|Bliss and Chaos, v2.0|
This was on CNN the other night. My head fucking exploded. I have never been so offended by something on CNN. Ever. It's mind-boggling that they'd let such ignorant human beings on TV. The first clip's reasonable. The second clip is absolutely terrifying. If you're a minority that doesn't agree with Christian majority, you should shut up.
These videos and a very insightful analysis can be found here. To make things easier for people, I'm just going to copy it down below in case the site goes down (it's getting a LOT of traffic).
Paula Zahn Now: Karen Hunter, Debbie Schlussel, Stephen A. Smith on Atheism
Just how pervasive is discrimination against atheists in America? Reliable studies consistently show that atheists are more despised than any other minority, but to what degree do these anti-atheist feelings translate into anti-atheist action? Since people don't know a person is an atheist unless the atheist reveals it, there's probably much less anti-atheist discrimination than there otherwise could be. Sometimes, though, it's possible to detect the rot of bigotry in little things: like a panel discussion on atheism where no atheists are included.
On the January 31 edition of Paula Zahn Now, the problems experienced by atheists in America were discussed. This segment began by exploring some of the discrimination, hatred, and bigotry atheists have faced:
ZAHN: Imagine being chased out of your home, your neighborhood, even your community because of your beliefs. You're about to meet a family who says it happened to them and we're bringing their story out into the open tonight because there are at least three million people in this country like them, people who may also face this kind of discrimination and persecution. Here's faith and values correspondent Delia Gallagher.
They also discussed the story of Jean and Mike Rice:
JEAN RICE: We're regularly told that we're going to hell, that we're sending our children to hell.
After this short, superficial introduction for what life is like for some atheists in America, Paula Zahn turned for comments to the night's panel: Stephen A. Smith, who is an ESPN analyst and a sports columnist for The Philadelphia Inquirer, Debbie Schlussel, a conservative columnist, and Karen Hunter, who is a journalism professor at Hunter College in New York as well as a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.
Here is what Karen Hunter had to say about all the atheists who are too afraid to reveal their atheism publicly and the atheists who, when they do come out in public, face hated and discrimination:
ZAHN: ... So do you think atheists should keep their religious beliefs secret? What's their beliefs period?
I've talked before about the attitude of many Americans, even liberals, which seems to reduce to little more than "atheists should sit down and shut up." Here, though, we have Karen Hunter saying basically that: atheists should just shut up. Atheists who are afraid to reveal their atheism and have to leave town when their atheism is discovered should "shut up about crying wolf all the time and saying that they're being imposed upon" (having to flee town isn't really an "imposition," you see). Atheists who reveal their atheism and appear to suffer from discrimination because of it are just spreading a "ridiculous story" and should "shut up" because prayer has already been taken out of schools. What more do atheists want — to be treated like real, equal human beings?? How ridiculous.
Atheists are continually accused of being arrogant and condescending, but just how arrogant does a person have to be in order to say that atheists would feel less discriminated against and excluded if they just had some Hallmark cards. Yes, when no one will let their kids play with your kids, thus socially isolated your children and making them feel dirty, you'll feel better if you get a Hallmark card: So Sorry You're a Pariah. When you are kicked out of your apartment or have to flee your community because you're an atheist, you'll feel better if you get a nice atheist card: Good Luck Keeping Your Secret in the Next Town.
Karen Hunter is expressing nasty anti-atheist bigotry, nothing more and nothing less. Imagine if the report had been about blacks, Jews, Latinos, or Muslims who had been kicked out of their apartment, who had to flee town, and/or who had experienced harassment and discrimination in their community. Would it not have been immediately recognized as unacceptable bigotry if someone said "We let black kids into schools. What more do they want"? How about "If Jews had Hallmark cards, maybe they wouldn't feel so left out"? Maybe: "I think Latinos need to shut up about crying wolf all of the time and saying they're being imposed upon when they are kicked out of their housing."
