Slate “Science” Bigot Explains, “SHUT UP!”

By virtue of his authority as a spouting popinjay, some science scribbler for Slate decrees that there must be a Constitutional Wall of Separation between Church and CNN, demanding that Wolf Blitzer and Co. not pray for the victims of tornados.

Why? Because shut up, says Slate “science” writer Mark Joseph Stern.

The amazing thing is that Slate seems to seriously think this Stalinist agitprop is “science news” and not some spouting popinjay just screaming his thoughts aloud at his computer monitor.

"So much for hating the sin and loving the sinner. Boy was Augustine dumb."

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  • That kind of does read like one of those op-eds you’d find in The Onion (“OPINION: Atheist doesn’t think you should pray for Tornado victims”), doesn’t it? “The State of the Universe” indeed.

  • Joseph

    What a bitter anus. Betraying his *new* atheism… a religious zeal/bigotry. An intelligent and intellectually honest atheist would say, “Meh. If it makes them feel better, what harm does it do? I don’t believe in a deity but it doesn’t bother me if anyone else does.”

    Instead, like all *new* atheist jihadists, this guy, in his anti-theist rage, actually betrays a belief in God and a frustration that he can’t simply allow himself not to believe. Silly new atheist… you’re a contradiction… and I’ll be praying for you (cue the scene where the vampire screeches in pain as he is burnt by the crucifix planted on his forehead).

  • Dan F.
  • keddaw

    I think the biggest thing to take away from that clip was the woman’s embarrassed pause before responding to Blitzer’s question, the fact she was now going to have to tell the audience and answer that she was an atheist. Also, please note that she wasn’t offended by the question.

    A rather less polite person might have looked at the destruction and the scores of dead and said “How can I possibly thank a God that would kill so many for my survival?”

    As to the article, it seems overkill. Many people use ‘God’ for some unknowable or ‘pray’ as a term for hope, e.g. God knows where John is; I pray the Saints win the Superbowl. Which is something perhaps religious people should be complaining about a heck of a lot more than atheists.

  • It’s a VERY odd question for a reporter to ask. If she chose to answer it with, “I thank God”, that’s quite different. But, the point is, as a reporter, why Blitzer asked that question.

    • TheRealAaron

      Yeah, it reads like he was trying to get a money quote and get out. A real journalist would have actually tried to find out what she was thinking and feeling, but when you find a real journalist on tv could you please let me know?

    • Joseph

      Meh. Wolf was deliberately condescending. There wasn’t a shred of sincerity. That was probably his first trip to OK for several years and just assumed another gigantic trailer park (that’s how all of the elite look at every city in OK) was blown away by a ternater. He assumed that all them unedumacated trailer park folk would be sayin’, “Thank the Lord Jeebus”, while holding up rattlers in each hand. He was shocked that he actually came across an atheist in that there big trailer park. It bothered me that Wolf would try to illustrate a stereotype on air and use God insincerely to do so. But that’s just me.

  • kenofken

    I don’t see Stern demanding atheism. He’s expressing disgust at the cheesy amateur theological speculation and the sort of contrived piety that public officials and now journalists feel obliged to spout off in stock statements after disasters. Rather than proclaiming miracles (and thus claiming to know that God favored your kids over your neighbor’s dead ones), they ought to focus on how to get people back on their feet and then maybe pursuing some common-sense protections, like basements.

    Blitzer’s words reveal a sort of laziness that many journalist fall back on. I did it more than once myself when I was in the business, I’m not proud to admit. Journalists tend to pre-write the narratives for these events and then go out and find the round pegs for their holes, and shave and beat the square ones to fit. The narrative was “simple plains folk cling to the only thing they have left, prayer.” Of course plenty of them are believers, but there’s a hell of a presumption in coming up to a survivor and telling them what they must be thinking about faith. They may or may not be devout or even religious, and they probably have more immediate concerns than theology at that moment.

    Let the story write itself. If survivors want to talk about religion or take an hour off off from digging to pray, that’s part of the story. So is the atheist survivor and the many more who probably don’t have the mental energy or time to grapple with that question just then.

    Those of us in the rest of the country, atheist, Christian or anything else, should either offer real help or get out of their way. The survivors need our culture war about as much as a cholera epidemic right about now.

  • Pavel Chichikov

    The anxiety of one who in some way thinks God exists. I find that in atheists I encounter in comment boxes a mixture of vulnerability and rage. They seem desperate not to believe.

  • Pavel Chichikov

    That’s right. There is death in the world. God takes your life. We believe that He gives it back – a different kind of life.

    If you think there;s something wrong with death, why?

    • This comment deserves +1 million.

      • Pavel Chichikov

        Best wishes, Jon, and God’s blessings.

  • Benjamin

    That woman was a hell of a lot more polite than I would have been at such a question. I think I would have said something like “Uh, Wolf? Look behind you. If there is a Lord, he just flattened my !@#$ing house!”

    • Benjamin

      Also, to add, a donation of time and/or money will do a heck of a lot more than praying. At least here in the real world. Just saying.

      • Pavel Chichikov

        If you don’t believe in prayer.

        Donating time and money not excluded.

      • Pavel Chichikov

        I have a feeling you don’t know much about the real world, Benjamin.

      • chezami

        Yeah. Because Christians aren’t responsible for the largest network of charitable works of mercy on the planet or anything. *eyeroll*.

      • Athelstane

        Or you could do both. Which Christians often do. Just saying.

    • D.T. McCameron

      You know that thing they say? “Grateful just to be alive?” This, uh…doesn’t really exhibit that.

      • Benjamin

        I’m not sure, right after my house got flattened that I would feel particularly grateful to be alive in that moment, especially with a fourth-rate hack like Wolf Blitzer trying to stuff words in my mouth. Later, yeah, but I’d be pretty rawly emotional.

        Again, I admire that this woman can be much more composed than I would be under the circumstances!

        • Pavel Chichikov

          You wouldn’t feel grateful to be alive after a tornado roared through?

          Have you ever been in danger of death?

          • Spectrall

            I’d surely be grateful to be alive, but I wouldn’t be real impressed with the guy in front of me blithely asking me to thank a God for merely leveling my house and killing my neighbors, but leaving me alive.

            • Pavel Chichikov

              I didn’t know people were blaming Blitzer for destroying a house.

              What’s “a God”?

              Brandon, are you the random product of 4 billion years of the re-assortment and replication of organic molecules?

              Are you ” a Brandon”?

              • Spectrall

                What an odd set of questions. I’d almost think you’re being dishonest! No one’s blaming Blitzer for anything other than asking a stupid question.

                I think you know what a God is.

                No, evolution’s not random.

                Yes, I’m “a Brandon”. There’s a whole bunch of other Brandons, I’m just one of them.

                • Pavel Chichikov

                  Why blame Blitzer for anything? Is he important?

                  I have no idea what “a God” is. I know what God is. The ground of being, the creator of all the Brandons and all the Pavels, the artificer of time, space and energy, and the rules of material and spiritual existence, who formed you and made you exist and have purpose in His plan,

                  You will meet Him.

                  I say this not because someone told me of it, or convinced me of it, but because it shows itself – in the middle English sense of the word.

                  I think evolution is purposeful not in itself but by the purposes of the One who devised it.

                  What are you doing on this blog?

                  • Spectrall

                    As I said, Blitzer’s only to blame for asking a stupid question, nothing more and nothing less.

                    Your God sounds rather grand, a being of many titles and powers! I should like to meet him, but I rather suspect I won’t.

                    I read lots of blogs. This is one of them. The author’s writing is sufficiently comical to keep my attention. All of the Catholics I personally know are nice, normal folks, so it’s interesting to see a bit of grandiose sanctimony on par with Evangelicals.

                    • Pavel Chichikov

                      You will meet Him. He is your God. You are a cripple, a man whose senses have been damaged, but you can be healed, if you wish it.

                    • Pavel Chichikov

                      How sanctimonious of you. How superior.

                    • Pavel Chichikov

                      God is not a being. God is the ground of being. You and I are beings.

                • Pavel Chichikov

                  THE CAMP

                  Encampment of the

                  A well-known slum
                  and shambles

                  Outside the gates of

                  Hovels made of black-tarred

                  Smokey fires fed
                  with rubber

                  And old electric

                  Those who camp there
                  dress like hoboes

                  Huddle near the
                  bilious fires

                  Draped in sacking
                  and old clothes

                  On the mountain

                  A sound of lutes and
                  joyful singing

                  Flights of dancers
                  moving, angel-led

                  Some abandon camp
                  and climb

                  But others will not
                  leave for now

                  Who think they live
                  in passing time

                  Who think that they
                  are still alive

                  And huddle near the
                  smoky flames

                  Afraid to move until
                  the world arrives

                  What is the music
                  that we hear?

