Television and Secularism

Mar 7, 2013

Discussion by: Gyrene251

What role should television play in promotong secularism, atheism, or freethought? Should we have our own cable network, much like many religious entities do? Should we have a syndicated program to air every Sunday morning to counter all the paid religious garbage that many local TV stations, and some cable networks, air?

Or should we concentrate on building an internet only “TV” network, with regulary scheduled programming, to combat religion and promote reason, science, and critical thinking?


22 comments on “Television and Secularism

  • I kind of like the idea of your last suggestion because it would reduce cost which non-believers would have a harder time producing/maintaing, but I would add Philosophy as well. Both atheists and theists alike are generally ignorant of philosophical concepts and discussions/thought, many of which are the reason for the existence of what we now call science.

    However, such programs shouldn’t merely be played, simply to be played. In other words, filler is a no-no. And occasional debates could be interesting to watch, perhaps even with religious people on the program.

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  • 2
    whiteraven says:

    When you wrote the word “paid”, you answered your first question. It would be great if PBS were to produce some stuff as counterweight to all the (interesting) programs they’ve done on religious topics. There has been so much time devoted to the current papal election on PBS and NPR that the secular community ought to get a little bit of equal time! But I can’t recall the last time I heard a Unitarian Universalist on much less an Atheist!

    There is a lot of good material on Youtube. A channel that curated this material so it is easier to locate and access programs would be great. Searches turn up lots of duplicates, multipart programs with parts missing or out of sequence, and so on.

    Programming has to be produced. As a start, I think that a directory to programming that is already being produced would be a valuable service. You see a bit of that here in the News & Media section.

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  • 3
    Alan4discussion says:

    Much of modern TV is whatever the sponsors want put in to manipulate the audience, and the dumber and more suggestible the audience the better.

    There are a minority of programmes and channels which show respectable documentaries based on science, science professionals, and researched information.
    The rest is largely advertising, religio-political propaganda, cheap time-fillers, bread & circuses, pap for the masses – with a bit of soap/celebrity gossip, and some sexy bits thrown in to boost viewing figures.

    What is needed is some state direction with a legal framework to raise standards of accuracy and integrity in programming. There is some attempt at this in the UK, but it is limited.

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  • 4
    Mister T says:

    We definitely need more atheist voices on TV. I like what the Atheist Experience do, they have a weekly public access show in Austin which is also broadcast live on ustream. I’d like to see shows of that format get wider coverage. I think it’s just as important to air on TV as on the internet as that reaches a wider demographic.

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  • 5
    canadian_right says:


    The real question is would it be a good use of your money if you want promote secularism. TV is very expensive. Second, is it necessary? Outside of Sunday morning it seems to me pretty much all TV is already secular. I’m pretty sure I hear evangelists bemoaning “godless liberal Hollywood” and TV fairly often.

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  • 6
    ForFreeThought says:

    I don’t know. the whole point of atheism is simply “no theism”, however it is good to raise awareness. I think you have to be careful about crossing the line between secular/athiest and anti-religion. Unfortunetely, the majority of people probably wouldn’t like it. but considering we all have to deal with this crap anyway…

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  • 7
    Stardroid says:

    What Whiteraven said.

    Also, I could add that some bloke banging on about reason on the TV isn’t the best idea, so it would have to be very well produced and have a clear goal, instead of the more likely “here’s what reason can do to this, now that”, which is tiresome and annoying!

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  • 8
    This Is Not A Meme says:

    I would love a surreal TBN style Atheist Broadcasting Network. We could Praise Science! Have a good ol’ Skepticism! Telethons to raise money for bandwidth on the Galaxy 5 com satellite!

    It’s too bad television is dead. I haven’t seen one in anyone’s home for years. People watch programming when they want via stream or even XBox. I think a dedicated content source is much needed.

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  • I can’t stand movies and TV that are all message, message, message. I mean I recently watched a movie where every line could be heard as though it was lifted from a basic how to guide of critical thinking. -no, no, no-

    People are interesting (real and imaginary), and when their stories are told well we can derive all kinds of stuff from them without feeling like we’re being told what to think. Please don’t fall into just barely masking educational material as TV drama. -yuck

    Straight education, or good stories. I don’t assume they are mutually exclusive except in how they should be executed.

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  • 10
    brown dwarf says:

    I have been suggesting this for a while. It would be a great idea to have a tv station or at least a couple of hourly slots on one of the many sky tv channels. In this article on rdf originals about the good news club, we were just talking about using public access tv in the states. This is free, to broadcast some of the great video material on youtube and on this website into the homes of millions who would never see it unless they specifically search for atheist material online. has a list of thousands of online videos in the categories section and a regular news show. The idea is that the best of these could be burned to dvd and sent to your local public access tv station for broadcast to millions also has a good list of videos under the resources section.

