Anti-Atheist Bigotry in the Daily News

Although the New York Daily News has no problem endorsing astrology on its news pages, the idea of giving sympathetic coverage to atheism is apparently too much for them to swallow. In a recent issue, they published this obnoxiously bigoted column from Gabriel Gillen, a Dominican friar, which manages to cram just about every anti-atheist slur in the book into a brief space.

We start with the old standby: pick a controversial atheist, accuse him of hypocrisy or some other charge, and assume that he somehow speaks for or represents all atheists:

…the well-known atheist Peter Singer. When his own mother lay helpless with Alzheimer’s disease, he broke all of his own rules, thus throwing away his credibility as a utilitarian philosopher onto the tracks: He came to her rescue.

Let me explain: he went against his own moral code, which in this case would have required him not to help his mother because it is more logical to help others with a better probability of surviving. There is logic to Singer’s reasoning, but it just seems too… heartless. Thankfully, Singer’s heroic actions speak louder than his radically rationalistic vision.

And of course, what column attacking atheists would be complete without trying to taint us by association with the Nazis and Communists:

The atheistic ideologies of Nazism and Communism did not produce earthly paradises, but only tragic regimes of terror that trampled human dignity and freedom.

Just for the record, these would be the the Nazis who handed out translations of the Bible and wore “God With Us” on their uniforms, and the Communists who made alliances with Christian clergy and persecuted atheists for not falling in step with their political goals.

It’s good to see the vast majority of the comments on the Daily News’ site shredding Gillen. I took it upon myself to write a comment in response as well:

I’m stunned at the lapse of editorial judgment that evidently must have occurred to permit this brazen bigotry to be published in the Daily News. This column is a parade of offensive and revolting stereotypes that no newspaper would even have considered printing if the target was anyone other than atheists, and most of its accusations are outright falsehoods.

Recent surveys have found that up to 15% of the American population are atheists, and that in New York and other northeastern cities, that percentage is even higher. Whether you know it or not, you meet atheists on the street every day. We are policemen, firefighters, military veterans, doctors, teachers. We give to charitable causes, love our friends and neighbors, and care about the welfare of humanity every bit as much as religious people. How dare this despicable apologist imply otherwise? And how dare he accuse us of lacking moral values, when he represents a church that sheltered sex predators and moved them around so they could continue to prey on children; a church that still opposes equal rights for gays and lesbians; a church whose irrational and superstitious opposition to contraception is contributing to the deaths of millions of people around the world from AIDS and other preventable STDs?

Before you criticize atheists, Mr. Gillen, you should set your own house in order. Don’t presume to lecture us as long as you still represent the cruel and irrational values of the medieval era.

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