FOX News Reacts to the Nightline Segment July 18, 2010

FOX News Reacts to the Nightline Segment

Well, after that horrendous Nightline segment aired, you knew FOX News would have something to say about it.

They didn’t disappoint.

They just took their favorite part of the segment and sensationalized it in the headline:

Anyone surprised?

R. Joseph Hoffmann didn’t like the Nightline segment, either:

My complaint? Bad religion needs better satire. Unbelief needs better spokesmen. The cultic aspects of the New Atheism become more evident every day. Because only in cults does everyone laugh at the same jokes, applaud at the same cues, gasp at the same surprising revelation. Last time I looked, cultic unanimity was the opposite of freethought.

The atheist crusaders may have the best of reasons for organizing their atheism as a campaign to belittle, insult and demean… but they are driving reasonable men and women — wishers, seekers, explorers, and the merely confused — away in droves.

I think that’s taking it to an extreme. The debaptism was a one-off event done in good fun. It’s not something we do at every (or even many) gatherings. If atheists wanted to insult and demean religious people, there would be far easier ways to do it.

Anyone think there will be real fallout from this piece beyond just our community? Maybe no one watched it at all…


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  • Adam

    I don’t know, it’s bad enough here (Western North Carolina, I’m in Asheville) with the whole billboard thing going on. I don’t think many around here consider atheists, non-theists in general, or even anyone who isn’t an evangelical a real tangible person. (We’re kind of like those evil derivatives Wall Street was messing with.) At least now I can be a non-person with a magic hairdryer.

  • Trace

    “Because only in cults does everyone laugh at the same jokes, applaud at the same cues, gasp at the same surprising revelation.”

    Yes and no.

    I don’t agree with everything Hoffmann says in the article, but the lines above,..they have a certain ring to it.

  • Narvi

    @Trace: true, but then again, atheists DON’T laugh at the same jokes, applaud at the same cues or gasp at the same revelations. We are a diverse, open group
    – and we LOVE it.

    What he says may be true (or not), but since it’s not relevant for the New Atheists, there’s no reason to bring it up.

  • I haven’t watched the segment, and I missed Kagin’s show in Newark last April – but heard it amused many attendees.

    My sense is that critics will find low fruit where they can, and every belief or non-belief has mock-able fruit on the tree.

    The billboard thing here in NC, for example, is seen by some as a religion-baiting exercise, by others as silly … but viewed another way is at the core of the struggle we’ve been engaged in since 1952 when Billy Graham obtained congressional permission to stage the first-ever religious service on the Capitol steps. We’ve seen a half-century of religious intrusion into government, and there are many who would like to see that reversed. “One nation, indivisible” is an entirely different statement from “one nation, under God, indivisible.” The latter is, at minimum, contradictory.

  • James Smith João Pessoa, Brazil

    As usual, when someone doesn’t have anything intelligent to say, they engage in derision, lies, and insults. Wait, that’s been the methodology of the religious reich all along. well, really what else can they do? They have no facts, logic, or rational responses, so who can blame them for acting irresponsibly?

  • Chris

    Here in Cary,NC its as if people cant understand atheists. Either you believe in God or the devil. There is so much close-mindedness that in a way one would actually feel scared of being public and honest about your atheism. I knoe that people would stop talking to me and encourage others to do the same. A bit hypocrital on their part, shouting equality for all, be good to your neighboor, free speech, they just need a new line “But only if he is a theist”. Problem is that Fox news is kinda making this worse, talking about how we are the one ruining the moral community or causing the Holocaust (look at the O’Reilly interview with Richard Dawkins where he says Hitler was an atheist). My point is that there is this public disgust with atheists even if they are a good productive member of the community. But this is spreading, people are now trying to stop mosques from being built in their area, they are ruining billboards, even a (republican president) once said that an atheist shouldt be even considered a U.S. Citizen. All of these things and more are signs of whats to come a new revolution in religion, this will either be tolerance or forcing others into their belief system. Sure I dont see the future and I may be wrong, but we have to change the atheist image, and soon.

  • Claudia

    I don’t understand why we have to buy into the media portrayal of atheists. The complaint that we shouldn’t be about demeaning or ridiculing others is a valid one, if that was a fair portrayal of atheist activities. Every single person here knows that its emphatically not what most atheists and atheist events are about. Why are so many atheists reacting as if it were a given that the “debaptisms” were a central part of our activities instead of some silly gag done at some events? You can think its not funny of course, but saying that atheists are cultish by not inmediately condemning it jumps a whole load of sharks.

