Tuesday, February 6, 2007

CNN Hit-Piece

2CNN's Paula Zahn hosted a panel discussion on discrimination of atheists in America. Here's the first segment, apparently covering the atheist feeling of discrimination:

Here's the second. Note a distinct lack of atheistic or even agnostic viewpoint.

So this came to my attention through Digg.com, and the person posting it offered a link to the "Comments" section for Paula Zahn's program. Here's what I wrote:

You recently ran a piece regarding discrimination in America against atheists, and I was horrified to see the panel discussion following the initial interview portion. Particularly, there was no atheist representation in the panel, so there was no counterpoint to how atheists in America feel discriminated against. I suggest you follow up on the many stories of discrimination that you yourselves allude to with your pre-panel segment. Many people in America are being hounded by religious groups and even their own neighbors just for their beliefs.

A friend of mine, who is a homosexual, once said to my wife that we'll never understand how lucky we are to not have to worry if the guy across the bar will bash in our head with an iron pipe for flirting with him. I'm afraid that now, I at least have an inkling of his fear. I, and many others I know, are afraid to speak our beliefs for fear of reprisals. We *ARE* the homosexuals of the 80's and 90's, the African-Americans of the 50's and 60's, the feminists of the same era, and the Jews of the past few millenia. We are struggling for acceptance outside of the zoo-like curiosity of our theistic co-workers and neighbors.

A comment was made about atheists believing in nothing. This is patently untrue, and misinformation of the highest order. Atheism is not nihilism as some would have everyone believe. Atheists can be swept up into an almost religious fervor just by observing the beauty of the natural world. Free thinkers such as myself believe in a naturalistic worldview, a belief that everything around us is natural and can be discovered through analysis of natural processes. Some theists can share a similar worldview, but a theist also believes in, at least partially, a supernaturalistic worldview. Atheists deny the supernatural, because we find it unfulfilling intellectually (and yes, spiritually, if there is a difference).

Were you to replace the label 'atheist' with 'African-American' or 'homosexual' or 'immigrant' or 'Muslim' or 'Jew', you would be met with such angry resistance you would be hard pressed to not issue an apology to the aggrieved group. And yet I doubt there will be such an apology for us, since we are such a small minority and it will probably be hard for you to understand just how you have set back acceptance of atheists nation-(if not world-)wide in the span of five minutes.

Perhaps I am too pessimistic. I truly hope that you will recognize the error you made and take steps to actually raise the consciousness of your viewers. I do not ask for apology; that would be too much to ask for. But I do wish you would ask a prominent atheist such as Sam Harris (http://www.samharris.org), Richard Dawkins (http://www.richarddawkins.net), or Daniel Dennett (http://ase.tufts.edu/cogstud/incbios/dennettd/dennettd.htm) on your show to present the atheist's perspective and actually balance out the tribunal of prejudiced panelists you invited onto your show.

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