Mainstream Silence

by | October 16, 2019

By James Haught

James Haught is editor of West Virginia’s largest newspaper, The Charleston Gazette, and a senior editor of Free Inquiry. He is 87-years-old and would like to help secular causes more. This series is a way of giving back, as he opens in No Qualms (Ed., published on 2018, July 18, i.e., when he was 86), “I’m quite aware that my turn is approaching. The realization hovers in my mind like a frequent companion. My first wife died ten years ago. Dozens, hundreds, of my longtime friends and colleagues likewise came to the end of their journeys. They number so many that I keep a “Gone” list in my computer to help me remember them all. Before long, it will be my turn to join the list.”

[Ed., Thank you, Jim, truly.]

The modern freethought movement is gigantic. Thousands of skeptic organizations, magazines, websites, books, online blogs, student secular chapters, videos, podcasts and other voices spread the message that supernatural religion is absurd – that gods, devils, heavens, hells, miracles, prophecies, divine visitations and other church dogmas aren’t real. In other words, it’s a bunch of lies.

But America has a strange contradiction: Mainstream magazines, newspapers, television shows, radio programs and other general media rarely allow a direct challenge to supernatural faith. They cover demographic trends such as the decline of churchgoing, and sometimes they report about atheist groups, but usually they won’t publish frontal assaults saying religion is false.

I think it’s because they’re mostly for-profit commercial businesses dependent on advertising and/or subscribers. They have multitudes of Catholic and Protestant customers who would stop paying or listening if insulted, causing severe audience and ad revenue loss.

As a longtime newspaper editor in Appalachia’s Bible Belt, I know the dilemma first-hand. Years ago, a syndicate agent visited our newsroom. I told him I’d like to write a national atheist column. He choked on his coffee. I knew my proposal was impossible. No newspaper would print such a column. We couldn’t even print it in my own paper. We would lose thousands of subscribers, maybe sink into bankruptcy.

(Print media especially is an endangered species these days, barely clinging to life. Hazards must be avoided like the plague.)Since for-profit mainstream outlets are forced into silence, our nonprofit freethought movement lives mostly within its own realm, greatly aided by the wide-open Internet. We have freedom to speak in our own domain, but aren’t fully welcome in The New YorkerThe New York TimesHarper’s, etc.

However, religion is dying in the United States, in the same manner that a secular tsunami swept Europe, Canada, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, and elsewhere. American churches have lost 20 percent of their members in the past two decades. About one-fourth of adults now say their religion is “none” – and for young adults, it’s one-third. Eventually (I hope) “nones” may become the largest category.

In other words, we skeptics are winning the cultural struggle. Scientific-minded honesty is prevailing. Maybe this snowballing trend eventually will force mainstream media to open its doors.

As for now, commercial media doesn’t dare assert that religion is hokum. But our freethought community can. We don’t depend on religious subscribers or goods-selling advertisers. We can proceed full steam ahead to proclaim rational truths, without risking losses. We are free to act – driven by convictions, not by the profit motive – thus the “free” in freethought has multiple meanings.

A great social transformation is occurring in America. Supernaturalism is withering away. The Secular Age is blossoming. And our freethought movement is delivering the message, while for-profit public media cannot.

Link here at Daylight Atheism.

Canadian Atheist Associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular AllianceCentre for Inquiry CanadaKelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.

Other National/Local Resources: Association humaniste du QuébecAtheist FreethinkersCentral Ontario Humanist AssociationComox Valley HumanistsGrey Bruce HumanistsHalton-Peel Humanist CommunityHamilton HumanistsHumanist Association of LondonHumanist Association of OttawaHumanist Association of TorontoHumanists, Atheists and Agnostics of ManitobaOntario Humanist SocietySecular Connextions SeculaireSecular Humanists in CalgarySociety of Free Thinkers (Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph)Thunder Bay HumanistsToronto OasisVictoria Secular Humanist Association.

Other International/Outside Canada Resources: Allianz vun Humanisten, Atheisten an AgnostikerAmerican Atheists,American Humanist AssociationAssociação Brasileira de Ateus e Agnósticos/Brazilian Association of Atheists and AgnosticsAtheist Alliance InternationalAtheist Alliance of AmericaAtheist CentreAtheist Foundation of AustraliaThe Brights MovementCenter for Inquiry (including Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science), Atheist IrelandCamp Quest, Inc.Council for Secular HumanismDe Vrije GedachteEuropean Humanist FederationFederation of Indian Rationalist AssociationsFoundation Beyond BeliefFreedom From Religion FoundationHumanist Association of IrelandHumanist InternationalHumanist Association of GermanyHumanist Association of IrelandHumanist Society of ScotlandHumanists UKHumanisterna/Humanists SwedenInternet InfidelsInternational League of Non-Religious and AtheistsJames Randi Educational FoundationLeague of Militant AtheistsMilitary Association of Atheists and FreethinkersNational Secular SocietyRationalist InternationalRecovering From ReligionReligion News ServiceSecular Coalition for AmericaSecular Student AllianceThe Clergy ProjectThe Rational Response SquadThe Satanic TempleThe Sunday AssemblyUnited Coalition of ReasonUnion of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.

Photo by Kristina Flour on Unsplash

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