Joy Behar Is One Confused Atheist… April 15, 2011

Joy Behar Is One Confused Atheist…

Does Joy Behar have any idea what she believes?

if you watch this (otherwise pleasant and civil) interview with Father Edward Beck, you get the impression she’s confused about religion, atheism, and everything in between.

Things start to get weird at the 3:00 mark.

Behar admits she’s an Agnostic, but adds she wouldn’t go so far as to call herself an atheist because that’s “a commitment to something.” To what, exactly…? Reason? Logic? Common sense? Who knows.

She’s making the mistake of assuming that being an atheist means you must deny god’s existence with absolute certainty. Even Richard Dawkins doesn’t say that. But when you’re close to certain, you might as well just live as if you’re certain. That’s what most atheists do.

I thought it was silly for the Father to ask her whether she prayed to anyone… but it turned out to be a revealing question.

It turns out that, on Twitter, Behar had written “My prayers are with the people of Japan.”

Prayers to whom…? She doesn’t know.

When pressed, she said she simply accepts Pascal’s Wager (Better to be safe than sorry, right?)… ugh.

Soon after, almost as a throwaway line, she mentioned the statement “There are no atheists in foxholes”…

And then she said that she baptized her daughter…

She really calls herself an agnostic after all that?!

Behar gets a few sensible statements in there, but the priest seems like he’s the only one who knows where he stands.

Joy is like a non-religious version of Joel Osteen — she may use a particular label to describe herself, but she has no real idea where she stands on issues the rest of us (who use the label) figured out a long time ago. As a result, she may be more palatable to more people, but she lacks any real conviction.

In a time when other celebrities are out and proud about their non-belief, it’s frustrating to see someone like Behar holding back and sounding confused.

But I guess it’s better than the alternative, where voicing any doubt at all about faith is enough to kick you off the air.

(via DoctorE)

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  • Haha, I dated a girl who identified as Lutheran. She didn’t believe in sin but said she’d baptize her children because it was a tradition and seemed important. She also thought I was going to hell. A real keeper that one!

  • Jim

    As awkward as she came off, I think there’s a lot of people that think like she does. I also think that she kind of tears up the host. Made me smile.

  • From what little evidence I’ve seen, I’d say that Joy is a cultural Catholic and leave it at that.

  • Sherberts

    She began studying, it would seem that she stopped. I would suggest that she go back to studying. Yes, we catholics have been brainwashed, but we also have the capacity to try and overcome the bullshit. The more you learn, the more you know, the less the need to believe in the big magical sky daddy.
    Joy, call into the Atheist Experience on Sundays @ 4:30pm Central Time (3:30 Eastern Time.) We will help you.

  • TychaBrahe

    There used to be a childfree forum on Delphi that really only got fun when the trolls came in. It was a nice place to go and vent about encounters with the parenting dictators, but not active usually. One troll said we must not have a lot of support. Another person replied that no, we just had lives. We worked and volunteered and did our hobbies and cared for our pets and our loved ones and didn’t really think about our decision not to have children anymore than most of you think about your decision not to be a football fan or not to watch soap operas or not to eat Brussels sprouts.

    I think a lot of people are non-religious, meaning that having made the decision that religion really doesn’t have much to do with their lives, they just ignore it. They don’t worry about it.

    I think atheism holds a little bit of activism in it. It’s an ongoing statement about our unwillingness to follow a religious path. And Behar doesn’t want to be involved in that. And that’s her right.

    Behar could be a guide for the first step for a lot of people who are practicing religion just because they’ve always done it, not because they believe anything in particular.

  • Jeff

    I saw this not too long ago and was kinda confused… then I thought about it for a moment and .. not to be rude or anything, but she is a bit of a flake and I believe perhaps she says certain things (one way or the other) for ratings or to make “her people” happy?

    This is not very uncommon among celebrities. I wonder has she ever really looked into what the words “atheist” “agnostic” really mean? There are numerous definitions for each word.

