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Tuesday, May 01, 2007                                                                                       View Comments

Christians criticize PBS

Conservative Christians are criticizing a plan by Public Broadcasting Service stations to begin showing later this week a three-part television documentary series on atheism, calling it "demagogic and propagandistic."

"This series is about the disappearance of something: religious faith," British producer and narrator Jonathan Miller says at the start of "A Brief History of Disbelief," which was originally shown by the BBC in 2005. "It's the story of what is often referred to as atheism, the history of the growing conviction that God doesn't exist."

During the first hour-long episode, Miller visits the site in New York City where the Twin Towers stood before terrorists destroyed them on 9/11.

"The spectacle of September 11 is a forceful reminder of the potentially destructive power of the three great monotheistic religions [Christianity, Judaism and Islam] that have dominated the world one way or another for nearly 2,000 years," the author asserts.

"You only have to travel a few miles from New York City to find yourself in the middle of a country which is - far from being the secular world which was deplored and attacked by the Islamic fundamentalists - is in fact intensely Christian and therefore in its own way, of course, is just as religious as the Muslim world that attacked it," he adds.

Miller interviews several leading atheists and examines "theories regarding the psychology of religious belief," according to a description of the episode provided by the American Humanist Association (AHA).

In the second episode, Miller discusses the "re-emergence of disbelief in the 15th and 16th centuries and the perils of challenging religious faith."

The third segment, according to the AHA, "illuminates the theories and philosophies of influential thinkers like Thomas Paine, Charles Darwin and Sigmund Freud, as well as their impact on the way we see religion today."

Along with a brief promotional video on the YouTube website, the documentary's U.S. debut will be marked by an appearance by Miller on "Bill Moyers' Journal" at 9 p.m. Eastern Time on May 4.

The documentary will premier on public TV stations in some markets that day and in others over the following weeks.

"This compelling documentary series fills an important void in the public's understanding of the long and complex history of nontheism," Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the AHA, said in a news release.

The documentary reflects "an important change in attitude about nontheism," said Fred Edwords, AHA director of communications. "People are starting to realize that lack of a god belief does not mean the lack of morality. As a result of this, nontheism is beginning to gain acceptance in the public square.

"One needs only look at the warm reception of Rep. Pete Stark's announcement that he is a nontheist" or the fact that recent books on atheism "have made it to best-seller status," Edwords added.

'An evangelistic piece for atheism'

Janice Crouse, director of the Beverly LaHaye Institute for the conservative group Concerned Women for America, told Cybercast News Service that "airing the program gives credibility and cohesiveness to individuals who seek to undermine the beliefs and values on which democracy and the American dream are founded."

"One has to wonder why it is so important to them for everyone to understand their 'disbelief,'" she said. "The program is not a dispassionate, positive voice - as they claim. Instead, it is clearly demagogic and propagandistic."

Peter Sprigg, vice president for policy at the conservative Family Research Council, said that blaming the horrors of 9/11 on "faith in God in general is absurd. They have to be attributed to the particular ideology that drove the terrorists, which is a radical form of Islam."

Sprigg also found it "interesting" that Miller "implied Islam attacked and hates America for being too secular. Actually, I think they hate us for being too Christian."

After all, he pointed out, "they don't refer to us as 'secularists' but as 'crusaders.'"

"When people look at the role of religion in history, certainly they can find examples of atrocities that have been done in the name of religion, in the name of God and even in the name of Christianity," Sprigg conceded.

"But we have to remember that the two most horrific regimes of the 20th century, which probably killed more people than any other dictatorships in history, were the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, both atheistic regimes," he said.

By airing "Disbelief," Sprigg added, PBS is "revealing their bias against Christianity, against traditional faith."

"When I first read about this, I thought, 'Oh, they're attempting some sort of objective history of atheism. That might be interesting.' But when I actually watched it, I realized that it's really an evangelistic piece for atheism," he stated.

Noting that PBS recently refused to air a documentary on moderate Muslims under fire from radicals of their own faith, Sprigg said the public broadcaster "really seems to be taking sides these days - as long as it's opposed to Christianity and doesn't offend non-Christians."

"If they really want to be objective, they need to have a three-part series documenting the evidence in favor of Christianity," he added. "If they present propaganda for Islam, if they present propaganda for atheism, I think it's only fair they present propaganda for Christianity, too."


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