The Church Vandalism Clip from Fox & Friends

Here’s the clip from this morning’s “Fox & Friends Weekend” talking about the church vandalism story:

I didn’t realize the segment would be so short! You can tell I tried to get in that last line at the end… I also wish I had said the site’s name or mentioned Foundation Beyond Belief, but I (wrongly, as it turned out) thought they would have it written underneath me as I spoke. Whoops.

I thought Pastor John Bluebaugh came off pretty well. Hopefully, I didn’t completely embarrass myself.

I did embarrass myself before I came on the air, though…

I’m sitting in the green room in a studio in Chicago before my segment. I’m told someone else is supposed to go on the air before me. That person finally arrives, gets his makeup done, and he’s waiting for his interview. So I decide to make small talk… (consider all of this paraphrased)

Me: Hi, I’m Hemant.

Him: I’m John. Nice to meet you.

Me: So what are you here for?

Him: I’m going to talk about Guantanamo and whether we should keep it open. I just came back from a visit there.

Me: Oh, wow. So what’s your title that you were able to go to Guantanamo?

Him: U.S. Senator.

Me: [In my mind] Wait. I follow politics… He’s not one of my senators, is he?… He’s not Dick Durbin. He’s not Mark Kirk. I’ve never seen him before. Maybe he’s lying. Or maybe he’s a state senator. I’m so confused… How do I not know this? [Aloud] Umm… what state are you from?

Him: North Dakota. I just got elected last year, so I’ve only been in office since January.

Me: Ah… Have you been in politics long?

Him: I was governor for 10 years.

Me: I’ll be damned… [brown person turns beet red]

Him: So why are you here today?

Me: I’m an atheist.

Him: Oh… I’m a Catholic.

Me: Mhmm… well, shit, I never get to meet senators. Can I get a pic?

Him: Sure!

And that’s how I came to tell Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) that I had no clue who the heck he was.



  • Billyup

    You did fine work with such little time. The little bit at the end made me happy too, that’s for sure. It might be a good thing you didn’t say the websites name. If you had, those older people who never aren’t watching fox news would be able to find the site. And the intelligent enough folks who know what “To Google something” means will make their way here and hopefully not start any trouble.

    Loved the cussing at a Fmr Gov current Senator story not everyone gets that chance.

  • Hugh Kramer

    I think you did quite well. I’ve heard other atheists come off a lot less on message when interviewed so briefly.

  • AteoAbsurdo

    I thought you did fine. The coverage was pretty fair too, though I thought they put too much emphasis on how unlikely it was for atheists to help a church.

  • Nakor

    I appreciated the pastor’s comments after the host mentioned there being ‘non-friendly atheists’ out there. One of the better representatives of his religion, it seems.

  • http://amillionwordstogo.blogspot.com aynsavoy

    Ditto what Nakor said, and kudos to Hemant for getting in an important last word!

  • http://parsleyvictorious.blogspot.com Parsley Victorious

    I loved your last little jump in, that you don’t need Christ or gods to follow the golden rule. Given the commonly held idea that we cannot, by definition, be moral atheists, it’s important to get that message out everywhere we can.

    Excellent interview!

  • Bones

    Good senator story.

  • Rich Wilson

    You spoke very well with your body language when you didn’t have the mic. In particular, you didn’t let her “that implies there are unfriendly atheists” go, but didn’t need to cut in to do it. That sorry shake, IMO, really made her seem kind of pathetic and snarky.

  • Chris aka "Happy Cat"

    Were they serving those melatonin laced “chill out” brownies in the green room? Everyone seemed so amicable, even Mr. Pray-the-Gay-Away.

    Great job slipping in the “good without god” message at the end. I hope it makes people think. Kudos!

  • Some Lady

    Well done!

  • Richard Wade

    Well done! You were polite, poised and positive. Pastor Bluebaugh was gracious throughout, and I was pleased that he disarmed the only negative in the piece, the moderator’s Fox-ish spin attempt about “unfriendly atheists.” Your last comment was excellent.

