Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Dec/08

22

The Press and Religion

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on RedditShare on StumbleUponEmail this to someoneShare on TumblrShare on Google+

The press’s animosity towards religious belief is a fundamental tenet of the religious conservative movement. “We’ve seen what we feel is a clear rise in hostility [to religion] among our institutions — political institutions and media institutions,” Craig Parshall of the National Religious Broadcasters said last week in a classic statement of the conceit.

I am puzzled by this conceit, because I have yet to see a news story that subjects core religious belief or practice to anything remotely resembling skeptical questioning. Instead, the media treat every supernatural claim with kid gloves.

The following recent articles from the New York Times and Los Angeles Times on the Mexican cult of the Virgin of Guadalupe are typical. A caption to the Los Angeles Times photo montage reads: “A woman prays at Our Lady Queen of Angels Church in Los Angeles, where the faithful gathered to celebrate what Catholics believe was the Virgin [Mary’s] appearance to native Mexican St. Juan Diego in 1531.”

This caption is actually unusual in using the moderately distancing “what Catholics believe.” But would a story about a recent sighting of Abraham Lincoln at a Los Angeles K-Mart, say, leave the matter with a “what Lincoln fans believe was Lincoln’s appearance to party faithful?” Unlikely. The allegation of Lincoln’s presence would be balanced at the very least by something along the lines of: “There has been little independent verification of this claim, however.”

Now, it is the case that the liberal media are contemptuous of the social stances currently atop the Religious Right’s political docket—opposition to abortion, gay marriage, and stem cell research. But those positions are not inherently religious. There are secular grounds for opposing gay marriage or abortion. Only by making those issues synonymous with religion itself can the claim be sustained that the media is hostile to religion. The Religious Right often seems to make just such a totalizing claim for itself; to my surprise, much of the media and political establishments let it get away with this strategy. They refer to the Religious Right as “values voters,” as if the Religious Right are the only people who possess values and as if abortion and gay marriage are the only salient values.

To be sure, the press also opposes prayer in schools by wide margins. But school prayer is a case of religion making a claim for dominance in the public sphere; one can oppose school prayer on constitutional grounds without casting the slightest doubt on the existence of a benign, listening Deity or on the myriad religious practices which supposedly get the attention of that Diety. On those matters, the press remains assiduously silent. Perhaps such silence is perfectly proper. But it is anything but disrespectful.

No tags

38 comments

  • Paul · December 22, 2008 at 5:59 pm

    I agree. Great post. But I think the term “values voters” does not necessarily signify approval of the values. It is just shorthand for describing a sort of voter that is not likely to vote based on the events of the day, but instead for a set of core principles–economy be damned.

  • Polichinello · December 22, 2008 at 6:56 pm

    Ms. MacDonald,

    The NYT and the LAT wouldn’t dare look askance at La Morenita for reasons beyond respect for faith. If they actually questioned the cult of the Virgen, they’d be in for walloping from the usual Hispanic grievance groups. The Virgin of Guadalupe is as much a nationalist symbol for Mexicans as she is a religious icon. The NYT article kind of alludes to that with Octavio Paz’s quip.

  • Ploni Almoni · December 22, 2008 at 11:22 pm

    HMC writes: “The following recent articles from the New York Times and Los Angeles Times on the Mexican cult of the Virgin of Guadalupe are typical.” (emphasis added)

    This is an example of the media treating religion with “kid gloves.” Here are a couple more “typical” examples. African-American churches and churchgoers are inevitably treated with respect. The media are also very supportive of churches that condone homosexuality and perform homosexual marriages.

    I could give more examples but these should suffice. From the examples of a Mexican cult of the Virgin, African-American churches, and gay-friendly churches we may conclude: the media treat religion and the religious in general with kid gloves.

