We don’t usually deal with columns here at GetReligion, but every once in a while, one touches at the core of why we exist, the reason why we advocate so much for religion in the daily newspaper.
In Canada’s highest circulated newspaper, The Toronto Star, Heather Mallick pens a mind-boggling column that many of our readers should …enjoy.
I am an atheist, don’t know why. …I was simply oblivious and continue to be. Religion isn’t on my radar. Like the magnets in high school science experiments that repel each other rather than attract, I am programmed to tune out religious talk.
But here’s the real kicker (bolding is my own).
If you like to stay current, you can’t simultaneously juggle all the elements that make up the news of the world. I follow politics, the arts, memoir and European history, with a minor in Spanish novelists, British comedy and American popular culture. My husband does economics, the history of the English language, meat-based cuisine, the novels of Graham Greene and soccer. The children have assigned themselves music, American fiction, social media and legal issues.
Religion sits on the kitchen table, orphaned.
Most writers don’t openly admit they don’t hold an expertise in something since it almost instantly discredits them. This columnist is blatant about her apathy for understanding religion.
We regret our lack of expertise in religion. But that’s atheism for you. Religion sails past atheists like a paper airplane.
Can you imagine a newspaper employing someone who openly wrote the same sentence above about politics or science or economics?
Here’s an example of my cluelessness: Last summer I wrote a column about a Don Mills school where imams conduct Islamic prayers in the cafeteria, with the boys at the front, the girls behind them and menstruating girls at the back in a sad little huddle.
I genuinely believed that parents and education officials who read this would object to two things: females being treated as second-class compared to boys, and students missing class time that would not be made up later. To me, religion had nothing to do with it.
How in the world can you believe religion has nothing to do with a set of practices set forth from a religious tradition? For a nice comeback, I’m reminded of a comment Ann Rodgers made one a post last year when one student complained about how her religion courses were irrelevant.
I have no idea how a reporter can cover politics, anything involving the Middle East, relief work after a natural disaster, social life in a small town, anything concerning 9/11, neighborhood efforts to improve bad housing and reduce violence, immigration, popular culture or a host of other topics without having a basic grasp of the world’s major religious traditions and how they function in society. You will find religious faith at the heart of all of those topics and many, many more.
Journalism isn’t simply a matter of how well you can put words together. You need a well-formed intellect to be able to step back from the facts at hand and place them in a larger context. You gain the tools for doing so in the classroom, whether in religious classes, sociology classes, or history classes. When I am writing stories today I find myself drawing on classes that I took more than 30 years ago on everything from Catholic mysticism to black history. I would be a poor reporter without that academic background.
Well said. And Heather Mallick is a poor newspaper columnist for openly choosing to ignore religion. Here’s her conclusion:
I shall try not to write about religion again, even inadvertently. For I am an atheist and we atheists have to keep our stick on the ice. We have no faith. We are polite. We do not believe. We are not interested in belief.
The world would be a better place if we made more noise.
Please don’t. What the world doesn’t need is an openly ignorant columnist to write more noise.
Thanks to Jerry for suggesting the image.