If I were an atheist in Karen Hunter's classes, I think I might be too afraid to reveal it because I don't think I'd be able to trust her to treat me with the same dignity, respect, and fairness that she treats other students. To be perfectly honest, though, I think I would simply avoid her classes like the plague because I don't think that I would be able to receive a good education in journalism. What sorts of journalism professor believes and repeats so many falsehoods about atheists and church/state separation? (Karen Hunter doesn't have a home page, but the Hunter College's Film and Media Studies department does)
Prayer was not taken out of schools; state-written, state-endorsed, and state-mandated prayers were ended. Students can pray on their own all they way, so long as they don't interfere with the school day, but state and local governments are not allowed to write those prayers, endorse those prayers, encourage those prayers, tell students what to pray, when to pray, how to pray, or anything else like that. How is this not a huge step forward in basic religious liberty?
Although it might be nice is atheists could take credit for this advance, we can't. The decision which prohibited the state from sponsoring specific prayers in public schools was Engel v. Vitale, decided in 1962 by an 8-1 vote. The people who challenged the laws establishing such prayers were a mixture of believers and nonbelievers in New Hyde Park, New York,
Karen Hunter doesn't seem to realize that no one "imposes" on her right to want to have prayer in schools, to want to say the Pledge of Allegiance, to want to honor her god. Furthermore, no one "imposes" on her right to pray in school, to say the Pledge of Allegiance, or to honor her god. All that has changed is that the state cannot endorse, promote, or encourage her in doing any of this. Does Karen Hunter, professor of journalism, really think that her religious liberty depends on the government actively helping, encouraging, and endorsing her religious rituals? That's nonsense.
If you think Karen Hunter's bigotry is bad (and it certainly is), let's take a look at the comments from Debbie Schlussel:
ZAHN: Are any of you going to defend them here tonight?
So, Debbie Schlussel agrees with Karen Hunter's bigoted statements 100%, then proceeds to add even more bigotry on top of it: atheists are the ones who are "intolerant" against and "discriminating" against Christians. How so few atheists could be the source of so much intolerance and discrimination against so many Christians is completely inexplicable — but then again, Christians used to make the similar allegations against small communities of Jews. How ironic that Debbie Schlussel, herself a Jew, is so willing to repeat accusations against atheists that were once made against her ancestors.
Like Karen Hunter, Debbie Schlussel believes that atheists just need to shut up — it doesn't matter how often they have to flee their homes (how many Christians in America have to flee the persecution of local atheists?) or are kicked out of their apartments (how many Christians are kicked out by atheist landlords?), they just need to sit down and keep quiet. All of their agitation for equal rights and protections under the law is too obnoxious — they need to realize that they are subhumans and learn to live with their inequality. Right?
Just to top things off and make it clear where she stands, Debbie Schlussel ends with the statement (and this basically ended their segment) that she thinks it's a good thing that atheists "are not strong." She wants atheists in America to be weaker and more divided than other communities. Why? Apparently because religious believers — and particularly Christians — are more deserving of being strong in America. We may all be equal on paper, but in reality some Americans are more equal than others — and "that's a good thing."
The only person who had a kind word to say about atheists — and a negative word to say about the bigotry and discrimination which atheists face — was Stephen A. Smith, the ESPN analyst:
ZAHN: What happened to love thy neighbor, the idea that we should be able to practice free speech?
Stephen Smith demonstrates that a Christian who disagrees with atheists is more than capable of recognizing that atheists shouldn't be treated as if they inferior and unequal. On a panel with two Christians and one Jew, only one Christian was willing to say that atheists should have the same rights and privileges as religious theists. Only Stephen Smith was willing to say that atheists should not have to shut up — that even if he disagrees with what they are saying, he's not going to go along with telling them to just keep quiet and stop bothering others.
