As religious people are bludgeoned with secular views by America's media practically 24/7, it would be nice if they could be given a break on their holiest days.
George Stephanopoulos clearly doesn't feel that way for on Easter Sunday he invited an atheist on ABC's This Week to join a panel discussion about - wait for it! - religion (video follows with transcript and commentary):
The Washington Post’s “On Faith” blog network bills itself as “a conversation on religion and politics.” But the conversation of “On Faith” more accurately resembles a diatribe justifying liberal politics with religious imagery.
During this past week, Becky Garrison claimed that Christian actor Kirk Cameron was not a Christian because he opposes homosexual marriage, and Lisa Miller declared that “In churches across the land, women are still treated as second class citizens.”
The Sunday Washington Post issued a set of "Best of 2011" lists, and in the Arts section listing of the 100 most notable books (50 in fiction, 50 in nonfiction), the Post fulfilled its annual tradition of promoting its own staffers. In the fiction category was Bloodmoney by Post columnist David Ignatius.
On the nonfiction list were Playing With Fire by Pamela Constable, The Triple Agent by Joby Warrick, Never Say Die by blogger Susan Jacoby and Rawhide Down by Del Quentin Wilber (on the 1981 Reagan assassination attempt). Former Post reporter Robin Wright was mentioned for Rock the Casbah (which was not about the Clash). The selections were made from among books that received book reviews from the Post, so this is a double-dip for Post staffers, a little publicity in the Christmas stocking.
Washington Post columnist Petula Dvorak may have pulled her punches, calling Sunday night's spontaneous celebrations of bin Laden's demise "almost vulgar," but her colleague Susan Jacoby thoroughly trashed such displays as "mindless" in her "Spirited Atheist" column yesterday at the Post/Newsweek "On Faith" site:
A best-selling book recounting a four-year-old child's claims to have briefly visited Heaven while under anesthesia for an appendectomy has "On Faith" contributor Susan Jacoby on a tear.
"There really is such a thing as American exceptionalism: we are more gullible than the public in the rest of the developed world," Jacoby groused in a March 30 "The Spirited Atheist" post, part of the "On Faith" website jointly operated by the Washington Post and Newsweek:
The "Spirited Atheist" of The Washington Post, Susan Jacoby, predictably trashed Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston as not only "poster children for the dumbing down of America" and as "most middle-class American parents' worst nightmare," but proof of what happens when religious people show off their contempt for book learning:
Although the children of politicians are generally off-limits, Bristol is an exception for two reasons. First, she has made herself into a public figure not only by sharing her personal life with the world but by her loopy performance as a spokesperson against teen pregnancy. (I wonder how it promotes the message that teen pregnancy is a bad idea when a young woman is financially rewarded and glamorized by the media precisely because she was a pregnant teen lucky enough to be the daughter of a famous mom.)
Second, Bristol was used by her mother as an asset to placate the religious right-wing base of the Republican Party during the 2008 campaign. She was a living demonstration of Sarah Palin's opposition to abortion: Look at my teenage daughter, she made a mistake and did the right thing by having the baby. The only more shameless aspect of Sarah's campaign was her constant exhibition of her Down Syndrome son. Look at me, I didn't have an abortion like those terrible elitist women who make fun of me for not reading books.
It's no secret that America's going through a difficult time - sky-rocketing debt, a struggling economy, and the highest unemployment rate in two decades - but, according to Susan Jacoby, we have bigger problems. Our nation's "greatest failing" - our nation's "social disease," she says, is our patriotism.
On the blog "The Spirited Atheist," which is co-hosted by the Washington Post and Newsweek, Jacoby wrote that NBC's pro-American coverage of the Winter Olympics is just another example of our "provincial, reflexively nationalistic mindset." To Jacoby, the Olympics isn't a time to wave the American flag and proudly sing the national anthem; it's a time to wipe out our "delusion" of "superior American morality."
"American television has unwittingly, by omission more than commission, presented a portrait of a nation clinging to the stories it tells itself about the superiority of American morality, culture, and education," Jacoby wrote.
The headline writers of Washingtonpost.com ought to win an award for the dumbest question of December. In a sentence promoting their discussion board for "The Secularist’s Corner," they wrote: "One in four Americans believe in 'spiritual forces' like ghosts. Is belief in the supernatural unlike the traditional story of Christmas?"
Is the traditional nativity story of Jesus unlike the story of... Casper the Friendly Ghost? Is the writer here an adult?
The headline is also goofy: "Christmas ghosts abound." Susan Jacoby, the unbeliever who hosts "The Secularist’s Corner," didn’t ask this question in her discussion-starter. She did suggest that Americans will believe all kinds of nonsense. Her headline was "You name it, Americans believe it." As an atheist, she doesn’t see any contradiction in embracing Jesus and New Age beliefs. It's implied they’re equally wacky:
Here’s the funny way the Washington Post celebrates the Fourth of July: it hands over the front of the Style section for a book review by Susan Jacoby, the leftist who hosts their website’s discussion group called "The Secularist’s Corner." In reviewing a book by liberal professor Woden Teachout on the uses of our flag, Jacoby instructs that patriotism is divided into two categories:
Teachout uses competing claims to the flag to trace the complicated relationship between American ideals of humanitarian patriotism, rooted in Enlightenment values of individual liberty and political equality, and nationalist patriotism, based on loyalty to a nation-state and emphasis on national security.
But don’t worry: Teachout believes that Barack Obama excels at both halves. But first, Jacoby must protest those dullards who put the words "Under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance:
Happy Easter, Catholics. Your pope is not much different from a secular politician exercising damage control. Fortunately, President Obama is helping him "repent faster" when he steps into controversy.
That's the message being sent by the "On Faith" editorial staff with their excerpts "From the Panel" published in the April 11 print edition of the Washington Post. A partnership with Newsweek, "On Faith" is edited by the magazine's Jon Meacham and the Post's Sally Quinn.
"What's Behind Pope's Apologies?" asks the headline. An editorial note gives readers the question asked "On Faith" panelists:
Are Americans dumber than we used to be? Susan Jacoby thinks so, and continually uses conservatives as her illustrations.
The "dumbing down" of American culture, as evidenced by America’s obsession with reality television and the barrage of celebrity "news" coverage, is a worthy topic of discussion. But it’s hard to have a reasoned discussion with an author who is contributing to the problem by gratuitously bashing conservatives and religious believers.
NBC’s Matt Lauer sat down with Jacoby to discuss her book, The Age of American Unreason, during the February 19 broadcast of the Today Show, and asked her about the role the media play in "dumbing down" Americans. Jacoby responded:
Dumbness is us. Yes I think the media has a lot to do with it. It’s not an original observation. This is the first time we've been able to have 24/7 entertainment coming into our ears if we want it. But just as politicians will say to voters, you were lied to, rather than -- the more fundamental question is why did we let ourselves be so stupid that we're so easy targets for lies?