It is no secret that we nontheists are continually bombarded with religious references. Most of the time, we simply smile and ignore them, knowing that our fellow primates mean us no harm. And when we do complain, no matter how polite and courteous we may be, it is always taken the wrong way. So, when should we speak up?
My friend Margaret Downey wrote this letter to American Airlines concerning her recent trip her to Hawaii:
My husband and I always use American Airlines to travel and have had wonderful experiences until the April trip.
We flew on a red eye from Kona, Hawaii to Los Angeles, California. We flew first class for more comfort and service. We awoke to music playing and the lights coming on when the pilot announced that we were about to land. The music was a shock to me in that it was specifically Christian music. The words of the song being played praised Jesus and God and instructed listeners to pray and “adore him.”
The next song was even more religious. I said to the stewardess that the flight had become a church service. She ignored me completely.
The next song was also an overtly Christian song, this time with a message about the “glory and the power of God.”
In total we had to listen to three songs about a religious doctrine we find disturbing. I’m sure that a Jewish family, a Hindi family and nontheist people such as my husband and I were equally offended that American Airlines was promoting the Christian doctrine in a space that could not be escaped from. We were a captive audience!
I expect my airlines to remain neutral in matters of religion. This is why I will not fly Alaska Airlines. They promote and proselytize Christianity at ever opportunity.
Please confirm that this type of religious incident will not happen again when I use American Airlines. Please also explain who was responsible for the religious promotion on this flight — the pilot and/or the staff.
For some reason, this letter got the attention of Joanne Brokaw who writes for Beliefnet.com. In her post Joanne asks:
So when does the music cross the line? When it’s sung by a Christian artist? Should Carrie Underwood be banned from being played? Would one song been tolerable but three too much? How does a public company respond?
So what do you think? Margaret would like us to join the discussion.
To digress, this has nothing to do with the post, but since the Beliefnet article mentioned Carrie Underwood, and her song, “Jesus Take The Wheel,” I had to include this parody video: