Tuesday night I was laying in bed, winding down by browsing the web on my phone when I happened to visit John Loftus’ blog Debunking Christianity. There I saw an announcement that CNN was airing a documentary about atheists. I noticed it was scheduled for that evening. Unsure of the air time, and anxious to watch this rare event when atheists are allowed a significant amount of (positive) airtime, I rushed to my TV to search for it and could not find it. I figured it had already aired. Damn! Onto the internet!
Sure enough, I found the episode at the Secular Syndicate YouTube channel. I’m going to share a few thoughts I had about it. Background Probability and Dangerous Talk have also weighed in.
The Good: I thought the show was rather positive. It explained and refuted some of the sillier but common myths about atheists, such as branding us as devil worshipers or immoral, or that we are Communists. It demonstrated the agony some atheists go through in their daily lives because of the stigma of coming out an atheist in today’s society. In the case of David Gormley, the son of the couple featured, his own parents have a horribly negative view of him (calling him a “dead person” of all things!) and the pain David feels because of that. I felt bad for him.
The former preacher, Jerry Dewitt, who lost his wife, house, and job was a positive example of a kind and respectful atheist, but at the same time was a good illustration how coming out an atheist can ruin so many aspect of your social life. Luckily, Jerry was able to get his back on track.
The story of “Stan,” the anonymous minister, created in me a deep feeling of sympathy for him at seeing the situation he was in. I hope he can begin to feel strong about coming out, quit the clergy, and begin the remainder of his life in a much more comfortable and happier place.
I was expecting Richard Dawkins to act more like American Atheist President David Silverman, but he seems to have toned down his rhetoric.
The show was titled “Inside the World of Non-Believers,” which in my mind made me picture the depiction atheists as just your average person, going about their day while discussing how atheists are often viewed in society and explaining what atheism is. I think that would be more helpful in helping to correct this stereotype of atheists who are out to deconvert everyone. Instead, they focused more on what atheism is, and their atheist activism. I felt as if they made it seem like atheists proselytize as much as religious people. At least that’s how it seemed to me.
I didn’t like the way in which the “atheist church” was presented. I believe it will create a lot of misconceptions, one being that atheism is just another religion. I don’t think they explained that well enough for someone who is unfamiliar with this phenomenon.
I believe they could have shown more minorities, women, African Americans, ex-Muslims, ex-Mormons, and others, in their profiles than they did. They are a part of the atheist community too.
American Atheist President David Silverman and his aggressive approach might turn off some religious people. In fact, a Christian friend of mine watched the show and her opinion of Silverman was that he was an “asshole.” She liked the show overall, with the exception of the end because of his brash attitude.
Overall, I think it was a largely positive piece and the interviewer did a good job and seemed to genuinely sympathize with the atheists and what many of them were going through or had gone through. If only more shows depicted atheism in a more positive light maybe we wouldn’t have as many misunderstandings and prejudice towards atheists.