Tag Archives: atheist

Media coverage also shows general bias against atheists

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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.

He wrote:

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.

Paula Zahn Now program update

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CNN’s extended speculation into the death of former Playmate Anna Nicole Smith bumped the expected interview with Richard Dawkins on Thursday’s edition of Paula Zahn Now.

Blogging sources say now that the interview is to be seen on Monday 2/12 (Darwin Day)

Mr. Dawkins also wrote on his website of another change to the program that was known Thursday morning:

I just learned that CNN’s plan for this evening has changed. My 20 minute interview will be edited down to about 4 minutes, and it will be followed by a panel discussion involving Christopher Hitchens (representing atheists) and two religious spokesmen.

Richard Dawkins

For the latest check out his site or visit the Pharyngula blog:

The ever-shifting plans of CNN

Of course I should note that if the program does come off as Dawkins writes then CNN still has not found a single atheist in the US – it had to import one or in this case two from the UK.

Paula Zahn Now does damage control over anti-atheist bigotry

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This came over the wire earlier this afternoon:

Paula Zahn Now has Richard Dawkins scheduled to appear tonight at 8 EST as a response to the thousands of negative e-mails the show got from the Jan 31 show where two religious bigots made nasty comments toward religious freedom and atheists.

Austin Cline reports on the reaction to the Paula Zahn Now show from the atheist blogging community.

Atheists React to Anti-Atheist Bigotry on Paula Zahn Now

CNN has panel on Atheism without Atheists

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On January 31, on the Paula Zahn show on CNN, the topic was about discrimination and bias. It started out talking about the strange racial comments Senator Joe Biden made about Senator Obama, then they discussed the lack of black head coaches in the NFL. (the show was before the Super Bowl) The last segment was about atheists and how they are the most hated minority in the US. (see also the Secular Left post: Now there is data showing most people hate Atheists)

The problem was that the panel had no atheists on it and some of the comments directed toward atheists were so factually wrong and vile that it proved the point that atheists are the most hated minority in the US.

The members of the panel included Stephen A. Smith, Host, “Quite Frankly With Stephen A. Smith” (a sports reporter), Karen Hunter, Journalism Professor, Hunter College, and conservative columnist Debbie Schlussel.

Here is a taste:

ZAHN: And welcome back. We’re talking about whether there’s widespread discrimination against atheists, folks who don’t believe in God. Let’s check out with our out in the open panel now. Stephen Smith, Debbie Schlussel and Karen Hunter. Hey Debbie, it took me 10 times to say your name right. (INAUDIBLE) So do you think atheists should keep their religious beliefs secret? What’s their beliefs period?

HUNTER: What does an atheist believe? Nothing. I think this is such a ridiculous story. Are we not going to take “In God We Trust” off of our dollars? Are we going to not say “one nation under God?” When does it end? We took prayer out of schools. What more do they want?

ZAHN: Are any of you going to defend them here tonight?

SCHLUSSEL: No, I agree with her 100 percent. I think that the real discrimination is atheists against Americans who are religious. Listen, we are a Christian nation. I’m not a Christian. I’m Jewish, but I recognize we’re a Christian country and freedom of religion doesn’t mean freedom from religion. And the problem is that, you have these atheists selectively I believe attacking Christianity. You had a case in California where school children were forced to dress as Muslims and learn from the Koran. In Michigan they’re saying high school (INAUDIBLE) in high school where they say Muslim prayers at the football games, public high school, (INAUDIBLE) in high school. You don’t see atheists complaining about that. I really believe that they are the ones who are the intolerant ones against Christians.

and later

HUNTER: They don’t have a good – marketing. If they had hallmark cards, maybe they wouldn’t feel so left out. We have Christmas cards. We have Kwanza cards now. Maybe they need to get some atheist cards and get that whole ball rolling so more people can get involved with what they’re doing. I think they need to shut up and let people do what they do. No, I think they need to shut up about it.

