Questionable Motives

January 13, 2010

Is there widespread media bias against Christianity?

Filed under: belief,Critical Reasoning,Criticism,Dennett,Religion — tildeb @ 3:58 am
Q: Is there widespread media bias against Christianity? Against evangelicals such as Brit Hume and Sarah Palin? Against public figures who speak openly and directly about their faith? Against people who believe as you do?

Dan Dennett, second from the right, is considered by many to be one of the New Atheists Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, answers this On Faith question from the Washington Post:

There is no media bias against Christianity. If it appears to some people that there is, it is probably because after decades of hyper-diplomacy and a generally accepted mutual understanding that religion was not to be criticized, we have finally begun breaking through that taboo and are beginning to see candid discussions of the varieties of religious folly in American life. Activities that would be condemned by all if they were not cloaked in the protective mantle of religion are beginning to be subjected to proper scrutiny.

There is still a lot to accomplish however. We need to change the prevailing assumptions in the same way that public opinion has been reversed on drunk driving. When I was young, drunk drivers tended to be excused because, after all, they were drunk! Today, happily, we hold them doubly culpable for any misdeeds they commit while under the influence.

I look forward to the day when violence done under the influence of religious passion is considered more dishonorable, more shameful, than crimes of avarice, and is punished accordingly, and religious leaders who incite such acts are regarded with the same contempt that we reserve for bartenders who send dangerously disabled people out onto the highways.

I also look forward to the day when pastors who abuse the authority of their pulpits by misinforming their congregations about science, about public health, about global warming, about evolution must answer to the charge of dishonesty. Telling pious lies to trusting children is a form of abuse, plain and simple. If quacks and bunko artists can be convicted of fraud for selling worthless cures, why not clergy for making their living off unsupported claims of miracle cures and the efficacy of prayer?

The double standard that exempts religious activities from almost all standards of accountability should be dismantled once and for all. I don’t see bankers or stockbrokers wringing their hands because the media is biased against them; they know that their recent activities have earned them an unwanted place in the spotlight of public attention and criticism, and they get no free pass, especially given their power. Religious leaders and apologists should accept that since their institutions are so influential in American life, we have the right to hold their every move up to the light. If they detect that the media are giving them a harder time today than in the past, that is because the bias that protected religion from scrutiny is beginning to dissolve. High time.


  1. People are claiming bias against Christianity now?


    I’ve always thought there was a pronounced socially accepted slant against Agnosticism/Atheism in the media and society. Glad they’re getting a taste of their own medicine :p

    Comment by thebooreport — January 13, 2010 @ 4:29 am | Reply

  2. People with religious beliefs often make unjustified claims based on those beliefs. The defense that religion is then under attack when those claims undergo a critical review implies that such questioning is hostile and unfair, but let’s remember that neither questioning nor stating facts is an exercise of intolerance, nor is it properly described as hostile and unfair except when applied towards religion. Honest inquiry that insists on giving greater consideration to justified claims than to those that are determined to be unjustified to inform a reasonable conclusion, one that has the courage to use a single kind of reasoning to determine the veracity of all claims without exemption, is the sign of an open mind that is actually concerned about what is true.

    Comment by tildeb — January 13, 2010 @ 2:15 pm | Reply

  3. Speaking of unjustified claims based on religious belief…

    Have you heard of the comments made by Pat Robertson regarding his apparent inside knowledge of a “pact with the devil” that Haitian revolutionaries made in order to win independence 200 years ago? It sure would be interesting to hear your thoughts on that… :/

    Comment by thebooreport — January 14, 2010 @ 2:30 am | Reply

    • He’s a sick and warped old man whose morality has been so thoroughly twisted by biblical incoherence on what’s right and wrong that he is a living insult to man’s intelligence as a rational creature and an obvious embarrassment to any moral god worthy of the name. Robertson’s espoused hatred of his fellow creatures causes pain and suffering in the name of his sanctimonious piousness and yet his belief is so strong, so certain, that he still thinks well of himself. If god getting even with the great great grandchildren who rebelled against their colonial overlords is the best theological reason Robertson can come up with for this tragedy, then it shows a glaring poverty of the source from which he has extracted his sadistic version of biblical morality.

      But the important point to remember here is that Robertson’s religious interpretation is equal in merit to any other interpretation, no matter how morally despicable and degrading to other people it may be. No person who is certain that morality comes from god through the bible or koran or whatever religious text you point to has any higher claim on righteousness of interpretation than Robertson’s because all depend entirely on the vagaries of the subtexts found within, and believers refuse on principle to allow these god-inspired texts to be subject to any other independent justification. All it takes is faith. And we can see how far that advances the exercise of morality here.

      So religious folk, take pride in what you have helped to create with this sad old man by espousing religion as the source of morality without any independent means to separate Robertson’s moral drivel and drool from yours. He’s as good as an example of what meanness and pettiness and spite can arise out the certainty of belief as much as any other religious ‘spokesman’, all packaged in the soft and polite voice beneath the neat hair and well groomed exterior of what passes for a devout human being, humble before god, and filled with the desire to spread the good news of what in religious terms goes by the name of love and compassion. And that blame-the-victim tripe may appear to caring people as contemptible, but is a triumph of what religious certainty sounds like.

      Comment by tildeb — January 14, 2010 @ 4:36 am | Reply

      • 110% agreed.

        The fundamental issue I have with religion isn’t about me as an agnostic being bigoted and “persecuting” religious folk for no reason, it’s about the fact that any individual or society could pretty much pull any old unverified nonsense out of their arse, based on their own prejudices and motives, and demand people believe it on “faith”, and people will. Any intelligent creator god would surely know how this train of thought could be dangerous in the hands of humanity as flawed as we obviously are.

        This Pat Robertson guy is spewing this crap to explain away to himself and others that his good, loving and all powerful god is continuously “punishing” Haiti because they *must* deserve it. With religious belief, when your unverified beliefs are proven to not make sense, you have to be constantly making up more unverified crap to rationalize it. It would be hilarious if it didn’t reach such tragic proportions as it does when religious belief goes into murderous, extremist territory.

        A friend of mine was speaking about Haiti yesterday saying that god isn’t causing or failing to prevent these things, it’s human free-will… my immediate reactions was to yell HOW THE FLYING RATS BEHIND ARE NATURAL DISASTERS SUCH AS EARTHQUAKES INFLUENCED BY HUMAN FREE WILL!?!? However, in my very religious country, pointing out these things will only have me shunned…lol. In fact, sometimes I no longer care to hear the rationalizations,it’s all drivel to me, I just go with it. Nod and smile.

        Comment by thebooreport — January 14, 2010 @ 10:57 am

      • Oh, you friendly agnostics… unwilling to commit to any plans for tomorrow out of respect that the sun may not rise…

        And, hey, if you’re going to be stigmatized for being an dipping your toe into the waters of agnosticism, why not take the refreshing plunge into non belief and come clean and let others figure out and come calling why an intelligent person like you would choose to do such a thing?

        As for the free will point, I’m not sure one has a whole lot of it born and raised in the slums of Port-au-Prince. Shallow earthquakes that have such a magnitude (more than a meter in each direction per second) and last for more than a minute tend to make an irrefutable point: free will will not stop the ground from shaking.

        Comment by tildeb — January 14, 2010 @ 4:23 pm

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