I am no fan of Bill Maher. I was extremely uncomfortable with his selection as the recipient for the Richard Dawkins Foundation award in 2009, and I could only accommodate it by telling myself it was solely for his movie, Religulous, and not a general appreciation of his asshattery. And I didn’t even like Religulous! Orac was spot on in his criticisms, and while I’d hoped to talk to Maher at some time — we were even seated at the same table — he showed up late, complained about the brand of water served at the table, did his acceptance speech, and blitzed out of the room immediately afterwards. While happy to get an award, you could tell he was completely uninterested in associating with the riff-raff of atheism.
He also showed up with an extremely attractive young woman who could have been his daughter, or even granddaughter, but was actually his date. She was pleasant to talk to, quite unlike her sugar daddy, and actually bothered to engage the table briefly in light conversation. But you could tell that Maher’s ideal woman was candy to decorate his arm in public. It also illuminates his behavior — the man has a history of sexist remarks. Is it any surprise that he has done it again?
Dealing w/ Hamas is like dealing w/ a crazy woman who's trying to kill u – u can only hold her wrists so long before you have to slap her
— Bill Maher (@billmaher) July 18, 2014
Bill Maher benefits from the hive mind mentality of so many atheists. You cannot disagree with Bill Maher without simultaneously delivering a slap to atheism — you must not foster divisiveness. You must accept all prominent celebrities who openly embrace atheism as pure paragons of human goodness — it is simply too complicated to think that a person might have a mix of views that are sometimes appealing, sometimes repugnant. So we constantly loft up “heroes” as exemplars, failing to recognize that the essence of atheism has to be a recognition of the flawed humanity of its people, and then we end up with primitive atheists getting defensive and angry at all those critics who point at the awkward reality of those heroes, whether they’re Feynman or Maher or Sanger or whoever.
The problem is compounded by the fact that these same boosters of the Brave Hero Leader of Atheism simultaneously insist that atheism has no guiding principles or morality or goals — it’s a complete moral cipher that simply says there is no god. So sure, as long as you clearly state that there is no god, you can be sexist or racist or endorse bombing the Middle East or love Ayn Rand with all your heart or believe that the poor deserve their lot since Darwin said “survival of the fittest” (he didn’t), and still be the paradigmatic Good Atheist. In the absence of any moral principle, we can promote even moral monsters, or ascientific promoters of bunkum and quackery, to be our representatives — and if you dare to disagree, you are ‘divisive’ and ‘bickering’ and doing harm to the movement.
I am tired of it. Atheist organizations, step it up, clean up your act, and put together a clear statement of what you stand for. If it’s just that you agree that you believe there is no god, fine; if you think the only cause worth fighting for is separation of church and state, that’s a good cause and it’s reasonable to limit your goals; if you want to promote science education, I’m all for it. But I think you need to go further. You need to recognize the implications of godlessness, that there is no Chosen People, that there is no godly support for patriarchy, that everyone is equal under Nature’s law, and that that means there is a whole raft of social and political causes under your purview…and that you should have a broader statement of the meaning of atheism. I want to know what you stand for. This current vacuum of any attempt at an understanding of what atheism ought to mean is exactly what allows assholes to flourish.
I apologise for the “sugar daddy” comment, which implies that the woman had no say in the relationship. That was not my intent; Bill Maher came off as a sexist pig, but she was actually quite an interesting person. She seemed more intelligent than Maher, that’s for sure.