Ricky Gervais, the star of the original British version of the television show, The Office, hosted the Emmys. I love Gervais, but even with him, I didn't watch it. I don't like awards shows. To me, they are pretty tedious and long. But to those who do enjoy these shows, enjoy. Gervais at the end of the show, stated, "thank God for making me an atheist." This, has caused some controversy. Not so much as if Katharine Hepburn had said it, 60 years ago at the Oscars. If she (yes she was an atheist) had said that, Joe McCarthy and others would probably have destroyed her career. Gervais really wasn't mocking religion (as some have alleged) but those who use every opportunity when they win something (especially in sports) to proclaim their religious beliefs. While these individuals (mainly but not always, athletes) have that right, atheists have the same speech rights to proclaim their atheism, even in a joking manner.
On a separate but related issue, Glenn Beck, the deranged mega-host on the far right, stated that the shooter, Jared Loughner, in Tucson, AZ, is an atheist. I don't know for sure that he is or he isn't. He might be, atheists have occasionally committed violence, though prisons aren't known for having many people who don't believe in a god. This is what the Beckster said:
"All evidence points to (Jared Loughner)...was severely mentally disturbed, his belief system wasn't even rational...he was an atheist who believed George W. Bush was responsible for 9/11...cited the Communist Manifesto as one of his favorite books...these are not the opinions of a coherent individual...."
First of all, Glenn Beck is commenting on the beliefs of others as a sign of not a coherent individual? The man who basically believes that President Obama is in fact, the reborn Adolf Hitler? This man who believes that Obama's policies are as bad as being burned alive with gasoline? This man dares lecture anyone on mental health? Now, Bush wasn't responsible for 9/11, he was just not that competent. I don't agree with the Communist Manifesto but that doesn't necessary make someone who likes it, less than coherent. There are less coherent books, and many of them are ones are that are praised by politicians every day in this country.
Second, being an atheist isn't a sign of a non-coherent individual! I do not believe that being a theist or a believer in a god makes you incoherent or mentally unstable. I don't believe that being a Christian necessary makes you mentally unbalanced, though with the far religious right types like Pat Robertson or Fred "God hates F.gs" Phelps, I would make exceptions. Those guys are indeed nuts. This statement by Beck shows the contempt that atheists still have to navigate in society.
O.K., I know Beck's audience is largely religious right with a few actual libertarians sprinkled in. Heck, Beck might even have a handful of atheist devotees. Beck strangely idolizes Thomas Paine, though Paine was one of the biggest critics of religion in American history and one of the founding fathers of the modern American Humanist movement.
Simply, Beck is a shrill character and will be looked back by future Americans as the nutjob that he was.