CNN to air special on atheists in America

About a week ago I was startled to see atheist Ron Reagan’s commercial on CNN. Previously I’d only seen it air a few times — last year on Comedy Central during The Daily Show and the Colbert Report. Now suddenly it’s going mainstream?

First I should point out that while Reagan identifies himself an atheist, he’s not advocating or promoting atheism. He’s advocating the continued separation of church and state, a fundamental principle I used to think all Americans supported. But in recent years conservative Christians have pushed hard to inject their religious beliefs into our secular laws (you know, the laws that all Americans must obey, regardless of personal belief or non-belief). So the commercial is bound to cause a negative reaction in some quarters, where any message delivered by a professed atheist will not be well received. Particularly when he closes with a completely unnecessary dig at believers. I’m sure its humor is lost on them.

In any case, it has become clear why a mainstream news outlet was running the commercial (CBS flatly refused the commercial last year). CNN is promoting its special, Atheists: Inside the World of Non-believers, scheduled to air tomorrow night at 8 pm ET/PT.

It will be interesting to see how the topic is presented and how neutral or biased CNN will be. Rightwing Christians have become so vocal in recent years and atheists in their many forms (atheist, agnostic, humanist, freethinker, etc.) have been shunned and reviled for so long, anything is possible. I’m prepared to not like what the program says, and to really not like what some interviewees might say. (Yep, already going into defensive mode.) On the other hand, the numbers of those claiming no religious affiliation have been growing in recent years. Maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

So, where do I stand on all this? What do I believe? I tend to leave labels to others because I really don’t care enough to bone up on all of them and decide for sure which fits me. I don’t believe in supreme beings, heaven, hell, supernatural events, pseudoscience, superstition, etc., which makes me some flavor of atheist. (I do disavow the New Atheist label; those folks are all about getting in everybody’s face with their atheism and I don’t appreciate that any more than any other kind of religious activism.) But the study of or concern about such matters rarely comes up in my daily life, which sort of make me an apatheist. Except I’m anything but apathetic when someone tries to impose their religious beliefs on me (how arrogant! how rude!); when that happens I go from 0 to 60 in nothing flat. Then I might be called an atheist activist (or maybe just an angry old woman). Mostly, though, I just let the whole religion thing slide; it has no place in my life. My concern, my life, is about what I and other humans are doing for (or to) each other and the planet — of our own volition, with no influence or coercion from any religion or god. That makes me a secular humanist. Except when I’m not. Which is most of the time. Not religious. Not atheist. Not participating. Not identifying.

Anyway, bring it, CNN. Let’s see what you’ve got.

_______________

(See “Atheist by default” for an explanation of my position.)



Categories: atheist / agnostic / humanist, Christian, Religion

19 replies

  1. Love your nots. IT should be interesting although at this point I have low expectations except for the piece to pose/showcase in order to upset and inflame (both sides of the issue if CNN is playing it smart for maximizing advertisers and viewership – something to irritate everyone).
    Personally I’m tired of all the yelling back and forth. (And all sides wonder why people are apathetic)

    • That’s me. A Not. Knot? Gnot?

      Don’t know if I’ll watch the show or not. In prime time, I’m likely to find something more interesting to watch. Besides, nothing raises my blood pressure faster than an interview with some holier-than-thou superconservative who’s proselytizing as hard and fast as he can while putting down the non-believers of the world as subversive, immoral idiots. (Hey, I’m not the one who talks to and does the bidding of some invisible man in the sky …)

  2. I had no idea that we were so alike in this. I don’t much care what people believe as long as they don’t try to impose their beliefs on me or mine. So much turmoil on Earth is directly tied to some peoples religious dogma. I often wonder what people would fight about if there were no such thing as religion.

  3. Glad to read this post! Not a label fan either, but when cornered often label myself a theistic iconoclastic nihilist. Just to obfuscate. Like many scientists I cling to the idea of some absolute universal organic principle (Theory of Everything) with no expectation of ever actually encountering it. The idea of it feels very much like that of a supreme being, or maybe supreme doing.

    Seeing this particular person, whose daddy helped open the Gates of Nostalgia through which the Winds of Hell fire & Salvation later entered, Ron Reagan, advertising Freedom From Religion is a compelling irony that surely proves there IS a GOD!

    • If and when science finds the Theory of Everything, I’ll be there with bells on. But it’s got to come from science, not religion. I want facts, proof. Hey, I was born in Missouri. Show me!

      The Reagan irony isn’t lost on me, either. I feel a little twisted, enjoying it as much as I do. If anything, it’s the Devil at work. 🙂

  4. I’d not seen the Reagan ad. Interesting, but he would have done better with another closing line. I joined a Unitarian-Universalist congregation three years ago, principally because it included a discussion group where atheists, agnostics, and semi-believers of various stripes talk about all sorts of things. The only other advantage I find in belonging to the group is that they collectively are able to take positive actions in the social justice arena that could not be accomplished by most individuals.

