In a matter of days, there were two different segments on ABC about atheism.
First, we had the horrible, embarrassing, people-should-be-fired-if-they-think-this-is-journalism piece on Nightline.
And last night, Diane Sawyer discussed the “One Nation Indivisible” billboards in Asheville, North Carolina.
Strangely, there was no mention of the billboard vandalism. Or (not that it’s closely related) the fact that one of Asheville’s city council members, Cecil Bothwell, is an open “post-theist” — though Bothwell was mentioned in the article posted on ABC’s website.
But this was at least a fair piece. There was good background about the fact that “Under God” was never originally in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Jennifer Lovejoy of the North Carolina Secular Association came off pleasant, smart, and likeable:
“I don’t believe in God and I don’t believe that our country was founded on Christianity or any religion,” she said. “I’m not taking away anyone’s belief in God. Many of our forefathers feared God, but I think they feared religion more — and what it could do to the country if any one religion was allowed to be in control.”
Meanwhile, Pastor Ralph Sexton (who put up a competing billboard) came off as condescending and just plain foolish.
“It’s political correctness gone amok. Silliness,” he said.
“We are a people of faith. We are a nation that is built on Christian principles and we need to make sure our children, our grandchildren, our teenagers, our young adults, know what we’re really all about,” he said.
“We” are not a people of faith.
“You” might be.
How arrogant must he be to think everyone shares his superstitious beliefs?
The billboard campaign worked. It got media attention, it got people talking about the “real” version of the Pledge, and it made right-wing Christians so angry they decided to put up billboards of their own.
I’m still not happy with ABC News. This segment doesn’t wash out the awful one from Nightline. But it’s a step in the right direction.