left biblioblography: MY LETTER TO KAREN HUNTER

Thursday, February 08, 2007


As most of you are probably aware, there's quite a furor over the CNN segment about 'Why do atheists inspire so much hatred?"

The two segments can be viewed here.

I have just sent off a letter to Ms. Karen Hunter, journalism professor at Hunter College in New York as well as a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist.

Here is my letter to her:

"Dear Ms. Hunter:

I imagine that by now you are inundated by outraged emails from atheists, some of them no doubt quite shrill, in re: your appearance on Paula Zahn’s discussion panel.

I, too, am an atheist. I ask that you read this calmly, with some detachment, as I’ve no doubt you may be frazzled by what seems to be an onslaught.

I watched the segment, and I have some serious issues. One, is that there was no representation of atheists on the panel of three. Two, that a great many stereotypical misconceptions were bandied about, apparently there was little or no research vested: it struck me as a rather thrown-together affair.

School prayer. By now, you’ve probably heard: that of the five families that engaged in Engel v. Vitale, only one of the families was atheist. The fact of the matter is, that school prayer is an anachronism from back in the day when segregation was enforced, and the public schools weren’t the havens of diversity they are now. As to the efficacy of prayer, there is no proof whatsoever that it works, outside of comforting the supplicant, and as to morality? Well, I mislike saying this, but I have no doubts whatsoever that Paul Hill and Eric Rudolph probably prayed before they attacked those doctors, and I am sure the Inquisitors prayed quite a bit before they applied the hot tongs to an accused witch. There is little evidence to show that prayer in any way encourages an individual to be more moral in any way.

I understand that some atheists have confronted you with the concept that atheism is the default: that is to say, we are born atheistic. I also understand that your reply is that we are all tabula rasa. I give to you this, then: there can be no purer state of atheism, than the blank slate itself, waiting to be written upon, grooves carved in the gray matter via the stimulus of the world outside.

I also understand that you consider the concept of discrimination against an ideology as opposed to color, is a non-sequitur. I respectfully must disagree: discrimination is that, no matter how nuanced. The insinuation here is that since you can simply change your mind if discriminated against, while you can’t change your skin color, one should just exchange ideologies in order to avoid mistreatment. In some ways, this is a worse consideration. Discrimination on such a level is reminiscent of the McCarthy era: it flenses the individual of independent thought through fear; it is a subtler version of the thought police.

As to Mr. Newdow: it was well within his rights to take his protest to the Supreme Court, regardless of whether anyone regards his case(s) to be of merit. A redress of grievances is granted to each individual, as well as each group.

I cannot stress this enough: atheists are by no means ‘forcing’ their belief system (or lack thereof) on anyone else. What we request (what we have requested all along) is a seat at the table: a right to be heard; that we be given an equal say in this great country of ours; that we not be silenced by the strident voice of a majority, any majority; that no one else (ourselves included) be given special privileges.

Christians have multiple special privileges in this country, as well you may agree. There are churches everywhere. There are entire channels devoted to it. They can wear symbols expressing their faith freely. Their temples are tax-exempt. There are many, many of their representatives in our Federal and State governments.

Of these items I list, I have only a problem with some: we have no representatives of our ‘non-faith’ in government. I dislike (as James Madison did) the fact that their temples are tax-exempt. But they are entitled to the rest, as I have no desire to infringe on their rights, as dictated in our own Bill of Rights.

The First Amendment is bi-directional: make no mistake. Our requests are for the most part, reasonable. Because this country is not just for the religious: it is for everyone born or naturalized here (as per the 14th amendment). It is not their country: this is a country built on the rights of the individual, as well as the rights of the majority. So no one group gets more special privileges than another. While I realize that reality differs from concept, I firmly believe that we should continously strive towards that concept on a daily basis – until it is reached. Until each reasonable and rational person is on an even playing field, where no one is elevated above another.

I leave you with these words:

I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it. -- Thomas Jefferson, letter to Archibald Stuart (1791)

I look forward to your reply. "

I kept it as respectful as I possibly could, and hopefully, she'll respond in kind.

I will update this as it transpires, so stay tuned.


I received this today from the lady in question:

How many emails do you think I've received? Is there a way to make your point more succinctly. I take the time to respond to everyone, but come on. An email this long is really quite selfish.

