Two things caught my attention tonight:
First, a Guy in the Pew gives the rational Christian’s take on the War on Christmas. We on the non-believer side of things spend a lot of time bemoaning this phony, bullying crusade for its pandering politics, but Mr. Blanchard reminds believers that those trying to pass this off as a truly Christian cause have some real explaining to do. His argument is similar to what’s always struck me as bizarre about religious support for “In God We Trust” or “Under God. Why get so excited about pushing to get some watered down religious graffiti tagged onto the Pledge and pennies when you live in a country where you can pray all you want out loud and undiluted? Neither atheist nor believer alike should take it for granted.
Second, Hemant over at Friendly Atheist notes the explosion of online religious groups all calling for boycotts of The Golden Compass, a forthcoming film based on the work of outspoken atheist author Phillip Pullman. I’m with Hemant as to how overblown the controversy is. We have to hear over and over that atheists are so militant and uppity, and yet I don’t seem to recall atheists similarly on the warpath over Christian evangelist author C.S. Lewis’ Narnia films. Nor are atheists particularly worked up about the film (honestly, talking animals annoy the heck out of me and I have a hard time seeing myself rushing out to go see it). Again, compare our generally blasé attitude to the marketing mania over The Passion of the Christ, where the amount of grassroots organization and hysterical hype made it seem like the very fate of Christianity rested on its boxoffice returns.
The one thing I sort of sadly expect from Compass is that it will make a convenient target for cultural war spin. The film, which was reportedly plagued by production problems, may or may not be any good on its own rights, and with organized boycott campaigns and media talking heads railing against it, its chances of doing well at the theaters seem slim. That’s going to make it a tempting target for endless overwrought pieces about the film’s poor showing means the recent surge of publicly visible atheism is a fading fad. Conservative news filter Matt Drudge is notorious for juxtaposed stories, especially ones that try to make culture war points by comparing some films to others. I’ll be mighty surprised if he doesn’t start up a section linking every dehyping bit of fluff on the film he can find.
In any case: I’m hard at work composing both a sort of “guide for newbies and journalists” on Expelled, complete with some more information from the pro-science folks “featured” in the recent promotional clip (the ones supposedly threatening Ben Stein for “asking questions”). And as I promised after the recent rounds of back and forth with National Review bloggers over stem cells, I’m also working on a rather weighty piece taking on the common claims about their moral status and proposing a better way. Plus, hasn’t the aptly named alt-med woo-site NewsTarget published dozens and dozens more wacky articles since I last gave them some love?