Dallas Morning News to Atheists and Agnostics: It's a Faith Blog, Not a Faithless Blog. Duh.

Categories: Media, Religion
busFaces.jpg
The Coalition of Reason's bus campaign that made them famous
To refresh: The local Coalition of Reason is the atheist/agnostic group that bought all those "Good Without God" bus ads in Forth Worth last year, causing quite the stir.

Well, they're back -- this time in a slight kerfuffle with The Dallas Morning News's Texas Faith blog.

Zachary Moore, a coordinator for the DFWCoR, says the group wants a "secular perspective" represented on the blog, which features weekly discussions among panelists of different faiths. But Moore says the blog's moderators, op-ed columnist William McKenzie and reporter Wayne Slater, have been unresponsive to his requests. McKenzie disagrees.

"The DFWCoR wants to be a part of the community," Moore says. "They want to be out there, the public face for secular people. The last major survey that was done concluded that about one in six Americans wants nothing to do with organized religion. They pretty much look at the religious options and say, 'That's not for me.'''

He says his group represents "about 2,000 active members across all the different member organizations," including the Fellowship of Free Thought, the Metroplex Atheists and the Humanist Association of Fort Worth. The DFWCoR had a float in the Pride Parade a couple weeks back. They also do frequent clothing and food drives, Moore says, and they're responsible for cleaning up a section of White Rock Lake.

"We're active in the community," he told us. "We're serious about this. It's not just a 'let's get together and bash religion' club. We want to do something positive and make a difference."

That includes joining the conversation.

Moore points out that other religion blogs, such as On Faith at The Washington Post, include secular points of view. So for the last couple years, he's been intermittently asking the Texas Faith moderators to include a secular person on the panel.

He started with Rod Dreher, who was a moderator on the blog back in 2008. "I talked with him and he explained to me that he thought that the Texas Faith blog was a place only for religious people to comment," Moore says. "It was not really intended for any other perspectives and he didn't think, and the other participants on the blog didn't think, that somebody who was secular would have anything to say about this. I disagreed with him."

Instead Dreher offered to interview with Moore and talk with him about the organizations he's affiliated with. "That was nice, that was fine," Moore says. "But he didn't really follow up on the Texas Faith blog. He promised to bring it up with editors. I was waiting and waiting and waiting and then he left The News."

Earlier this year, Moore says, "I got fed up and tried to contact the new editors." He spoke with McKenizie, he says, "who seems like a nice guy, I've got no beef with him personally. But he basically told me the same thing."

Moore started posting his opinion in the comments section the blog each week. "I was frustrated," he says. "I thought, 'I'll go through the paces, and demonstrate to him that there are real responses that can be had from a secular humanist.' For the past almost six months, every week I've been commenting." He writes a 500- to 600-word response, "just to demonstrate to him that it is possible for a secular humanist to have something to say about these issues. I did that for months and months, then contacted him again. He said, 'Well, it's not up to me. We have to meet with the other participants and they have to vote. ... That's a little weird -- that's like asking a Texas heterosexual blog, would they vote to have a gay panelist?"

Moore also says he then he emailed several of the panelists directly, one of whom told him that the idea had been shot down by the group.

"I've enjoyed your regular voice in the comments section," she wrote in an email, which Moore provided. "I was at the last gathering of the panel when Bill brought it up before and it was 2 for (the Unitarian and I) and everyone else voting nay. The chance of that shifting a whole lot more in your favor is small."

McKenzie has told Moore he's welcome to continue commenting, even if he can't be a panelist. "For me that feels like a back of bus approach," Moore says. "'You can share your opinions, but they're not on equal footing with the opinions of religious people on the blog.' That feels unequal, a little discriminatory."

"I'm not advocating for me to be on the blog" specifically, Moore says. "I could. I would. I'd be happy to. But if they've got a problem with me doing it, I'll find someone else."

In an interview, McKenzie denied that the panelists were asked to vote on a secular participant. "No, that is not true," he said. "It was The Morning News who made the decision."

"He's not excluded from being a commenter on the blog," he added. "He put something up there the other day. He's done it several times."

