April 28, 2008

NYC Atheists Protest Pope's Visit

President Bush certainly rolled out the red carpet for the Pope, raising troubling questions about preferential treatment for Christian leaders. The mainstream media coverage I saw was extremely positive, and although I can't say I went out of my way to look for coverage of this story, I certainly did not encounter anything about those protesting the Pope's visit. Finding this story about the NYC Atheists and their protest in New York University's student newspaper was an unexpected treat.

According to Kate Ray, NYC Atheists were protesting "the politics of the Catholic Church and recent anti-atheist comments made by the pope." Good for them. I'm glad somebody was calling attention to these issues of which the mainstream media has been woefully inadequate.

It is not that big media paid no attention to what the Pope had to say about the evils of atheism. Rather, they covered this as if it was somehow uncontroversial. At least they could have pointed out that the Pope does not seem to understand that atheism is not Communism. Or perhaps they could have asked him whether he thought atheism was also responsible for Nazism. At least that would be something to which he would have first-hand experience!

Rich Sander, one of the organizers of the NYC Atheists' peaceful protest was quoted as saying, "He said atheists are the source of evil and injustice in the world. It's highly unethical if the pope can do that."

I'm not sure I see much difference between the sort of hate spewed by the Pope and that of Christian extremists like James Dobson or McCain buddy John Hagee. If we are going to continue to provide First Amendment protection for hate speech, then the Pope should have an equal right to spread his message of intolerance. But this also means that we in the reality-based community have the right to oppose it.

It was also nice to see that the NYC Atheists' protest had a secondary goal of increasing public awareness of the atheist movement. This is certainly a worthy goal, and the group should be applauded for their efforts.

For more about the NYC Atheists and their efforts, see the NYC Atheists Blog.

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