    In the uk, you could get on sky tv for £500 for an hourly slot on They could even get you your own national channel on Sky tv, cable, and freeview. The potential of raising the awareness of the general public is immense. The religious have over 50 god channels on tv spreading the lies that non believers are evil and immoral, That creationism is true, that they can cure all illnesses, scamming people out of their money, psycologically abusing children with the threat of eternal torture in hell, condemning homosexuals, etc.
    If we had just one tv channel promoted on this website i believe it will be a great success. A tv channel will be easily found and word of it would spread like wildfire unlike online where it would be like a needle in a haystack of millions of websites and youtube channels. I imagine that a lot of people who would never visit this site or an atheist youtube channel but have their tvs on all the time flicking though the channels could stumble upon a Christopher Hitchens debate with Tony Blair, or a Dawkins documentary about the enemies of reason, or a video of the engaging Neil Degrasse Tyson talking about the beauty of studying the cosmos., for example, have been broadcasting their weekly show in Austin for over ten years now patiently taking calls from theists and explaining the irrationality and harmfulness of their beliefs. It would be great to see it shown on british tv or in other states in the usa. Im sure they would love to see that too.

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  • I think especially sitcoms are already starting to do for atheism or agnosticism what they have done for Jews, blacks (Asians also, now) and gays; i.e. depicting them as completely normal and part of the regular cast. It’s reached the point where they can even joke about these things on screen without it sounding offensive. Give it some time. It’ll happen naturally.

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  • 12
    This Is Not A Meme says:

    I wanna see a rational-healer who asks the viewer to put their hands on the screen and receive the placebo effect. “Ah wancha, to put yur hands on the screen, but first take your medicine designed by scientists-ahhh! Now do ya feel it? ah! That’s three centuries of methodology coursing through ya veins, healin’ ya wounds, ah! Now I wancha to go to the dentist, ah! and come back and pootcha hands on the screen, ah!”

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  • 13
    Sean_W says:


    In reply to #12 by This Is Not A Meme:

    I That’s three centuries of methodology coursing through ya veins, healin’ ya wounds, ah! Now I wancha to go to the dentist, ah! and come back and pootcha hands on the screen, ah!”

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  • 14
    GoldenRule rules! says:

    I have been calling for this across the community for 2 years now. Yes we need to have many atheist, humanist, secular tv shows on regular prime time television around the world. I think ‘Road to Reason’ that Elizabeth Cornwell and others are doing would be a great show to start with. The Young Turks also make a show that could perhaps be aired on regular television (prob not Fox) The Atheist News for the Damned could be broadened and go out on Public Access tv at the least.

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  • 15
    brown dwarf says:

    This was posted by r(a)y in the comments section that I was talking about. This is very helpful.

    Good idea! I worked on a public access cable show for years. Public access is completely free to everyone that lives in the viewing area. You don’t even need to be a customer of the cable provider. You just need to fill out a couple of quick forms and request a weekly timeslot. When it gets approved (usually takes a couple weeks), you just need to send them the show on a DVD. It’s very easy to do. Where I live the cable provider is Cablevision, I don’t know how other providers handle their public access programming though. Here is a list of public access TV stations.

    EDIT: I just thought of this… It would be great if an organization like RDF produced 30 minute and 60 minute segments that can be easily downloaded and burned to DVD. Everyone would be able to start a public access show and use these segments.

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  • 16
    QuestioningKat says:

    This was brought up on another topic in a discussion with Scott Burdick. I think if you are able to do something like this go to it. Cable access is free. There is a local megachurch that blasts hokey, 1950s styled religion and music on a lesser known TV station (not cable) all hours of the day. I just ignore it or watch for a few minutes because it’s like watching a train wreck. If someone could get time on a lesser known (non-cable) station that would be ideal. People will watch just because they are curious. Call it something like “True secrets to the Universe.”(Shh, There is no God.)

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  • 18
    Unbiased Bias says:

    You sound very zealous about the promotion of atheism through television. I like how instead of just saying what role television should play in secularism your reason for wanting this is to counter “religious garbage”. So much for free-thought. We might as well get rid of children’s cartoons because its fantasy like religion. The media should just be monotone and boring with secularism and atheism as the only entertainment (not saying atheism and secularism are boring, just only that would be boring). I’m 18 but I still like to watch yu-gi-oh and dragon ball z sometimes. You make it seem like secularism and atheism couldn’t exist without a conflict between religion. I guess religion is your biggest promoter lol. Is it too wrong to ask for free thought?

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  • 19
    loqueelviento says:

    Maybe we should indoctrinate children as they do (but without buggering them).

    To be serious, I don’t think TV shows have a strong impact: they preach to the choir, who would watch at their programs for more than half a minute if they don’t believe?

    I am pretty sure good science classes are much more efficient­ at spreading secularism—In my case at least they were—and that’s where all efforts should be put in my opinion.

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  • I am a producer for independent production company that provides educational content for public television.
    I have noticed that many “christian” stations provide free airings for many shows.
    I am interested in this subject and think that is possible both on cable as well as the internet for low costs.
    If anyone wants to share ideas on the subject let me know.

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  • 22
    Tribforce says:

    Please hear this all you vacuous minded, God-hating, intellectual bigots. I want you to understand clearly that Christians respect and revere science, reason, and critical thinking. Paul in the NT book of Romans enjoins us to be renewed in our minds and admonishes believers to be ready with reasoning and understanding to give a logical polemic of their faith.

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