    Then again, the poster above could be correct as well… maybe this is just a very long un-brainwashing step for her. Everyone handles it differently so we really just never know.

  • I agree that there are quite a few people like her. In fact, I was probably like that in my 20’s before I made the final step to atheism by the time I was in my early to mid 30’s.

  • Anonymous

    I thought Joy was very brave for being as honest as she was right to Edward Beck’s face – remember, she has been trained since childhood that priests deserve special respect. It’s pretty clear that she didn’t identify as an atheist because she doesn’t really know what the word means (and perhaps believes the negative baggage the word has been laden with).

    She probably is representative of a good portion of the “nones.” I thought the interview was really good TV, and it seemed like Joy left the priest with a lot to think about. I’m proud of her for being as forthright as she was.

  • Anonymous

    I like in this interview with Pastor Douglas Wilson and Christopher Hitchens, when discussing the Bible, she says to Wilson, “It sounds like you’re too intelligent to believe that literally.” Bwahaha

  • Practically speaking, she is an atheist and that is good enough for me. It all depends on how you define the term.

  • Darwin’s Dagger

    Why is it so important to you that people place themselves into a box? Behar isn’t sure where she stands. She has a general notion that God is not real and that the beliefs people have about God are nonsense, she just doesn’t feel comfortable stating that as a fact.

  • I don’t have a problem with Joy’s views. I think she expressed herself pretty honestly and yet left some room for a lot of people in her tent – which as a public figure she kind of needs to do. I think that overall – the conversation was good. Of course – I love Joy Behar very much so I could be a little biased.

    Hey Hemant! You are coming to Kansas! Aren’t you so excited! I hope to see you there.

  • Ben

    Who cares what Joy Behar thinks? She’s inconsistant, so what? She can believe what she wants. Hardly anyone watches her show anyway.

    BTW, I think all of us are “agnostic atheists” because cannot say with all honesty that we “KNOW” there is no God. We simply live our lives as there isn’t one and aren’t afraid of what happens to us after death because we accept the hard cold reality.

  • Rollingforest

    I think this is another example of why people should not get their views from celebrities.

  • Rich Wilson

    (on regaining faith) he says:

    there are way to reconnect with that formative experience

    Ya, I hear LSD works well. Or a stroke can have that same effect.

    I used to shy away from ‘atheist’ simply because I thought it meant beyond a doubt mathematical certainty that there was no god or gods of any kind. A friend pointed me to Dawkins. Despite PZ’s fuming, I think ‘dictionary atheism’ is an essential chapter.

  • doglovingirl

    I don’t think she sounded confused or gave a bad or wishy-washy impression. She was honest and open. She doesn’t believe in a magical god, but it’s also hard/scary to forget the Christian brainwashing of “you will burn in hell!” I think she’s a classic example of someone who was raised with religion, then got educated, doesn’t really believe in god anymore, but has a few lingering and irrational fears. Which she can joke about. Good for her.

    I think it’s more likely that Christians would listen to her, and maybe start questioning things and taking their own faltering steps towards nonbelief, than to pompous atheists who declare “I know everything and you’re just stupid!”

  • L.Long

    AN agnostic praying…
    Ah? Who-ever and where ever you are could you sort of do as best you can which may not be much seeing as how you are there and we are here and you may not be even there but you probably are so you might maybe be able to help those people in need as doing this makes me feel better and I’m just delusional enough that this may be of some good, I hope.

  • JSavek

    When Behar said she was “praying” for the people in Japan, it may be that there just isn’t a good word that sums up “I’m thinking about you, I feel bad for your situation, I know I am not or can not do anything actively to help you but I do have sympathy for you”.

    I run into this a lot, when trying to express sympathy to a grieving person. There is a mental state that I get into, where I think about that person more, I ruminate on their situation, I ache for the helplessness I feel, and I hope the future is brighter for them.

    Religious people call this “praying”. What should atheists call it?

