This evening, CNN aired an hour-long documentary entitled, “Atheists: Inside the World of Non-Believers.” Heavy on names like Dave Silverman and Richard Dawkins, but light on diversity, the documentary largely seemed to be a vehicle for promoting the atheist brand as dictated by American Atheists.
I knew pretty early on not to put too much stock in this documentary. After all, in the first five minutes of the show, we have Dawkins stating that he loves the Church of England because “nobody actually believes it.” Silverman appears a few seconds later to continue dictating people’s identities, stating that people who identify as skeptics or humanists (instead of atheists), are liars:
Voiceover: “Nones. Humanists. Skeptics. Freethinkers. Agnostics. Millions of Americans.”
CNN Anchor: “I’ve interviewed men and women, they say, ‘I’m a humanist, I’m a freethinker, I’m a skeptic.’ So many people won’t say, ‘I’m an atheist.’ Is it all the same thing? Are these just softer terms for ‘I’m an atheist?’”
Silverman: “Yes. These are atheists who are afraid to use the word. And what are they doing? They’re lying.”
As I learned yesterday, this is par for the course for AA, whose PR Director Danielle Muscato thinks it’s okay to go to atheist meetups and tell people how they should identify. And I get it! You’re American Atheists, not American Humanists/Skeptics/Freethinkers, and you want to rally the troops. What American Atheists fails to realize is that brand promotion does not equal civil rights activism.
After a couple of decent segments featuring Jerry DeWitt, the Clergy Project, and some badass Harvard divinity school students, Silverman is back.
“Religion is harmful, religion is bad, religion is wrong. We can say that on Atheist TV. We can’t say that on any other network.”
Silverman yell-talks this last quote at the CNN anchor, on CNN, which I think is still technically considered a “network.” I’ll give Silverman the benefit of the doubt and assume he couldn’t find a less hilariously inaccurate way to worm in a mention for his sparsely-updated Roku Channel, Atheist TV.
This brief quote near the end of an hour-long segment was the most eye-opening part of the entire program. When Silverman spits those words at the anchor, it sheds light on a larger problem with movement atheism: Self-promotion too often trumps common decency. And when that happens, you lose the ability to call yourself a civil rights organization.
I’m looking at you, American Atheists.