    The most amazing thing was nobody interrupted anybody. This is a Fox station?

  • Sophia

    You did great! I’m glad you threw in that “it’s possible to be good without god”, even though she didn’t really want to let you talk at the end. ;)

  • mthrnite

    Something good comes of something bad. I love it when that happens! I think I’ve got some spray paint around here somewhere…

  • http:atheistconnect.org AtheistConnect

    Nice job, Hemant.

  • Rain Lady

    You did super great!

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    Excellent job! This whole thing has had a great effect on the atheist community! Keep up the friendliness (you know… to cover up for all the rest of the heathen atheists. ;-))

  • Greg

    Hey! My senator! Did I really say that? I didn’t vote for him. But John is a really nice guy (despite being a republican). He’s got a good head on his shoulders and did a much better job as governor than the previous one.

    Nice interview. I saw your face when she made that dig implying most atheists are not friendly. Kind of a low blow I think. You handled yourself well. Congrats!

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Hemant, you did good.

    A very positive interview for all.
    The pastor was gracious.
    It was fortunate that Fox (in this case) just wanted a little feel-good segment and not an indignant bash the atheist segment.

  • Andrew

    This was actually a pretty decent exchange, considering it was on Fox News. Well done, Hemant.

  • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.com Atheist MC

    Yep, as good a performance as was possible in such a pressured time slot. As is often the case in these things the anchor had less of a clue about the point of it all than the participants. You did well to keep on message.

  • Beriaal

    I’m proud of you Hemant!

  • http://twitter.com/ronmcc Ron

    Awesome job. Great catch at the end, excellent tone throughout. Proud to have you representing the Pastafarians.

  • JulietEcho

    Excellent work. I agree with the other posters who were grateful that the pastor disarmed the interviewer’s little “not all atheists are friendly” barb. Of course, his point was one that Christians are increasingly eager to make. As Dan Savage calls them, the NALTs (Not All Like That) need to distinguish themselves from the less savory Christian communities/leaders/denominations if they don’t want to be branded as hateful.

    Then again, the impression I’ve gotten from the background of the two pastors involved doesn’t exactly fit the bill for a NALT, what with the homophobia and whatnot, and he *did* try to get in an association between good actions and the teachings of Jesus (translation: Those atheists were following the teachings of Jesus, whether they believe in Him or not, and that’s what makes those actions good!) which, fortunately, Hemant succinctly disagreed with at the end.

  • Hugh

    Great job! And it tickled me to hear you use the soundbite I suggested, although they hardly let you get a word in edgeways. I didn’t like the comment about “unfriendly atheists” – the interviewer trying to find a way to push the Faux Noise agenda – but I respect the preacher for the way he answered. Also I thought it was funny how the woman sounded like she was saying “a bridge between believers and nine believers”.

  • Mr.Ayala

    I recall a few people on this board stating they would never donate to a proselytizing organization like a church, But I appreciate the point that was being made; that of civil discourse, like you said, and the fact that non believers can help others for the sake of helping. Nice work, we non believers, as a movement, need more actions like this one.

  • Romo2Austin

    He has only been in national office for half a year. No worries.

  • Jon Peterson

    There are non-friendly atheists just like there are non-friendly Christians

    I like this pastor. Good on him for turning the moderator’s snide remark back on her and negating it. :)
    It’s true. Both parties have friendly and non-friendly members. We’re all humans, after all!

  • Drew M.

    Wow. That was awesome!

  • http://www.blondenonbeliever.com Blonde Nonbeliever

    This was great. I was ready for Fox or the pastor to say something more judgmental, and the unfriendly atheist poke was unnecessary, but overall very positive!

  • Andrew N. Murphy

    Nice Job, you were firm and steady. Nice input at the end. Was a point that was best to leave with. Hey, BTW, what does someone have to do to get you to accept their friend request on FB? Want to get it before you become to famous and EVERYBODY is jumping on the band wagon.

