A Christian Reaction to ‘We Are Atheism’ Article: Not Enough Christianity In It

There’s a nice article making the rounds by Kimberly Winston of the Religion News Service about the “We Are Atheism” campaign:

“It’s time for us to all stand up, speak out and be counted,” said Amanda Brown, 25, one of the co-founders. “It is time for us to put up our videos and change the face of atheism. We want people to see we are normal people who have children and lives and do good in the community.”

Brown was inspired to start the campaign with her husband and a friend when she attended a talk by Jessica Ahlquist, a teenage atheist who was taunted and bullied after she objected to a “school prayer” banner hung in her Rhode Island high school.

I posted about the campaign when it launched and even contributed a video for it. I know what this campaign is about.

It’s about letting other atheists know that they’re not alone, that they have support from the larger secular community, that we know what they’re going through, that it gets better.

Bobby Ross Jr. at Get Religion misses that point completely. He’s upset because this article about “evangelical atheists” (his words) doesn’t fact check the stories of the atheists or feature any religion scholars:

… while the heroes in the story are quoted by name, the villains — those God-believers out there allegedly persecuting atheists — are left vague and nameless. No one who believes in a higher power get to react to the atheists. No one gets to debate the facts in any of these clashes. No one engages in dialogue. No traditional theologians are enlisted to discuss whether, in fact, the atheists are becoming a religious group. Minus the F-word (faith), that is.

Maybe I’m alone, but I read this type of story and want to scream: Wait a minute! I believe in God, and I think atheists are wrong, but this is a free country and they have every right not to believe. Is it asking too much to want to see that point of view reflected?

My point is this: If we’re going to keep reading evangelical atheist stories, wouldn’t it be nice to see journalists approach this topic from a wider, more diverse, perspective? Wouldn’t it be nice to see some believers and scholars quoted? Wouldn’t it be nice to see some actual journalistic skepticism brought to the atheists’ publicity campaigns?

Yes, Bobby, you’re alone on this.

As I wrote on his site, this story doesn’t deserve a Christian reaction. It’s not about them. It’s about the atheists who have been treated badly as a result of things that are said by Christians/pastors/etc. It about letting other atheists know that we can be out and proud and it doesn’t always hurt us — even in conservative areas.

There’s no need for a Christian perspective. There’s no argument being made where we need to hear a dissenting view. There’s nothing they can offer to shine more light on this piece. You want to know more about the Jessica Ahlquist case? Read the dozens of articles that have already been written about her. Those articles name names and point out exactly who the ignorant bigots are. Ditto with Damon Fowler and everybody else who has suffered at the hands of some Christians.

We also don’t need a Christian to tell us that not all Christians are bad people. We know that. We know many Christians are good, kind people who would never condone bullying. The “We Are Atheism” videos don’t suggest otherwise.

Ross says he wants a “scholar” quoted in the piece. Why? To point out that atheists are a growing demographic? It wouldn’t matter even if we weren’t.

He also asks for “journalistic skepticism” without pointing out what we ought to be skeptical of… I didn’t see any glaring errors, but feel free to point out the dubious facts to me, and I’ll get answers.

This is the kind of response one would expect from a Christian who gets defensive because he read an article portraying atheists in a positive light.

Can’t have that happening now, can we?

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=23430830 Matthew Shepherd

    Read his piece and then the article he quotes from. He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. It even says in the article that it’s all about atheist community building, so the source writer got it at least.

    Mayhaps someone is attempting to inject some religious privilege where they thought it should be.

    • aerie

      Agreed. That’s what I heard. His Christian privilege panties got a bit bunched and we know what comes after that: The Persecuted Christian Complex (AKA The War on Christians).

      • Anonymous

        The whole site is like that from what I can tell. Nothing but Christian privilege and the standard persecution complex at work. Nothing but stupidity.

        They whine about “good Christians” like Tim Tebow being made fun of for heroically showing his beliefs. I see little there but the usual evangelical crazy, trying desperately to appear neutral and reasonable

        They think there is some “liberal” media conspiracy to oppress Christians. That no one in the media gets Christians. That Christian POVs aren’t represented. That everyone is only out to say bad things about Christians.

  • Anonymous

    In the interest of equal time, can I give a counter-sermon at my local churches?

