Famous New Atheist Argues Against Vaccinations

Most of you probably know about the latest measles outbreak and the growing debate about vaccination. But did you know that a very popular New Atheist has been a long-term, vocal opponent of vaccination?

If you watch this video from 2009, you’ll quickly detect that Bill Maher is a kook. The Kook starts off his whole anti-vaccination argument by refering to vaccines as “injecting a disease into your arm” and it is all downhill from there. Maher is one these New Age types that thinks our bodies are being polluted by “toxins” and it’s the cleansing of the body that is needed, not vaccines.

Something else happened in 2009.

Richard Dawkins personally delivered the Richard Dawkins Award to Maher.

New Atheist Dawkins, who postures as “pro-science,” delivers the Richard Dawkins Award to an ally New Atheist, who, for the last 10 years, has been discouraging people from getting vaccines with his pseudoscience.

Is Dawkins now willing to rescind the Award?

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24 Responses to Famous New Atheist Argues Against Vaccinations

  1. Billy Squibs says:

    Of course not! Maher was a obvious choice for the the “RD award for popular people who say bad things about religion (and therefore should be rewarded) but don’t think so good”. Don’t you dare try take away his award, Michael.

    I’m indebted to Zoolander

  2. Allallt says:

    It would be amazing if, due to this dumb anti-vax stance, Richard Dawkins did rescind the award. It’s anti-science and, more importantly, it’s dangerous.
    Can I ask why you thought that it was important to point out that he was an atheist?

  3. Kevin says:

    I can take a stab at that question.

    Atheists such as Richard Dawkins pride themselves on “reason” and “evidence”. They nigh worship science and the scientific method. According to them, it is their passion for reason and evidence that they find themselves justified in mocking religion, which, according to them, is not supported by reason and evidence. Or science.

    Yet here we have a guy receiving an award who, apparently, can either be overlooked for his anti-science views because he also speaks out against religion, or because the only science that matters to these atheists is that which in their mind refutes religion. Either way, it shows that these atheists are not primarily motivated by reason, evidence, and science, but instead by anti-religious ideology. In which case it makes perfect sense to award a fellow antitheist.

  4. Yep, atheists can say stupid things too. Surprise!

    Still no gods though.

  5. Billy Squibs says:

    Nope. No gods. That we can agree on.

  6. Allallt says:

    It’s not up to Richard Dawkins to rescind the award. The awarding body is the Atheist Alliance. They award it to “an outstanding atheist whose contributions raise public awareness of the nontheist life stance”. It’s not about science. It’s about atheism and secularism in society.
    Would it be fair to say that this post is intentionally aimed at priming readers for the position that atheists are dishonest when they say they are pro-science (as Kevin alludes to), based on the example of Bill Maher?

  7. Allallt says:

    Oh dear. The Richard Dawkins Award went to Bill Maher, who said this:
    “I’m not an atheist. There’s a really big difference between an atheist and someone who just doesn’t believe in religion. Religion to me is a bureaucracy between man and God that I don’t need. But I’m not an atheist, no… I do believe in a God, yes.”
    (The source of this quote is an article from The Onion, and it seems to have been archived because I can’t find it now. But I can find plenty of sites referring to it. Copy and paste into Google).
    That means he misses the first criteria: he’s not an atheist.
    He’s also an anti-vaccine promoter who denies the germ theory of disease. So he doesn’t promote science either. He really is an awful candidate, let alone a winner.
    The Atheist Alliance International, who give out the award, probably should consider rescinding it.

  8. Charlie 2n says:

    clubschadenfreude, no one said anything about gods….
    but the existence of God? We can almost certainly say there indeed is such an existence.

    Funny thing with some atheists though.
    They can’t ever let a chance slip by where they don’t say something like what cludschad said.

  9. Charlie 2n says:

    Hmmm… here’s some insight into the thought process of clubschadenfreude.
    His thoughts on God telling Abraham to kill his son Isaac:

    “great observation. and that story about Isaac has always been so weird. We get a supposedly omniscient god that needs to “test”, a idiot father who says “hey, no problem in killing my son” and then this god again “just kidding!””……

    Clubschad,
    If this is the depth of your exegesis you might want some other hobby to shallowly delve in to.
    The whole point was so that Abraham, and everyone else, could see what God was about to do. For as intense of a request it would be to kill one’s own son… That’s exactly what God was intending to do with his own son.
    Abraham even says to Isaac, “My son, God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering.”
    Foreshadowing Christ being offered as the lamb.
    What does John the Baptist say as soon as he sees Jesus? “The Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world”.

