The anti-atheist bigotry expressed on the Paula Zahn Now show on 1/31 was just the obvious manifestation of the general anti-atheist feelings of many Americans. The not so obvious is the lack of positive media coverage of atheists or really any non-theistic beliefs.
The Paula Zahn incident has more than 59,000 web pages as per a search of Google. When I checked their news search I got 2 results. One was a from the Boston College newspaper and one was the hatred spewed response from one of the panelists on that show. People are talking about it – mostly Atheists – but mainstream media is ignoring it. Kind of like they ignored the deaths of 24 soldiers in Iraq on the same day they had wall to wall coverage of a former stripper dying. Even Media Matters, a liberal media watchdog, spent more time on the stupid Pelosi plane debate and didn’t even mention the Paula Zahn show in question – and they watch that show all the time.
Back in 2005 there was a report that atheist Anthony Flew changed his views and believed that a higher power designed the universe. Most of the Christian-centric media took that to mean he believed in “God”. That story was told on many mainstream media stations and in the printed press.
Just this weekend the Toledo Blade had a story about an solider injured in Iraq who claims to have died, been to heaven, and come back from the dead. The story was on the front page.
You never read stories of people “converting” to atheism. You also never read about some science breakthrough on the front page of a local paper.
I am not the only one to be concerned with a lack of positive media coverage of non-Christian beliefs. Mark Fisher is the editor of the “Faith & Values” section of the Columbus Dispatch. He wrote a commentary concerning negative reaction he got for publishing non-Christian religious articles in the section.
Recent articles about Buddhism and Islam in the Faith & Values section have brought accusations from a few readers that The Dispatch has begun promoting these faiths while downplaying Christianity, the dominant religion in central Ohio.
A couple of critics wanted to know why we were wasting ink on these “false” beliefs when Christ is the only path to salvation. Another caller said he was tired of having “that Islam religion … shoved in my face.”
Faith & Values has neglected some folks, but they’re not Christians – Columbus Dispatch 2/9/2007
So he decided to find out what proportion of coverage was about Christianity and what amount was about other beliefs.
So whom have we been writing about? During the last two years, Faith & Values has had 290 cover stories, of which 183 (63.1 percent) have been about Christianity. Another 39 stories, or 13.4 percent, have discussed multiple faiths, usually including Christianity.
We’ve had 12 cover stories about Islam (4.1 percent) and 11 about Judaism (3.8 percent). Five stories were about Buddhism (1.7 percent).
We published one article each about atheism, Hinduism, Scientology and Shintoism.
We’ve also had 36 stories (12.4 percent) that weren’t about any religion per se but rather addressed general values, such as honesty, good sportsmanship or charity. Not counting these stories, our coverage has at least mentioned Christianity nearly 90 percent of the time.
Fisher has come to the conclusion “Although Faith & Values isn’t ignoring Christians, my tally does suggest that we are giving nonreligious people less attention than they deserve.”
Bigotry exists when there is a lack of understanding and our media is one way to build that understanding. It is easy to hate another group when you know nothing true about them.