TIME Magazine Just Doubled-Down on Joe Klein’s Inaccurate, Anti-Atheist Statements

Last week, the cover story TIME magazine, written by Joe Klein, included an unfair and untrue jab at Secular Humanists.

Klein wrote:

… there was an occupying army of relief workers, led by local first responders, exhausted but still humping it a week after the storm, church groups from all over the country — funny how you don’t see organized groups of secular humanists giving out hot meals — and there in the middle of it all, with a purposeful military swagger, were the volunteers from Team Rubicon.

Of course, atheists were there, and I listed in detail how many non-theistic groups and individuals contributed time, money, and — yes — hot meals to the victims of the Oklahoma tornadoes. Hell, I’ll do it again right now:

Klein responded to all of this by offering an awful rebuttal in which he argued that he wasn’t saying atheists didn’t help out; it was *organized* groups of atheists who were absent from the recovery efforts:

it is certainly true, as my critics point out, that secular humanists, including atheists, can be incredibly generous. I never meant to imply they weren’t. But they are not organized. The effects of this post-modern atomization is something I’ve been trying to puzzle through for most of my career. That’s why I find the military, and the community values that are at the heart of military culture, so intriguing. That’s why I find the groups featured in my cover story about public service this week so inspiring. I believe that they sustain an essential part of citizenship that the rest of us have lost track of, the importance of being an active part of something larger than yourself.

Klein didn’t just choose not to apologize. He made things worse by lying a second time!

Organized groups of Secular Humanists absolutely helped out in the wake of the tornadoes!

Okay. So Klein’s a lost cause. He refuses to admit his mistake.

But at least the editors at TIME had the opportunity to say something about the comment in the very next issue.

So here’s what they said:

“In Joe Klein’s cover story last week, he wrote about “how you don’t see organized groups of secular humanists giving out hot meals” in the wake of a tragedy. That statement was untrue. Many Secular Humanists, both alone and as a group, pitched in during relief efforts. We didn’t catch that error before it went into print and we apologize for that. We also apologize for the unfair insinuation that non-religious people would not help others after a terrible disaster. We’ll do our best to ensure that never happens again.”

Awesom—Wait. No. That’s not what they said. That’s what they should have said.

Here’s what they actually wrote (some of which is behind a paywall):

“Service can and will save us if it becomes a way of life,” wrote reader Stephen Holt about Time’s July 1 cover story by Joe Klein, which examines organizations that use service projects as a way to help veterans recover from trauma. Many readers were upset by Klein’s comment about secular humanists, who he said are less likely than members of religious groups to organize for disaster relief.

Let’s stop right here while we all collectively undilate our pupils.

Klein did not say Secular Humanists were “less likely” to organize for disaster relief. He said they were not there at all. And we proved him wrong repeatedly! (Not to mention that, without a credible citation, even the “less likely” phrasing would be problematic.)

But what the hell is TIME thinking?!

Then they kept going, not addressing why any of us were upset, only that we were upset… about something:

Blogger Richard Wade called the comment “completely unnecessary,” while reader Lois Lemoine asked if Klein really believes “there are no secular humanists among those veterans or the first responders to tragic events.” In a post on the Swampland blog, Klein acknowledged the criticism and said he plans to write more about the decline of secular service organizations.

*sigh*

I know Richard Wade. Richard Wade is a friend of mine. And TIME took Richard Wade’s comments out of context, because this is what he actually wrote:

Regardless of whether he was out anywhere helping, and regardless of why he was, his out-of-the-blue disparagement of Secular Humanists was completely unnecessary for the point of his article, and even unnecessary for that part of his article, and it was factually false. It was just a stupid, bigoted dig when he saw he’d given himself an opportunity.

That’s the Richard Wade I know and love.

Also, saying that Klein “acknowledged the criticism” is really a cop-out way of saying “Klein ignored the very reason people were angry with him.” That’s like saying “Paula Deen acknowledged the criticism against her” without ever mentioning why people were criticizing her in the first place. It completely misses the point.

Just to top it off, TIME listed a few tweets people sent about the article, including this one from the American Humanist Association:

#TIME Writer Takes Inaccurate Shot at Nonbelievers

They never acknowledge what the “inaccurate shot” was… and I’m not sure how they could have missed it, since the AHA’s actual tweet included a link to a Huffington Post article about how Joe Klein lied:


*Deep breath*

So it’s not just Joe Klein who’s the problem. The people who run TIME are complicit in letting easily-debunkable, slanderous, inaccurate statements make their way into the magazine.

They could have fixed the problem. Instead, they chose to make it even worse.

Don’t stand for this. Cancel your subscription by calling 1-866-550-6934 and let them know why you did it on Twitter.

And just so this piece doesn’t end with me going completely out of my mind, here’s a wonderful rebuttal to Klein written by my friend Dale McGowan:

Humanists and atheists aren’t developing our charitable efforts for recognition or applause. Empathy and compassion are a natural fit for a naturalistic worldview, and it’s incredibly rewarding to put that into action. But it would be nice if we could do this work without the constant, buzzing insistence from people like Klein that we aren’t actually doing it.


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.


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