I Thought Bill Maher is an Atheist

But in this clip he suggests that he is an agnostic, and rejects atheism because it “mirrors the certitude that is religion”:

Maher’s views in the clip mirror my own (straddling the confidence atheist and confidence theist divide). The clip dates to February of 2009, but in October of 2009 he accepted an award from an atheist group. Hmm. I just assumed that Maher was an atheist of the Richard Dawkins variety. Have Maher’s views shifted since this clip? Is he an atheist, or not?

If not, then we are sympatico.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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8 Responses to I Thought Bill Maher is an Atheist

  1. Matt says:

    From what Maher says here, it seems he *is* an atheist of the Richard Dawkins variety.
    Dawkins has said he’s not 100% sure that there isn’t a God.
    In fact, the vast majority of atheists say that.

  2. gonovelgo says:

    He’s an atheist, but one who goes in for quite a lot of what most atheists would consider ‘woo’ (as in alternative medicine and the like, I believe – I haven’t looked into him much).

  3. Maher does not think very deeply about religious matters, nor has he ever made any effort to actually study religion(s) even superficially. The inevitable results is inconsistency (which should not be confused with ambiguity or subtlety).

    Also Maher is a comedian and agnosticism is not a good basis for humor, especially of the variety that Maher goes in for. An agnostic has much less justification for mocking the beliefs of others, while an atheist does.

    Finally, Maher’s editing of the Francis Collins interview in Religulous shows that Maher is intellectually dishonest in a rather big way.

  4. santitafarella says:


    Actually, I would think agnosticism to be the ideal stance for a comedian. Why? Because it maximizes irony in all directions. To be in the ironic position with relation to both atheism and theism would mean that neither view is “off limits” to ironic critique. Believers of whatever stripe often find it difficult to laugh at their own position.

    But I’ve never heard Maher make jokes about atheism. Hmm.


  5. Jared K says:


    This is interesting because there has been some controversy in recent decades over the definition of atheism. I personally think that an atheist must at least be someone who thinks that “probably, God does not exist.” Agnostics would definitely be folks who think the evidence is roughly equal on both sides (or lacking equally on both sides).

    I think that in terms of justification, it is much easier to justify agnosticism. The atheist has to have at least some consideration for believing that there probably isn’t a God. If anything, agnosticism is more of the default position or starting point (but I think there are pragmatic problems with remaining agnostic indefinitely).

    Oh, Santi, I saw this book today and thought you mind find it interesting, though I haven’t read it yet:

  6. santitafarella says:


    Thanks for the book link. I ordered a copy. I’ll let you know what you I think in a week or two.


  7. truthmerchant says:

    The progressive Christian (sic)


  8. awfrick says:

    Yeah, I think its clear he rejects militant atheism – which does reflect the certainty of religion – but the guy obviously is a non-theist, and I think that’s the most important thing.

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