Now that gays have gone and gotten their civil rights, the next great social battle of our time is for… atheist equality? That’s what Bill Maher, the popular talk show host and misanthrope, told TheWrap’s Sharon Waxman.
Talking about “the Jesus freaks who are the majority of this country,” Maher explained to Waxman that he would never be able to run for political office, due to his disbelief in god, among other things. He noted that there are no open atheists in Congress, adding, “They’re out there. They’re thinking it. They’re just afraid to say it. But that’s changing. It’ll be the new gay marriage.”
Last month, openly gay former politician Barney Frank (D-MA) announced that does not believe in god on Maher’s show. Frank never acknowledged his atheism during his 32 years in Congress, however. The last openly atheistic member of Congress was Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA), who was voted out of office in November 2012.
We understand the point that Maher is trying to make here. Atheists, who number at least 15 percent of the population, are grossly underrepresented in government. And while we are sympathetic to any marginalized group, we find Maher’s logic to be flawed. Queer people are excluded from rights afforded to straight-identified people across all levels of society. Atheists, on the other hand, generally enjoy the same legal rights as religious people — except for in seven southern states that impose unconstitutional limitations on atheists holding office. The fight facing non-believers, for the most part, is one of changing attitudes, not laws..
Before we can talk about the next great civil rights movement of our time, let’s first finish the ones we’ve already started. Bill Maher, a wealthy and powerful straight white man, will have to check his oppression at the door in the meantime.