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Atheism on NPR

Yesterday I listened to a segment on All Things Considered called Atheist Brigade Takes Arguments to the Tolerant (podcast) with some trepidation. But, when it all ended, I thought it was not bad at all. Apart from a couple of intolerant sentences in the beginning by someone named Wolf (if I remember correctly) and a stupid quote of Pat Robertson, most of the time was given to Sam Harris who also had the last word. The phrase “no atheists in foxholes” was debunked and an NPR correspondent (John Burnett) who used it in the past came on the show to apologize. It is telling that he had no idea what the phrase meant and how insulting it was until he was showered with angry e-mails after his faux-pas.

This one little segment is not going to change the world, but it is one of many indicators that we are making progress. Nobody mentioned gays in the media 20 years ago (except in a very negative tone) and now we have gay marriages and civil unions in a couple of states, and increased tolerance and understanding, particularly among the young people. The fact that this was aired and that it was calm and reasonable is a great sign – the conversation has started.

Many people have no idea what atheism is except a knee-jerk negative response. As long as we keep pushing the issue, attacking religion from all sides with logic and ridicule, over and over again, we will not be able to change the general atmosphere in a way that can lead to progress.

Many officially religious people are “soft” – they are culturally religious and have never examined their beliefs. Having this conversation out in the open in all kinds of media every day will force those people to do some self-examination and, I believe, many will side with rhyme and reason and abandon faith – theirs is weak to begin with anyway, and there are millions of them. And many of them, even without deep analysis of their own beliefs, will rather be on the side that ridicules than on the side that is universally ridiculed and despised every day in all the media.

Update: The whole thing has just re-aired on On The Media which will have a transcript posted tomorrow.

Comments

  1. #1 ivan
    December 16, 2006

    you are really convinced that the world would be better without religion?

  2. #2 Bill
    December 16, 2006

    many of them, even without deep analysis of their own beliefs, will rather be on the side that ridicules than on the side that is universally ridiculed and despised every day in all the media.

    This sentence is unclear to me. Do you mean that the “soft” religious will remain religious because they see atheism ridiculed, or that they will abandon their faith if they see faith ridiculed?

  3. #3 coturnix
    December 16, 2006

    Ivan: A resounding Yes!

    Bill: They will leave their (weak anyway) faith if they see it is ridiculed and atheism is becoming more and more respectable. Hey, some may like the idea of joining the vanguard – except that until now they did not even know there was a fight.

  4. #4 Tyler DiPietro
    December 16, 2006

    Not Bora, but I’ll answer anyway:

    you are really convinced that the world would be better without religion?

    If by “religion” you mean blind adherence to absurd supernaturalist beliefs, then I would say that I agree that it would be. In the same way I think a world without people believing in psychics, in which people wouldn’t get conned by John Edward and James van Praagh, would be better than a world in which such happens.

  5. #5 Craig Pennington
    December 17, 2006

    you are really convinced that the world would be better without religion?

    “Religion” is far too broad a category to talk about as if it were monolithic. Setting that aside, the way I would word it is the world would be a better place if a) “religious” opinions weren’t given a special exemption from criticism, and b) all people held all of their opinions, including their religious opinions, to be provisional and possibly incorrect.

  6. #6 ivan
    December 17, 2006

    i agree with Craigs oppinion. but as far as “religion” is criticized and almost demonized as a category that involves all of its good and bad appearances and aspects, i must formulate the question in the way i did in #1. and one more thing, i wouldnt agree that the faith of some big majority of religious people is as week as their adherence to the code of behavior prescribed by their religion. people tend to expect more that they are ready to give. faith is filling some place in mental structures of many humans, those who need to believe in some kind of supranatural care. Some people want to believe in the ethernal life (note that the instinct for survival is so strong that it can hardly reconcile with death). as i said, for many of us religion is an important if not crucial answer for the question of sense of being. i dont think it is so easy to make people rationalize and give up their very basic need, as Bora would like to see. off course, religious sense that i am talking about has noting to do with fundamentalism of any kind, anti-condom campaigns, creationism or similar things that i distance myself from.

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