CNN anchor, Paula Zahn, managed to ruffle a few feathers and inject a bit of bad blood into the pulse of the Internet late last month. On an episode of Paula Zahn Now she and her three-guest panel were having a semi-serious debate on a prejudice against atheists.
While that’s not normally such a big deal, atheist bloggers were having a firestorm because, while atheistic ideas were getting bashed, not a single member of the panel was an atheist. Sportswriter Stephen A. Smith was the only guest who was slightly rational and added any balance to the debate. The other two guests were content to say that atheists need to shut up because America is a Christian nation.
That’s not an exaggeration. The other two guests, Karen Hunter and Debbie Schlussel, are apparently so narrow minded that they feel a person in the United States should shut up because his or her ideas contradict Christianity. Hunter is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and Schlussel is a lawyer and political talk show host. Neither sees the irony of having a debate as to whether there is a prejudice against atheists while being completely prejudiced.
The story the panel was discussing involved a couple in Mississippi who claim they were alienated and harassed by their community because they were atheists. It all started when they complained to the principal of a public elementary school their son was attending. Apparently, the teachers confused the school with the local church and began having bible study and prayer in class.
“Personally, I don’t have a problem with an atheist. Believe or don’t believe what you want. Don’t impose upon my right to want to have prayer in schools. . . .” said Hunter.
Karen Hunter is probably a fairly intelligent person, but when it comes to personal beliefs her public opinion is obviously hypocritical. The couple in Mississippi weren’t asking the school to teach kids that god doesn’t exist. They just don’t want some other Joe’s religion pushed down their kid’s throat. That seems fair enough. There’s absolutely no point to any public school holding a viewpoint on religion or God.
Hunter went on to say prayer should be in schools to teach morality. Because of course if you’re a Christian you are automatically steeped in morality, much like Benny Hinn, Robert Tilton, Jim Baker and Jim Jones.
There’s a simple reason why religion shouldn’t be taught in schools. Beyond rituals and communal practices, all religions along with atheism are simply just personal beliefs. Beliefs might be arguable, but that doesn’t mean that they’re provable. It’s the same reason why creationism shouldn’t be taught alongside evolution. All real science points towards evolution as being fact, where creationism just can’t hold up to any real scientific method. It’s a belief. The only way to teach creationism as a science is to lie.
In the end there probably is an element of prejudice against atheists, but I’m not sure that the battle can or even should come to an end. After all, I kind of like the humorous irony of having god’s name on a dollar bill.