                  Ask the few
                  courageous dead

                  But others claim
                  there is none, out of fear

                  There are many who complain

                  About the peace-disturbing

                  But while they camp
                  here heaven will remain


                  20, 2013

                  • Spectrall

                    Well, at least I feel better about my own time wasting in comboxes. Beats writing bitter poetry to try to reassure oneself.

                    • Pavel Chichikov

                      SHOW ME MY LIFE

                      Show me my life, I

                      In His hand a silver

                      Can I open it now? I

                      It is here, there
                      are no locks

                      In the palm of His
                      hand it rested

                      Dull and heavy silver,

                      The weight of Him
                      had blessed it,

                      A sign was on the

                      When I tried to lift

                      It came not light

                      Be careful child,
                      address it

                      With words that I
                      shall say

                      He spoke the words,
                      I listened

                      And then I tried to

                      What I had heard,
                      repeat it:

                      Show me the love I

                      Then I looked inside

                      And all the life

                      Blazed with love I’d

                      And all the rest had


                      12, 2013

                    • Pavel Chichikov

                      You read this this blog to reassure yourself.

  • Chip98

    Besides your insights and informative views, I must say that I really appreciate the almost daily dose of new words to look up…lol…today’s word is popinjay-a conceited, foppish, or excessively talkative person

  • Pavel Chichikov

    That’s the deal: You come into existence, you die.

  • To echo some of the commenters below:
    1. That atheist Oklahoman woman is a class act. She handled the whole interview very gracefully.

    2. Blitzer was lazily trying to fit the interview into the “salt of the earth red-stater finds comfort in religion” narrative. It happens to be a complimentary narrative for us religious folks (to the extent that it’s not merely condescending), but it reflects the same laziness that makes the MSM clueless about . . . well, everything, actually. Not encouraging, but hardly surprising.

    As for the fellow at Slate, there’s a lot going on there:

    1. He doesn’t want newscasters mentioning their religion. I expect this kind of sentiment to increase. Nowadays, newscasters will talk about “God” much more readily than “Christ” because America’s default culture since the mid-twentieth century or so has been Protestant-Catholic-Jewish, and “God” is inclusive of all those groups. As the increasing number on “nones” makes its cultural impact, I expect God-talk to decline accordingly in media aimed at a general audience. I don’t welcome that trend especially, but in the foreseeable future it’s probably inevitable. A Protestant-Catholic-Jewish-Atheist-Agnostic-Muslim-Hindu-Buddhist-Neopagan-Whatever Else culture isn’t going to be able to speak about “God” so readily without fraught complications and complaints similar to the Slate article. It’s your basic “War on Christmas” trope. Tiresome and unproductive for all sides. Eventually, though, the secularists usually win these things.

    2. He personally doesn’t think prayer is useful for anything save (deluded) comfort. He thinks this is so obvious that he questions the integrity of people who think otherwise. Because of the rampant confusion of scientism with science, and perhaps because he has the various studies failing to find effects for remote intercessory prayer in mind, he speaks about this as a “science” columnist rather than as an atheist. That’s too bad, but since Slate is the sort of frankly partisan magazine that presents pro-choice, pro-SSM atheist (or maybe mainline Protestant-ish theist if you behave yourself and defer to your atheist betters) (neo-)liberalism as the single correct position held by all scientifically literate non-troglodytes of any sincerity and decency whatsoever, it’s not really anymore surprising than a CNN reporter being an incurious hack, or a Patheos Catholic Channel blogger liking the Pope. It’s a reflection of the core ethos of the media outlet in each case.

    3. The more worrying development is the extent to which the article reflects the evolution of Team Blue (for which Slate is a loyal cheerleader) into Team Angry Atheist, and its scorn for religiosity of any kind reflects the evolution of its hated Team Red rival increasingly into Team Elderly Evangelical. This is not a tribal division of American politics that holds any good for the nation generally, or the Catholic Church in America in particular.

    • Benjamin

      ” This is not a tribal division of American politics that holds any good for the nation generally, or the Catholic Church in America in particular.”

      Irenist, it seems to this outside observer that Catholics (real Catholics that takes what their religion says seriously, and attempt to follow it, not Catholics with a Republican/Democratic face) will find it impossible to ever have a real political home in the American political milieu. American politics is all about the Rights of Man and the supremacy of the individual and his happiness. This is the lodestar for both Movement Conservatives and American Liberalism, they just have different ideas of what that means. But the philosophy is the same at its root.

