Sunday, March 22, 2009

Religion as News

A couple weeks ago, John Stewart pulled back the curtain on the wizards of the Ozians at the cable business channels revealing, to mix the metaphore, that the emperors had no clothes.     “They were part of the broken system,” commented Cank Uygur, “There was no journalism going on at CNBC.” 

Last Saturday, in our own little corner of the world, The Daily World proved that “no journalism going on” is not unique to the big city folks.  On the back page of the main section of the paper, in a spot where one usually finds state-wide or national news, The Daily World ran a story with the headline, “It’s Lent - - So What?  So What, indeed!, under the byline Faces of Faith, Dale McQueen.  To the left of the McQueen piece the paper printed information from the stock market from Friday and to the right a story headlined, “Suspect had a knife at police station,” from Perugia, Italy

Now, the last time I checked, a story about how “we prepare our hearts, minds and souls for the sacred observances of Christ’s death on Good Friday and his resurrection on Easter,” did not qualify as news.  Since when does a celebration of belief in a deity, concocted in the Bronze age, that arose out of primitive ignorance and superstition, qualify as news?  The only thing crazier than the belief itself, is, as Dennis Rahkonen wrote recently, “to believe said deity created us, governs our affairs, and deserves our blind obedience.” 

A quick glance at the most recent studies about religious belief in the United States should give the editor at The Daily World pause the next time he wants to publish this religious opinion as news.  

According to the latest research, you are “certainly friends with at least one atheist, agnostic, nonbeliever, skeptic, or unaffiliated humanist, whether you know it or not.  Your friend certainly endures prejudice and unequal treatment, whether you know it or not.  And your friend is roughly as decent, good, loyal, honest, courageous, and generous as your other friends, and you know it.”  In Grays Harbor County 30 percent of us are atheists, agnostics unbelievers, people who don’t care or want to know, undecided or just plain have no opinion.  That amounts to a significant number of people. 

To have our local newspaper print religious propaganda masquerading as news is insult added to injury.  “Those who get along without God are noy lynched or stoned in this country,” David Swanson wrote recently, “but neither do they have equal rights or acceptance.  They encounter prejudice and cruelty on a personal level often.”  We saw our taxes used to establish an office in the Bush White House pushing religious-based initiatives and now President Obama has not only continued that unconstitutional program, he has enlarged it.  All around the country we see “religious based, pseudo-science imposed” on children in schools.  While there are, according to Swanson, “probably 20 atheists in Congress,” only one member has the courage to admit his position.  I’m convinced that President Obama is an atheist but he made a pragmatic political calculation, years ago, recognizing that no open atheist could be elected to office, to find himself the most politically advantageous church and join it.  Unfortunately that decision later came back to bite him when the remarkable Reverend Wright became a political liability. 

Since, as Frank Rich pointed out in the New York Times, the almighty has fallen significantly - - organized religion being “in a dead heat with banks and financial institutions on the confidence scale,” I’d like to make a suggestion to The Daily World:  keep you religion page if you must but please, please don’t try to pass off any more religious stories as news.  It really turns off those of us who do not hold religious views and also read your paper. 

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