What the hell has happened recently to television news? I used to watch CNN and Headline News, but CNN turned into some kind of mushy celebrity gossip channel peppered with fashion model runway walks. I turned over to Headline News almost exclusively in the mid 90's until somebody had the bright idea of making it into some kind of hyper multiple text prompt overlay news feed. The actual news video hard to see in its shrunken 1/4 size window in the upper right that served up the exact same clips every 30 minutes for days on end. I just checked out Headline News now, having not tuned it in, in a long time -- I see it has retreated from its straight news feed format and is now showing "Showbiz Tonight" and other soft news programming. Evidently there is no true 24 hours pure news feed on cable anymore.
I disagreed with many of FOX News' editorials, but at the turn of the new Millennia they at least were presenting real news instead of B-list celebrity interviews with Larry King. I still like them in the late morning with "FOX News Live" after the insipid "FOX and Friends" is over, but the nighttime feed has transformed into the 700 Club (a Christian Faith broadcast emphasizing news important for Christians, for those of you not familiar with American cable TV lineups.) I should have seen it coming I guess, with FOX hitting on a ratings ploy called "The War On Christmas." I turned to FOX just now to see if there might be any news only to be assaulted by some celebrity guest belting out a hymn.
There is no "War On Christmas," there is however a war on atheists, agnostics and other religions. I won't deny that FOX can find some over-the-top PC school board somewhere that is having a winter solstice celebration instead of a Christmas program, but so what? It is a large country after all. What's the percentage of schools doing this? I would wager there is a higher percentage of kids belonging to Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Agnostic, and Atheist families that are all but forced to belt out "Oh Silent Night" in a school presentation. Please don't argue they can opt out; kids are unable to make informed decisions -- this is why you can't have a contract with a child. Non-Christian parents are portrayed as intolerant when they complain about their children's participation in singing hymns when the kids themselves have no complaint about singing said hymns. How dare a parent care about how religion is presented to their children. No Christian parent would complain if their children where forced to sing songs in praise of Allah or Buddha. Oh wait, they would.
FOX can't seem but to champion "Intelligent Design" in any debate they put on against Evolution. Mr. O'Reilly just "doesn't get" why we shouldn't mention metaphysical arguments in science classes. "Let the kids decide for themselves," is his glib reply. Kids don't have the freedom of deciding for themselves in the home. If parents don't want the government to interfere with the rearing of kids in the home under the "let the kids decide for themselves" defense, they can shut up about forcing religious debates in public schools and send their kids to parochial schools if they so choose.
My only D in high school was given to me during the second semester of civics class, the first semester I had received a B with a different teacher. The only difference in my habits and study as far as I could determine was that I was willing to debate with my second semester teacher after class about Creationism versus Evolution -- Evolution I believed in -- Creationism she believed in. I have no doubt had I conceded the debate to her I would have sported a much more handsome A on my report card. I still remember a little 16-page comic she gave me illustrating how modern scientists couldn't explain the natural world. For instance how physicists couldn't explain how an atom's nucleus couldn't possible stay together because of its likes-repel positive charge. Just the next year in physics class I learned about the strong force, which physicists had discovered as the explanation for this riddle decades before this comic was penned. Science apparently is a pick the parts you like thing for Christians and discard the rest.
I clearly remember being taught in public school that monotheistic religions like Christianity were clearly superior to ancient multi-theistic religions of the past -- which is what made them myths. Even then I found it vaguely disturbing that someone's firmly held religious beliefs could be discarded so blithely in light of modern reasoning. Ah, those poor misinformed ancient souls. Yes, yes, this line of reasoning shows why God is an OK term for the State to use. Freedom of religion means freedom to have a monotheistic religion and encourages you to do so by dint of superior reasoning about the universe. Freedom of religion apparently doesn't guarantee freedom from religion.
Much to the chagrin of my more liberal colleagues (and my wife) I actually do have many conservative views especially with regard to US policies abroad. I have probably agreed more often than not with Mr. O'Reilly (when he's not being a Christian Zealot), though to my credit I'm almost always 180 degrees opposed to Sean Hannity's views. I had ignored claims that the Christian Right was hijacking the Republican Party from liberal talking heads, but now I see they apparently have hijacked FOX News, so I no longer see this has mere Democratic or liberal hyperbole. And not just FOX News -- I see a huge splash of Christian commercials across the spectrum of cable channels.
