February 12th, 2007


anti-atheist discrimination on CNN

According to CNN's website, Paula Zahn Now will attempt to correct the insanity of their last segment (from about 10 days ago) on anti-atheist discrimination which turned into little more than a farce. Tonight's schedule reads:

Monday's show

Discrimination - against atheists? Backlash from one of the most controversial stories we've ever brought "Out in the Open." Tune in Monday at 8 p.m. ET.

According to rumours from pharyngula and the M-Atheists lists (among others), among the guests tonight will be Richard Dawkins (author of The God Delusion) and Ellen Johnson, President of American Atheists.

I confess that I am feeling a bit skeptical about the quality of the program tonight. How could I not feel anything but cynical after watching the original program (search on YouTube for "Paula Zahn atheists" if you haven't seen it yet). Now they are trying to clean up the mess they made and respond to "thousands of angry emails" as the commercial for the segment claimed. But then, they went and bumped the show from last Thursday to today in order to speculate about the death of celebrity... that kind of sensationalist journalism hardly gives me confidence for what I'm going to see tonight.

I guess we'll find out in about an hour. I'll keep you posted.

Paula Zahn follow-up

I think the atheist segment is over now. I guess I'll leave it to others to get all the player's names right and post the video on YouTube and track down a transcript. Perhaps I'll post links eventually, but just a few thoughts...

Finally, a host who actually contributed! Who moderated! Instead of just letting everyone jabber on mindlessly.

Ellen Johnson and Richard Dawkins clearly have different views of theists. Ellen Johnson's view is much more cynical than Dawkin's. She thinks theists do know the truth about atheists, but simply choose to be bigoted. Dawkins believes that discrimination of atheists is based on a fundamental misunderstanding. I suspect that both views are true, and that some people are willfully ignorant to promote their bigotry.

The Reverend Petersen they had on there was a classic bigot, and he repeated many of the same claims that the previous panel had stated. He did not go unchallenged this time, but he did not really want to let the others speak.

The show did a much better job of avoiding statements that suggested that atheists were to blame for the discrimination they face.

The re-air of the video segment on anti-atheist discrimination had not be editted to correct their factual errors, like only 1-3% of Americans are atheists is not true... as many as 14% of Americans do not belong to any religion. And the truth is, atheist is such an ugly label that many people who really ARE atheists don't label themselves AS atheists.

I need a transcript before I can pick apart specific points, but they did manage to do a better job than their on-air "dress rehearsal".