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CNN Promotes Religious Worldview; Tornado Survivor Says No Thank You

With Spearfish electing a Christian fundamentalist mayor, with Rapid City and Meade County insisting on unconstitutional public prayers on the taxpayers' dime, and with Rapid City school superintendent threatening to take Rev. Hickey up on his invitation to teach Bible classes in public schools, I gotta thank the Higgs boson that I still have the liberal media to fight for us secular humanists—

What's that, Wolf?

Speaking live to a survivor of the deadly tornado in Moore, Okla., [CNN anchor Wolf] Blitzer declared the woman “blessed,” her husband “blessed,” and her son “blessed.” He then asked, “You’ve gotta thank the Lord, right? Do you thank the Lord for that split-second decision?”

Oh no.

But as she held her 18-month-old son, Rebecca Vitsmun politely replied, “I’m actually an atheist.” A flummoxed Blitzer quickly lobbed back, “You are. All right. But you made the right call,” and Vitsmun graciously offered him a lifeline. “We are here,” she said, “and I don’t blame anyone for thanking the Lord.” Nicely done, Rebecca Vitsmun [Mary Elizabeth Williams, "Tornado survivor to Wolf Blitzer: Sorry, I’m an atheist. I don’t have to thank the Lord,", 2013.05.22].

Oh yes!

I just got invited to join a Facebook group of atheists, agnostics, and other freethinkers. (It's a closed, secret group, so we can hide from the FSB our plot to break Pussy Riot out of Putin's gulag and bring them here for a concert at Our Lady of Perpetual Help.) I worry about hanging without atheists, since I know they can be a cranky lot. But it's nice to hear a fellow non-believer, standing amidst the horrific wreckage of her community, able to keep her calm in the face of the thoughtless prejudice of a newsman and a nation. The lucky Ms. Vitsmun is a model of how to politely but firmly state our differences.


  1. Bree S. 2013.05.23

    "Thoughtless prejudice" is a little much, Cory. The word "prejudice" may be accurate by definition, but it has a negative connotation and would suggest to most people that he disliked her because she is an atheist. Considering the vast majority of people in this country believe in God, his incorrect assumption was understandable and hardly malicious.

  2. Owen Reitzel 2013.05.23

    would have been better if it had happened on Fox News

  3. Donald Pay 2013.05.23

    A lot of religiously oriented people say this stuff sort of like other people say "'S'up?" I don't think they mean anything bad by it. But you would wish someone in a responsible reporting position would just let the people give their own facts and opinions, rather than try to slant them. I find this kind of "reporting" thoughtless and self-centered. Trying to get someone to agree to your own belief system when they are going through a tragedy like this is not only bad reporting, but very anti-Christian.

  4. Rick 2013.05.23

    Blitzer's been slipping in the last year, which is evident from watching his show. He's awkward and doesn't seem to always track with what's going on when he's interviewing and talking on camera. My guess is he figured since he's in the company Okies, they're all a bunch of bible thumpin' fundamentalists. Perhaps it's time for retirement.

  5. Jessie 2013.05.23

    I like Wolf and I enjoy his work on CNN most of the time.

    But I agree with Cory that he showed "thoughtless prejudice" by assuming that his interviewee was of a particular faith or any faith at all. Thoughtless doesn't imply malicious intent, just thoughtlessness, acting without thinking.

    I'm pleased, however, that it provided such a "teachable moment" for CNN viewers.

  6. Owen Reitzel 2013.05.23

    "Cory, the lady did not condemn the journalist for his comments, but you do. Please remember is some countries, you could face death for your religious beliefs or lack thereof."

    But in this country Michael-at least not yet

  7. Owen Reitzel 2013.05.23

    "not" forgot to put in that word. sorry

  8. Douglas Wiken 2013.05.23

    Believers will have to decide if the Devil or their God is more powerful. They can blame the tornado on the Devil or God, but either is a problem for any kind of omnipotent, omnipresent deity and their sheep.

  9. Bree S. 2013.05.23

    I agree with Jesse that Wolf's actions were thoughtless. But I am a little uncomfortable with the use of the word "prejudice" because although it can mean simply an incorrect prejudgment, it is usually used to refer to the development of a negative opinion of someone else.

    I don't think that Cory's comments were overall condemning though. I have found him to be in general openminded regarding other peoples' religious beliefs.