  • Pinning the MSM as antireligious « Tangents and Digressions · December 23, 2008 at 2:17 am

    […] Pinning the MSM as antireligious Filed under: Culture, Politics, Religion — lukemarshall @ 4:17 am …can only be done by claiming conservative issues that aren’t inherently religious, according to Heather MacDonald. […]

  • jonolan · December 23, 2008 at 2:53 am

    The media attacks any group who allows their religious beliefs – except Muslims – to influence their public behavior. As far as the MSM is concerned religion and the morality it teaches should remain silent and in the closet.

  • mikespeir · December 23, 2008 at 4:19 am

    If it’s not slanted my way, it’s slanted. That’s the thinking here. It’s not that the media bash religion, it’s that the media don’t wholeheartedly embrace it.

  • Grant Canyon · December 23, 2008 at 5:50 am

    “As far as the MSM is concerned religion and the morality it teaches should remain silent and in the closet.”

    Exactly right. Religion is like genitalia; do whatever you want with it in the privacy of your own home, but in public you really should keep it in your pants.

  • Xyz · December 23, 2008 at 6:33 am

    “Now, it is the case that the liberal media are contemptuous of the social stances currently atop the Religious Right’s political docket—opposition to abortion, gay marriage, and stem cell research. But those positions are not inherently religious. There are secular grounds…”

    What would those secular grounds be?

    @jonolan, Grant Canyon

    “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”
    — Matthew 6:5

  • Grant Canyon · December 23, 2008 at 6:47 am

    @Xyz

    “May the force be with you.”
    – Kenobi 3:16

  • A-Bax · December 23, 2008 at 8:47 am

    Xyz :

    Xyz
    “Now, it is the case that the liberal media are contemptuous of the social stances currently atop the Religious Right’s political docket—opposition to abortion, gay marriage, and stem cell research. But those positions are not inherently religious. There are secular grounds…”
    What would those secular grounds be?

    Suffice it to say supernatural commitments aren’t required to support the position that person-hood begins at conception, and that the primary function of marriage is to lay the groundwork for the flourishing of children.

    I’m not even saying that those are my positions, BTW. I’m just saying that those positions are defensible without invoking supernatural entities.

    If you suppose otherwise, you’re on the road to saying that the “secular right” is an oxymoron, which is clearly isn’t. (So, using Reduction reasoning….)

    Best,

  • Heather Mac Donald · December 23, 2008 at 9:05 am

    @Xyz: I know non-believers who are opposed to gay marriage because of a Burkean reluctance to introduce such a radical change in a millenia–long institution. Though heterosexuals have inflicted all of the damage on marriage to date with high levels of divorce and rising rates of illegitimacy (rising to cataclysmic levels among blacks and Hispanics), secular opposition to gay marriage could also rest on a fear that it would become even harder to argue that men are obligated to support their children as husbands and fathers within marriage if marriage is extended to same-sex couples. You may not find these arguments persuasive, and I am not here claiming that they are, but they are out there.
    I know atheists who oppose abortion on the ground that life begins at conception. And slippery slope arguments can be used against stem cell research.
    But again, let me stress that I am not interested in debating the merits of such arguments here.

  • Ivan Karamazov · December 23, 2008 at 9:48 am

    Heather Mac Donald :

    Heather Mac Donald

    But again, let me stress that I am not interested in debating the merits of such arguments here.

    Yes. The issue is not “merits”, but “method”.

    Seems to me we can choose to support our views using one of two foundational methods: religious revelation, or secular reasoning.

    The obvious problem with religious revelation is, “who’s revelation”? Abraham’s? Mohammad’s? Joseph Smith’s? Different religions make contradictory claims, so all can’t be true – though all can be false.

    At least with secular reasoning, science, the scientific method, we have hope of getting wide-spread consensus. And if our current position be undermined, it is gladly so by better reasoning and better science, rather than by a competing revelation.

    Basing conservative positions on secular foundations seems so obviously the better course, that I truly don’t understand the counter argument, unless, as I’ve said before, it is due to fear of “losing points” for not sufficiently testifying in the public square.

