The first thing I will say is that I applaud the fact that CNN not only funded the making of this documentary, but also aired it as an actual segment on the network (not just made it an online only release).
But my first criticism is with, the reporter chosen. Well, maybe not so much with the reporter (or even her background), but more with how the segment opened.
Sunday morning, 11am. Anywhere and everywhere USA. Where faith and family go hand in hand. One nation under god. Its who we are, and religion is what we do.
This may have been on account to the reporters personal feelings towards Christianity. Or it could have been on account to the vast majority of the audience.
Either way, it mildly annoyed me because of the use of “we”. A segment that is supposed to be attempting to shine a light on a misunderstood and downtrodden minority, is opened by outlining them as an oddity within the rest of American culture.
Not a very good start. But not something that can’t be overlooked (it IS CNN).
Next we move on to the Georgia Deacon. We hear about his families godly existence, and how they planned on raising their kids in as “godly” a fashion as possible. And then we learn of their perceived failure at doing so, being that one of their sons ends up coming out as an Atheist.
Whilst his parents are living a “godly” existence of church participation, their son is at a nearby university handing out cookies and condoms, attempting to break the stranglehold of religion on the community and giving like minded skeptics a place to feel welcomed. A rational oasis in a desert of theology.
Moving on, we come to David Silverman, current president of American Atheists (founded by Madalyn Murray O’Hair, responsible for ending mandatory bible reading in schools. A detail which was not NECESSARY per-say, but would have fit in well with the segment).
When asked if he sees terms like skeptic, agnostic, freethinker and “nones” as just soft alternative terms to Atheist (being the controversy surrounding it), he responds with a yes, and even goes as far as to say that people unwilling to call themselves atheists are just lying to themselves.
Uh. This bullshit again. This was better answered later in the segment by (I believe) a pastor turned priest, when he acknowledged them all as being in the same community. I understand the reporters ignorance, its one of many misunderstandings that the theistic community has of the secular community. Like how many theists see Atheism as a religion, because they can not see outside of their own context (though some atheists are not much more honest in refuting this).
But I get annoyed when members of the secular community attempt to correct this misunderstanding, by essentially saying that other secularists have a misunderstanding in their own conclusions. What is important is that they are on the SECULAR side. Or at least, that is what should be most important.
Now we go back to the Deacons family. We hear about the son’s life in the church growing up, about the pressures and struggles of trying to be I guess a good Christian. Until at 16, he gave it up and came out as an atheist.
Something that was not taken well within his family, who alienated him. Though he still lives with his parents, they don’t have all that much interaction. And the father goes on to describe conversing with his son as quote “talking to a dead person”. And of course he says “its not a matter of me saying it, it is what scripture objectively declares”.
This even affected the person covering the segment. And I can see why. The father figure may seem good to some on the outside, but he is curdled and corrupted on the inside.
The next half of the segment, is also interesting. First a clergyman who is an Atheist stuck in the clergy due to family and church obligations. And a former clergyman turned, free thinking church creator. One, a story about trying to keep up a facade in the face of great personal struggle. The other, a story of living though (and overcoming) a falling out with faith, his church and the community around him.
Both linked by the thread that is Atheism, and by the drastic consequences that follow such an admission. One has lived though and conquered the battle, the other is trying not to (though he admits that it will happen some day, voluntarily).
I don’t have really, anything else to add to this.
When I first heard about this, I sent out this tweet. And was quite surprised when David Silverman himself favored it.
The tweet was based around my background.
Though I feared much resistance to my differing beliefs whilst growing up, most of my apprehension turned out to be WAY overblown when my non-belief actually came to light. At first family were not supportive. But as time went on, they grew more accepting.
And even in real life, I don’t have a whole lot of resistance to my heathen self. Its not a topic of every day conversation, but those that do know treat it like my hair color or my skin pigment (its irrelevant). As it should be.
Which is why its still disturbing to see what some secularists go though upon admission of such a stance (Aron Ra’s RAman podcast has a few great examples).
And another reason to, focus on secularism, not just atheism.