To which I replied:

I'm sorry if it's somewhat verbose. But this is a far more complex situation than most people realize. I ask you to read it again: I could very easily have gone on for several more pages, Ms. Hunter. This isn't a soundbite, nor is it a segment on CNN. I'd think a person of your caliber would be able to read this in less than few minutes time, no?
I'm making an effort to point out that atheists are subjected to a great # of stereotypical pronouncements, all of which are staggeringly incorrect.
Pardon me, but I'd presumed that you would be more empathetic and open to reasoned discourse. So do excuse me for my presumption.

At this juncture, I'm not holding out too much hope for a response.

February 8th, 6:30 PM, PDT: I received a response. Pathetic.

Well, well, Ms. Hunter. So you chose a canned response. Your response to someone IN THIS FORMAT was posted here, at http://gods4suckers.net/archives/2007/02/06/ready-to-vomit/

Here is how I feel: I am a follower of Christ and I believe in God. You may not and that's your right. I don't hate you, I wouldn't burn a cross on your lawn, nor would I engage in an argument with you, telling you you're wrong. You're no more wrong to not believe in God as I am to believe. Now I would not impose my views or will on you, please don't impose yours on me.

No one is imposing any views on anyone else. The fact that you can't see that tells me that you've made zero effort to even listen.

Atheism is a choice, unlike race and ethnicity. You cannot be stopped from holding a job, living in a neighborhood, going to certain clubs, etc. because no one would know you are an atheist unless YOU made an issue of it. As far as living in a Judeo-Christian society, which this is (and it is far more accepting than living in a Muslim society), you say you are subjected to things like the Pledge of Allegiance, our money, Christmas, etc. But none of that infringes on your ability to be an atheist. You can choose not say the "under God" part, you can refuse to pray when everyone else is praying. You can simply not do it.

So you say, 'suffer in silence' then? Yes, you CAN be stopped from holding a job, living in a specific neighborhood, and going to certain clubs. Especially in Red States.
YOU can keep your religion, and your prayer, firmly ensconced in your HOME, thank you very much. My taxes won't go to something I don't believe in.

Question: How many atheist had to drink from an Atheist Only water fountain, or have been hung from a tree for their beliefs? How many have been dragged behind a truck until his limbs fell off or shot at 50 times by police, simply because of his beliefs? How many had to sit at the back of the bus or have been denied access to a school? Please don't mix apples and oranges. Yours is not a civil rights issue.

Oh, really? Looks like apples and apples to me, missy. Hiding behind the race card, are we?
Read here: “In fact, Volokh identifies 18 states where custody has recently been decided based partly or entirely on the judge's personal religious preferences: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Georgia, Iowa, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.”
Seems to be catching. Read the entire link.

You're remarkably ignorant of the state of things in this country. Did you even BOTHER to do any research?
Some journalist you are.

Thanks for your email. I do appreciate your perspective. PS: I didn't book the show, nor did I direct it. Instead of taking me to task for my views, you should direct your comments toward CNN for not having an atheist defend yours. I will never be on the side of an atheist and I should not be expected to.

What a load of bullshit. You shot your big mouth off, in an ignorant manner, about a subject you clearly know NOTHING ABOUT. I have indeed complained to CNN, but I approached you in a civil manner, as one concerned citizen to another.
That you would even mouth the words 'I will never be on the side of [substitute ideology of choice] and I should not be expected to' exposes you for the religious bigot that you truly are.

Just because you are a minority, and your minority defined the civil rights movement of this country, doesn't mean that that minority gets to define what a civil right is in this country. I advise you go and look up the term: it's about discrimination in all it's forms, regardless of race, creed, or sexuality.
But thanks, you've confirmed a suspicion I had: that CNN used three minorities to criticize another unrepresented minority, in hopes that no one would DARE speak up about it.
In summation: no, I will NOT keep my mouth 'shut about it'. The 1st amendment GUARANTEES my freedom of speech JUST AS MUCH AS IT DOES YOURS.
Telling a minority, whether it's ideological or not, to be silent is about as unpatriotic and un-American as you can get.
Get this straight: this isn't your country, it isn't my country, it's our country, and you have just as many rights as I do, and I have as many as you do.
Welcome to a level playing field. You religious folks want special privileges? You're out of luck.
Welcome to America.

