Secularism takes over religion newswriters

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Center For Inquiry poster

Mark Silk

Center For Inquiry poster

Center For Inquiry poster

Center For Inquiry poster

OK, that’s an exaggeration. There was plenty of religion floating around the Religion Newswriters Association annual meeting in Decatur, Georgia last weekend.

But about half the exhibitors in the hall of the convention center represented one or another form of secularist activism, including the venerable Center for Inquiry, the American Humanist Association, American Atheists (“A Non-Prophet Organization”), the Secular Coalition for America, and the Secular Student Alliance.

Breakfast on Saturday was sponsored by the Openly Secular Coalition, recently formed “to Highlight and Overcome Discrimination Against Nonreligious & Atheists.” The highlight of its presentation was a video featuring a multi-cultural array of attractive Americans who could have walked straight out of  the LDS Church’s “I’m a Mormon” campaign.

After testifying to their unbelief, they’d announce, “And I’m openly secular!” Slightly detracting from the message was the Coalition’s orange wristband incised with those words barely legible. At least I have to squint to read it more than a foot away.

Openly Secular Coalition wristband

Openly Secular Coalition wristband

Whatever, it’s clearly the case that, social prejudice or no social prejudice, the secularists believe the Force is with them. As they kept reminding their auditors, self-identified Nones are now 20 percent of America’s adult population and rising.

And everybody knows it. No wonder Pew is reporting that nearly three-quarters of Americans now think religion is losing its influence on American life. And I’m not going to be the one to say that the vox populi is mistaken.

  • Jonathan J. Turner

    Like viruses lysing out of an infected cell, atheists/humanist activists have broken out of their old post-Protestant host (Unitarian Universalism), and now are lobbying reporters so their collective but differentiated atheism(s)/humanism(s) will be covered and get at least the same bland a priori respect you give to (say) the orgs of the various Christianities or the Big Five.

    But atheists need not worry: reporters on religion have to maintain an academic objectivity over, and reasoned distance from, the believers they cover; which means that religious reporters–the media bloviating on the winds of doctrine rocking our world–are already fully secularized creatures of the material world, and allow themselves only a mental (“spiritual”) fantasy of actually needing to believe, depending on the story.

    …the great atheists are indeed hypocrites, which are ever handling holy things, but without feeling…
    –Francis Bacon (1561-1626)

  • Armand L Circharo Jr

    It astonishes me that any rational, “thinking” person (Sapiens?) can walk away from a conscientious and careful reading of scripture with any remnant of belief. There is indeed an element of self-deception that must accompany “faith,” ergo the old adage “That’s why it’s called faith,” i.e., it not only requires a disconnection of rationale it also requires that one have an inherent predisposition toward belief. I think that in this way Christians and certain hard-core Republicans or Conservatives have the same predisposition. Many of my conservative friends when asked to defend their opinions on climate change (i.e., it does not exist) reply simply “I don’t believe in it,” as if it is a matter of faith. They already have a predisposition against the idea. We are almost certainly not going to displace that kind of thinking with reason. I carry no illusion that we will, someday, “cure” the world of this irrational delusion that is religion.

  • frank

    Says the deluded.

  • Charles Freeman

    Armand, very nice comment. Keep looking at the numbers, not only Pew Surveys, but the increases in membership of the secular organizations. I think there is hope there. Most of the Christians I read these days are “howling in the wind” and crying about secular antagonisms. They have little to actually rely on in their ancient texts and dogma. It has been superseded by rationality, required evidence and scientific methodology. It may be that in a far time from now, the social scientists will write about the demise of formal religions, first in the West and then throughout the world. It has to happen, but there are millennia of strife ahead. We in this generation are part of the progression, and our job may be to work out the kinks to acceptance of secular propositions and to keep the lamp lit for reason and evidence based beliefs. People will always look for answers and some will create their agents and patterns for faith without pursuit of rationality. We may never cure the illness completely, but I believe that we can evolve societies wherein people have the capability of reaching out to achieve their potentials.

  • samuel Johnston

    Frank relax, his comment was not directed at you. It was about any rational, “thinking” person.

  • Miss_H

    Oh no! A religious person called me a hypocrite because of my secular views. However shall I cope?

  • Jonathan J. Turner

    However shall I cope?

    Wipe that tear away, and remember: no god still loves you.

  • Frank

    Jonathon Turner, Unitarian Universalist is still a host for atheists, as well as agnostics, skeptics, and humanists, though many of us are lamenting the recent emphasis on Universalism and its implied theism. And your by Francis Bacon about his Medieval opinion of atheists doesn’t bolster your case. Your comment on viruses and infected hosts are nothing more than ad hominem attacks. I guess you have to resort to something since your religious arguments obviously will not fly with atheists, who are actually looking for reason.

  • Joshua

    Don’t worry, Jonathan, atheism is contagious, but you’re only susceptible if you can think for yourself.

  • Jonathan J. Turner

    All I’m saying is, it seems likely to me that religion newswriters have in common with atheists a basic contempt for religion, which must needs become somewhat attenuated for the sake of journalistic balance. But when covering the new atheisms, religion newswriters must ironically curb their enthusiasm.

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