  10. Bill Goehring 2013.05.23

    "I am a little uncomfortable with the use of the word "prejudice" because although it can mean simply an incorrect prejudgment, it is usually used to refer to the development of a negative opinion of someone else."

    Kind of like the way the word "atheist" is used to refer to a negative opinion of someone else, although it simply refers to a philosophical world-view?

  11. Bree S. 2013.05.23

    I don't really find the word "atheist" to be rude - it seems to have a neutral connotation to me.

  12. Douglas Wiken 2013.05.23

    Craig Ferguson show with an atheist last night was both interesting and amusing.

  13. John Hess 2013.05.23

    A note on the Bible classes: "Mitchell makes a point that it must be taught with an academic, not devotional, approach."

  14. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.05.23

    John, do you think those bible classes really will be taught academically? I fear the book will be referred to as 'divine', the 'word of god', 'historically accurate.' I don't forsee the bible called a historical/ancient artifact of the dominant American culture, written by a variety of authors, known and unknown, assembled at a meeting of leaders in Rome in the third century C.E., with parts used as sacred texts by the Jewish, Muslim, Morman, Coptic and Christian religions.

    I wonder if biblical controversies will be explained? Roman Catholic version v. Protestant v. Mormon; selective literalism with some parts ignored while others are heralded as benchmarks; bible used as a weapon for attacking others; hope brought to some via the gospels and other portions of the book; source of justification for life-giving actions, as well as horrible cruelty; and on and on and on.

    That would be a truly interesting and enlightening class. I would go. Anyone else?

    Thanks for the post Cory.

  15. DB 2013.05.23

    "Thoughtless assumption" may have been a better use of words. Prejudice does have a negative connotation to it. I'm not one for being PC, but if Cory's intentions were to show his opinion as being negative towards the reporter to ask such a question, then it efficiently described his opinion. Either way, neither party acted maliciously and both handled it very well. A lesson to all.

  16. John Hess 2013.05.23

    Deb, Everyone is so afraid the slippery slope. We've grown within a Christian context, so shouldn't we acknowledge it's importance? Something between education and belief isn't so shocking. Is it?

  17. Douglas Wiken 2013.05.24

    It isn't a slippery slope, it is a chasm of nonsense.

    I recently say a newspaper headline or column title something like "Thank God for Radar Storm Warning". Seemed a bit strange.

  18. Jessie 2013.05.24

    Darn right I'm afraid of that slippery slope. If we live "within a Christian context," there is no need to cite its importance. It is omnipresent and pervasive.
    "Something between education and belief" is unnacceptable to me if it violates separation of church and state. What I can't understand is why Christians rail against that concept when its primary purpose was to protect Christians from each other.

  19. Deb Geelsdottir 2013.05.25

    John and everyone, I found a blog written by a teacher in MN who teaches World Religions at Red Wing public school. He has done so for about 20 years. Take a look:

  20. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.05.25

    Deb, I get the impression from just the first couple posts on that blog that that teacher does religion right in the classroom. I wonder: would Christian parents in any South Dakota school district put up with a curriculum that included Bill Maher's Religulous and critical discussion of the Lilith story and Buddhism?

  21. Lee 2013.05.25

    The course is an elective, not a required subject. Those who are interested in carrying on an informed discussion about religion and its impact on the cultures of the world can take the class. I myself prefer to live in an America where citizens are educated to think critically about world philosophies and religions, and how they played an important role in the history of our country and the world. The TV in your living room or the Internet is much more of a threat to students than a teacher teaching a class on world religions. If we don't offer such classes just because someone might say something we don't agree with or someone might give his or her personal opinion, we should eliminate all human teachers from classrooms teaching any subject, because they give out their opinions on a daily basis about all kinds of things. Give our kids tools to understand the world and then, together with the formation provided by their parents, they can make educated decisions for themselves. Check for yourself the number of references in American language and laws that originated from the Bible. Are we going to pretend that isn't so, or are we going to give students that knowledge so they can see how those cultural elements factored into what America is today? Our current president, when he was running for his second term, quoted the Bible saying, "They remind me, in the words of scripture, that ours is a 'future filled with hope.'" Do you know who said that in the Bible and why? Wouldn't it be good for students to be able to understand the President of the United States?

  22. Douglas Wiken 2013.05.25

    It would be better for Presidents and officials to avoid mixing religious myth with political reality and power.

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