SCHLUSSEL: And what about this obnoxious Michael Newdow, who went all the way to the Supreme Court for his child, the child doesn’t know what’s going on, to try and get under God taken out of the pledge of allegiance. They are on the attack. It’s obnoxious and they do need to shut up.

PAULA ZAHN NOW: Senator Joe Biden Under Fire Over Controversial Remarks; Has NFL Moved Beyond Racist Past? Aired January 31, 2007 – 20:00 ET

To see the video, Richard Dawkins – a real atheist – has the links on his site.

Karen Hunter and Debbie Schlussel’s comments were just plain factually wrong. Schlussel has an article on her website where she claims atheists are the next terrorists. It was like having members of the KKK complaining about civil rights. It was simply disgusting.

To offer a comment to CNN use this link. Comments

**Side Note** I do want to extend my thanks to Mr. Smith for at least attempting to defend atheists against that evil horde on the show. I tip my hat to you sir.

City must pay atheists group for violating Constitution

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Well here is a feel good reason to post on Secular Left. Enjoy —

City must pay atheists group for violating Constitution

The settlement doesn’t carry legal precedent but avoids larger payout.

By JEFF BRUMLEY, The Times-Union

Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton defended on Tuesday the city’s Day of Faith anti-violence rally held in August, even though it means the city must pay an atheist group $5,000 in attorneys fees and avoid holding nonsecular events in the future.

A settlement reached Friday requires the city to write New Jersey-based American Atheists Inc. a letter saying it did not intend to violate the First Amendment and will warn department heads against financing programs that “foster excessive entanglement with religion.”

“I have no regrets – it was time well spent and money well spent,” Peyton said about the Aug. 12 rally.

However, Peyton said the city will do a better job of consulting municipal attorneys “to make sure we don’t violate the separation of church and state.”

Chief Deputy General Counsel Cindy Laquidara said the settlement is not an admission the city violated the Constitution in financing the rally. It simply ends a potentially costly federal lawsuit filed by American Atheists shortly after the event, she said.

City must pay atheists group for violating Constitution

Well in difference to what Laquidara said, the settlement pretty much says the city of Jacksonville, Florida did do something wrong, knew it was wrong, and settled to avoid a stiffer penalty. The precedent had already been set in previous cases. Spin it how you want it, American Atheists won the case.

Here is the text of the letter the city will be sending to American Atheists:

To American Atheists Inc.:

On behalf of the City of Jacksonville, Florida, this letter confirms that there was no intention to violate the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States in the Day of Faith Program. The City of Jacksonville has issued the following directive regarding future City of Jacksonville, Florida programs:

1. Each program must have a secular purpose;

2. Each program must be one which neither advances nor inhibits religion; and

3. Each program must not foster excessive entanglement with religion.

We trust this letter addresses your concerns. Should you have any questions now or in the future, please do not hesitate to call me.

And that my friends describes the 1st Amendment test to see if a government action is or is not unconstitutional with regard to religion.

Philip Paulson has died

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SAN DIEGO — Philip Paulson, the Vietnam combat veteran and atheist who has been the plaintiff in a 17-year court battle to have a tall cross removed from city property atop Mt. Soledad, died Wednesday of cancer. He was 59.
Philip Paulson, 59; atheist, Vietnam veteran fought to have hilltop cross removed

I had some e-mail exchanges with Philip when I first put up my first website on Geocities back in 1998 and he had found me with a search engine. I maintained a web page copy of his Mt. Soledad adventures up to that point on my site for a time. He also sent me updates as the case continued as well as general atheist news and notes he came across on the Internet.

I got to meet him in person at the American Humanist Assocation conference when it was in Columbus in 1999 and then again when I went to the 2001 Conference in Los Angeles. Very tall guy and loud. That answered the reason he stuck with his lawsuit for 17 years when someone of a lesser constitution would have given up.

We weren’t friends or anything but we shared some common ideas even if I found him to be bit abrasive in person.

I was bit a sad when I learned he had terminal cancer and hoped he would get to see final victory over the religious putzes who can’t let the cross issue go but that won’t happen.

Luckily others have joined the lawsuit so that even with Philip’s death, the fight goes on.