  • Gatton

    Man, he totally gets it. I can’t wait to read all his other articles about how articles about human trafficking don’t have enough of the pimp perspective. Or how the journalistic skepticism is missing from articles about famines that don’t include a few comments from local genocidal warlords.

  • Drew M.

    /facepalm.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    … while the heroes in the story are quoted by name, the villains — those whites out there allegedly persecuting blacks — are left vague and nameless. No one who believes in white supremacy gets to react to the blacks. No one gets to debate the facts in any of these clashes. No one engages in dialogue. No traditional historians are enlisted to discuss whether, in fact, the blacks are becoming a civilized group. Minus the N-word (nigger), that is.

    Maybe I’m alone, but I read this type of story and want to scream: Wait a minute! I believe in white supremacy, and I think blacks are wrong, but this is a free country and they have every right to live. Is it asking too much to want to see that point of view reflected?

    My point is this: If we’re going to keep reading nigger stories, wouldn’t it be nice to see journalists approach this topic from a wider, more diverse, perspective? Wouldn’t it be nice to see some white supremacists and scholars quoted? Wouldn’t it be nice to see some actual journalistic skepticism brought to the blacks’ publicity campaigns?

    There. That sounds less bigoted.

  • Stoo

    I agree with a fair bit here. Getreligion, while it tries to be focussed simply on good quality journalism, always has a conservative chrisitan slant to its coverage. And that means a bad reaction to coverage of atheists that they think isn’t critical enough.

    Still…

    “There’s no need for a Christian perspective. There’s no argument being made where we need to hear a dissenting view”.

    I somewhat disagree with this. We don’t need to hear from people who think atheism is wrong, sure. That’s not the topic here.

    We could however skeptically approach the question, do atheists face prejudice and harassment from their peers? And let people who think otherwise have their say. But then provide further evidence that they’re wrong. A questioning approach to a claim doesn’t have to mean concluding on rejecting it, or even to giving both pro-and-anti equal weight.

    I guess what I mean is, however right we think we are, objective journalism shouldn’t take a “well duh” approach and assume it from the start.

    • Anonymous

      We could however skeptically approach the question, do atheists face
      prejudice and harassment from their peers? And let people who think
      otherwise have their say.

      That’s not scepticism. That’s just perpetuating the harassment. If a group of people are reporting prejudice and discrimination, it’s about them, not the oppressors. The people who have the power to discriminate already have the lion’s share of the media’s attention.

      • Stoo

        I don’t follow. It’s “about” both sides. One forming support groups and movements in response to prejudice from the other. If christians attitudes are the cause of We Are Atheism forming, I kinda want to hear what they have to say on the matter. (this does not mean I’m expecting to agree with their opinions).

        • Anonymous

          With the current state of journalism you are not going to get that. Long in-depth articles are rare.

          This silly “let’s present the opposing POV” paradigm usually only means that the other side gets one or two token paragraph at the end. They usually add nothing of value and are entirely predictable.

          Different points of view need to be presented in different articles. That’s the way to really show all sides. Not by lumping them together in the same article, thus making it worse

          • Stoo

            Well okay, you’re giving up on the idea of balanced news pieces. Fair enough! Maybe I’m looking to a (too) difficult ideal here.

            • Rieux

              No, the very idea of “balance” you are flogging here is a major part of the problem in public discourse today. “He said/she said” is lousy, mindless journalism, and it’s responsible for American ignorance on a host of issues (such as global climate change)—but you’re presenting it as if it’s an unquestionable ideal. Think again.

              • Stoo

                Hm. I’d hope we could give people their say, and the weight of factsevidenceexpertise would still speak for itself.  (ie on some topics like climate or creationism, one side doesn’t have any, leaving them with hollow arguments and rhetoric).

                • Rieux

                  And how, pray tell, does the “balance” ideal you are pushing do anything to demonstrate the “hollow arguments and rhetoric” of faith-based nonsense?

                  You are demanding he-said, she-said journalism. That approach specifically informs readers that neither side is presenting “hollow arguments and rhetoric.” You’re trying to have your cake and eat it too.

                • Stoo

                  I’m curious as to what you think my cake is.

                  What I’m trying to get at is, weak positions should themselves should fall down, without needing a pre-determined slant against them. And for what it’s worth we don’t need an equal word count.

