· Contempt for Christianity and Conservatives: Eighty-one percent of the stories and columns (13 out of16) that focused on Christianity either criticized certain Christian denominations, leaders or beliefs. Five other articles negatively portrayed well-known Christians, specifically Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin and Rick Santorum; no articles portrayed those three in a good light. Bill Maher, a regular site contributor, went so far as to call Sarah Palin “a babbling, barely-housebroken, uneducated being” and compared her followers to Buddhist monks that hail a 2-year-old toddler as the reincarnation of the sacred Dalai Lama.
· Catering to Atheists and Non-Christian Religions: Nearly 50 percent (36 out of 78) of the articles focused on atheists, agnostics, opponents to organized religion or non-Christian religions, despite the fact that nearly 80 percent of Americans claim the Christian religion. Clay Farris Naff, a science writer and regular contributor to HuffPost Religion, wrote that any religion that claims to have all the answers is a “fraud.” “If they offer you truth, happiness, or eternal life in return for your obedience, turn around and run for the hills.”
· Pushing a Liberal Agenda: Over 20 percent (17 out of 78) of the articles exploited religion to promote a liberal agenda, focusing on topics such as homosexuality, global warming and universal health care. HuffPost Religion's editor, Paul Raushenbush, described the new site as a “more accurate representation” of religious people's views on “controversial issues of the day such as health care, immigration, abortion and gay rights.”
No, hell hasn't frozen over but, yes, the Huffington Post now has a religion blog. The Huffington Post, a Web site devoted to rankling conservatives and pushing a liberal agenda, announced on Feb. 24 that it was launching HuffPost Religion. Huffington Post's co-founder, Arianna Huffington, claimed it would simply be “a section featuring a wide-ranging discussion about religion [and] spirituality,” but the numbers prove that it is more of an attack on traditional Christianity than a discussion.
The site didn't waste any time throwing punches. In its first two weeks, it churned out articles by a liberal nun calling Catholicism sexist; a Rabbi claiming that Judaism will "stagnate and cease to be meaningful" unless it participates in the "green movement;" an avowed atheist comparing those who believe in God to a 7-year-old still believing in the tooth fairy; a science writer warning being religious could lead to "dangerous side-effects" such as "the crusader jihadist mentality;" and a neuroscientist calling those who believe in "obsolete religious ideas" a "lunatic fringe." HuffPost Religion is the religion blog that hates religion, but the faith it abuses the most is Christianity.
Everything's Okay But Christianity
More than 240 million Americans will be celebrating Easter and the resurrection of their savior Jesus Christ this week. It's a sacred time – a time to rejoice, reflect and repent, but the writers of HuffPost Religion will probably just see it as another chance to take a swipe at Christians.
In a 2008 Pew Research poll, nearly 80 percent of Americans identified themselves as Christians. That's a significant majority yet, during the first two weeks of HuffPost Religion's existence, only 16 out of 78 articles focused on Christianity – a full13 of those were negative.
Chittister said, “Churches that cling to sexism in the name of God will find themselves ignored on other issues. Young women will begin to wonder how it is that churches that teach equality are the last bastions of sexism in the modern world. People of faith will be hard pressed to explain how it is that the question of equality of the sexes is being led by secular institutions rather than by ministers who proclaim the Good News and then stop it from coming.”
On that same day, Brian McLaren, a HuffPo contributor and blogger for Beliefnet's Progressive Revival, wrote an article titled “A New Kind of Christianity,” which called its readers to not be limited by their “conservative bias” but instead to question what has been preached in the past. He suggested questioning such things as “Who is Jesus and why is he so important?” and “Why has homosexuality become such a divisive issue?” and “Are there fresh and better options for Christian eschatology?”
A week later, on March 5, religion professor Richard Hughes wrote that “conservative Christians ... often fail the common good.” He pointed to their support of the Iraq War and their supposed inability to accept and help those who don't believe in Jesus as evidence.
“[B]enevolence typically takes a back seat to preaching, mission work, and Evangelism in most evangelical churches, since a 'personal relationship with Jesus' and saving souls almost always trumps the saving of human lives – especially the lives of the poor – in the here and now,” Hughes said.
Other articles attempted to paint Christians as intolerant radicals by hyping abstract stories about individuals, such as Janet Porter, the president and founder of Faith2Action, praying for the “Christian takeover” of the media. Alvin McEwen wrote he'd be “remiss” if he didn't point out that Porter said this prayer “in front of a huge multitude during one of those dreary we have to save American values from the forces of secular evil conferences which religious right organizations seem to hold more often than World Wrestling Entertainment hosts wrestling pay-per-views.”
In another article, author Dr. Charles Cogan mocked former Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin for her belief that God has had a hand in her life. Cogan recounted the story of when Sen. John McCain's aid, Steve Schmidt, asked her how she had managed to remain so calm during the hectic days after she was chosen as the vice presidential candidate. She had replied that it was “God's plan.” Cogan wrote, “God's hand was certainly missing in the answers she was soon to give in television interviews with Charlie Gibson and Katie Couric.” He concluded that Christians like Sarah Palin who believe God watches over them aren't just simpletons – they're egotistical:
One may ask, How can a God care for – or not care for – each and every one of the nearly seven billion inhabitants of the planet? It defies imagination, or at least human imagination. Yet Sarah Palin is not alone in thinking she has a special place in God's concerns. But then, maybe God is more attentive to elect categories of people – in this case, evangelical (pentecostal?) Christians.