  • http://www.tomfarrell.org The Other Tom

    Hemant, never assume Fox will do anything sane. I’m surprised they didn’t have the words “worships satan” printed on the screen below you.

  • GaR

    Nice job. You came off friendly and reasonable without having to eat the Jesus comment. Well done.

  • Tom Rhoads

    Nice job Hemant. I thought it was also nice of Pastor John to respond kindly to that “implies there must be bad atheists” comment that the interviewer couldn’t resist throwing in.

  • BrentSTL

    Great job Hement!! And a great slam on the FoxSpin spokesmodel by the pastor too.

  • daakujc

    One reason the segment is short could be because the discourse was very friendly and there was no heated debate. As opposed to those I have seen on Fox before.

  • http://hoverfrog.wordpress.com hoverfrog

    Nicely done.

  • NotYou007

    Well done and way to nail the 3 pointer at the buzzer.

  • Colin

    I think Senator Hoeven is going to regret this… cue the dark music in a campaign commercial: “Senator Hoeven… consorts with ATHEISTS!”

    Anyway, nice job on the piece… more “fair and balanced” than I would have expected.

  • daakujc

    Him: So why are you here today?

    Me: I’m an atheist.

    And he was satisfied with the answer?

  • Tom Bourque

    I’ve never heard of that senator either.

  • matt

    I’m proud of Hemant and am impressed that the pastor showed such an enlightened attitude towards atheists. It was a pleasant surprise for sure.

  • Tracy

    Nailed it!

    You get a 10. The disbelieving headshake was beautifully executed and you stuck the dismount. The crowd goes wild!

  • Justin Miyundees

    Blondy McBlabbs couldn’t resist the dig now could she? That, my friends, was the message loyal viewers will take away because they’re in the loop this story went in one ear and out the other and the only thing that sticks in their self confirming little minds will be that atheists are unfriendly vandals. After all, Hemant, you’re no pretty blonde woman saying everything they want to hear now are you?

    You’re exactly right, but don’t expect them to hear you.

  • http://sixweeksinparis.wordpress.com Alyssa

    Now I feel like I can officially call you my celebrity crush! But really, great job. It’s awesome to think of the Fox viewers who might have opened up their minds a little bit because of you.

  • http://www.soulsprawl.com Matt DeStefano

    I saw this on Fox and wanted to come say that you did a brilliant job on the brief segment. Great job!

  • Carlie

    Wow, that was a fantastic save at the end. Great job all around!

  • http://n/a Dustin Finney

    I thought Hemant did an excellent job and I agree with Rich Wilson about the headshake after the host’s snide interjection about, “unfriendly atheists.” It kind of drew attention to the rudeness of the host without having to disrupt the program. Somehow, I knew they weren’t going to make it through the interview without getting a jab in.

    I’m not too sentimental about that anti-gay pastor, though. The cut of his jib just screams, “homophobic bigot.” You could tell he didn’t appreciate Hemant’s final comment.

  • http://www.facebook.com/staks Staks Rosch

    I tend to be pretty critical of atheist when they go on Fox. But I think you did a good job this time. Well done.

  • Alice

    Without the website you calling yourself the “friendly atheist” seems a bit weird. You came off well though, good job.

  • Justin

    Awesome, my senator got to meet you. He’s a hell of a nice guy, like someone above me somewhere mentioned. I went to school at the Catholic high school his son went to, though I’m a couple years behind him. I hope he was as friendly in Chicago as he is around these parts.

  • Trace

    Excellent! The pastor was fine too.

  • Robbie

    I thought you were perfect. Great job!

  • Annie

    Excellent job… both you and the pastor. The reporter was the least professional. I think your body language spoke volumes, but was very professional and respectful. Kudos!

  • Joolz

    I read regularly, but rarely comment, but needed to say that you did wonderfully. Even though I’m a brit, I know the religious bias of Fox, so I am in awe of anyone who puts themselves in their crossfire. And you survived, with honour! Brilliantly done.