Texas Faith began, McKenzie said, "as a discussion among people of different faiths. We started it to solicit their responses to topics that come from the intersection of religion and politics, religion and culture. That was our missions. We wanted to hear from people who represented various faith traditions, and we've had a good conversation going."

So what's the problem with including a secular voice?

"It's not -- the word 'problem' I guess is what I'm trying to deal with," McKenzie replied. "He is a part of the blog as being a commenter. The panelists are the start of the discussion. It's our choice to want to get people who represent various faith traditions. It after all is a blog with that as its mission."

He's familiar with the Post's On Faith blog, he said, but it's a "different type of blog," one that "doesn't put out questions to its panelists," he said. "Ours is a weekly discussion. ... He's welcome to be a part of the discussion in the comments. I don't think he's being excluded."

Moore disagrees that agnostics and atheists aren't being excluded. "We just want to part of the crowd," he says."We want to contribute to the community the same way all these churches do. When you say, 'This is not a place for humanists to comment,' it's a slap in the face that really bugs me."

McKenzie and Moore are tentatively scheduled to have a lunch date next week to talk about all this. Actually, that sounds like fun. Can we come?



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136 comments
french queen13
french queen13

This sounds uncommonly like the "what about teh menz" complaints that turn up on feminist blogs or anything specifically for or about women's concerns ...

religious clothing
religious clothing

I hope that whatever our religious beliefs, people would live in harmony. 

SteveT
SteveT

It really depends on how you define "faith".  As the existence or non-existence of god are both not scientifically provable, both positions are a leap of faith; so maybe the atheists/agnostics should have a more prominent place in the Texas Faith Blog.

Aron Ra
Aron Ra

Faith is an assertion of unreasonable conviction, assumed without reason, and defended against all reason.  Consequently I must reject faith outright as being inherently dishonest, yet I am continuously accused of having faith, and of being religious, whenever defenders of faith believe their double-standard allows them to project their own faults onto others.  But we recognize those faults for what they are, and will not share them.

Aron Ra
Aron Ra

Whenever faith groups want to celebrate faith, then atheists are excluded as faith-less, which is how it should be.  But they still accuse atheists of having faith in their rejection of faith whenever they admit the flaws of even having faith.  Then the rejection of religion becomes a religion, and those who do NOT pretend to know what no one even can know -are accused of gnosticism.  

MattL1
MattL1

What is this "Dallas Morning News" thing that you speak of?  They seem like they're very accommodating of their commenters.  Sounds nice... 

ViniVidiDejaVu
ViniVidiDejaVu

Why does Moore want to join this group? Does he possibly believe that his presence will inspire McKenzie or any of his cohorts to actually "think"? They are not examining religion, they are merely a rah-rah group. Listening is not on the agenda. They are a club that likes to drive their Mercedes to their multi-million dollar First Baptist Church and listen to their rich preacher, who also drives a Mercedes, spout benign generalities and lambast gays. Then they throw a few dollars at the poor and convince themselves they are serving Jaysus. Hell, start your own group and then invite McKenzie to join; and pop a few beers when he doesn't.

Catbird
Catbird

I feel compelled to point out to the membership of the "Coalition of Reason" (el al), that they are risking their immortal souls on the wager (Pascal's actually) that the unrepentant sinner is somehow immune from suffering eternity seperated from God in a very yery bad place.

I know that some of you guys will mock this post but really, what is to be gained by betting against the promise of eternal life offered by Jesus Christ as documented in Holy Scripture?

I hope you'll at least think about it.

Please.

MetaEd
MetaEd

McKenzie says the Texas Faith panelists are people of different faith traditions, brought together to give their views on questions about the intersection of religion with politics and culture.

A freethinker panelist would offer a religious perspective on the political and cultural questions of today, an important perspective that is frequently missing from so-called ecumenical discussions.

Freethinkers represent a living faith tradition which goes back to ancient times: for example, Buddhism in the East, Epicureanism in the West. Anyone familiar with Texas history knows about German and Czech freethinker immigrants. Freethinkers settled Comfort, Sisterdale, and La Reunion (for which Reunion Tower is named). They brought with them their religious traditions, beliefs, and celebrations.

