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Richard Dawkins talks atheism - a CNN video 
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Post Richard Dawkins talks atheism - a CNN video
Richard Dawkins talks atheism on CNN

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTZONIl546c[/youtube]


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Tue Oct 30, 2007 12:56 am
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I've never heard Dawkins actually speak before. I'm suggesting Bob Odenkirk to play him when they make a movie of "The God Delusion".

The rest of that segment was pretty worthless. Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson seems to have been invited just to make things more contentious, and he doesn't waste any time calling atheists "hypocrites". CNN got their money's worth inviting him on. As for everyone watching...

This is why I can't watch CNN. It's cartoon news. Here's an issue, and we're going to give it just enough consideration to bring out the lowest common denominator opinions, so that you're neither informed nor enlightened.

The anchor did manage to make an (unintentionally) interesting point with his first question at the panel discussion. He asks something like, "Have atheists brought criticism on themselves by being so vocal about issues like prayer in school and 'God' in the pledge." The respondee makes a point about how atheists are only trying to uphold the constitution, but I think she misses the more salient point (not actually made on the segment) about picking your battles. Atheists as an interest group first entered the limelight by talking about mostly rhetorical issues. Now, when an atheist is, say, denied employment on the basis of their atheism, they face not only discrimination but also the perception that, in demanding their rights, they're also trying to change American institutions. Had the situation been reversed -- had the first atheist lawsuits been about discriminatory practices with tangible damages rather than diminishing religious rhetoric -- the popular perception of atheists might be very different at this point.

Aside from that, the most interesting part of the whole thing, in my opinion, was what the anchor called Dawkins in his introduction, something to the effect of "one of the most prominent atheists in the world." Two points: It does seem as though "atheist" is Dawkins' career these days. Didn't he used to be a biologist? And secondly, I wonder how atheist's in general feel about having Dawkins as a representative of their interests. Regardless of whether or not anyone wanted it, that's the situation that seems to have grown out of his recent public outcry.


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Tue Oct 30, 2007 3:04 pm
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MadArchitect wrote:
Had the situation been reversed -- had the first atheist lawsuits been about discriminatory practices with tangible damages rather than diminishing religious rhetoric -- the popular perception of atheists might be very different at this point.


I think requiring students who don't believe in a god to pray, or to pledge an oath that they belong to "one nation, under God" can be tangibly damaging. I understand what you are getting at here, Mad. And I'm not an atheist that tends to blindly support all atheistic efforts and/or intentions. But I think it deemphasizes the significant influence such religious rhetoric has/had in U.S. public institutions, to decry efforts at combating such rhetoric as not addressing tangible issues.

(Just to clarify, I didn't watch the clip for two reasons. One, like you, I consider most of CNN to be a colossal waste of time. Second, I doubt there was anything new discussed in that segment.)



Tue Oct 30, 2007 4:42 pm
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I doubt very many people here put as much stock in rhetoric as I do, so it's certainly not my argument that having something like "under God" is without effect. But the direct impact of being denied employment -- just to stick to a single example -- is certainly more tangible to most people, and harder to argue against. Had that sort of case been the first to catch the public eye, I'm not sure the struggle over what goes into the pledge of allegiance would be quite so difficult.


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Tue Oct 30, 2007 7:01 pm
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Fair enough, though when people adopt their causes I'm not sure how much they tend to look at the overall picture. Did Newdow try to combat the pledge because he saw it as a great impetus for atheist causes? Did he just want to screw theists? Or did he not want his kid, while attending compulsory education, to be forced to affirm a god he doesn't believe in?



Tue Oct 30, 2007 9:31 pm
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irishrose wrote:
Fair enough, though when people adopt their causes I'm not sure how much they tend to look at the overall picture.


Well, chances are, they don't. Not most times. And that's fine. There really isn't much that atheists can do about what cases got national attention first -- at least, not until someone cooks up a time machine. But I do think it's worth their while to pay attention to the way in which the public perception was informed by those early cases, and how that reflects upon cases with a more immediate impact on people's ability to survive or progress in civil society.

What I'm thinking about is a shift in PR. This clip is a prime example of the need for a new way of broaching the public. When the anchor asked, "Aren't atheists bringing this on themselves by going to the Supreme Court to have 'under God' removed from the pledge?" the panelist's automatic response was, "by being good citizens." Which may be an accurate characterization (it may also be simply a better spin than "vocal minority"), but it lets stand the perception of atheists as fighting language first and foremost. She was so eager to get it out that she didn't really let him finish framing his question.

A better answer might have been something along the lines of, "We think those topics are important, but they take second place to more troubling forms of discrimination, like that which prevents good, qualified people from getting jobs they need to support their family. We're seeing more cases like that these days, and we think it's important to address the more immediate threats." As it stands, she hit the theme of "good citizens" four or five times and never really addressed the more immediate issues. Atheists don't have to back away from those earlier cases altogether, but I think it's to their advantage to stress that, compared with the threat of ostracization or violence, what's spoken during the pledge is somewhat trivial.

Now, it may be the case that some people take having "under God" in the pledge as a sanction for discrimination against atheists. But I think that's something that will be easier to address after atheists have won broad public sympathy. The tactics I saw in this clip certainly aren't helping them to do that.


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Tue Oct 30, 2007 11:19 pm
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