    You pass your incredulity off of an argument, which is sad.

  10. Kevin says:

    Even if I ignore that it’s the Onion – which is a satirical group – and assume he’s telling the truth, it was also from 12-13 years ago. May not be how he feels now.

  11. Allallt says:

    Kevin – That’s a fair point; he could have changed. However, people seem to take the Onion article seriously so I’m assuming the interview was serious. (I could be wrong.)

  12. TFBW says:

    It’s not up to Richard Dawkins to rescind the award.

    His endorsement of the award is his to withdraw. What does Dawkins’ endorsement of the award say about him? To me it says that Dawkins only gets his dander up about “anti science” behaviour when theists are his target. If your ideology aligns with his, then “anti science” behaviour won’t even be noticed: you’ll get a free pass and a pat on the back. Dawkins postures as though he’s all about promoting science and reason, but that activity is entirely subordinate to his crusade against theistic religion: the “science and reason” thing is just a pretext for the latter goal. Maher produced the religion-mocking film Religulous the year prior to receiving the award, so his anti-religious bona fides are impeccable, and there’s no need to find fault with his science.

  13. Michael says:

    Can I ask why you thought that it was important to point out that he was an atheist?

    I pointed out he was a New Atheist, which is different (in my mind) from an atheist.

    It’s not up to Richard Dawkins to rescind the award. The awarding body is the Atheist Alliance. They award it to “an outstanding atheist whose contributions raise public awareness of the nontheist life stance”. It’s not about science. It’s about atheism and secularism in society.

    True, but given that Dawkins is the lead figure in the movement, a man with a net worth of $150 million, and given the award uses his name, I think Dawkins could get it rescinded if he wanted. As for the award description, this is how it read when Maher received it:

    The Richard Dawkins Award will be given every year to honor an outstanding atheist whose contributions raise public awareness of the nontheist life stance; who through writings, media, the arts, film, and/or the stage advocates increased scientific knowledge; who through work or by example teaches acceptance of the nontheist philosophy; and whose public posture mirrors the uncompromising nontheist life stance of Dr. Richard Dawkins.

    Of course, it would be ironic if the Richard Dawkins Award had nothing to do with science.

    As for Maher, wiki makes it clear is an an agnostic/atheist.

  14. TFBW says:

    I find the prevalence of “nontheist” in that description interesting. It is, at least, rather more honest than the modern attempt to redefine “atheist” as a lack of belief. “Nontheist” is candidly, “anything but theist”, whether that be old-school “there is almost certainly no God” atheism, the agnostic assertion of unknowability, the apatheist “don’t care, not interested” stance, or some variety of materialistic spiritualism (oxymoron notwithstanding). Of course, if you’re a nontheist activist, like Dawkins, then you’re an anti-theist, so the award would be better described as going to an outstanding anti-theist.

  15. Allallt says:

    TFBW – I suspect, from talking to you, that you are not a moron. That is why I feel you are being disingenuous by making “nontheist activist” and “anti-theist” synonymous. (You can, with good evidence on your side, argue that Dawkins in an anti-theist, but that’s not the same thing.) Instead of explaining to you the logical misstep you are making, I just want to name another area of discourse where a similar mistake is made: not all feminists are anti-men (from my experience, not even most are). Yet, feminists can be activists… and still not be anti-men.

    Michael – could you indulge me by writing a post that explicates the difference between gnu/New Atheists and atheists? It might make it slightly easier to engage with your posts, because of late they’re appeared like a guilt-by-association campaign.

  16. TFBW says:

    I’m going to stand by my choice of words, Allallt. I take “nontheist activist” to be synonymous with “anti-theist” because actively promoting nontheism is the same as actively opposing theism. One might make a very fine distinction between the methods of one being positively geared towards promoting nontheism, and the other being negatively geared towards opposing theism, but the net effect is the same: it’s an attempt to raise the ratio/influence/prestige of nontheists over theists. Thus, any such distinction seems a bit like the distinction between to-MAY-to and to-MAH-to to me. This goes doubly if Maher is an example of a nontheist rather than an anti-theist, given his plainly anti-theistic movie, Religulous.