    What are we to do? Should be stop any activity that could be met with disapproval if sufficiently exagerated and misrepresented by the media? Then we might as well stop doing anything. Should Darwin Day be abolished because the media calls it the “atheist holiday” or worse “the atheist Christmas”? I agree we need to learn to be media savvy, but its a mistake to think that if we do away with every silly activity the media will suddenly be willing to portray us fairly. They’ll just stop running articles altogether and go talk to the pink-feather clad drag-queen who represents the “gay community”.

  • Don Rose

    Fallout? Nah. I don’t think atheism is “driving people away in droves”, lol. It’s wishful thinking on the part of religious folks. Churches are hurting right now, and it will only get “worse” (read ‘better’ hehe), as time goes on. I see a couple churches for sale on my ride to work each day, and any new churches I’ve seen are cheaply built, or even using space in strip malls. I see evidence of the rapid decline of religion, and the rise of atheism every day. I’ll do and say everything I can to help speed the process along.

  • Alex

    In some ways we need the extreme to pull non-belief more to the center. Unfortunately you can see the Tea Baggers doing the same thing with racism and bigotry.

  • Noodly1

    I firmly believe that if we–the collective secular we–did a better job of establishing community groups and organizations that provided people a regular place to go and the sense of community and fellowship with their neighbors that churches do such a good job of providing, we would see a huge swell in our ranks. I am certain that there are a number of people who really don’t believe but who attend church anyway because they so enjoy the sense of belonging and community they get from attendance.

    If obviously tongue-in-cheek de-baptisms serve this purpose for some atheists, good for them. Whatever works.

  • “I think that’s taking it to an extreme. The debaptism was a one-off event done in good fun.”

    I understand where you are coming from completely.
    Until we become a majority, however, anything and everything we do or say will be subject to distortion and propaganda.
    We could, of course, work within this system and manipulate and control information in order to push a positive, strong and dynamic image of atheism, but it seems some atheists find the thought distasteful. I wonder how distasteful fighting back will seem when they come knocking on our doors at 3 am…

  • The cultic aspects of the New Atheism become more evident every day. Because only in cults does everyone laugh at the same jokes, applaud at the same cues, gasp at the same surprising revelation. Last time I looked, cultic unanimity was the opposite of freethought.

    I wonder if he ever thought that maybe what he’s seeing is the group of people among the wide variety of freethinkers who happen to *agree*? Nothing cultic about it, any more than there is anything cultic about a national political party convention. This is just silly.

  • Trace

    Heresy, Narvi! 😉 What kind of “true” atheists doesn’t find “baby jokes” funny?

  • Pete

    People go to watch rugby,hockey,baseball games every week .They might all dress in funny clothes ,yell the same lines,all have their special mascots.Probably even laugh at some of the same jokes.

    The cultic aspects of the New Atheism become more evident every day

    Yawn!

    What doesnt this person get about atheism not damning any people to threats of some unproven hell and some unproven eternal suffering.

    Atheism is about as much of a religious cult as stamp collecting is.

    If some people want to still gather together somewhere,and crack a few jokes and have a little fun, and give each other these type-> blow jobs . 🙂

    Maybe some religious folks are just getting a little envious.

    Specially if they is selling up churches,like some here say they is.

  • Ron in Houston

    I agree that atheists are getting bad at repeating the same memes over and over again.

    In order for your message to be heard you do have to break through the noise that is modern society. I’m not sure de-baptising people with hair dryers really gets much of a message out.

  • @MikeTheInfidel,

    “Nothing cultic about it, any more than there is anything cultic about a national political party convention. This is just silly.”

    You are correct, but is he just being silly or is he using this event as a propaganda vehicle to further an agenda? Which is more likely? Could it be both?

  • Pete

    Ron said

    I’m not sure de-baptising people with hair dryers really gets much of a message out.

    Why do you feel atheist gatherings need to always be about getting some message out?.

    That would start to seem slightly like a religious cult to me.

    Why cant atheist gatherings just be about atheists gathering.Having some fun together.Letting others know its ok to be atheist ,and you are not all alone .Simply because you no longer go to churches.

    Just wondering.

    And i suggest all people who think alike will start repeating some of the same things.Kids at school all repeat much the same alphabet.Say much the same maths times tables.Its bound to happen pretty much like 1+1=2

    Does this make them religious cults also.

  • For a group of people so bound up in symbolism (the cross, the eucharist, baptism, etc.) theists, and expecially Christians, have a hard time understanding metaphors.

  • Pete

    If any atheist groups started suggesting you really were not at all atheist, unless you first had a de-baptism.Kinda like many theists suggest you first need a baptism to be real christian and saved.

