Atheism and the media

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Richard Dawkins
The Elevatorgate scandal and Richard Dawkins' commentary about Muslims has generated bad press for Dawkins.

The Media Research Center released a study in 2008 reporting pro-atheism bias by major press outlets in the United States.[1] The study found that 80% of mainstream media coverage of atheism was positive and that 71% of Christian-themed stories had an atheist counterpoint or were written from an atheist perspective.[2] The study is not surprising given the liberal bias that commonly exists in the major media outlets.

In 2012, the Media Research Center reported:

Such hostility toward traditional faith is facilitated by a media that doesn’t understand people of faith, and is eager to use religious and cultural issues as a weapon against conservative policies and politicians while pays lip service to the religious claims of liberals.

The liberal media’s innate disdain for religion has never been more useful in achieving their political goals. As a result, 2012 is the year of the Crusade against Faith.[3]

Widespread growth of distrust of the media

The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, published in January this year, reveals a “crisis in trust” around the world in four key institutions – business, NGO’s, media and government – with media and government distrusted by more people than trusted (see: Lack of trust in media: 'magazine media could offer a blue print out' ).

Distrust of the media is at all time high, but the media still does have some influence (see: Americans' Trust in Mass Media Sinks to New Low).

Post 2010 drop in volume of atheism news stories

During the peak of the New Atheism movement news outlets featured significantly more news stories.

Post 2010, the New Atheism movement and those most closely associated with it such as Richard Dawkins, have seen a large drop in terms of news coverage (see also: Decline of New Atheism movement and Richard Dawkins' loss of influence).

In addition, due to various events/trends in the 21st century, the atheist movement has had lower confidence/morale which could affect the amount of atheist activism (see: Atheists and the endurance of religion).

Another factor is that newspapers are laying off journalists.

Post 2010 the percentage of negative news stories about atheism has increased

Given increased criticism of the New Atheism movement and Richard Dawkins' loss of popularity, the type of news stories on atheism are more of an even mix of negative stories about atheism and pro-atheism stories.[4]

In addition, due to a high amount of religious conservative immigration into the Western World in such places as Britain (see also: Global atheism and Secular Europe), newspapers and other media outlets may be more reluctant to offend the religious sensibilities of the public - particularly at a time when competition for customers is getting more intense. Newspapers, for example, are facing increasing challenges to retain customers.

Also, given the rise of conservative online news outlets, the number of negative news stores reaching the public has increased.

Furthermore, smaller news outlets, news outlets in countries/areas where there is a high percentage of theists (India, Africa, etc.) and other websites are more savvy in terms getting out their news stories via online news aggregators and social media, so there has been an increase in the amount of negative news about atheism reaching the public.

The Freedom From Atheism Foundation has a Facebook page and they regularly update their Facebook page with various critical/negative news about atheism.[5]

In 2017, Conatus News, which is a pro-atheism news outlet, reported:

Strict nonbelievers in God, gods, or the supernatural are given a negative portrayal in the popular media.

Sometimes, non-believers can have virtues such as intelligence. At other times, they can be demonised, quite literally. More often than not, the Humanist sub-population who are atheists are not represented in the media at all. So even if, or (rarely) when, an Atheist is represented in the media, they might have a virtue, but come with numerous obvious vices.

What kinds of tired tropes are there? Common, tiresome tropes assigned to atheist characters are anti-sociality, cynicism, depression, drug addiction, and narcissism.[6]

Atheism and lack of local press coverage

"In local press, they will talk about a religious group’s work with a soup kitchen, or their yard sale to donate money to a cause. If an atheist group does it, nobody cares." - Nick Fish, President of American Atheists[7]

BBC, atheism and anti-Christian bias

See also: British atheism

The Daily Mail reported about Britain's influential broadcaster the BBC:

The BBC employs more atheists and non-believers than Christians, an internal ‘diversity’ survey has found.

The new research has been seized on by critics who accuse the Corporation of bias against Christianity and marginalising the faith in its output.

The survey found that just 22.5 per cent of all staff professed to be Christians.[8]

News stories on religion increasing is being done by the religious

Due to smaller budgets, newspapers are cutting back their religious coverage and religious sections and increasingly religious groups are covering religious news online (see: Religion reporting is losing its prominence in American newspapers).

Most media did not report that Texas school mass shooter Dimitrios Pagourtzis was an atheist

See also

External links