  • thought · December 23, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    “The press’s animosity towards religious belief is a fundamental tenet of the religious conservative movement. “We’ve seen what we feel is a clear rise in hostility [to religion] among our institutions — political institutions and media institutions,” Craig Parshall of the National Religious Broadcasters said last week in a classic statement of the conceit.

    I am puzzled by this conceit…”

    The conceit does not really surprise me. If I understand your post correctly, you are puzzled by the fact that a spokesperson for radio preachers feels that they are under attack in political institutions and in the media. To me, this is a classic victim-rallying tactic. If the religious right can claim that they are under attack then they can sound a rallying cry for that followers can be come engaged with. It sounds to me that Mr. Parshall was providing a talking point for like-minded people to share in day to day conversation with other like-minded believers. This also makes sense to me in light of the recent election, wherein a ticket with an evangelical christian on it lost — providing fodder for those that believe that political institutions are attacking a particular strain of christianity.

    Last but not least, I see Mr. Parshall’s comment as part of the disintegration of the evangelic christian consortium (many different types of evangelical christians came together under a common banner when it seemed there was an opportunity to exert greater influence than in years past). If this movement is indeed splintering as many have noted, I believe we will here many more comments coming from the religious right regarding their status as defenders of their political faith.

  • matoko_chan · December 23, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    But those positions are not inherently religious. There are secular grounds…”

    Bulshytt.
    There are no secular grounds for belief in life-at-conception or antagonizism to SSM. If homosapiens sapiens requires brakes and stops in the social domain, homosapiens sapiens also requires governance in the fiscal domain. The “Secular Right” are simply a pack of whited sepulchres and hypocrites making weak apologia for the libertarian unholy alliance with pig-ignorant religious bigotry and superstition.

  • Susan · December 23, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    Having just seen a “news” story about a woman who claims to have seen an angel in the corridor of a North Carolina hospital, I wonder if a lot of these stories (the image of Christ appearing on a tortilla, the image of Mary appearing on an exterior wall of an office high-rise) aren’t printed just for their curio value.

  • A-Bax · December 23, 2008 at 3:14 pm

    @ matoko_chan:

    As Peggy Noonan wrote, anyone who ever bought a pack of condoms knows when life begins. (Also, the issue is “personhood”, Donny.)

    You might need to go back to Kossack HQ and reload your quiver.

  • vune · December 23, 2008 at 3:37 pm

    “There are secular grounds for opposing gay marriage or abortion.”

    I’d be curious to hear some.

  • matoko_chan · December 23, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    I’m not a Kossack– I’m a Paraiah.
    Quit the semantic quibble A-Bax. There are NO SECULAR GROUNDS FOR OPPOSING SSM OR ABORTION. That is one reason Colo 48 was such an epic fail.
    Only cretins and ‘tards(aka Christianists) believe in life personhood-at-conception.

  • matoko_chan · December 23, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    Be honest for once…..the “secular right” embraced the ooogedy-boogedies to win.
    Now you are stuck with them.
    Branded.
    For years the rightist intellgentsia and leadership have exploited class warfare, IQ-baiting and race-baiting to win.
    And all the apologia and facile rationalization in the world can’t resolve the basic schizophrenia of the right.

  • Daniel Dare · December 23, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    Susan,
    I wonder if a lot of these stories (the image of Christ appearing on a tortilla, the image of Mary appearing on an exterior wall of an office high-rise) aren’t printed just for their curio value.

    Hamlet: Do you see that cloud that’s almost in shape like a camel?
    Polonius: By the mass, and it’s like a camel, indeed.
    Hamlet: Methinks it is like a weasel.
    Polonius: It is back’d like a weasel.
    Hamlet: Or like a whale?
    Polonius: Very like a whale.

  • Daniel Dare · December 23, 2008 at 6:39 pm

    As the quote from Shakespeare’s Hamlet implies, it’s been thought for centuries that you can read pretty much, anything you like into random shapes.

