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4/27/2007                                                                                       View Comments

BELIEF VS. DISBELIEF DEBATE BROADENS WITH TV DOCUMENTARY

Jonathan Miller Reveals the Hidden Story of Atheism
Three-Part Series Premiers May 4 on Public Television


"... the history of the growing conviction that God doesn't exist." — Jonathan Miller


The debate over belief-disbelief-atheism intensifies with the national airing of A Brief History of Disbelief on public television stations, premiering May 4. Hosted by Jonathan Miller, the three-part series comes in the midst of the recent release of two provocative books on atheism: Christopher Hitchens’ "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything" and Joan Konner’s "The Atheist’s Bible."

Jonathan Miller will be interviewed along with clips from the series on the May 4th Bill Moyers Journal seen on PBS. You can watch the promotional trailers by going here.

A Brief History of Disbelief is not being aired exclusively by PBS, and it is not being carried on a national feed. Your local public television station may be airing the show on a different day than May 4th. To find out when the show is airing in your area, please consult local listings.

God has rarely been such a contentious issue. Best-selling books The God Delusion, The End of Faith, Letter to a Christian Nation and Breaking the Spell have forcefully challenged the sacred cows, doctrines and dogmas of conventional religious belief.

A Brief History of Disbelief is a deeply intelligent and rational journey through the highly divisive topic. A Brief History of Disbelief premiers in the U.S. on most public television stations on Friday, May 4, 2007 (check local listings). The series is presented by the Independent Production Fund, executive director Alvin Perlmutter.

Written and narrated by acclaimed British intellectual Jonathan Miller — author, lecturer, TV producer/host, director of theater, opera and film, and neurologist — A Brief History of Disbelief originally aired on the BBC in the U.K. It was the first-ever historical look at the controversial topic on television. It is only during the last few years in the U.S. that atheism can be fully and widely discussed. Many leaders and celebrities are "coming out of the closet." Just this week, U.S. Congressman Pete Stark publicly declared that he does not believe in a supreme being.

"This series is about the disappearance of something: religious faith," Miller says in the opening. "It's the story of what is often referred to as 'atheism,' the history of the growing conviction that God doesn't exist."

A Brief History of Disbelief combines an exploration of the origins of Miller’s own lack of belief with historical perspective and interviews with leading authorities, including biologist Richard Dawkins, philosopher Daniel Dennett, recently deceased playwright Arthur Miller, and physicist Steven Weinberg.

"In making this series I have inevitably discovered that the history of faith and doubt is a great deal more complicated that it might seem," Jonathan Miller declares. Among the program’s surprising revelations is that philosophy, not science as often assumed, played a larger role in the gradual erosion of belief. And contrary to what many Christian fundamentalists today consider America’s founding principles, the first presidents were actually skeptical of religion. A Brief History of Disbelief traces the history of the first "unbelievers" in ancient Greece through the role of disbelief in America’s founding to its flourishing today.

Part I: Shadows of Doubt
Miller visits the site of the absent Twin Towers to consider the religious implications of 9/11 and meets Arthur Miller and the philosopher Colin McGinn. He searches for evidence of the first "unbelievers" in ancient Greece and examines some of the modern theories around why people have always tended to believe in mythology and magic.

Part II: Noughts and Crosses
With the domination of Christianity from 500 AD, Miller wonders how disbelief began to re-emerge in the 15th and 16th centuries. He discovers that division within the Church played a more powerful role than the scientific discoveries of the period. He also visits Paris, the home of the 18th century atheist Baron D'Holbach, and shows how politically dangerous it was to undermine the religious faith of the masses.

The Final Hour
The history of disbelief continues with the ideas of self-taught philosopher Thomas Paine, the revolutionary studies of geology, and the evolutionary theories of Darwin. Miller looks at the Freudian view that religion is a "thought disorder." He also examines his motivation behind making the series touching on the issues of death and the religious fanaticism of the 21st century.

A Brief History of Disbelief is presented by the Independent Production Fund, which has produced highly acclaimed information programming for over thirty years. The company and its producers have used television to educate, engage and challenge viewers to consider issues, ideas and public figures from new perspectives.

Major funding for A Brief History of Disbelief is provided by The Center for Inquiry, with additional funding from American Ethical Union, American Humanist Association, Institute for Humanist Studies, and HKH Foundation.

Media Advisory: Writer and narrator Jonathan Miller and some of the program’s experts are available for interviews.

Contacts: Baran Communications
Josh Baran – 212-779-2666, jcbaran AT aol DOT com
Scott Tillitt – 917-449-6356, scott AT antidotecollective DOT org

Website: www.abriefhistoryofdisbelief.org

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