With the exception of three articles discussing Lent, Jesus' temptation in the desert and His call to forgive others, every HuffPo Religion article on Christianity depicted Christians as intolerant, fringe radicals unwilling to progress with society. But when the articles weren't bashing Christians, they were twisting their arms.
Over 20 percent (17 out of 78) of the articles posted on HuffPo Religion during its first two weeks exploited religion for the purpose of promoting a liberal agenda. The authors attempted to manipulate Christian believers by pointing to their liberal agenda and saying, God would want you to be tolerant.
You Can't Say No If You Believe in God
The first article posted on HuffPost's new site, written by editor Paul Raushenbush, gave a taste of what was to come. He wrote, “Dear Religious (and sane) America ... HuffPost Religion will provide a more accurate representation of the wide range of concerns held by religious people, and dispel the myth that religious people have only one stance on the controversial issues of the day such as health care, immigration, abortion and gay rights.”
Rabbi or Rose wrote that Judaism “will stagnate and cease to be meaningful” unless it becomes “actively engaged” in the “green movement.” Another article, this one written by Rita Nakashima Brock, blamed those who support war, especially those who are religious and support war, for the moral injury inflicted on soldiers who are forced to “fight wars they know are morally wrong.” And Steve Maesler wrote an article that didn't just claim that rejecting homosexuality is religiously wrong, he also claimed that those who reject it are “more vulnerable ... to mental illness and every other self-crippling limitation” and, the more “hostile and antagonistic” they feel, “the greater the danger ... that [they] will be inclined to do harm.”
Each of these articles viewed religion as a means to an end – an argument to prove that they should get what they want, but if, in the end, the two could not be reconciled, the thing to be discarded was not their agenda, but “obsolete religious ideas,” as neuroscientist Dan Agin put it. In his article, “Myths of the Crazy Ape,” Agin claimed that religious people are shoving America to the brink of failure because “they don't like science.”
“What they prefer is a closed ideational system, usually a closed system provided by religion,” Agin claimed. “They would rather not think ... In America, these people would be a harmless lunatic fringe were it not for their political power and their demand that they control the teaching of children in public schools.”
David Horton, a biologist and avowed atheist, not only agreed with Agin in his article “Putting Away Childish Things,” he went so far as to compare those who choose religion over “reality” to a 7-year-old that still believes in the tooth fairy:
Does it matter if grown people keep on believing in things that a seven year old child, given freedom of thought and action, would dump into the wastebasket along with the tooth fairy? Yes, of course it does, because if you can get an adult to keep on believing in untrue things in this area [religion] you can get them to believe untrue things in any area. Enter creationists, and tea-baggers, and climate change deniers, and birthers, and truthers, and WMD in Iraq, and death panels, and the global war on terrorism, and Obama is a socialist, and all the rest of this childish rubbish that is constantly being trotted out these days by children in adult bodies.
Religions that didn't step on HuffPost's liberal toes, however, were given plenty of attention and a great deal of respect.
Courting Atheists and Minority Religions
According to the same 2008 Pew Research poll, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, agnostics and atheists comprise less than 8 percent of the American population, yet nearly half (46 percent) of the articles during HuffPost Religion's first two weeks were devoted to them. Atheists and those opposed to organized religion in particular were given free rein to hack away at everything and anything considered sacred by others.
Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, a Sufi teacher, lamented in his article “Reclaiming Our Spiritual Heritage” that “religious teachings have often emphasized that following religious doctrine is more important than one's individual spiritual experience.”
Science writer and HuffPo contributor Naff wrote that those who follow “hand-me-down, superstition-laden” religions aren't “rational” and that such a belief can lead to “dangerous side-effects” like the “crusader-jihadist mentality” and “the rejection of science” (the second side-effect seems to be far more dangerous in Naff's opinion than the first).
“No God worth worshiping would go about things in such a mean-spirited, vague, illogical, shifty, and partisan manner as the history and theology of traditional religion reveals,” Naff said. His solution was to believe in a “non-steroidal, generic God” for a “healthier, freer mind.”
In another article written by Naff called “Alleged Abuses in Scientology Are Far From Unique,” he criticized anyone who believes their church has the whole truth for lying to themselves. “You don't have to earn a doctorate in philosophy to recognize that anyone who claims to have all the answers is a fraud. Sincere or sham, they are frauds. If they offer you truth, happiness, or eternal life in return for your obedience, turn around and run for the hills.”
Deepak Chopra, a well-known advocate of New Age spirituality and dubbed the "poet-prophet of alternative medicine" by Time magazine, echoed that sentiment when he called organized religion “quarrelsome” and “divisive.” “The custodians of organized religion have frequently ended up with destructive behaviors – power mongering, cronyism, control, corruption, and influence peddling.”
His solution to this problem and, in fact, the problems of the entire world was to focus on individual spirituality, or, as Chopra put it, “getting in touch with our deepest self.”
But for 240 million Christian Americans, Chopra's solution blotted out who and what their religion is all about – something that they'll be celebrating this Sunday: Jesus' crucifixion and His miraculous resurrection that made salvation possible for all of mankind.
CMI analyzed the first two weeks of stories and columns from HuffPost Religion from its start date, Feb. 24, through March 10. Only original content written by HuffPost contributors and staffers was analyzed. CMI researchers analyzed stories they found appearing on the site during the analysis period, but given the rapidly changing nature of the Web, it is possible a few stories were missed.