      Catholic thought (and you can tell me how accurate this is) seems to be OTOH very much about the Obligations of Man and the good of the community. American political thought always downplays both, again both for American Liberals and Movement Conservatives.

      Compare, for example, “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it” to a phrase like “Error has no rights”.

      • Benjamin,

        Most everything you’ve said is very insightful: I warmly agree with it and thank you for saying it. From the narcissistic anomie embodied by the parties of bellicose greed and of infanticidal lust, the Church, historically communitarian and familist, can expect no succor.

        My sole quibble: The prudential judgments embodied in the slogan “error has no rights,” however appropriate in the turbulent wake of the blood-soaked anti-clerical chaos of the French Revolution, do not give a good sense of the Church’s emphasis in this area now. Since the declaration Dignitatis Humanae at Vatican II, pastoral emphasis has been much more on liberty of conscience from state interference, as is appropriate in a world of pluralist liberal democracies. Some of Pope Francis’ recent actions and statements (washing the feet of a Muslim on Maundy Thursday, speaking a few days ago of how Catholics and atheists can encounter each other in love on the common ground of good works) are more reflective of contemporary magisterial instruction in this area than the quoted slogan from the nineteenth century. (This is not inconsistent: whether to emphasize, within the common teaching of the centuries, that erroneous ideas themselves have no rights, or to emphasize the rights flowing from the human dignity of those who err, is a matter of pastoral prudence.)

      • kenofken

        “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”

        May it ever be so. This is one of the only things that make this country of ours still worth defending, screwed up as it is.

  • Sven2547

    Seriously, Mark? “Soviet agitprop”? “Because shut up”? It’s as if you didn’t read the column at all. Where’s the “bigotry”? Your sensational nonsense hurts your cause more than it helps.

    • Spectrall

      You’ll have to forgive Mark, he’s auditioning to be Bill Donahue’s replacement.

      • Sven2547

        I challenge Mark Shea to show us what he thinks is the nastiest, most bigoted, most offensive passage from Mark Joseph Stern’s column here. I strongly suspect he never read it at all, he just saw the title and assumed it was some flaming Hitchens-level religion-bashing.

  • The atheist lady was certainly gracious. When she said “I don’t blame
    anyone for thanking the Lord,” she sounded rather wistful, perhaps
    wishing she did have someone to thank for she and her son being alive.
    Maybe this will end up being a wake-up moment for her.We can only pray for her.

    • Sven2547

      Are you sure you can only pray for her? Are you sure there’s nothing else you can do for a woman who just lost her house?

      • What makes you think I think that? Because you are so sure that Christians never give to help others? As Mark says, we are the biggest charitable society on the planet. Like many others, I’ll be donating to the relief of these people. If I could send it to her personally, I would.

        But you apparently think physical aid is the only possible kind. But Christians have two lists: the corporal works of mercy and the spiritual ones. What I was referring to in my comment was the spiritual mercy. I meant that there was little we can do to argue people into understanding the existence of God. It has to come from inside them in their own response to the grace God is offering. Prayer that they might do so is the greatest way we can help them toward such knowledge. An occasion like this can be a turning point.

        I’ve read about atheists who were converted by seeing how good and kind Christians can be — and some like Christopher Hitchens, who weren’t. It’s up to the individual. We owe them our kindness in any case.

        Of course, I’d love to know what you are doing to help these people, other than sitting around making negative remarks about everyone and everything in comboxes.

        • Sven2547

          Of course, I’d love to know what you are doing to help these people, other than sitting around making negative remarks about everyone and everything in comboxes.

          Same as you: I donated to Oklahoma’s disaster relief. Because that actually does something.
          And I did it without disparaging any Oklahoman, be they Christian or non-religious or whatever. In stark contrast to your grating condescending commentary that ‘gosh, maybe she wishes she had someone to thank for her survival, maybe she’ll ‘wake up’, we can only pray for her’. That’s the point of the article that apparently nobody read. She doesn’t need your prayers, lady. If you think prayer really works, then spend your time praying for less tornadoes.

          You know that disturbing practice Mormons have, where they retroactively “baptize” dead people into Mormonism? It’s not very different from praying that specific people convert.

          • I’m sorry, but where was I disparaging or condescending toward anyone? I was attempting to show admiration for that lady, as several other people here have done. She was calm and gracious in a bad situation. She seems like someone I’d like to get to know.

