Is there media bias against Christianity? I don’t believe so. It takes some audacity to cry bias or persecution when 76% of people in the U.S. self identify as Christian (American Religious Identification Survey 2008). It takes even more moxie when conservative Christianity has a strangle hold on politics in general and the Republican party in particular. Not catering to the Christian right can cost an election, not to mention the fact that 53% of people say they would never vote for an atheist for public office (2007 Gallup Poll).
Recently Dr. Daniel Dennett was asked the question: “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?” I would encourage everyone to read his full answer in “Religious No Longer a Protected Class.” He makes some excellent points:
“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.” (Dennett)
I agree. Religion should no longer get a free pass. No one should be able to hold up their holy book and say “thus saith god,” at least not without considerable evidence that god indeed has said something. Of course, every holy book makes the claim, but none can prove it.
“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… 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.” (Dennett)
The claims of religion need to be put to the test. We aren’t primitive peoples in awe of the wind, rain and thunder. Modern man should demand evidence. We shouldn’t be led around by the nose by the modern equivalent of a ‘”witch doctor.” We should ask the hard questions and not accept the answers of “you need faith”, “trust god”, and “lean not on your own understanding.” Such platitudes are a cover for ignorance, laziness and deceit.
“The double standard that exempts religious activities from almost all standards of accountability should be dismantled once and for all… 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.” (Dennett)
Amen. No more “get out of jail free cards” should be given to those who claim a religious motive and a “calling” from god. If you want to play in the market place of ideas put up the evidence and be willing to be critiqued and criticized as every other idea.
At one time, at least one conservative Republican Senator understood this:
“I’m frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in A, B, C and D. Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of conservatism.” Republican Senator Barry Goldwater (1909-1998), Congressional Record, 16 Sept. 1981
I’m betting that few if any politicians would be willing to take such a stand now, but hopefully the climate is beginning to change. The recent outcry concerning Pat Robertson’s idiotic remarks concerning Haiti (see McDonnell, White House decry Robertson’s Haiti Comments) is an encouraging sign as is the growing vocal atheist and skeptic movement. I’ll stand with Dennett and say “High Time.”