A couple days ago, Al Lewis of The Denver Post wrote an article on the St. Joseph statues “helping you” sell your home. I didn’t like it.
It seems the print version (not the one I read) ran the headline “There aren’t any atheists in a Front Range real estate foxhole.” That’s not Lewis’ fault. He doesn’t write the headlines.
Still, and not surprisingly, he got feedback from atheists:
“As an atheist and the coordinator of the Atheists and Freethinkers of Denver, it was prejudicial and false to assert that ‘there aren’t any atheists’ in the local real estate ‘foxhole,’” wrote David Eller. “I imagine that you or your editor would not have published a headline like ‘there aren’t any Jews’ in the market, or ‘there aren’t any blacks’ or ‘there aren’t any gays,’ etc.
(Are there even foxes in foxholes?)
“Besides being patently false, the use of this saying reinforces the prejudices and misconceptions about atheists. We are citizens, patriots, home owners, parents, spouses, and perfectly normal people who do not care to be misrepresented or ridiculed,” Eller wrote.
One man added this:
“I wanted to update you on a fact that there are plenty of non-religious believers in the real estate and mortgage industry,” wrote a Sarasota, Fla., man. “As the times get tougher, we rely on hard work not statues of imaginary saints.”
That wasn’t the only flak Lewis for talking about the idiotic statues:
“Had I the desire to read superstitious nonsense, I would have attended a church yesterday. I read the Business section of The Denver Post for intellectual logic and verifiable facts, not religious trifles,” wrote a woman from Centennial.
That’s when Lewis makes another mistake. While correctly stating that the headline wasn’t his fault, he goes ahead and insults atheists anyway. It’s just as bad as if he had written the headline himself:
I am NOT going to apologize to all atheist for a headline. I respect all atheists and their right to not believe in God. They need to respect my right to not believe in ridiculous demands for apologies.
Obviously, God did not give them a sense of humor. Maybe I should start praying for them.
The line about atheists in foxholes is a common expression. Atheists ought to be FOR freedom of expression — not against it.
Also, I do not write the headlines on my columns, and did not write this one. In fact, I didn’t see until Eller called it to my attention.
It’s unfortunate when a headline offends an entire class of people for no good reason, but when you’re slamming words in the paper as fast as you can, well, it happens. Nobody meant anything by it — and I will certainly try to never mix the words atheist and foxhole again.
This whole episode has got me to thinking, though.
If atheists are really offended by such an innocuous line, how are they any different than Jerry Farwell, who was offended by Tinky Winky, the allegedly gay Teletubbie? Or Muslims who didn’t like cartoons?
Atheism is starting to sound like just another intolerant and irrational religion to me.
You know what else is a common expression? “The Jews have all the money.” But no newspaper would ever put that in a headline because it’s not true. It’s an offensive stereotype.
To Mr. Lewis: Atheists are all for freedom of expression. And no one’s slamming your right to express your belief. We’re upset that you’re supposed to be working for a credible source of information, and yet, you’re writing about complete pseudoscience.
As for the headline, it’s denying the fact that there are atheists fighting for this country. There really are people out there who don’t believe atheists would fight in a war. The foxhole quotation perpetuates that. It’s far from “innocuous.” It also shows a lack of fact-checking from the person who wrote the headline (something a simple Google search would’ve fixed).
And how dare you compare that outrage to Jerry Falwell or Muslim Imams? No one is stopping you from criticizing atheists and our beliefs. You have that right. But don’t misrepresent who we are. At a newspaper, no less, that’s the least you could do.
We’re not going to kill you over your comments like some extremist Muslims killed over the cartoons. We’re not asking the newspaper to fire you or censor you like Falwell wished of the Teletubbies. Hell, we’re the people who actually read what you’re writing.
And no, you shouldn’t have to apologize for a headline that you didn’t even write.
But I do think you should apologize for wasting minutes of our time reading superstitious nonsense about burying idols to sell a home… and then getting pissed off that we were upset.
[tags]atheist, atheism, St. Joseph[/tags]