    Julie

  • http://www.allourlives.org/ TooManyJens

    “Everyone seemed so amicable, even Mr. Pray-the-Gay-Away. ”

    The church that had the pray-the-gay-away program was the other church that got vandalized, Westside Church. At least, I haven’t seen any indication that Brumbaugh’s church does that.

  • Dmanier

    First, let me say, Hemant, you were very poised and well-spoken and I was thrilled that you could get that last message in before she cut you off.

    However, I must say it saddens me a bit to read the other posts that express such surprise that Pastor John had your back when the reported made her nasty little comment about there being not-so-nice atheists out there.
    I live in the buckle of the Bible Belt, and while I experienced a lot of prejudice from theists when I was a kid, most adults I know, even here in the South, understand that a person can be kind and generous to his/her fellow human beings regardless of his/her religious beliefs. They are also well aware that there are many who call themselves Christian on Sundays, but who act like heathens the rest of the week.
    I guess I just feel that kind of surprised reaction from the atheist community is just as silly and unwarranted as the surprised reactions of some Christians when they hear that a godless atheist has done something selfless and generous.

  • Vystrix Nexoth

    I think the idea behind the donation drive was: Be the change you want to see in the world. Atheist billboards are vandalized a lot, and we call on non-atheists to step up and speak against that. When the reverse happens, it was your opportunity to lead by example.

    (Something like that, is the point I’d have wanted to make when given the mic.)

    Seeing the atheists’ representative calm, poised, articulate and respectful – but still steadfast – has probably done as much good (for those who saw the program) as the donation drive itself. Be the change, indeed.

    Also: ‹squee› @ seeing Hemant on TV!

  • Nordog

    Nice job Hemant. This went the way I thought it would (only much shorter in duration).

    Some here seem miffed about the woman’s remark about unfriendly atheists, but I think there’s no reason to be miffed.

    She said, “It almost implies that there are non-friendly atheists out there, apparently…”

    That seems reasonable, especially in the context of a story, the basis of which two disparate groups are linked such that one is helping the other.

    Besides, “Friendly Atheist” does suggest that there are unfriendly ones in the same way Bush’s “compassionate conservative” suggests uncompassionate conservatives.

    I wonder how many atheists miffed at this woman’s comment had no problem tainting conservatism as uncompassionate, per se, in light of Bush’s neolistic phrase.

    Hemant mentioned that one can be good without God. Yet it’s fair to say that there are atheists who say one cannot be good with God. Is it unreasonable to suggest that these people could be unfriendly?

    Besides, hasn’t Hemant himself suggested at one time that he really isn’t so friendly anymore?

    Be that as it may, these reactions seem to be an attempt to find something, anything, bad to say about a person at Fox. But really, we’re talking about a fluff morning show, not the bloviating Bill O’Reilly, the unhinged Glenn Beck, or the one-note Sean Hannity.

  • Siobhan

    I was impressed that the pastor pointed out, and sounded sincere (as opposed to giving lip service), that there are christians who don’t follow the teachings of christ. That and his general respectful demeanor when speaking to and about Hemant cast him in a pleasant light.

    Hemant, you did a great job. You looked sane, reasonable, and you got some good points in, as well. I was very glad you were able to say how it’s possible to be good without god. :)

    As for the interviewer from Fox: We’d be as remiss as the christians if we refused to own up to the fact that there ARE unfriendly atheists out there. Some of the most generally well-known (as opposed to the ones that are well-known in skeptical/atheist circles) are downright hostile to religion and make no attempt to build any bridges, and make no secret of their end-goal being the destruction of all religion. While religious folk are certainly overly-sensitive and threatened by atheists in general, the so-called “angry atheists”, however justified you might think they are, do tend to do us harm when it comes to trying to present us as generally friendly, non-threatening people who are interested in working together, despite our differences.

