Monday, November 23, 2009

Misrepresented in the Media

I was home sick today watching Law & Order: Criminal Intent, and they had an episode featuring an evangelical and an atheist on a tour debating the existence of god...the atheist was most certainly supposed to be Dawkins, and the evangelical was Ted Haggard, complete with the meth and gay sex. The evangelical's wife was murdered and (spoiler) it was the atheist who did it.

I've been watching Law & Order for a long time and I'm fully aware of their centrist themes...they strike a nice balance between liberal and conservative characters. Their episodes featuring religious undertones are normally really well done, if not with a little too much sensitivity heaped onto "believers", but this episode was highly disappointing. They gave into the tired, cliché tactic of making the atheist a nasty, hateful person who did nothing the entire episode but talk about how stupid Christians are. After the wife had been killed he was so upset that he went outside to smoke instead of trying to comfort her husband. Classy. I was hoping against hope he wasn't the killer because they were trying way, way too hard to make him completely unlikeable. The male prostitute was a more cuddly character.

This has been the status quo for a while. Now more than ever, though, people are focusing on atheism as a "threat", and they are apt to think of atheists in this way, as unfeeling asswipes who would rather spew vitrol about Christians than feel any kind of compassion for another human being...sure, this isn't always off the mark, but we here at Freethought would like to counter that claim!

If you're an atheist don't let this trash be a mirror image of how you act from day to day (the being an ass, not the murdering people...I'm just going to assume the second one goes without saying ;P). It's far too easy for both sides to point fingers and build up stereotypes, its what our species is good at...we create mental models to explain how our reality works, and only more experiences and careful reflection can keep these highly generalised mental models from taking over how we conciously treat people and regard them. Don't be that stereotype some people seem to believe we are.

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