"NPR Evening Newscast Promotes Atheists With Message of Holiday Intolerance," a Commentary by Tim Graham

December 19, 2006

Author: Tim Graham

Source: Newsbusters


As the religious holidays commence, people who preach tolerance worry that religious (or non-religious) minorities are left out. As Christmas approached and Hanukkah began on Friday night, National Public Radio’s "All Things Considered" devoted a story to atheists, but not just any story. It was a story about atheists who feel that ridicule and intolerance of religion is just what this country needs. The message was simple: atheists look forward to when "religious tolerance is no longer tolerated."

Co-anchor Robert Siegel began: "Atheism has never gained much of a foothold in the United States. Barely one percent of Americans describe themselves as atheists. Now, a small group on nonbelievers has a new approach to getting their message out, challenging the faithful with a fiery rhetorical blend of reason and ridicule, especially ridicule..."

"New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has written that this Charge of the Atheist Brigade is intolerant and mean toward conservative Christians. Brooke Gladstone, host of NPR's On the Media, reports on the new atheist offensive."

Gladstone’s report sympathetically argued that atheists are misrepresented in the media. She dug up quotes of CBS’s Bob Schieffer and Katie Couric, and even NPR’s own John Burnett saying versions of the claim there are "no atheists in foxholes." After the president of American Atheists, Ellen Johnson, complained that it’s just not true, NPR’s Burnett apologized. "I thought it was a good line for the tape...and I didn’t realize it was so offensive to atheists, and I learned that in spades after the story came out. They spammed me for weeks with e-mail saying we’re outraged. So now I know...I will think twice about using the phrase again."