                  To take the climate debate again,  if “he” is some guy with a fringe theory and “she” is the entire scientific establishment, I think that kinda speaks for itself.

                • http://theotherweirdo.wordpress.com The Other Weirdo

                  No, it doesn’t, as the whole vaccination fiasco shows. People who haven’t looked at a situation closely can’t tell the difference between good science/bad science, good beliefs/bad beliefs, not without help. But it doesn’t stop them from making decisions based on erroneous data supplied to them.

        • Anonymous

          Every month is Christian straight white men history month. We get to hear their opinions every day, all day. If a journo wants to do an article giving a voice to non-Christians, queer people, people who have more melanin, or women *they don’t need to ask the privileged what they think*.

          • Stoo

            I’d want to hear the “other side” on this specific case tho, ie do Atheists need to form support groups, are they being singled out for bullying at school etc.

            Also… lots is going to be written about christian white straight men because there are a lots of chrisitan white men and their actions and beliefs affect the rest of us.

            Word count isn’t necessarily some gauge of rightness.

            • Rieux

              I’d want to hear the “other side” on this specific case tho, ie do Atheists need to form support groups, are they being singled out for bullying at school etc.

              Why? Why is that any different than rounding out an article on anti-gay bullying by interviewing Fred “God Hates Fags” Phelps? What exactly is newsworthy about some atheophobe’s comments on “do Atheists need to form support groups, are they being singled out for bullying at school etc.”?

              Isis’ point about privilege appears to have gone entirely over your head.

              • Stoo

                Well, if people are forming a support group, it suggests bad treatment from the majority. So I’d want to hear what someone from that majority has to say on the matter.

                It’s about being informed as to what’s motivating people, not rating whether they’re heard based on how much you like them.

                • Rieux

                  So I’d want to hear what someone from that majority has to say on the matter.

                  So you would want a reporter doing a story on Gay-Straight Alliances to interview a gay-basher? Seriously?

                • Stoo

                  I dunno, there’s something to be said for letting them hang himself in public with their own stupidity?

                • http://theotherweirdo.wordpress.com The Other Weirdo

                  Is the dubious benefit of twisting a metaphorical knife in a gay-basher sufficient justification for putting gays into a position of having to hear him/her/it?

                • http://theotherweirdo.wordpress.com The Other Weirdo

                  If I as a Jew from the former Soviet Union now living in Canada, decide to form a support group for Jews from a similar background who have suffered anti-Semitism in the “old country”, do we really need to hear from people who on a bus would go on an anti-Jew riff and then lean over to me and ask, “But you are not Jewish, are you?” This used to happen to me with disturbing regularity. What could possibly be gained by a Jewish support group by including such people’s opinions?

                  Similarly, what would an atheist support group gain from hearing from a Christian group? Do Christian campus groups need(or want) to hear from Atheists, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, and whatnot?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Paul-Reed/692599362 Paul Reed

      Unless I totally misunderstand the purpose of the site, it’s not about fact-checking, debate or journalism. It’s about real people telling their own personal stories.
      Thats it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

      You do make a good point Stoo. Journalism probably should give a
      balanced perspective, showing what each side says about an issue. That
      doesn’t mean each side should be perceived as equal or valid information
      should be held back to remain unbiased. However, you lose me on “We don’t need to hear from people who think atheism is wrong, sure. That’s not the topic here.” Actually it is. That is exactly the topic here. from the article, Bobby Ross Jr. says very plainly “I believe in God, and I think atheists are wrong… Is it asking too much to want to see that point of view reflected?”

      • Stoo

        Ah, I missed that bit.

        I’d still stand by what I said tho, I just disagree with Bobby about what “other side” views are relevant here.

  • Anonymous

    What else?  Because every article on atheism is really an article about Christianity.  It’s as if this Christian is making it all about him. Hmmm.

  • http://denkeensechtna.blogspot.com Deen

    Is it asking too much to want to see that point of view reflected?

    Yes. That point of view is already available all over the place. There is no need for atheists (or articles about atheists) to give up some of their time/space to include that point of view as well.

  • Jo

    What the heck is with the sound ads?

    • Rieux

      Agreed!