If McKenzie refuses to consider a freethinker panelist on the grounds that freethinkers are not a faith tradition, he is simply ignorant of facts and history -- Texas history.

pak152
pak152

big whoop. the guy is able to comment which means his point of view on a topic is being put forth on the blog. Not sure what a secularist would add to a discussion about religion, unless he is saying secularism is a religion.

tempest, teapot

Jack E. Jett
Jack E. Jett

The DMN is a worthless cause.  Owned & Operated by the First Baptist Church.  Always has and always will be.  Robert Jeffress might as well be the editor.

Bmarvel
Bmarvel

Wouldn't that kinda be like letting Christian Scientists in on a med school discussion of brain surgery protocols? 

mynameisURL
mynameisURL

*chuckle*

What did you expect? Exclusivity IS their stock-in-trade, after all.

Michael M Clarke
Michael M Clarke

I take it from the title of your article, that only religious people are qualified to discuss religious issues and the rest of us must just be quiet?  The stupidity of that line of thinking speaks for itself.

Nattyspats
Nattyspats

So, it is a faith-based approach?  Did anyone bother to ask Mr. Moore if he has 'faith' that his perspective is correct?  Or is it only faith in established religious traditions?  How many Wiccans, Pagans, Greek Mythologists, and Druids are on the panel?

Honestly there are about a thousand reasons to exclude someone - all of them bad.  Dallas Morning News should give it a go, let him or someone from his group participate.  It may inspire more people to read the blog.

abuckley1970
abuckley1970

"the Texas Faith blog was a place only for religious people to comment"

"religious people"

Let's see...Religion: a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, "usually" involving devotional and ritual observances, and "often" containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.  Anything one believes in with strong conviction.

"The last major survey that was done concluded that about one in six Americans wants nothing to do with organized religion."  So basically, if religion is merely a belief system, and these folks have 'organized', wouldn't they be a form of organized religion and be considered religious people?  semantics?  maybe.

If a person is rooted in his/her own religion/belief system then these guys should be able to participate on the blog without that person feeling intimidated or angry they might say something contrary to their belief system.  As long as everyone is respectful, I don't see the big deal.

As far as their community involvement, they seem to be more active than some with a doctrinal affiliation. 

Amy S.
Amy S.

Because we all know the real dope on religion can be found on a blog.

TiredHead
TiredHead

"...concluded that about one in six Americans wants nothing to do with organized religion."

"He says his group represents "about 2,000 active members across all the different member organizations," including the Fellowship of Free Thought, the Metroplex Atheists and the Humanist Association of Fort Worth. The DFWCoR had a float..."

Ok, ... So this group that takes a stance about religion are ORGANIZED against organized religion?    So whats next? ...Getting on TV and asking for donations and moolah "In the (absence) of the name of Jesus?

I'm thinking Zachary Moore should change his name to Tilton Roberts.

Theophile
Theophile

 Hi Anna,  If Zachary Moore makes comments that are not "moderated", doesn't he have a "voice" on the blog?  For instance: I think the US should put a immediate suspension on free trade, tax all imports to the point that "American" industry can be competitive, eliminate personal income tax on labor and small business, and require passing a test on the constitution to vote..... These are all "off topic, and opinionated," but if You let this comment stand, the topic is introduced, and the opinions presented. All the "Christian Apologists" that have been banned from "freethought" web blogs please raise Your hand!

Catbird
Catbird

The 11th chapter of Hebrews says that faith is the evidence that the things we hope for will actually occur and provides assurance of the things we cannot see.

In the end Aron, faith is all that anyone has, so why not claim the promise of the life everlasting offered by Jesus Christ?

Aphilatelist
Aphilatelist

Thank you for sharing more of that "secular voice" (i.e., the religious are incapable or refuse to think).

Prudent truth
Prudent truth

"what is to be gained by betting against the promise of eternal life offered by Jesus Christ as documented in Holy Scripture?"

Answer: A beautiful life, full of happiness and fun and TRUTH, and not the same kind of fear mice exhibit when put into cages. I earnestly hope you will think about how awesome this world might look if you understood how it actually came to be and that mythological forces are not controlling everything around you.

scottindallas
scottindallas

Earnestness, probably looked on more favorably by God than the heresies every faith tradition commits.

