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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Crusade against religious rhetoric

    Bill Maher is an asshole. Mike Huckabee is, too. Christopher Hitchens was an asshole, just as Ken Hamm, Richard Dawkins and Glenn Beck are.

    Why are they assholes? For the same reason: Their views on the debate of religion versus atheism and agnosticism.

    I don’t call them assholes because of their beliefs. Christopher Hitchens wasn’t an asshole for being an atheist, and Ken Hamm isn’t an asshole for being a devout Christian. They’re assholes because they shout out messages of blanket hostility at the other side of the debate.

    “If every trace of any single religion were wiped out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly that way again,” writes magician Penn Jillette, an atheist who has written numerous books on the topic of the debate. “There might be some other nonsense in its place, but not that exact nonsense. If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it all out again.”

    Whether Hitchens or the other pundits are right or wrong in any capacity is a null point. Instead, what matters is that they feel that they are right, and, therefore, no other viewpoint can be correct. Media members like me who want to comment on the issue often do no better, just playing into and spreading the word of an asshole, creating more division and furthering the adversarial nature of relations between religion and atheism.

    Religion wasn’t a big part of my formative years. I believe I only went to church once, and I never really believed in a god that looked vaguely like Jeff Bridges in “Tron.” However, I was always instilled with a respect for the beliefs of others, no matter what they were, as long as the believers respected you as well.

    This respect for one another’s beliefs appears gone from our society’s discussions of religious views. I find myself asking why these groups can’t coexist and respect each other even though they disagree.

    It’s no thanks to the media’s decision to give so much airtime to those who view religion as an all or nothing battle.

    In September of last year, Fox News personality Dana Perino caused some controversy when she said that atheists should leave the country.

    “If these people really don’t like it, they don’t have to live here,” Perino said on air, discussing a lawsuit brought by the American Humanist Association.

    On the other side, Maher criticized religion on his show “Real Time with Bill Maher” on March 14 when he discussed the Bible movie “Noah.”

    “You know conservatives are always going on about how Americans are losing their morality,” Maher said. “Well, maybe it’s because you worship a guy who drowns babies.”

    Both of these quotes are examples of how the media more often than not portrays these discussions as battles between religion and atheism, even using language like the “war on religion” to keep the idea of conflict in the minds of those in the audience.

    Instead of playing into the rhetoric of those who make religion and atheism a two-sided debate, the media should aim to expand the discussion with those who don’t view this as a two-sided issue.

    For example, a piece in The Guardian recently discussed astronomer Martin Rees, who has pushed for atheists to stop attacking and move toward a peaceful coexistence with mainstream religious groups.

    “We should all oppose — as [Charles] Darwin did — views manifestly in conflict with the evidence, such as creationism … but we shouldn’t set up this debate as ‘religion versus science,’” Rees said.

    “Instead, we should strive for peaceful coexistence with at least the less dogmatic strands of mainstream religions, which number many excellent scientists among their adherents.”

    The other side — the religious — should also attempt a peaceful coexistence, an acceptance of the majority of atheists and agnostics who aren’t trying to remove religion from our world, and those like me who respect religion though they don’t believe in it.

    In September, Pope Francis told atheists to “abide by their own conscience.” His statement has since been edited; however, it’s still a small, positive step toward coexistence.

    Coverage of the assholes is asinine because we already know how they feel about religion. We know Maher will attack religion, and we know that Fox News will attack atheism. But what about them is newsworthy, especially when compared to those who make the debate more broad and open and aren’t … well, assholes?

    Eric Klump is a journalism senior. Follow him @ericklump

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