CNN’s ‘Atheists: Inside the World of Non-Believers’

Last night, I watched “Atheists: Inside the World of Non-Believers” on CNN. Reporter Kyra Phillips mostly focused on the “atheist” label as an identity and a social factor in families and small towns.

Her report primarily told the stories of four atheists:

1. A Georgia college student who left the faith of his conservative, Bible-believing family to become a leader of student atheists on his campus;

2. a former Pentecostal preacher in Louisiana who now leads Sunday-morning, church-style gatherings for atheists;

3. a man currently in Christian ministry who has lost his faith (he was interviewed with his face hidden and his voice disguised for fear of distressing the congregation that currently depends upon him);

4. and the somewhat militant founder of American Atheists and Atheist TV.

With the emphasis on the social aspects on the “atheist” identity, the program did not directly address arguments for and against the existence of God.

Phillips gave a considerable portion of the program to the college student’s parents, who expressed their heartbreak over their son’s unbelief and their conviction that he is hell-bound. The tension within the family was apparent especially in the interview with the parents, and it was somewhat apparent in the interviews and on-campus filming of the son. At the same time, the son appeared to have warm, supportive relationships with the other members in his atheist group.

The ex-Pentecostal preacher, the one who now leads a church-like atheist community, appeared genuinely upbeat and kind. He seemed at ease with himself and others around him.

I’ve been wondering what else constitutes evidence for a religious, or non-religious, perspective.

The arguments for a particular way of living aren’t the same as the actual living of that life, no more than (as William Barrett once noted) a menu is a substitute for a meal.

You can memorize a menu and still starve. You can also spend so much time admiring the menu, you forget to eat.

We could allow that there’s a difference between the descriptions on the menu, and the actual experience of the meal.

We could also say that some people eat while looking at the menu, convincing themselves that what they’re eating is the same as what appears on the menu, when actually they’re eating an inferior meal.

Last night’s program didn’t show me much menu, but it showed me some people enjoying a particular kind of meal. They didn’t appear to be starving.

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