    It’s something like what we know today as a Rorschach test.

  • Gotchaye · December 23, 2008 at 8:26 pm

    Matoko, speaking as someone who’s probably in basic agreement with you on most political issues, to have ‘secular ethics’ is not to be committed to any particular moral claims. Even to the extent that we grant that science provides objective knowledge about the world, it gives us only indirect guidance as to whether or not a fetus is a person or whether homosexuality is morally wrong. It’s true that the vast majority of people who identify as secular are following in a vaguely utilitarian tradition (especially insofar as they buy into Mill’s “live and let live” marketplace of actions), but nothing about utilitarianism makes it the only possible or reasonable way to determine policy (and it’s hardly obvious that “live and let live” is even long-term good for people), nor does anything compel us to place the kind of value on autonomy and self-actualization that most secularists do.

  • Kevembuangga · December 24, 2008 at 1:32 am

    Susan & Daniel Dare

    There should be no doubt that some have visions, the hard part is to convince them that it is just that: visions!

  • Kevembuangga · December 24, 2008 at 1:39 am

    matoko_chan
    Only cretins and ‘tards(aka Christianists) believe in life personhood-at-conception.

    Certainly the just fecundated ovula isn’t a person but personhood doesn’t likely come to existence upon emergence from the vulva.
    So when does it begins?

  • Daniel Dare · December 24, 2008 at 2:02 am

    “the hard part is to convince them that it is just that: visions!”

    Kevembuangga, I have no wish to proselyte. I have always seen my rationality as being part of my natural advantage.

  • Kevembuangga · December 24, 2008 at 2:31 am

    I have no wish to proselyte.

    Unfortunately it isn’t a matter proselytizing or wishing, it is matter of self-defence, your “natural advantage” (as well as mine) doesn’t stand up to the crowds of delusional monkeys.
    If we loose the upper hand on rationality what remains?

  • Daniel Dare · December 24, 2008 at 3:00 am

    Kevembuangga, perhaps I don’t feel the situation is so threatening. In part because live in a part of the world that has been steadily secularising for half a century.

    I mean, I can still remember when shops used to close on Sundays. LOL.

  • matoko_chan · December 24, 2008 at 8:43 am

    Does personhood matter? The citizen rights of a fetus begin at birth.
    Until then, the citizen rights of the host/mother trump any fetus rights.

  • Gotchaye · December 24, 2008 at 10:19 am

    What establishes that the citizen rights of a fetus begin at birth, though? If you’re making a legal (and not a moral) claim, then you’re fetishizing human law. Presumably you’d be in favor of locking up all the ‘abortionists’ if Congress passed a bill granting citizenship to all fetuses within the borders of the US at 3 days after conception while stripping pregnant women of their citizenship for the duration of their pregnancy.

    If you’re making a moral claim after all, then there are two things you need to explain. First, why should citizen rights only begin at birth? Second, why do we only care about citizen rights, as opposed to some other kind of rights? Foreign nationals have no citizen rights, but they still have court-enforceable rights under our system, and we hardly think that any action taken with respect to non-citizens is morally neutral by definition. If a fetus is a person but not a citizen, killing one is still prima facie murder, because our right to not be killed is not tied to our citizenship.

  • Mr. F. Le Mur · December 24, 2008 at 11:56 am

    The following recent articles from the New York Times and Los Angeles Times on the Mexican cult of the Virgin of Guadalupe are typical.
    The MSM prioritizes – not offending minorities has priority over knocking religion or ideas association with religion (e.g. opposition to abortion, gay marriage, and stem cell research.).

    So when does it begin[s]?
    A new human life begins when you get a new set of human DNA – at conception, or thereabouts.

    First, why should citizen rights only begin at birth?
    Because then people can see its face – it’s mostly psychological, and secondly political. So-called ‘Partial birth’ abortion is a classic example of “no visible face = not a human.”

