Wednesday, May 26, 2010

S.E. Cupp and the Case for Pseudo-Atheists

S.E. Cupp, self-proclaimed atheist and author of Losing Our Religion: The Liberal Media's Attack on Christianity, recently made an appearance on the May 14 Bill Maher show (which I thoughtfully DVR’d while away) and tried to make a case the big bad "libruls" in the media (like Rachel Maddow) are picking on the poor widdo religious. Maher essentially ripped her specious arguments to shreds and then some – but to gauge the woman’s reactions you’d never know she was remotely aware of being jackhammered by one of the best dialecticians around.

Her arguments, if one can call them that, were essentially supercilious and baseless. Using Maddow as an example of the “Liberal Media” is as benighted as Bernie Goldberg (former CBS reporter) and his earlier tracts-books lambasting the liberal media empire. One can at least sympathize with Bernie as it got him new gigs on FAUX News (especially on Bill O’Reilly’s nightly circus) and his CBS scene was played out – reduced to a few on the spot reports on 48 hours, but nothing major. Who wouldn’t want to confabulate a new shtick?

In fact, there is no such entity as THE “liberal media’. What one has are rather pockets or small voices crying in the near universal conservative Neanderthal desert, and trying to get heard. Maddow, who maybe garners about 900,000 viewers on a given night over MSNBC, is certainly not some unilateral representative voice (though she is one of the few intelligent and insightful ones). Her numbers also pale beside those of Bill O’Reilly who regularly gets three to four times more viewers, albeit maybe a correction can be made because Maddow’s viewers at least possess IQs in the triple digits.

Cupp’s reference to the Newsweek editor was also ripped by Maher, and rightly so. As Maher clearly showed using a pre-prepared montage image of assorted Newsweek and TIME covers – those Mc Magazines cover a religious issue on the average of once a month with cover image to match. Yet Cupp in her delusional state, attributes one or two pieces that seek to question certain aspects of Christianity as “attacks” by a monolithic liberal media system.

On concluding watching the segment and after Bill read out several examples from Cupp’s book, one is led to inquire exactly what kind of atheist she is. In fact, not so new. I have met her type before when I used to belong to the Mensa Ath-SIG. They fashionably invoke the name atheist, but haven’t a clue what it means to be one. They have no remote understanding that, despite numerous atheist differences – including on the political spectrum- there are certain principles held in common by all.

To fix ideas here, The Atheist Advocate was a special publication of the Mensa Special Interest Group, A-SIG, from about 1993 until it became defunct in 1995. Often chucked with incisive arguments, it ultimately met its demise with the SIG sometime in late August, 1995, after much internecine squabbling. Many of the issues, and arguments – I admit- were initiated by me, since I brought up the dichotomy of “real” atheists as opposed to pretender or poseur atheists. In the context of those Mensa debates, Cupp would be seen as a poseur atheist.

Cupp benefits even more than those poseur Mensan atheists, because by adopting a banner-affiliation she doesn’t really seriously embrace, she can easily enter the mainstream media world (which is to say the NEO-LIBERAL Media, governed by corporations and false balance, “objectivity”) and get appearances, gigs, and attention that no REAL atheist can. She can perform this trick by appearing to them as an innocuous atheist, prepared to sell her convictions down the stream, if she even had any to begin with. Just doing a simple Google search brings up numerous Cupp appearances on diverse networks and shows where her misperceptions are heard far more voluminously (and regularly) than Richard Dawkins, for example. In other words, by being a poseur atheist she gains acceptance and attention the rest of us must fight for, literally – say just to get a radio talk show gig (as I did while promoting my first book back in 2001).

Of course, it also helps that she looks like a hottie and this easiness on the eyes makes the media outlets more sympathetic to her – unlike how they grudgingly and only occasionally accepted Madalyn Murray-O’Hair or Jon Murray.

Back to atheist principles. Exactly what comprises these? I reproduce here a short list from my Atheist Advocate article (Issue 13, October, 1994, p. 4):

1) The absolute separation of Church and State- no compromises! (Including accepting no vouchers for public school kids to attend parochial schools)

2) A weltanschauung (world view) based on materialism/naturalism: e.g. evolution is the governing basis for natural development, and all explanations that can be made are natural in origin – using natural objects of inquiry (electromagnetic waves, atoms, genes, quarks etc. This also includes rejecting of all claims made without evidentiary support.

3) An Ethics or morality predicated on independence from supernatural agents, see e.g. Kai Neilsson’s: Ethics Without God for how a religious-free ethics can be forged.

4) The treatment of all “sacred texts” (e.g. bibles or other) as essentially corrupted, and thus fables or based on hearsay and fables with no import whatever for the modern, intelligent human living in the world of the 21st century.

Of course, we can agree that most people dislike being held to principles because wishy-washiness, and fuzziness is more appealing and less subject to contention and conflict. Being pinned down means also having the courage to OWN what you accept and what you don’t, as well as consistently defending your positions- and in my experience few people wish to do so. But that is exactly why wishy-washy labels were invented, like: agnostic theist, agnostic atheist, or freethinker, or Eupraxopher or HUMANIST.

My point is that Ms. Cupp has numerous other labels to choose from which evince her religious acceptance more aptly. She doesn’t have to invoke “atheist”. The term should therefore only be used by those prepared to stand behind and defend the aforementioned principles, as opposed to adopting it and then “squeegee-ing” out the core atheism to gain audiences one otherwise wouldn’t have. In other words, either accept the term atheist and the opprobrium that comes with it, or use a different term. Don’t attempt to become an impossible entity like a “Christian Atheist” or a Lion-Unicorn to exploit advantages you wouldn’t be offered otherwise.

This is a lesson Ms. Cupp has yet to apply – but hey – she’s getting books published without having to go the self-publishing route or via small, independent press (American Atheist Press) so why change when she’s on a roll? Simon and Schuster would offer me (a REAL atheist) a book opportunity probably the same day the Sun inflates to Red Giant stage and envelops the Earth. Meanwhile, for Ms. Cupp, their "review" gushes: "She’s an atheist. A non-believer. Which makes her the perfect impartial reporter from the trenches of a culture war dividing America and eroding the Judeo-Christian values on which this country was founded"
Again, note the highlighted words: what the corporo-press-media empire has wet dreams over: "the perfect impartial reporter". They don't want to hear about REAL Atheism because real atheism is based on real principles not faux or expendable ones adopted for the convenience of being published by the mainstream vanilla book publishing clique.
We hope Ms. Cupp enjoys her run as an "atheist crossing the cultural war divide" - never mind it's phony as a $3 bill.

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