it, at this time.

  15. socinius says

    If you are in the Northern New England area you can email Vermont Public Television and request the showing of the program.

    I asked VPT if they had any plans to air it and they said they did not but that could change. I suspect if they get enough interest they will consider airing it.

    You can go to http://www.vpt.org and click on the Contact link at the bottom of the page. From there you can email your request to air the program.

  16. says

    In Saint Louis (Channel 9 KETC), I got this less-than-helpful response:

    Dear Viewer:

    There are no plans to air a Brief History of Disbelief through June 2007.

    Membership Services

    I emailed back asking why and how that could be changed. You can email them at letters [at] ketc [dot] org. I’m doubtful they’ll air it or be conducive to requests, but it’s worth a shot.

    Off topic, but related to how politics influences public station programming–I sent them an email a year ago about “In the Life”, an excellent program about LGBT people, and got absolutely no response. Gotta keep atheists and teh gays off of our TVs!

  17. says

    >Right-wing groups, such as the Concerned Women of America, are already ramping up
    >opposition to Miller’s program

    Two things:

    1) Why are right-wing religious nut jobs so dumb that they can’t figure out how to change the channel?

    2) Why don’t we start complaining about all of the religious bigotry on the TV and get those shows cancelled?

    Well, 2 is stupid. So that brings me back to 1.

    (And yes, I do realize they probably can figure out how to change the channel and they’re trying to control what everyone else watches because they are power-mongering freaks who have forgotten that any real religious conversion must be voluntary.)

  18. says

    We have two PBS stations here in the Tampa Bay area, and the smaller one WUSF, is associated with the University of South Florida. They showed all three parts yesterday afternoone from like 1 PM to 4 PM – I Tivo’d them and watched the first part and thought it was pretty good. Not fire breathing atheism at all, but pretty measured and considered. I think WUSF is airing it again late at night sometime. Since it aired in the mid-afternoon bloc, I can’t imagine many people saw it, and the fact that WEDU (the bigger PBS station here) isn’t showing it means not many folks will take a look. I was somewhat surprised, since Bill Moyers promoted the show on his program last Friday, devoting a large segment to interviewing the show’s presenter.

    I did notice that it was being sponsored by a lot of interesting sounding humanist groups I’d never heard of and the lead-in bumper that explained where the show came from and so on didn’t have a very polished feel to it, so I can imagine that having an indie distributor is hurting the thing as much as the actual content. Still, it’s nice to have it out there and hopefully it will live on on the PBS web site or youtube or what have you and we can link people to it.

  19. Patrick says

    1) Why are right-wing religious nut jobs so dumb that they can’t figure out how to change the channel?

    They’re quite capable of changing the channel. They’re worried all those impressionable young people won’t be. It’s like when Family Groups complain about anything else on television; it’s not enough to tell them “well just don’t watch it then”, because Family Groups don’t want ANYONE to watch it. They imagine that watching gay people or violence or Dr. House making fun of nuns is going to somehow “pollute” the “moral atmosphere” and then everyone is going to worship the devil. To them and their skewed logic, it’d be like saying “if you’re against murder, just don’t do it”.

  20. dw says

    Oh good, WQED in Pittsburgh is showing it at 10 on Thursday night. Should be interesting to watch.

  21. says

    Being lucky enough to live in the UK, I saw this series a couple of years ago and found it very interesting. It’s in no way an attack on on belief systems (not that I object to those sorts of programmes either), but a study of non-belief through the last few centuries and of what it actually means to people living today. Very serious, informative and low-key. I hope you all get to see it.

  22. says

    Just received this…

    Thanks for contacting member supported tpt, we appreciate hearing from you.

    We will air the series A Brief History of Disbelief this summer, but do not have a broadcast date at this time. We will share your thoughts on the airtime of the program with our Programming Department and will let you know when it is scheduled. Thank you so much for your interest.

    TPT is Twin Cities Public Television in Minnesota.

  23. SEF says

    an evangelistic piece for atheism

    That’s a ridiculous accusation. I would suspect they haven’t even seen it. It’s a dull as ditchwater historical piece, delivered in the most excruciating, monotonic Miller style. I could barely watch the thing (in the UK) and would otherwise have been interested (eg if someone else had done it or dubbed over him!).

    It’s not remotely evangelistic. More soporific. However, for someone who doesn’t dislike Jonathan Miller’s voice and delivery as much as I do, it would probably be very good viewing. I was hoping there would be a transcript of it some time which I could tolerate much better.

  24. rosalindavenue says

    It is on tonight on WBRA at 7 PM here in Roanoke, Virginia. It will be shown on four consecutive Wednesdays at 7. My Tivo is locked and loaded. If it is being shown here in Roanoke, where every day’s letters to the editor serve as a Bible lesson, there is no excuse for your public station not showing it. My only (small) gripe is that it is not in high definition.

  25. thwaite says

    The response I got from KQED in San Francisco (which recently acquired KTEH in San Jose):

    The British producers of the program were not going to pay the additional costs to distribute it in the US until KQED called last year to express interest in the show. We have recorded the program for future use, but we don’t have any airdates for it on KQED, KTEH or KCAH between now and the end of June, which is as far as our schedules have been planned. The program has a 25-month contract window, meaning that it does not lose any value over time.

    You might want to add your email address to our “Human Potential” or “History” email interest list, which gets twice-monthly alerts regarding programs of possible appeal, so that you can keep an eye out for future broadcasts. If interested, you can visit the following web page to subscribe to that newsletter, and peruse what other alerts we have available:

    Thanks for your interest!

  26. says

    Dustin: It has been my experience that philosophy at mainstream bookstores is usually pretty sparse, though I have gotten lucky from time to time. Mostly, though, it is just endless popular french crap or more Nietzsche than one should read.

    writerdd: I think also (a) they consider themselves champion of morality writ large, so want to do so for everyone and (b) taxes do support NPR/PBS, etc., so maybe that’s some of it.