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.