  • Aaron

    O gosh, and then she talks about how we all got here on Earth by accident, further supporting that flawed creationist perception of evolution. Natural selection is a very cause-and-effect-driven process. And while the role of genetic drift in evolution is still being clarified, evolution is no accident!

  • Ibis

    You’re so harsh, Hemant. Joy outright said that on an intellectual level she doesn’t believe, but she’s having trouble losing the brainwashing entirely. She doesn’t believe there’s an afterlife, yet she’s afraid about committing suicide or leaving her daughter unbaptised or saying outright that she’s an atheist (i.e. “committing” herself to the label). I’m sure that kind of residual fear is not unusual among those indoctrinated to the degree she was.

    And the “my prayers are with the people of Japan” thing? Well, she gets a pass for that in my book. We say the sun rises, knowing it doesn’t. To her, having grown up in a religious community saying “my prayers are with you” is equivalent to saying “you have my sympathy & I’m grieving with you” even if she’s not *actually* praying to anyone.

    (I have much more of a problem with Christians who said “pray for Japan” as though a god who would unleash such a disaster would give a shit about those who survived.)

  • Non-Litigious Atheist

    She probably is representative of a good portion of the “nones.”

    The more populist and the less intellectual organized atheism becomes, the more it will be like Oprah and the less it will be like Frontline. Kinda puts all the atheist bus ads and billboards in a new light, doesn’t it?

    But then I always thoughts the atheists worth talking to were the ones that knew they were atheists without the help of props and gimmicks.

    And the “my prayers are with the people of Japan” thing?

    If President Obama said that there’d be lawsuits a filing.

  • Nakor

    I don’t think it’s such a terrible thing that someone would be mixed up or undecided or make mistakes in the process of thinking about their stance on religion. I do not have time to watch the full video (honestly I should be studying right now… >.>) but I would suggest a lot of people go through thoughts like that on their way to actual atheism (or agnostic atheism or agnosticism or whatever else one might choose to identify their stance as).

    It could perhaps be seen as unfortunate that someone would make these mistakes on the public stage as it were, but I’m not even so sure of that. Perhaps a more natural seeming disassociation with religion — someone who clearly isn’t trying to push their stance, but is rather trying to figure out what their stance is — might be a unique example to people in similar situations. Just a thought.

    @JSavek: I usually word it as “My thoughts are with ___.” Not only is this honest, it’s also quite meaningful: people can gain hope and motivation simply from knowing that others care and are concerned for them. Moreover, it’s a very commonly used phrase, even among the religious, so non-out atheists can safely use it, and it doesn’t carry an anti-religious sentiment that might make it uncomfortable to any religious folk who might be the ones in your thoughts.

  • Jeebus

    Religious people call this “praying”. What should atheists call it?

    I always say, “they/you are in my thoughts”. Because that’s exactly what is going on. I’m thinking about them and their situation and have sympathy for them. But I’m surely not talking to myself or my imaginary friend about them.

  • There’s not really anything contradictory about being an atheist/agnostic and having your daughter baptized, I don’t think. Now, I wouldn’t do it, or anything like it, because I find the whole idea of baptism distasteful. But, since having gotten married to an atheist who was raised Jewish, I now practice a few Jewish rituals because I find them beautiful and not distasteful (partially because most of the God-ass-kissing stuff is in Hebrew, I think, but I digress…) If you find baptismal ceremonies beautiful and/or meaningful, hey, go for it, I guess…

    The appeal of the “I’m not an atheist because I can’t commit to that” position is that it appears to softens the epistemic blow of open atheism. A theist can say to a theist of a different stripe, “I don’t believe in the same made-up shit as you, but since both of us just believe in made-up shit anyway, hey, we’re all good.” An ‘agnostic’ of the Behar variety can say, “I don’t happen to believe in any made-up shit — but don’t worry, it’s not because that shit is made-up, it’s just because I coincidentally don’t happen to believe in it.”

