May 30, 2011

Legitimizing Faith

media failThere are other ways the mainstream media could cover stories like this one about survivors of the Joplin, MO, tornadoes wallowing in religious delusion. By choosing to cover these stories in the way they are almost always covered, the authors legitimize faith. Just look at this one from CNN as an example of what I mean.

By characterizing "religious leaders" as trying "to offer meaning after such a senseless disaster," this article contradicts itself. If the disaster was senseless (accurate), trying to "offer meaning" necessarily involves distorting reality. Why is this something to be praised rather than condemned?

The article subtly implies that Rev. Monaghan may have been spared from the storm through prayer. Rubbish! It is unacceptable for a supposed source of news to reinforce delusion. And of course, the article allows the Rev. to spout nonsense about his god without providing any sort of reality-based counterpoint.

The article describes the great enthusiasm people felt after finding their pastor's bible and golf clubs. Really? People died in this storm, but finding a bible is...worthy of celebration.

And the kicker, because no story like this can be complete without it, was that the disaster strengthened the faith of those affected. Yep, just like his incorrect prediction of the rapture undoubtedly strengthened the faith of Harold Camping's followers.

The article could have focused on informing the public about the valuable service provided by the Bridge Ministries. It was mentioned, but this could have easily been the story. And there wouldn't have been anything wrong with such a story.

Dear reader, I am really starting to lose my patience with what passes for a news media in the United States. But even more than that, I'm starting to think that we atheists need to put far more pressure on the media to stop legitimizing faith.