What Horse Does The Message Ride?

The history of the religious versus nonreligious message is a long one, and certainly it’s not over.  But, its twists and turns are facinating, indeed.

Few would know this today, but in the 1920’s and earlier in the U. S., atheism and agnosticism were popular and seemingly on the rise. How could this have been and what happened?  Is was the medium.

Before radio, one of the popular forms of entertainment was public debate.  Think of the 60 or so years before the 1920’s and the Lincoln-Douglas debates.

The first decades of the 1900’s with new levels of literacy, science and prosperity gave rise to a new intellectual curiosity.  The debate format, with its in-depth discussion, was the perfect vehicle for casting doubt on mythology and the supernatural.

The radio, with its revenue from advertising, changed  all that.  The faster moving radio format did not accomodate debates about atheism and Christianity.  The depression of the 1930’s followed by the Second World War and its marriage of faith and patriotism also helped to put atheism in a big public relations hole.

We all know television moves even faster than radio.  We have seen evangelists with money, like Pat Robertson, start universities which train Christian TV journalists.

The irony is, a clone of the debate format, with its depth of inquiry, has returned.  It’s called the internet.  The internet favors the challenge to conventional wisdom by making information easy to reach.

If the survey data is reliable, atheism is doing better these days.



22 Responses

  1. Bob

    “If the survey data is reliable, atheism is doing better these days.” And Halleluja to thinking minds for that!!!

    But I do worry there are those who will try take internet freedom away.
    That’s yet another reason I’m voting Libertarian, because I think of all the political stances, its the libertarians who would fight to keep internet rights.

  2. Bob

    The next time some arrogant faithhead says they are going to pray for me, I’m going to retort, “Yes, and I’ll think for you.”

    1. Wanna 2:07 “The internet is a useful tool.”

      The history of how humans communicate tells us something will replace it. I never thought the TV would replace the newspaper as it kind of did. I never thought the internet would replace the TV as it has done to some extent.. One wonders what will be next.

      1. Wanna B Sure

        Well, while much is available on the internet, Not everything is. The interesting thing is it’s instant accessability to what is there. Makes a good outline, and resource guide. Many things are available in books only.

          1. Bob

            According to the evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker there are a about forty percent of the population who cannot, not be religious, that they are hardwired for it. You might be one of those Wanna.

  3. Bob

    I’m waiting excitedly but patiently for holograms. We’ll have keyboards in the air. Television in the air. Books we can read right in the air. We could teleconference in a room full of our peers or family, fellow workers, with holograms, although they might be on the other side of the world, or in space. With holograms the size of your pen, we might take a stacation on the beach for our 20 minute work breaks. Go to a lecture of a thousand people right in our living rooms. Science is so wonderful, and still the faithheads cling to their dusty fantasy books.
    It will be limited only by our imagination.

    1. Santa

      Bob @ 4:17: what does any of those technological advances have to do with “faithheads cling (ing) to their dusty fantasy books”?
      i hadn’t heard of any Christian movement condemming tech advances in communication….but maybe i missed it?

      1. entech

        It would be interesting to know how many christian groups ban television, I know that the Exclusive Sect of the Plymouth Brethren do, how many others?

  4. Bob

    To Santa 9:03 Because there are many faithheads that want the world to end, they want Gandolf/Jesus to magically fly down and save them from this planet that so many faithheads can’t wait to leave to get to their imaginary Valhalla, Elisian Fields, whatever your pick of the day afterlife.
    And so many faithheads want to keep their Abrahmic books, torah/koran/bible but still have zero or little respect or support for science or scientists.
    So many are creationists. Creationists who hurt science and humanity’s potential to advance as a primate top-of-the-food chain species.

    I wish I had the beautiful eloquence of Christopher Hitchens to defend my stance on how faithheads and their supernaturalism and religiousity hurts science. But I don’t.
    I can say though, that I personally find it threatening or actually more disheartening when I’m having a scientific conversation with someone, and then out of the blue, in the middle of discussing string theory, or black holes, or something, then they’ll say something like, “I think we are on an island and someday the almighty will rescue us and we’ll go up to heaven.”
    One time that happened to me, and I was so engrossed in the convesation, that at first, I looked around, and said, “What?” “What do you mean?”
    Then it hit me, they were interjecting the god talk.
    Talk about a bummer.
    And that’s happened to me many times with faithheads unfortunately.

  5. Bob

    To Santa 9:03
    To me, when faithheads bring up their religion during science talk, its akin to bringing up fairies they’ve seen in their garden before they came into the lab that day. Its unsettling, and makes you wonder if they are truly competant to be calling themselves scientists.

    1. Santa

      ok Bob. i don’t quite see the connection between the forms of modern communication you were talking about @4:17…. and black holes, creationism, and string theory.

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