ViniVidiDejaVu
ViniVidiDejaVu

You believe what your logic and experience lead you to believe. I doubt that you can force yourself to believe in any particular religion simply because there may be negative results if you don't. Using that as a yardstick you would probably have to believe in ALL religions, because a sizable number offer negative reinforcement for non-belief. A thinking deity would probably see that as opportunism; although you may still earn points for originality and neatness.

Aphilatelist
Aphilatelist

With Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, and other religious traditions, it's pretty easy to get a vague notion of what their "religious perspective" happens to be. With Free Thinkers, it's not possible, especially given the large number who routinely stress that Free Thinkers do not describe to any one perspective. (That's equally true of the other faiths listed, but it's gone to an extreme with Free Thinkers.)

Aphilatelist
Aphilatelist

Aphilatelism has as much to say about religious issues as atheism. Therefore, I am convinced we should be included on the panel as well.

Anna Merlan
Anna Merlan

Maybe try reading past the title.   

guest
guest

DMN should know that Humanists also read their paper.  Not just online, but delivered to their doorstep.  Which you have to pay for.  I would love to see my perspective (Humanist) also covered in the DMN in thought-provoking way such as this blog.

Zachary Moore
Zachary Moore

It's not the "organized" part that we have a problem with. It's the demonstrably false beliefs of most, if not all religions. Like, for example, that gay people are sinners and atheists have no morals.

Zachary Moore
Zachary Moore

If all the other officially-sanctioned participants on the blog had to include their responses in the comment section, then I'd have no problem with it. But as long as a certain set of opinions are privileged while others are intentionally excluded, then I have every right to be critical.

The Dallas Morning News includes not only Christians, Jews, and Muslims, but also Hare Krishnas, Buddhists, Unitarians, and Wiccans in its "acceptable" group. It is an insult to humanists such as myself that we are intentionally and specifically excluded from this diversity.

ViniVidiDejaVu
ViniVidiDejaVu

Never said I was secular; and the second part is your own generalization. Try to learn reading comprehension.

Catbird
Catbird

Dear Prudence:

In the 16th chapter of Matthew Jesus told his disciples "...What do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your soul. Is anything worth more than that?"

And I also earnestly hope you will think about how awesome this world might look if you understood how it actually came to be and that mythological are not controlling everything around you.

In the 14th chapter of John, Jesus also said "I am the way the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me."

Nobody gets out of here alive Prudence....not me not you.

Please think about this, maybe discuss it with a Christian friend...where're everywhere you know. 

Guest
Guest

Really?  Explain what a Unitarian Universalist's religious perspective is.  (One of the panelists is a UU Minister)

scottindallas
scottindallas

You're wrong. No two congregants agree on these issues, much less the true nature of the Godhead/Trinity. Frankly, your pastor insults each of you each week, panders to you like a first grade teacher.

Just the lame truth. Further, few of you are even capable of understanding an advanced theological discussion--present company excluded, of course. While a bit strident, on average it is no doubt accurate.

Michael M Clarke
Michael M Clarke

Wow gee, now there's a thought.  Or wait, maybe I did read the article and was commenting on the opening line?

PlanoDave
PlanoDave

Why do you care what others choose to believe? 

This is what I find so funny about Athiests.  You bash evangelical Christians and then you exhibit exactly the same behavior.  That is, you press your message on people who don't want to hear it and then you insult them for not listening to your message.

TiredHead
TiredHead

Sooooo... your organization is dependent on religion.

Theophile
Theophile

Hi Zachary,  It is difficult to get a good debate going in a public forum, like Dawkins vs Craig, for instance. This isn't new, have You read Foxes book of Martyrs? Is there any organized religion that hasn't been/couldn't be influenced by Satan, according to the Bible?  I have been labeled a "tenacious apologist for Jesus" while being formally banned from the freethought blog, yet also moderated on "Christian" blogs for suggesting Jesus was referring to Passover when He said "do this in remembrance of Me, or the Sabbath was not moved in God's eyes, to the day of the sun god Baal(Sunday) 300 years after Christ, no matter how You twist scripture.

