Unbelievers May Join
As Targets Of Hate
This letter was sent to CNN, with a copy sent to PAM.
To whom it may concern:
I give you permission to quote me in context. My concern relates to the overt religious content of some news broadcasts, in particular the coverage of the NYFD chaplain's funeral.
Let me state up front that I am an atheist. Contrary to what most people think, most atheists are not angry, god-hating people. Religion simply isn't a factor in our lives. That being said, I have no problems with the coverage of religious events like Mychal Judge's funeral. It is news, it makes for a good story in the journalistic sense, and it deserves coverage, especially since it directly applies to the 85 to 89 percent of the country that is Christian. However, what really irks me is how immediately afterwards your broadcasters go on to interview people about how God didn't cause this, how faith in God is such a great thing, and basically centering every issue around accepting the existence of some God as fact. There are a number of problems with this.
1. Polls consistently show that somewhere between nine to 13 percent of all Americans describe themselves as atheists, agnostic, nontheists, or otherwise without religion. That is somewhere between 25 to 37 million people. That is a lot of people who do not accept the existence of God as fact, who do not think faith is a good thing, who believe that instead of seeking some nonexistent source of comfort we should be focusing our efforts on helping our fellow Americans of all religions and none, and derive comfort from our families, friends, loved ones, and neighbors.
Virtually no coverage is given by any network to our beliefs, opinions, and community services. This is in spite of the fact that, based on the above figures, somewhere around ten percent of the victims in the attacks were probably nonbelievers. Ten percent of the nation grieves alongside everyone else, but this ten percent are treated as if our opinions don't count, as if we are less worthy of support, comfort, and having our stories heard.
I would expect such insensitive reporting and trite commentary from FoxNews, who rushes out to dust off Jerry Falwell, pull the cord on his back, and give us enlightening sound-bites from this hate-monger for Jesus. I expect much, much more from CNN. When asking yourselves why my comments should even affect your reporting style, consider my second and third points.
2. Religion is one of the many reasons we were attacked in the first place. If Middle Eastern terrorists like Osama bin Laden were behind the attacks, Fundamentalist Islamic beliefs were used to justify the murder of innocents. Now most of our country wants blood. After listening to the atrocious National Prayer service yesterday, many of us are concerned that religion is being used to "rally our troops." The last thing this world needs is for a showdown between the two largest religions on the planet. More innocent lives will be lost on both sides if emotions run unchecked. The violence will escalate. We need rational, thinking people with cool heads. We need to secure our civil liberties now more than ever, not blindly hand our consent to whatever our leaders decide -- in a time of anger -- is a good idea.
3. If we truly want solidarity right now, then the President and the news agencies are clearly working against that. National solidarity does not mean Christian solidarity. "Rallying our troops" around a god, the government encouraging us to pray, and tying everything back to Jesus will do nothing but divide the country. When American lives are claimed in the inevitable battles to come, there will be retribution focused on our own citizens. Already Mosques are being targeted for vandalism and Muslims are being targeted for hate. Now ask yourselves -- what is the religion of the people who are dumping their anger on our Muslim-Americans, who have themselves come forward to condemn the attacks? I'll give you a hint; listen to the number of references to Jesus left on the answering machines at these Mosques.
If the majority of people in this country think that solidarity can only come from religious beliefs, and if the government and media sources encourage this thinking, then soon that 9 to 13 percent of us who aren't believers will be targets as well. I cannot think of anything more divisive than violence against our own.
Please consider my comments.
Hands that help are far better than lips that pray.
Material by Cliff Walker (including unsigned editorial commentary) is copyright ©1995-2006 by Cliff Walker. Each submission is copyrighted by its writer, who retains control of the work except that by submitting it to Positive Atheism, permission has been granted to use the material or an edited version: (1) on the Positive Atheism web site; (2) in Positive Atheism Magazine; (3) in subsequent works controlled by Cliff Walker or Positive Atheism Magazine (including published or posted compilations). Excerpts not exceeding 500 words are allowed provided the proper copyright notice is affixed. Other use requires permission; Positive Atheism will work to protect the rights of all who submit their writings to us.