    Then i would start thinking it kinda religious.

    To me these de-baptisms are more like making a statement against some religious ritual, thats been used to suggest somebody is a lessor person who doesnt have a baptism.

    I see no reason i need to have any de-baptism myself.But in my country atheists are everywhere.There is no reason to make any statement here that its ok to be atheist and ok not to be baptized.

  • El Perro

    It just goes to show that there are people on all sides of a debate who are humorless prigs terminally afflicted with Stickinassness

  • I agree with Noodly1, who said

    I firmly believe that if we – the collective secular we – did a better job of establishing community groups and organizations that provided people a regular place to go and the sense of community and fellowship with their neighbors that churches do such a good job of providing, we would see a huge swell in our ranks. I am certain that there are a number of people who really don’t believe but who attend church anyway because they so enjoy the sense of belonging and community they get from attendance.

    Hair dryer debaptism strikes me as very similar to the single instance of bra and girdle burning that took place at a Miss America pageant, and then was used to label feminists forever after.

  • Richard Wade

    Anyone think there will be real fallout from this piece beyond just our community?

    Well, let me see what happens when I let this single drop of water fall into the ocean…

    (drip)

    Hmm. Not much of a tsunami.

    Screw their opinions. If the de-baptism hadn’t taken place, Nightline and Fox would still have cherry picked and spun their stories into negative and inflammatory stuff anyway.

  • Ron in Houston

    @Pete

    Why do you think that I think messages must get out? I’m all for meetings for meetings sake but honestly, de-baptising people with hair dryers? In my book, that’s pretty silly and quite juvenile. It’s certainly not high minded rhetoric in my book.

    However, it DID get press. The question is whether that press was positive or negative.

  • Alex

    I don’t really think the story was so bad. Other than the interviewer’s questions (Stalin? puh-leaze), there wasn’t really anything that caught my attention as painting the whole movement negatively. And the bits where they talked to participants didn’t seem out of context or cherry picked at all… I heard the responses I would expect and hope to hear from atheists. The whole de-baptism was presented pretty fairly, and I don’t think anyone seeing that would view it as cult-ish… it’s pretty clear that it’s a joke. When I heard the dressing women in burkas my initial reaction was “wtf?” But after the clip showed the little song they did, I was like “Oh, this makes sense. I am glad they showed that.”

    By the way, Kagan referring to at as a war? Bad idea. Unless there as an armed resistance occurring, that metaphor is just asking to be used against him (and the secular community).

  • Greg

    Because only in cults does everyone laugh at the same jokes, applaud at the same cues, gasp at the same surprising revelation.

    Has this guy ever been to see a stand up comedian perform? I went to see Jimmy Carr live the other day, and you know what was really weird about it?

    We all laughed at the same jokes! We even applauded at the same cues! And you know what, we found ourselves gasping at the same surprising revelations, too.

    Just because you have the same sense of humour as someone else doesn’t mean you are in a cult with them.

  • Freethinkers are being driven off in droves? From Atheist cultic unanimity?

    If I scoff at Hoffmann’s probably unintentional irony, will I be blamed for joining the cult of mockery? Or can I be one of the droves?

  • Baconsbud

    I don’t get this de-baptising stuff. I know it is symbolic but what does it really show. I think it actually makes christians feel that baptism actually means something. If you really want to get some distance between yourself and religion, speak out against the evil of religion.

  • toffa813

    Damn, I just headed over here to post about this

    http://gizmodo.com/5590028/atheists-latest-gadget-the-hairdryer

  • Seymour Skinner

    I agree that atheists are getting bad at repeating the same memes over and over again.

    In order for your message to be heard you do have to break through the noise that is modern society. I’m not sure de-baptising people with hair dryers really gets much of a message out.

    The problem as I see it is that atheism is not a social movement. It is an intellectual conclusion. With different evidence – prayers always being answered or something – it might be a different conclusion. But whatever the conclusion, a conclusion does not make a movement. Trying to cast an intellectual decision as a social movement is like trying to force a square peg into a round hole. It just doesn’t fit.

  • Pete

    Thanks Ron.

    Why do you think that I think messages must get out?

    Ron i guessed that because you had said.

    I’m not sure de-baptising people with hair dryers really gets much of a message out.

    But i see no problem with your thoughts anyway.I was just interested in better understanding your opinion.

