Comedian and TV host Bill Maher has claimed that atheism will be "the new gay marriage" in terms of social acceptance, as more and more non-believers will "come out of the closet."
"[Atheists are] out there, they're thinking it, they're just afraid to say it," Maher claimed during an interview with The Wrap. "But that's changing. It'll be the new gay marriage."
Maher claimed that the number of people in America who say they do not believe in any religion and are either atheist or agnostic is approaching 15 percent. Various surveys have produced different numbers on the question, though a 2012 Pew Research Center poll found that America's unaffiliated make up 19.6 percent of the population, though only 2.4 percent are atheist and 3.3 percent identify as agnostic.
The comedian also claimed that non-believers are greatly underrepresented in the political sphere, and said that there were no admitted atheists serving in Congress. Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) was the first openly atheist member of Congress, but his 10-year term ended in January of 2013.
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) admitted to Maher that he was an atheist earlier this year, but that came only after he left Congress – and also 25 years after announcing he is gay.
A Pew Forum breakdown of the religious composition of the 113th Congress also failed to clearly identify any atheists, with only 1 member identifying with the Unaffiliated category, and 10 members who did not answer.
Maher was asked in the interview whether he would ever consider running for office, but called himself "the last person who could ever win," referring to the many controversial segments on his show throughout the years. The TV host has often criticized organized religion throughout his career, most notably in the 2008 documentary "Religulous."
Atheist groups have been increasingly vocal about advocating for the rights of nonbelievers, notably with The Freethought Equality Fund PAC that was announced by the Center of Humanist Activism earlier in September. The PAC seeks to represent the interests of humanists, atheists, agnostics and those who support the "separation of church and state" and the "civil liberties of secular Americans."
"The increasing numbers of non-religious Americans now have a vibrant PAC that will be directly supporting candidates who champion the principles of secular government now so fervently under attack," said Bishop McNeill, the coordinator for the new PAC.
"There is a clear need to assist candidates who will challenge those looking to use the power of government to impose religious doctrines on everyone."