    An atheist of the open variety, no matter how “civil” our tone might be, implicitly says, “I don’t believe a word of that shit, because it’s all made-up.” Heh, ouch.

  • Justin Miyundees

    The concept of infant baptism was what pushed me over the edge. The thought that I was, as a matter of routine, about to subject my child, quite likely for life, to an authority without his consent made my skin crawl.

    I asked this question on my FB page: how do people who despise the “blame America first” crowd reconcile the (horrendous) notion of “original sin”? Doesn’t infant baptism put you in the “blame the baby first” crowd?

    It’s evil. Talk about bearing false witness.

    Let’s break the chain!

  • Jen

    I think the discrepancies in her feeling may be just stemmed from the fact that she admits to still feeling “brain washed”. It seems like a lot of people can probably relate to that. So I hear, hell actually still scares people, even when they don’t rationally believe it anymore.

  • Sarah

    It *is* hard to get over the thoughts and actions of a religious upbringing. Not knowing one way or another what life is right, and making up your own rules for what you do and do not believe is ok. Atheism is not a religion, it doesn’t define you with boundaries–that’s one of the best things about it. Who is anyone to tell me that I’m not non-believing enough? Absolution rests only in one person’s heart–his/her own. One tweet about prayer doesn’t make her religious. It doesn’t mean she got down on her knees and lifted her arms skyward and asked a deity for mercy upon Japan. In reality she probably said to herself, “those poor people, I feel terrible for them, and I hope that they will get through this,” and called it a prayer. Don’t get uppity about the vernacular, it’s petty and unconvincing and to be quite honest, a little shallowminded for a “friendly” atheist.

  • bigjohn756

    And, she is the smartest one on The View.

  • treedweller

    I really hate it when people fail to grasp what “agnostic” means. When I say I am agnostic, I am not being wishy washy. I am saying very decisively that I do not know if gods exist, and won’t unless/until I see one or more upon my demise (or before, I suppose–I hear it happens).

  • beijingrrl

    I also wasn’t bothered with this interview. She has remnants of her brainwashing that she recognizes and sometimes engages in silly rituals of no consequence. She’s aware that they are silly, but also that they cause no harm. Big deal.

    I’m sure we can all think of inconsequential things we do that we know have no rational basis. We had milk delivered from a farm when I was little and had to shake the bottles before drinking them to mix the milk and cream. I still do this when I buy homogenized milk. I know I don’t need to, but it’s a habit and it doesn’t hurt my milk. I could make an effort to change this habit, but why bother?

    I was impressed with how honest she was. It’s not so easy to tell someone you think their points are invalid when you’re not sure what is right. Would she be living her life any differently if she gave up these inconsistencies? I doubt it. And as long as she keeps questioning, she’ll have less and less of them.

  • Disconverted

    “But when you’re close to certain, you might as well just live as if you’re certain. That’s what most atheists do.”

    That’s not how it works Hemant..
    My non-belief in God makes me an Atheist. Just because I’m not certain about “God” existing doesn’t mean that I firmly and vehemently believe that God doesn’t exist. I just lack the belief in it. I’m not certain. Not being certain doesn’t make you agnostic. It makes you rationally atheistic.
    In my opinion, an agnostic is more of someone who says, “there’s probably something, I just don’t know.” While an Atheist says, “I don’t have a belief in any super natural being.” That’s more of a weak atheist stance. Which is probably more rational than shouting out “There is no God! I know there isn’t!” That’s just as bad as fundie-Christians.

  • starskeptic

    but adds she wouldn’t go so far as to call herself an atheist because that’s “a commitment to something.”

    like committing to actually having made a decision about something?

  • J K

    Hey maybe she meant agnostic theist who likes Christianity, then she would be correct. 🙂
    But one of these days I’d love to see a believer come out and admit that they are agnostic in regards to god but still believe in him. But maybe I’m hoping for too much (the correct use of that nasty word agnostic that’s almost like the big bad “a” word lol).

