CBC News discusses atheism, badly as usual

by | September 29, 2014

Whenever CBC tackles atheism on its news network, they bungle it hideously. Several times they’ve had panels discussing atheism without a single atheist present, and no one speaking for an atheist position – you can imagine how they’ve turned out.

Well on The National on Sunday night, Wendy Mesley – a serial offender when it comes to being boneheaded about secular and atheist issues – hosted a panel that was supposed to be discussing The Sunday Assembly (aka the “atheist church”) and, shock of shocks, there was actually an atheist present. But before you start getting your hopes up that someone at the CBC has actually decided to give atheists a fair voice on the network, I have to point out that no one knew he was an atheist until midway through the discussion.

Oh well, even if they only put an atheist on air by accident, let’s see how the panel went. You can view it on the CBC website – the panel starts at 31:45.

Fair warning, it doesn’t get off to a good start; Mesley begins with a recorded segment where she says: “Scratch the secular surface even now, and there might be more god than you think.” (The evidence she presents for that is God in the National Anthem and the prayers that open Parliament. Because those things are secular, I guess?)

Nevertheless, if you have ten minutes to spare, I recommend giving it a watch. They don’t really stay on the topic of The Sunday Assembly for long, and actually drift over many topics over the course of the discussion. It can be a little infuriating at times, of course; you might want to brace yourself against banging your head against the wall every time National Post columnist Tasha Kheiriddin opens her mouth – pretty much every time she speaks she slams atheists for having no morals, even when it’s a complete non sequitur. Surprisingly, the least ignorant non-atheist on the panel was the Catholic representative, Oriana Bertucci. Over the course of the discussion they touch on topics as diverse as religious symbols in government and in schools, the Census question about religious affiliation, secularism and inclusiveness in the workplace, and the growth of atheism.

So if you can spare ten minutes, check it out, then let’s hear your thoughts in the comments section.

9 thoughts on “CBC News discusses atheism, badly as usual

  1. Joe

    Glad to see this sort of discussion, as strange as it was. The NP tends to be fairly atheist friendly so it’s weird to see such blatant ignorance coming from that quarter. As to the Catholics, the smart one’s know the writing is on the wall, the new pope is another good example of this. She pushed all the good PR buttons.

    Good to see an actual atheist there too. Good job.

    And thanks for the post, I rarely venture into CBC land.

  2. Sean McGuire

    I’ll have to re-watch, but I didn’t see it as being that bad. I think the worst part of it was the host who either didn’t seem to understand atheism and secularism or was being deliberately misleading.

    Things got a bit touchy when they went to the idea of religious freedom and secularism but the atheist in the panel did a really great job.

    On the whole, pretty good panel. All the guests seemed to more or less understand what the Sunday Assembly was about — probably more so than the host.

  3. Tim Underwood

    That’s what it’s all about to the Catholic diplomats.
    This has worked for them since the 80’s. It even sounds rational.
    For instance there are three or four, of the ten commandments, that are universally valued. It’s the five or six religious commandments that free thinkers don’t value so much.
    Christians of, all types, value pretending to know things that they don’t know. Free thinkers; not so much.
    Free thinkers usually value all the humanist, ethical concepts that the Catholic Church espouses, but not the nonsense.

  4. Corwin

    I give Kheiriddin a lot of credit for saying that science and the intellectual tradition of the Enlightenment have undermined the credibility of religion when it comes to “explaining the world”. Whatever else might be going on, it’s clear that religion is weakening in well-educated countries such as Canada partly because increasing numbers of people just don’t buy its implausible explanations any more. If this trend continues, as I hope and expect it will, most of the controversial issues the panel discussed will naturally lose their sting. For instance, we’ll either take the word “God” out of our anthem or keep it around as a bit of cultural furniture that hardly anyone takes seriously, and it won’t be a big deal either way.

    1. Joe

      Then you would be completely wrong.

      That link isn’t even an NP article, it’s a reprint from the Telegraph. It would be like saying because I sometimes link to christian stuff, I must be one.

      It’s even relevant to Canada, since the FAC did a Canadian version of the UK atheist bus campaign. See the leading picture on the telegraph story.

      The facts are, that the NP, even before the canadian atheist bus campaign of 2010 which got lots of national press, was covering our movement when pretty much no other media were.

      From way back in 2007, when CFI was bootstrapping in Toronto:

      No, the NP is not an atheist paper, so if you want someone blowing sunshine up your ass, you won’t be happy with them, but they have given us coverage on important issues.

      And they have done so, without the sops to spiritualism that the left leaning media (cbc,torstar) seems to require, or even the moralizing of most other rightwingers(Sunmedia).

      So this panel was unusual in that regard.

      1. Indi Post author

        There are 4 links in my comment. Not 1. And they were just the first 4 that popped up.

        I don’t need “sunshine blown up my ass” to say that a paper isn’t hostile to atheism, but i’m amazed you can sit there with a straight face and defend a paper that opts to republish a story with a title like “Atheists keep proving they have become the most irritating people on Earth” just because they didn’t happen to be the ones who originated it. Replace “atheists” in that title with any number of minority groups, and i promise you the NP would not DARE republish it… yet it’s okay to dump on atheists. No, sorry, that’s not good enough to warrant the label “atheist friendly” from me. “Atheist friendly” should mean more than the occasional neutral story surrounded by hostile editorializing.

        1. Joe

          Google: national post atheist

          First four.



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