    This is quite different from your feminism example. One’s disposition towards men and one’s disposition towards women need not be related in any particular way.

  17. Allallt says:

    TFBW – You probably predicted that I would disagree. The ‘movement’, as defined by the Atheist Alliance’s description of the Richard Dawkins award, is this “contributions raise public awareness of the nontheist life stance”.
    That is about understanding and equality. It might be about raising the prestige of the nontheist life, but not “over theists”, as you describe.
    I’m a nontheist, atheist, humanist (etc). I’m not anti-religious. But I would like an equal position in society and I would like bigots who hide behind their religion to behave as such to be called out on it. The simple fact that I can be nontheist and not anti-theist means you treating them as synonyms is mistaken.
    I think the feminism analogy works perfectly. One’s disposition to theists and nontheists need not be related, either.

  18. Kevin says:

    I think some of the atheist billboards we’ve all heard about can be helpful in distinguishing “non-theist” with “anti-theist”.

    “You can be good without God” is a non-theistic message. It is designed to uplift non-theists, but not at the expense of theists. However, “You KNOW it’s a myth” (referring to Christianity) is anti-theist. It does nothing to uplift non-theists. It’s only purpose is to attack theism.

    It’s probably uncommon to have anti-theists not also advocate for the non-theistic message, because even those guys have at least an instinctive awareness that there has to be SOME sort of positive message. But it does not follow that non-theists have to also be anti-theistic.

  19. TFBW says:

    Allallt said:

    The simple fact that I can be nontheist and not anti-theist means you treating them as synonyms is mistaken.

    I don’t regard “nontheist” and “anti-theist” as synonyms. I regard “nontheist activist” and “anti-theist” as (effective) synonyms. And by “nontheist activist”, I mean an activist for nontheism, not merely a nontheist who is also an activist for something.

    However, it’s off-topic, and of no special importance to me, so I withdraw the remark on the grounds that I’d rather back down than offend you unnecessarily. As such, I agree in principle that a nontheist activist could conduct his business in a manner that is not anti-theistic, in as much as he could promote equality and nondiscrimination in those cases where theists receive unfair preferential treatment. Such activity would not be anti-theistic, because it would not be in opposition to theism as such. I have severe doubts that any recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award can be legitimately so classified, however. If my view of nontheist activism seems a little jaundiced, bear in mind that my impressions of the subject are heavily influenced by the example set of high-profile activists who are most recognised by their peers, not theoretical possibilities.

  20. TFBW says:

    Allallt said:

    Michael – could you indulge me by writing a post that explicates the difference between gnu/New Atheists and atheists?

    I can’t speak for Michael, but you could start with an independent report such as the Wikipedia entry. In response to the “guilt by association” claim, would it be sufficient to point out that there are high-profile intellectual atheists who are also critical of New Atheism? Michael Ruse is the obvious name to drop in that capacity. Thomas Nagel is also deeply critical of much core New Atheist dogma. Is this kind of example sufficient to allay your concerns?

  21. Dhay says:

    Allallt > I’m a nontheist, atheist, humanist (etc). I’m not anti-religious. But I would like an equal position in society… [My emphasis.]

    Not British, then.

  22. I’m just going to throw this out there. I think a lot of ‘New Atheism’ can be explained as applying the form of virulently proselytizing Christianity to an animistic religion of pseudoscience. In extreme cases there will be outright talk of a ‘self-aware universe’, etc. In lesser cases (Dawkins et al?) there is simply an expression that ‘Nature’ provides the ‘believer’ with a religion-like sense of awe.

  23. Michael says:

    In lesser cases (Dawkins et al?) there is simply an expression that ‘Nature’ provides the ‘believer’ with a religion-like sense of awe.

    In Dawkins case, it’s the expression that “Dawkins” provides the ‘believer’ with a religion-like sense of awe.

  24. Dhay says:

    In an August 2013 blog post, Jerry Coyne claimed, on the basis of one church’s pastor being anti-vaccination, and the pastor’s promoting non-vaccination to his congregation, that, “Measles back again, thanks to religion”
    https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2013/08/26/measles-back-again-thanks-to-religion/

    I await Coyne’s near-future blog post, entitled, “Measles back again, thanks to New Atheism”.

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