The Cartoon Network is running a high percentage of Christian oriented ads these days. Maybe the churches have all saved up for an ad blitz this time of year. But somehow I see a huge irony sandwiching in between all the fantasy and make-believe, ads to believe in Jesus Christ as risen savior with no visible proof.
This is the time of year to train Children to suspend disbelief obviously. Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, and the Easter Bunny, are just the warm ups till they can understand the bible I'm convinced.
Christian parents want to be able to raise their children in their faith. I understand this desire and support it, and yet for those of us who wish to be free to raise our children in a more skeptical fashion, we must have religion forced on our kids by commercial channels. Let's be honest here, the point of Christian commercials on Cartoon Network is to get the kids to ask about God outside of whatever presentation their parents have chosen for them.
I had fully come to embrace my agnosticism before I joined the Marine Corps for a short term of enlistment. During boot camp I was asked to state my religious preference. I should have perhaps been more firm in my insistence on agnosticism, but was recorded as "No Preference," which really isn't quite the same thing. On our first day in our permanent platoon the Master Drill Instructor asked us one by one what church we would like to go on for one hour out of the four free hours we were allotted every Sunday. I saw no reason to give up 1/4 my weekly free time to go to church and told the Master Drill Instructor so. This was a mistake, as I was informed I was going to church, so I'd better pick whatever one would be most in keeping with my upbringing, because I wasn't going to be the only boot to lounge around the barracks goldbricking.
During the few days of formation while waiting to be assigned a permanent platoon, I had learned how much one didn't want to be on the wrong side of the D.I.s over us and reluctantly agreed to Protestant services.
Nguyen was next. "What faith are you Nguyen" the Master D.I. asked.
"Sir, Nguyen is Buddhist, sir," answered back the diminutive Nguyen in a heavy Vietnamese accent.
"Buddhist, Buddhist...." mumbled the Master Drill Instructor, "OK Nguyen, from now on you're Catholic."
And that was that. For the next 13 weeks I marched off to Protestant services for an hour every Sunday and Nguyen marched off to Catholic Mass. This left less then 3 hours of free time, which really isn't free, but merely unstructured, as you has you have the freedom to choose what order you did your laundry, polished your brass, cleaned your rifle, squared your area away, showered, shaved, and wrote a letter home if you had time. Needless to say I would have preferred to the extra hour to get through these tasks.
Prayers at work are a common occurrence. I find them disconcerting. It would not be well received to say "Please don't pray in my presence, I don't really share your faith and dislike being coerced into showing some kind of faux solidarity while you do so. It is unsettling." Of course if you really did say this they would take the "unsettling" part to be a sign that the devil has a hold on you, and they must pray for you all the more to drive him out, lest your head begin to spin and you vomit pea soup. For purposes of job promotion and just being civil with Christian peers, one just naturally engages in a form of self-censorship.
FOX seemingly sides with pharmacists that won't dispense the morning-after-pill as it conflicts with their faith and objections to abortion. Woe to anyone that needs RU-486 for cancer I guess (yes it does have that use). So when can I expect to see Christian Scientist pharmacists that expect a weekly wage from Walgreens, but won't have to dispense ANY pills, as that would be against their faith.
On vacation in New York with my fiancée from China (now my wife) I felt I had to apologize for the evangelicals that laid in wait where people gathered in large numbers to assault them with fire-and-brimstone speeches. While waiting for the ferry to Staten Island we observed a Preacher sending his three preteen children off with military precision to work the crowd for the Glory of God. It seemed to me a form a brainwashing and child-abuse.
So here I lay the day after Christmas, hoping I don't loose my Christian friends out there in the blog-o-sphere. But enough is enough already. There may be a God, I don't know. But quit pretending like Christianity is the faith under attack. You guys are well over 80% of the American public and when we non-Christians complain about your unwarranted holier-than-thou attitude we are portrayed as the bad-guys. Yes I feel like my rights as an agnostic are under fire. I understood the upswing in religiosity after 9/11, but I don't understand its recent up-tick now (yes I'm inviting a well-reasoned explanation from any and all).
If you really think Christianity is under attack let me ask you one parting question: when likely will we see the first avowed Agnostic, Atheist, Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu elected to the Presidency? Yeah, that's what I thought.