  • Fester60613

    Hilarious article. It’s wonderful that xians are not at all careful of exposing their stupidity.

  • http://profiles.google.com/schwabby Aaron Schwab

    “Wouldn’t it be nice to see some believers and scholars quoted? Wouldn’t it be nice to see some actual journalistic skepticism brought to the atheists’ publicity campaigns?”


    … http://youtu.be/HY-03vYYAjA

  • LudoPhil

    Oh Bobby.

    You’re so vain
    You probably think this campaign’s about you
    You’re so vain
    I’ll bet you think this campaign’s about you
    Don’t you? Don’t you?

    *sigh*

  • Rieux

    Great comment over there, Hemant.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/5PXE2X4WEOE2OUDUJHDR25X4YE Anonymous

    You might be interested in this article about GetReligion.org at glbtq.com, which explains a lot about GetReligion.org and their approach to journalism. Actually, Bobby Ross is much less objectionable than many other bloggers at GetReligion. See “Confessions of a Blog Addict. Or Why I Love to Hate GetReligion.org and FamilyScholars.org”: http://www.glbtq.com/sfeatures/confessionsofablogaddict.html

    • Anonymous

      Wow, I didn’t know it was that bad. Thanks

      But yes, that they are really just your run-of-the-mill religious extremists who try very hard to appear objective and neutral is very obvious. As is that the fact that many articles only use the pretense of criticizing journalism to preach their own ideology

  • http://twitter.com/nekoewen Ewen Cluney

    If you want the Christian perspective on things, you can pretty much look at, you know, the rest of all American culture ever.

  • Rich Wilson

    Yes, Bobby, you’re alone on this.

    Sadly he’s not.  I have a co-worker who keeps pointing out that the frequency of atheist comments on CNN does not reflect the supposed numbers of atheists in polls.  As in, we just make to much noise, and we should sit quietly and wait our minority turn.  At least that’s my take.  I’ve tried comparing it to other kinds of privilege, but I don’t think he gets it.  And yes, he’s the gay-friendly liberal there-is-no-hell kind of Christian. 

    • Rieux

      I’ve tried comparing it to other kinds of privilege, but I don’t think he gets it.

      Whether he does or not, you’ve clearly got his number. Kudos.

  • http://religiouscomics.net/ Jeff P

    There can be reasonable Christians but the commonly held Christianity beliefs are themselves not reasonable.  That is if you define Christianity as the belief that “saved” people spend eternity with God and “unsaved” people are destined for some kind of lesser eternal existence (that could include torture).  And once you “cross over” you are stuck in one state or the other.  .  The beliefs go that Jesus was some kind of accepting person while people are alive, but after they die, Jesus becomes completely intolerant towards those that did not accept and believe in Him when they were alive.

    Many of the atheists are reacting to subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) persecution by Christians who in “following Jesus” are adopting some of the attitudes that they attribute to how they believe Jesus will treat the unsaved in the afterlife:  shun, reject, snub, scorn, despise, disdain, etc.

    It appears that Bobby Ross may feel that the attitude that many Christians feel towards atheists is not in fact justifiable theologically.  He either wants to see the core Christian principles sugar coated to gloss over the consequences of the saved/damned dichotomy or perhaps he views that saved & damned represent a false dichotomy.  Perhaps he is really a universalist (believes that all go to heaven) or perhaps he considers that these traditional ideas of afterlife states are just mythology.  In all likelihood, though, he probably just wants authors quoted that will pour a bucket of syrup over the core Christian beliefs. 

  • AtheismResource.com

    This is Adam Brown… co-owner of WeAreAtheism.com. I just wanted to say that my wife and I really appreciate the support and nice words from all of you. Submit videos and essays… tell your story. Tell other people about this. We are winning – never forget that! WE LOVE YOU HEMANT!!

  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    Re: “I believe in God, and I think atheists are wrong, but this is a free country and they have every right not to believe. Is it asking too much to want to see that point of view reflected?

    Paraphrase: “I’ll concede that people have a right not to believe, but I don’t want to hear them say it, and when they do, I demand their statements of non-belief be accompanied by comforting statements of belief by my fellow believers.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sidney-Vandegrift/100000623262818 Sidney Vandegrift

    i will pray for all of you :> so sad :<

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