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 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.)