            To pray for people is not to disparage them. Nor does it mean trying to force or attempt to force them to do anything. Praying for someone is to ask God to help them (materially and /or spiritually). The way is left up to God. It is totally different from “baptizing the dead” as Mormons do, which is a way of trying to force God to accept people as Mormons. These are two entirely different things. The fact that you don’t understand this or anything I wrote shows your tremendous ignorance on religious subjects. I can see it’s useless to talk with you about these things.

            You desperately need some help for all the unhealthy anger in you that keeps spilling out everyone. No one here wishes you ill. You will probably be stunned to learn that we pray for you too. It’s what Christians do.

            My name isn’t “lady,’ by the way, it’s Lori

            • Sven2547

              It is totally different from “baptizing the dead” as Mormons do, which is a way of trying to force God to accept people as Mormons.

              Force God? I highly doubt Mormons would agree. And yet you call me “ignorant”?

              I never said anything about anyone wishing me ill, nor do I wish ill on anyone here. You have confused disagreement with anger. It seems like anytime someone disagrees with a Christian, Christians assume it can only be out of irrational rage. Like Jon W’s hilariously ignorant comment that “atheists are angry with God”. Atheists are perfectly happy that gods don’t exist.

              But I digress. This isn’t about what atheists think, it’s about the disrespectful condescending attitude that atheists need prayers.

              • I looked it up; you are right in regard to Mormon baptism. It isn’t an attempt to force either God or the deceased person.
                It is rather more like praying for a person. (The whole thing is puzzling to a mainstream Christian, because we think no one has an opportunity to convert in the next life, which is probably why I misunderstood).

                The rest of what I wrote stands. You may know the facts of some religions, but nothing of the substance.

                • Sven2547

                  You’re making some broad proclamations of what I do and do not know. Based on what, I wonder? What dire falsehoods have I uttered?

                  Could it be that you don’t know what I do and do not know? Could it be that you’re trying to pigeon-hole me into your preconceived stereotype that only a fool could be non-religious, or that only the theologically-ignorant could suggest that prayer doesn’t do anything?

                  • You misunderstood me. I was acknowledging your factual knowledge of religions. What you don’t know (i.e. knowledge by experience) is what it MEANS to be religious. You attribute all sorts of attitudes toward us that we simply don’t have. I don’t know if you’ve ever been religious or been inside a church, but if you have, it doesn’t show.

                    Only a complete outsider to religious feeling (and pretty much all human feeling) could label people’s attempts to help others through prayer as “condescending” for instance. I doubt you really mean even this. You’re just looking for something you can use to bash other people. This is where your trouble lies. Anger. Seriously, no one here is angry at you for not believing. Why are you angry at us?

                    • Sven2547

                      Ah, okay. Let’s clear a few things up.
                      Yes, I was religious. Now I’m not. I can tell you that everyone has different (impossibly vague) ideas of “what it means to be religious”.

                      Only a complete outsider to religious feeling (and pretty much all human feeling) could label people’s attempts to help others through prayer as “condescending” for instance.

                      You clarified, some 4 comments ago, that when you said “we can only pray for her”, you meant that “Prayer that they might (understand God) is the greatest way we can help them toward such knowledge”. Now you call this “helping others through prayer”. When I am talking about condescension this is exactly what I’m talking about. You’re saying:
                      * This woman doesn’t believe in God.
                      * Trying to convince non-believers of God’s existence is impossible, so we can only pray for her to learn of God’s existence.
                      * This is an example of helping people through prayer.

                      And I’ve told you, several times now, that atheists don’t need that kind of help. You have disregarded that. You think you know more about her well-being than she does. This is both condescending and offensive.

                      This is where your trouble lies. Anger. Seriously, no one here is angry at you for not believing. Why are you angry at us?

                      I already said that I’m not angry at you, nor am I accusing you of being angry at me. So why do you say this?

                    • Well, I agree, most atheists don’t want to be helped to a belief in God. Whether they need belief in God is where we disagree. But I have a feeling from listening to this woman speak that unlike you, she wouldn’t mind people praying for her at all. In fact, my original comment was based on the fact that she sounded wistful, as though she wished she could believe in God. Is it condescendingly to wish or pray that she might find a positive answer?

                      Where did I get the idea you are angry at us for believing? Gee, I don’t know, maybe it was you coming on this blog to scream unprovoked insults at all the believers here?

                    • Sven2547

                      “Scream unprovoked insults”? Examples?
                      Again: you are mistaking disagreement with anger and hostility.

                    • If you don’t know, I can’t tell you. Sorry, I’m throwing in the towel.

  • This just in: the MSM is a passel of morons, and atheists are angry at God. Who knew?