Actually, I think I'm doing him a disservice here because his point, made very succinctly, is more complex and important than my comments show. When he says "there's a whole bunch of people in this world that we can look at and say they need to shut up and they certainly don't," I think he's referring to the fact that whenever a minority is agitating for an end to unjust privileges and the expansion of equality, those in charge who benefit from the privileges almost invariably respond by telling the minority to shut up, to stop rocking the boat, to not be so disrespectful or obnoxious, that they will achieve more by being more moderate and peaceful, etc.
Many whites told this to blacks agitating for civil rights in America, for example, and while the situation for atheists today isn't as awful as it was for blacks in the 1960s, it's not a coincidence that Christians are saying similar things to atheists that they once said to blacks. The reason why is because these responses are all excuses for maintaining the unjust privileges in the face of strong moral and legal arguments against them. These responses are all about attacking our "tone" and "attitude" because this allows those defending the status quo to avoid addressing our substantive arguments with equally substantive responses.
Before the panel was asked for their comments, the show had the very predictable talking head blaming atheists for all their problems — if atheists were simply a lot nicer, they wouldn't annoy people and would be treated better. Ryan Anderson, a Junior Fellow at First Things, said that "when that militant atheism becomes kind of like the public image of atheism, I think that gives rise to a lot of discontent with atheism." Of course, if this "militant atheism" is a "new atheism" like our critics say, then atheists must have been treated much better before all these "militant atheists" came around. Right?
Of course not — the treatment of atheists ten or twenty years ago was just as bad, if not worse, than it is today. This is why such condescending statements were rejected by black civil rights activists: they knew that they weren't being treated badly because of their activism — life for them was already bad before the movement started. Their only chance at being treated better was to fight for it because the whites in power who were benefiting from unjust privileges were never going to give it up willingly.
Atheists today know that they weren't being treated as complete equals before and they won't be treated as complete equals tomorrow unless they fight for it. Religious bigots like Karen Hunter and Debbie Schlussel will continue to be bigots — continue to encourage bigotry, prejudice, and discrimination — and won't stop simply out of the goodness of their hearts. Atheists have to stand up and demand better treatment, which involves arguing vociferously against all of the problems, errors, and dangers in religious, theistic ideologies.
People who benefit from the status quo will naturally react defensively by accusing us of being obnoxious, intolerant, disrespectful, militant, fundamentalist, and worse — but so what? They weren't treating us with equal consideration and dignity before (unless they were ignorant of our atheism), so we aren't any worse off now. At least we're being heard and that's an improvement. Now we can keep pushing to force religious theists to address our complaints substantively and not with the weak, self-serving rationalizations that we're all too "militant" and "intolerant" when we dare behave just like they have been behaving all their lives.
ZAHN: What I find so interesting is when you look at the statistics, that they were the most hated of all the minorities, gays (INAUDIBLE).
This was the only really bad portion of Stephen Smith's comments — he may not believe that we are the most despised minority in America, but he should consider doing a little research first. If nothing else, he might want to ask himself why two Christians and a Jew, but no atheists, were invited to comment on discrimination against atheists. As Laura Cushing writes, "Wow, CNN... I really feel informed about the issues now."
If three Christians were invited to comment on discrimination against Jews, would that be acceptable? If three white people were invited to comment on discrimination against blacks, and all three insisted that racism is dead, might that not legitimately be treated as a part of the problem itself? For all his otherwise good insight, Smith didn't think to look around and ask why atheists were excluded from a discussion about atheism and whether that might itself by evidence for the truth of atheists' complaints about being excluded in American society.
And they wonder why atheists are getting militant. Those fuckwits are doing everything legally possible to have us destroyed! The world needs more Christians and less "Christians." Those people make me sick.
I sent the Paula Zahn people a quick message through the CNN site. "Having seen the piece on atheists in America, I was aghast at the panel discussion held afterwards. Panels typically have supporters for both sides of an argument. Even FOX News can accomplish that bit of journalistic integrity. CNN lost a lot of respect when that Inquisition was aired. Congratulations on successfully villifying an unrepresented minority."