    Hemant was able to present a poised and kind face of atheism, one that isn’t interested so much in destruction as it is building up understanding and tolerance so we all get along better. This is something we need to do just as much as the middle of the road or liberal christians really need to start publicly calling out the whackadoodle christians who keep claiming to speak for them.

    Presenting the facts only makes folks dig in and refuse to consider reality. The only way to get through to them is to appeal to the same emotional self that is clinging to their beliefs so tightly. We only begin to change their minds about the atheist thugs if they can stop seeing us as thugs through our own efforts at reaching out.

    No one has changed their mind because they were being screamed at or denigrated (metaphorically or actually). You can’t hate someone into changing their minds.

  • http://www.agnosticweddings.com Sasha

    Well done! Thank you for getting in the last word…that we can be good without gods is such an impossibility in the minds of many religious folks. It’s nice to see the atheist community once again putting the money where our mouth is!

  • Claudia

    Excellent job Hemant. I’m glad you didn’t interject at the “unfriendly atheists” comment by the host. It’s a more effective message, particularly for Christians who may hold prejudices, to hear a pastor gently pointing out that there are nice and nasty people of all beliefs. That with the great save at the end made it just about perfect.
    Negative impression of atheists through vandalism neutralized – National positive exposure of the nontheist community on a conservative channel – Bunch of money for FBB; win-win-win.

  • http://www.lackofbelief.com LackOfBelief

    Hey Hemant, great job. I hadn’t heard about the story before seeing the AtheistMediaBlog post.

    I’m really glad you caught wind of the vandalism. That’s pretty messed up. I’m what most theists would consider a “militant atheist”, and I do wish religion would go extinct so humanity can jump into its next level of progress. However, I would never support nor stand by in quiet amusement while atheists vandalize places of worship.

    It sounds like some rebellious kids to me, and I would be extremely surprised if it were anyone else.

    Sure, I’m not happy about it because it makes us all look bad, and support an otherwise faulty expectation some theists might have about atheists… but I’m more upset that someone would go beyond civil discourse by attacking a church.

    Thanks again Hemant, and everyone that supported the victims of the attacks.

    For the vandals, if they happen to read this, grow up — it wasn’t funny, and you didn’t convince anyone of anything except negative atheist stereotypes. Next time pick up a book instead of a can of spray paint.

  • Anne

    I think you did great! I, too, love what the pastor said about non-friendly Christians.

    And LOL at the whole senator thing. Whoops!

  • YourNameIsJimJones

    @Nordog: you’re smart.

    And the segment seemed “long” after being told it was “short”.

    What more is there to say? Two disparate figureheads, one wishing the other into extinction, and yet having a good time being on TV pretending to like each other. I guess they could have ended by saying, and now both parties will resume their corners and continue to make fun of the other’s core beliefs?

    “I’m an atheist”.

    Politics proceeds.

  • http://mydvmvacation.blogspot.com/ Julie

    Is it just me, or did the pastor call you “Hemant-ka”?

  • Anonymous

    Senator Hoeven! Let’s talk about the issues. Thanks for opposing school vouchers
    http://www.ontheissues.org/senate/John_Hoeven_SenateMatch.htm
    but are you really serious about prayer in schools? Not cool, my friend. This is a tiny nod to theocracy, and is massively unfair to non-Christians.

  • Luciferadi

    Nice job, Hemant! You and the pastor seemed relaxed, and the discussion had a friendly vibe.

    The interviewer, on the other hand, seemed uncomfortable. It’s like her mouth couldn’t quite form the words “atheist” or “non-believer” (not to mention “Hemant”!).

    Good on you for sticking up for atheists at the end there, too.

  • http://www.banalleakage.com martymankins

    I don’t think you embarrassed yourself at all. Politically star struck maybe, but that’s about it.

  • Marcie

    You did great and I was fairly impress with the Pastor too. I don’t watch Fox news at all so I don’t know who the anchor was but boy, did she come off as a dingbat!!

  • FriendlyAtheistStalker

    so. awesome.


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