    You then said

    In my book, that’s pretty silly and quite juvenile. It’s certainly not high minded rhetoric in my book

    Its maybe not something that would really interest me personally either Ron.But then im not the type who has my car lowered,one of those blow-off valves,and wear low rider jeans either.Infact i told my son i reckon they need to give some of the speedy boy racers,a set of square tyres for christmas.I said in my opinion that would look cool and be my kinda fun watching them bump along the road ,instead of me needing to be the one traveling over speed bumps 🙂

    Im not saying these are likely the types that go to these de-baptisms at all.Im just suggesting us humans have lots of different tastes and ideas of what a good thing to do, are also of many different age groups,and enjoy doing many differnt things.

  • Alex

    From Seymour Skinner:

    But whatever the conclusion, a conclusion does not make a movement. Trying to cast an intellectual decision as a social movement is like trying to force a square peg into a round hole. It just doesn’t fit.

    I don’t think “atheism” itself is a social movement, but I think secularism is a perfect candidate for a social movement. Yes, the only thing that all atheists agree upon, by definition, is that they don’t believe in gods. But many individuals, particularly those that take the time to read blogs such as this one, feel that something needs to be done about religion’s undeserved dominance over our culture and government.

  • mb

    I promise, henceforth, that I will only laugh at every third atheist joke I read, see or hear. I will gasp at religious outrages only on Thursdays — unless it’s a full moon. I always celebrate lunacy on the full moon, it’s kind of like my high sabbath.

    Will you join me in the New New Atheists? We’re much better than the Old New Atheists. Christians will flock to our view.

  • Dan W

    Well, it was a pathetically poor Nightline segment, but I doubt religious bigots would have changed their minds about atheists even if Nightline had done a better segment about atheists in America. I’m not surprised Fox “News” would be going on about the segment, it’s the sort of thing they’d sensationalize- though ABC is to blame for making such a crappy segment of Nightline.

    I don’t care much for Hoffmann’s piece, he seems to be unfairly criticizing American Atheists’ silly de-baptism ceremony more than the ones who deserve criticism- the producers of the Nightline segment at ABC. Of course atheists don’t all laugh at the same jokes, but ABC is to blame for making a silly de-baptism ritual mocking baptisms look like some kooky cult event.

  • Rieux

    The de-baptism bit was dumb, but there’s nothing more to it than meaningless convention silliness. “Nightline” and Faux News made a hash of it, but I’m not convinced that that’ll change anyone’s mind.

    Hoffman’s piece, meanwhile, is mindless and arrogant concern-trolling. Greta had that jerk’s number (whether he’s a believer or not–it appears not so much) a few months ago.

    All in all, move along, nothing to see here. Atheists do something silly, assholes react in shock and horror, film at 11.

  • I confess to not really understanding why people would want to debaptise or have a ritual other than for a laugh. Laughing at the religious is good fun but not really sustainable. You’ve got to stop for breath after all and someone of faith will no doubt pop up and agree that they are silly and that’ll spoil the whole shebang.

    Baptism is a ritual for bringing someone into a faith and announcing them as a member of the religion. Long before a debaptism joke ritual could take place the person would have left the faith and probably announced their departure from the religion. Sure the other purpose of a baptism is something to do with gods but as atheists we’re pretty sure that they don’t exist so we can ignore that.

  • Kind of reminds me of all the hubub a few years ago when the charismatics were laughing and barking in the spirit.

  • ken

    Silly old fart

  • ken

    Rieux Says:
    July 19th, 2010 at 1:49 am

    Hoffman’s piece, meanwhile, is mindless and arrogant concern-trolling. Greta had that jerk’s number (whether he’s a believer or not–it appears not so much) a few months ago.

    Do you even know who R. Joseph Hoffmann is? You need to do some research before throwing epithets around. Hoffmann is not a troll, but a trained scholar who has done important research in the field of Christian origins. He was educated at Harvard and Oxford (where he also taught) and was Campbell Professor at Wells College. More to the point, he was Chair of CFI’s own Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Religion. He was also a fellow of, again, CFI’s Jesus Project, which was recently put on hold due to a lack of funds. In addition, he also worked closely with Paul Kurtz and CODESH in Buffalo, New York, for many years. I read one of his first books, Jesus Outside the Gospels, which is an essential piece of scholarship. You should check out his own website, where he writes wonderful essays…

    http://rjosephhoffmann.wordpress.com/

  • Rieux

    Do you even know who R. Joseph Hoffmann is?

    My, my, what a pungent resort to the ad hominem fallacy.

    As I said, Hoffman’s piece is mindless and arrogant concern-trolling. All the fabulous resume fodder in the world doesn’t change that. The man’s argument is bullshit, and you are simply refusing to address that problem.