    If a fetus is a person but not a citizen, killing one is still prima facie murder, because our right to not be killed is not tied to our citizenship.
    People, citizens or not, give up their right to life in a number of circumstances where killing is not considered murder: legal executions, war, self-defense.

  • Gotchaye · December 24, 2008 at 12:17 pm

    Sure, there are killings of persons that aren’t murders – hence the qualifier ‘prima facie’. In any instance of a killing, we require an explanation in order to conclude that no wrong was done. Knowing only that Bobby killed Susie, we presume that Bobby was in the wrong. The killer can justify himself by appealing to the various causes you list, but, if he doesn’t provide such an excuse, most would have no problem calling him a murderer. Basically, given that someone is a killer, the burden is on them to demonstrate that the killing was justified (as a matter of moral judgment – not necessarily as a matter of criminal law).

  • Gotchaye · December 24, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    The point being: no one thinks that the fact that the killed was not a citizen gets the killer off the hook by itself. The usual pro-choice argument (which I agree with) is that the killed is not a person, which is a different matter. But that’s not what matoko was saying.

  • A-Bax · December 24, 2008 at 12:47 pm

    Thank you Gotchaye….I’d begun to lose patience with our self-described *pariah” with the oddball handle.

    Mr. Chan: Typing in all-caps does not make your claim stronger, it only makes you seem like a blowhard who SHOUTS ALOT. Also, you seem to think the notion of secular-right is oxymoronic. If you’re only here to berate us with that assertion, you’re wasting your time.

    Open your narrow eyes, or keep the noise down, Donny.

  • matoko_chan · December 27, 2008 at 7:15 am

    LOL
    I see clear. There is no secular right.
    The secular right is a bunch of stealth philospher-kings that want to lead the oogedy-boodegies “for their own good”. Even the low information IQ base contingentent gets that– that is why Palin. She really is in their tribe, the tribe of middle IQ religious “believers”. But no true rep of the “people” is actually fit to lead.
    Thus the epic fail of Bush.
    He simply wasn’t bright enough.

    Bradlaugh and Hume and McDonald secretly despise the people they claim to represent.

    And chan is the japanese honorific for young lady. Its use is supposed to remind me of my manners.

  • A-Bax · December 27, 2008 at 9:18 am

    matoko_chan :

    matoko_chan
    LOLI see clear. There is no secular right

    Ms. Chan: so do you consider us fundies or lefties? Just curious.

    And chan is the japanese honorific for young lady. Its use is supposed to remind me of my manners.

    Hmmmm….maybe double-up on the “chan” business then? It seems like bad manners to me to tell your hosts, the secular right, that there is no such thing as the secular right.

  • matoko_chan · December 27, 2008 at 9:49 am

    You are neither fundies or lefties, you are stealthy philosopher-kings.
    You know the socons are not intellectually fit to lead, but admitting it will lose their votes.
    It is not a culture war, or a class war, or a political war.
    It is an IQ war.
    Either one is bright enough to use logic and reason instead of superstion and tribal anachronisms, or one isn’t.
    It is the bellcurve all the way down.

  • Daniel Dare · December 27, 2008 at 10:12 am

    Thus the epic fail of Bush.
    He simply wasn’t bright enough
    .

    OMG if you think Bush was bad, wait till you see what happens under Obama. He’s planning an even larger “stimulus package”.

    Matoko, I’m currently reading this book. 😉

  • Kevembuangga · December 27, 2008 at 11:15 am

    It is an IQ war.
    Either one is bright enough to use logic and reason instead of superstion and tribal anachronisms, or one isn’t.

    IQ do seem some guarantee against superstition and tribal anachronisms but is no guarantee against delusional leftism, paradoxically up to the point of denying IQ. 🙂

    If we agree that the “majority” (right and left) is subject superstition and tribal anachronisms, not fit to lead and not even fit to choose who should lead, what is your point?

<<

>>

Theme Design by devolux.nh2.me