 How many are there with a "Bible based" opinion, that have actually read the Bible through, on their own, without doctrine of whatever bias leaning over their shoulder telling them what it means?  

ViniVidiDejaVu
ViniVidiDejaVu

No apology required, Stampman. Perhaps my "reading comprehension" slap was not well thought out.

Aphilatelist
Aphilatelist

It's not a failure in reading comprehension. It's too much experience with those spouting off a "secular voice." They often don't come out and fully say what they want to, so I have to read between the lines. My apologies to you.

RTGolden
RTGolden

Does the NAACP choose to discriminate against white's by not including them?  Does the UNCF choose to discriminate against non-blacks by only providing tuition assistance to african americans?  Of course they do, and there's nothing wrong with that.  They were formed to benefit one group and intentionally exclude others, that is the point of these organizations.I would argue that these two organizations affect, or attempt to affect public policy, yet it would be absurd for a bunch of 'free-thinking' rednecks to demand inclusion, would it not? It is obvious from your posts that you wish to be included on the blog to offer ridicule and scorn for the beliefs of the participants, and not to offer an alternative viewpoint on their issues.I cannot see where they are in the wrong here.  They were formed for a specific purpose, to present a specific point of view on current issues.  Your point of view falls outside that purpose.  Get over it.

Zachary Moore
Zachary Moore

In my experience, the only groups seeking inequality in public discourse have been religious, not humanistic.

TiredHead
TiredHead

I haven't.  I'll leave that type of obnoxious behavior to religious and atheist evangelists.

Zachary Moore
Zachary Moore

When was the last time a group of scientists lobbied the city of Fort Worth to ban advertising of churches on the buses?

TiredHead
TiredHead

Of course religious institutions influence public policy. But then so does Science institutions,  Legal institutions, Culinary institutions, hell, even The Dallas Cowboys... all which have blogs on the DMN site that may "seek to build and improve our shared community, not through the dogma and traditions of religion." Why single out this particular blog about Faith when your groups' foundation seems to be based on building an overall positive community with faith influence being irrelevant? It seems to me, the last place an atheist would want their voice to be heard is on a "Faith " blog.

Zachary Moore
Zachary Moore

Of course they can choose. And they have been choosing to discriminate against secular humanists. The questions being asked at the Texas Faith blog are the ones that people active in the DFWCoR are most interested in responding to. I'm sure the goings-on at City Hall make for fascinating debate, but conversations about whether religious institutions should influence public policy tend to be those that are of more pressing interest to us.

TiredHead
TiredHead

But its not a blog sponsored by the U.S. Government either so they can kinda choose what they want when it comes to their own religion blog. But again, are there not other blogs on the DMN site where one can "seek to build and improve our shared community, not through the dogma and traditions of religion?" Perhaps the City Hall, or Community blog? There doesn't seem to be much religious dogma on those?

Zachary Moore
Zachary Moore

This is not a blog sponsored by a religious institution. It's run by the Dallas Morning News, which provides a public forum for a select class of people while intentionally excluding others. Humanists and agnostics enthusiastically participate in similar blogs run by other major newspapers throughout the country.

TiredHead
TiredHead

So.... if you "seek to build and improve our shared community, not through the dogma and traditions of religion"...why the hell are you upset about not being allowed on a RELIGIOUS blog? That's some screwy logic.

Zachary Moore
Zachary Moore

Our organization is for those who seek to build and improve our shared community, not through the dogma and traditions of religion, but through scientific inquiry, humanistic ethics, and critical thinking.

Aphilatelist
Aphilatelist

The notion of "without doctrinal bias" is not really meaningful. As a scientist, you should be keenly aware that any reading or anything is inherently biased.

Judas Priest
Judas Priest

Yet there are plenty of people who read the Bible without any filter of "doctrinal bias" - and it helps them build their faith at a very basic, organic level.  It's ignorant to assume it all goes one way or the other.

Zachary Moore
Zachary Moore

I know a lot of people who have actually read the Bible through, on their own, without doctrinal bias telling them what to think. They're now atheists.

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