    Although professing to accept everyone, some UUs get overly excited about activities by the “bible thumpers” that really are nonthreatening to society. I find those members as obnoxious as the neo athiests and the extreme “thumpers.”

    • Yes, I think his closing remark was unnecessary and divisive.

      I decided as early as grade school that if I were to embrace a church, it would be UU. (There was only one in OKC at the time, my best friend attended, and it was just a block from my home.) But not being inclined to seek out social groups or discussion groups, much less a church, it fell by the wayside. I’ve always felt hypocritical embracing a church for any reason when I have no interest in religion. For me, better a political group, women’s club, etc.

  5. I prefer not to watch these sorts of shows because I think it’s impossible to present them without bias. People hate religious labels but labels aren’t relegated to just religion. We’re all labeled for one thing or another. Personally I’d like to see a show that examines how marketing terms, labels, approaches, etc have permeated our entire lives. We’re not people anymore, we’re not humans, we’re groups, sub-groups, sub-sub-groups and niches. To me that is the real tragedy – that people are things rather than living, breathing creatures. In terms of religion, what I believe is nobody’s business but my own, as is the case with everyone else on the planet. Sigh…it would be nice if the news were about the news rather than the dissecting of this group or that.

    • I understand and accept that the human brain, in order to make sense of the world and the never-ending flood of sensory input that it receives, naturally and unconsciously tries to impose some order through patterns and groupings. To communicate more effectively, we label these groupings. Unfortunately that can and does lead to stereotyping and generalizations. Some people try hard to avoid unfair or inaccurate labels, and others, not so much.

      It remains to be seen if the show will actually enlighten and inform or if it will just perpetuate unfair, inaccurate stereotypes. And even that determination will be based on each viewer’s unique perspective.

  6. In my own opinion everyone need to at least ponder the idea: Was Jesus a lair and the things they said about him totally false.Was he never born,did he ever exist. It is reported he did some mighty powerful things.Were they all lies and fabrications? Was he a total loon? Is it not curiously odd how many,many many people in the world today have no problem accepting the writings of and about Socrates 399BC,Plato 427-348BC, Aristotle 384-322BC,Alexander the Great 356-323BC,Confucius 551-479BC,Buddha 563BC . 900-800BC The Iliad and the Odyssey perhaps composed by Greek Poet Homer. These are but a few of the writings before the time of Jesus Christ and there are a great many other well documented facts in history that happened 2000-1000BC.
    This is not about religion,but about a man. Who is this man.If he was nobody,who cares what he said or did. On the other hand IF the things he said and did are true…?

  7. PiedType,again you are most correct,there are a lot of people who do not think for themselves,and jump on the first band wagon to come along. The only concern there is how does anybody know for sure if some one is along for the ride or they are actually thinking on their own. This not only applies to religion. There is politics,fraternities,clubs,science,art and the list goes on. Just because you do something or say something does not necessarily mean you believe in it. Actions do speak louder than words.but there are a lot of good actors out there. I like “smile,the’ll never know what your thinking.”

    • Oh, absolutely. I’ve long suspected that in a lot of moderate mainstream churches, there are congregants who don’t necessarily believe what’s being preached. They go for the social interaction and because being seen in church every Sunday is the politically correct thing to do (for politicians, corporate and civic leaders, etc).

  8. Sorry I’m coming into to this so late PT. Even worse, I’m joining in right after missing almost the entire program (I do have my DVR set to record the next showing at midnight). Of what I saw, I had both positive and negative reactions. On the positive side, CNN actually had the guts to do a program like that, and there were decent, non-militant atheists with the guts to participate. On the negative side, the show seemed to present atheists as a barely tolerated “downtrodden minority” whom “normal people” should pity rather than hate. I’m hoping that seeing the entire thing will prove that impression wrong, because I’m really sick of living in a world where the vast majority condescend to my “backwards” insistence that the things they so casually bet my life on actually make sense…

    • I think CNN made a reasonable attempt to be fair and to show that atheists are just normal people. But I think the reporter, Kyra Phillips, still doesn’t get it. Some examples: She referred to Richard Dawkins as the “father of atheism” when atheism predates Dawkins and has been around since before the first religion (like, what, 4000 years ago?). She also made a remark about someone “converting” to atheism, as though it’s just a different religion. Little things like that. I doubt anybody’s mind was changed about anything.

      I wonder if there were any atheist consultants or producers involved in making the show …

  9. For those interested, the entire CNN program was posted on YouTube:

"Opinion is the medium between knowledge and ignorance." ~ Plato

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