Am I My Godless Brother’s Keeper?
Posted by Larry Wallberg on 08/16/2010
OK, gang. I’m going to throw a few philosophical questions out there into the ether, and I’m hoping that some of you will weigh in.
Please bear with me while I give you the background.
This past Saturday, for the fourth fucking time, our local silly atheist submitted an answer to a “Question of Faith” on the “Life + Faith” page of Lexington’s Daily Rag. His softball drivel appeared along with six responses by “representatives” of various Christian churches hereabouts. The editor’s poser was fraught with Christian assumptions: “Why does our society ignore our day of rest?” In other words: Watch for the Ten Commandments to be appearing soon in a courthouse or public school near you.
The LSA’s printed answer was kinda dumb, but that’s not the point. The fact that he began by saying, ‘As an atheist …” (thereby inplying that atheists had an official position on “the day of rest”) was really infuriating, but that’s not the point either.
The point is: What the fuck is he doing on the “Faith” page?
I wrote him a harsh email suggesting, among other things, that he tell the editor to take her slanted questions and shove them up her ass (although, I recommended that he not use my specific phraseology). I said that he was hurting Lexington’s freethinking community with his responses.
Today, he wrote back, telling me that I had made a “wildly unfounded accusation.” Wasn’t my reaction, he asked, based merely on a “dislike” of what he’d written?
[T]o answer your question: The reason I think you’re doing harm to the freethinking community is that you’re inadvertently giving the newspaper an out as being “balanced.” Every time your responses appear on the “Faith” page, you give the editors a further opportunity to claim how “fair” they are to non-theists. Maybe we — all of us atheists, Humanists, skeptics, doubters, secularists, call us what you’d like — ought to make a concerted effort toward being given an occasional opportunity to state our views in a journal that’s heavily weighted toward religion, Christianity in particular. Many of the writers there push a Christian agenda: [I named a few columnists who are frequent cheerleaders for Jesus]. And if there’s any excuse whatsoever to include a church event on the front page as news, some reporter will jump at it. I think we should all get together to lobby for a “Reason” feature once in a while, or, at very least, a chance to appear on the Op/Ed page semi-regularly. Not on the “Faith” page. Maybe the H-L could start a monthly column called “Voices of Reason” (fat chance!) or something that gives a genuine nod to those of us who don’t believe in any gods. Then, you could write about whatever you choose to discuss, rather than answering questions that, essentially, push a religious agenda. That’s my main complaint: When you respond to [the editor’s] highly slanted questions, you appear to be buying into her assumptions. It doesn’t really matter what you write, because her smug “truth” is already contained in the way she couches each topic. It’s a lose-lose situation for an atheist.
You and I are part of a small community of reason here. Whether we like it or not, we do speak, somewhat, for one another. Since we’re vastly outnumbered, each of us has some responsibility to all the others. The majority tends to view a minority — particularly one it fears — as an entirety, judged through the words and actions of any member of that group. When you write for the “Faith” page, not only do we as a community gain nothing, but we are all genuinely hurt by appearing to sanction the Herald-Leader’s constant clarion call to espouse religion. That’s not your fault, because you’re only one person, as you do point out. But you’ve been thrown a poisoned bone by [the editor]. You don’t get to have any input in the topics under discussion; you’re always forced to react to her set of nonsensical “givens”. And you’ve been placed in the unenviable position of speaking for all of us.
Because there’s no other public atheist writing at that newspaper, you’ re its personification of Lexington atheism. And, as such, you’re giving a thumb’s-up to the perpetuation of the “Faith” page and, indirectly, the rest of the Herald-Leader’s superstition-soaked reporting.
Please don’t take this personally, because I’d write exactly the same note to any self-identified atheist who chose to write for a “Faith” page. Atheism isn’t a faith. It’s freedom from faith. Let’s not put ourselves into the position of seeming to agree that faith should be given any credence, whatsoever.
After I sent and reread (yeah, I did them in that order) what I’d written, I wondered if my opinions were really indicative of any godless consensus. So, I’d like to find out. Since you readers are clearly representatives of the best and the brightest among heathens, I’d like toask you:
1. Is there any circumstance under which it would be a good idea for an atheist to respond to a tendentious question on a newspaper’s “Faith” page? If so, what might that circumstance be?
2. Do you agree or disagree that the vast majority of religionists generally judge all atheists by the words and actions of any publicly recognized atheist? If you agree: Do we have some kind of responsibility to one another not to say or do things that make us look like idiots? Or is that too much of a burden for us individualists to place on ourselves?
3. In an area dominated by crypto-Christian newspapers, radio stations, and television channels, how can we atheists get ourselves a booth in the marketplace of ideas? Do we have to wait for the freethinkers’ equivalent of the Stonewall raids before we’re given an opportunity to state our case in the mainstream media, or is there some more reasonable way to coax news publishers and broadcasters into granting coverage to our ideas?