  • Meh. She has no belief in gods, she’s an atheist. She has doubts about her position, she’s honest. If she looked into the question of gods with that same honesty then I’m sure she’d self identify as an atheist.

  • Nordog

    She’s making the mistake of assuming that being an atheist means you must deny god’s existence with absolute certainty. Even Richard Dawkins doesn’t say that. But when you’re close to certain, you might as well just live as if you’re certain. That’s what most atheists do.

    There’s a word for that. It’s called “faith”.

  • Tigerboy

    I think Behar, herself, touches on what her problem is.

    The indoctrination of youth can be extremely difficult for some people to overcome. There is her RATIONAL mind (and I do have some degree of respect for the way in which Behar thinks with an open mind), and then there is the fear-of-going-to-hell-if-I-sin-by-committing-suicide mentality that goes straight back to that scared, brainwashed little girl, dressed as a bride, at her confirmation ceremony.

    I think, if you pointed out to Behar the absolute mish/mash/muddle of her position, she would probably agree with you. She’s a smart lady who grew up surrounded by nuns and priests. She’s come farther in her thinking than many people of similar background.

    Notice the priest’s profound disappointment that Behar’s daughter and granddaughter were not similarly indoctrinated. He implies irresponsible parenting!!! Religious brainwashers understand that it works much better if they can get ’em while they’re still young.

  • Tigerboy

    I also agree with “hoverfrog.”

    Behar falls into the trap of thinking that “atheist” means CERTAINTY that there is no God. It doesn’t mean that. Atheism means one does not have an ACTIVE faith in assertions that there is a God. It means one does not actively BELIEVE.

    That’s different from thinking one has a certain answer of “NO GOD.”

    If one does not have an active faith in God, if one does not actively believe there is a God, one is an “atheist.” One may also be “agnostic.”

    An agnostic is one who feels the issue is ultimately undeterminable and unknowable. Fair enough. One can be one, or the other, or neither, or both! “Atheist” and “agnostic” are NOT mutually exclusive terms! It’s not a situation where one must choose. The terms address different questions:

    1) Is the existence of God determinable (knowable)?

    2) Do you believe there is God?

    Different questions.

    One can believe that an answer to the question of God’s existence question is ultimately unknowable (making one “agnostic”), but this hypothetical person may, or may not, have faith. It they do not have an active faith, they are also “atheist.”

    Behar sounds like an atheist to me. She says she doesn’t believe. That’s an atheist.

  • p.fearing

    I think Joy Bahar was an Italian Catholic who has changed her views about her church based on the corruption and recent cases of pedophillia. I think she believes in a higher power and the teachings of Christ. I don’t think she agrees with the Catholic Church on issues of homosexuality, birth control etc… And is not living the life of a hypocrit.

  • eishkimo

    Place me in the “you’re being too hard on her” camp. In essence, the vernacular use of the word atheist is to define oneself as ‘believing that there is no god’. That is a specific belief and is the motivating factor behind many people using that term for themselves and others.

    Conversely, the term ‘agnostic’ recognises and acknowledges that the existence of a god is undeterminable via observables or first-order logic.

    Behar, by saying that she is not an atheist because that implies “a commitment to something” is perfectly right to do so. In fact, it would be disingenuous to say otherwise. I would assume that she means that she has not taken the time to draw a specific case against the existence of a deity.

    Personally, I consider myself to be an intellectual agnostic (the proposition that there may be a god is, after all, unfalsifiable and unprovable for common perceptions of god) but an atheist on faith. I believe that there is no god. I use both terms to refer to my differing stances on the subject, on the levels of philosophy and credence.

    I also think that a criticism of her saying that she has ‘prayers’ for Japan is a little short-sighted. As many above have noted, people use these phrases out of habit as they are the polite response that many people have developed to tragedy. If I get a fright and exclaim “Jesus Christ!”, does that mean I consciously extend a petition to a dead man? No! The phrase is ingrained in language as an exclamation. It has no meaning beyond that which is formed from constant use (for me, anyway).

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