At this point, it doesn't look promising. Not at all.

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karen said...

Good job, KA.
But Pulitzer or no, I doubt she'll understand you.
It will be very interesting if you get a reply.

BaconEating AtheistJew said...

She has replied to a few people already. I've posted the link as an update at my blog. But she still is clueless.

Richard Dawkins is on the Paul Zahn show tonite at 8 EST.

Hopefully he will rip the 3 broads brand new holes.

Atheism is not a choice, it is a conclusion. It is as much of a choice as stating 2 + 2 = 4, where all other choices (any beliefs in God(s) are numbers other than 4)......I'll "choose" 4 every time.

Krystalline Apostate said...

karen - thanks, but I think she must be somewhat intelligent, if she's won a Pulitzer prize. Then again, religion does odd things to one's brain...
BEAJ - yeah, I saw the Austin Cline thing - I based some of my preemptive
efforts on that. I look forward to Dawkins' response - he's (likely) not to be very forgiving of the egregious crap spewed.
As to the math thing - yer preachin' to the choir, mein freund.

karen said...

I did a search for Karen Hunt at the Pulitzer Prize website and got nothing.
From a google site, I got that a Karen Hunt was nominated for a Pulitzer, but not for what category, and not sure if it's the same one.

Krystalline Apostate said...

I'm getting feedback: already she's told me off, saying my letter's too long.
More on this soon.

Zac Hunter said...

For the record... I am not related to Karen Hunter.

karen said...

already she's told me off, saying my letter's too long.
Too many words make my head hurt, and I don't like it when people back up their arguments with examples!

Tommy said...

One thing for sure, I don't think she will ever appear on tv to talk about atheists again!

Krystalline Apostate said...

zac - I believe ya - but it's okay if it's otherwise. I have relatives who aren't very...articulate. hehehehe.
Too many words make my head hurt, and I don't like it when people back up their arguments with examples!
Oh, here's her latest:
At least I responded. How many of the people you emailed responded?
Give me a break and please get a life.

You're probably right Tommy: I get the impression she doesn't have much more than a spoon-fed opinion.

beepbeepitsme said...

I tried to leave a comment here earlier today but I couldn't get it to work. Is it working now? And what was I going to say again? lol

beepbeepitsme said...

Oh, I think I remember - something about "talking heads" not being personally responsible for the drivel they are required to spew in order to bump up ratings.. something like that.

Krystalline Apostate said...

Yeah, beep, it's obviously 'plausible deniability' - "Hey I had NOTHING to do w/the format of the show" - it's a freakin' discussion panel, fer cryin' out loud.
She uses the race card way too freely, you ask me. I've heard that sorta crap when the issue of gay marriage comes up. "9 out of 10 black people don't agree it's a civil right' - like it's some sorta country club w/select members.

remy said...

Wiki seems to say that Hunter was part of a news team which won the Pulitzer, as well as a Polk Award. She has a BA in English from Drew U. Can't say that this impresses me. And, her response to your letter confirms my suspicion that she is quite an ordinary woman.

Krystalline Apostate said...

remy - she's a journalist professor (difficult to believe).
'She is quite an ordinary woman'.
I think perhaps that is the worst insult a man can give a woman.
To be ordinary.

karen said...

'She is quite an ordinary woman'.
I think perhaps that is the worst insult a man can give a woman.

OUCH! Indeedy-do!

At least I responded. How many of the people you emailed responded?
Give me a break and please get a life.

"I'm a busy and important African American Christian woman!
Stop persecuting me!"

Krystalline Apostate said...

Hi Karen - yes, standard fare - ye olde tu quoque:
"We're not persecuting you, you're persecuting us."
It gets irritating quickly. Rather than address a serious issue, or do any investigative work whatsoever, play the victim.
It still bugs me. She shoots her mouth off, voicing a distinctly individual opinion, & then tries to divorce herself from the fiasco.
I don't care how physically attractive she is, that's only a small part of the package. What's inside counts as well.

remy said...


It's amAzen how inflection can affect communication. It makes me wonder how people have interpreted what I've written in the past.
In my feeble noggin it came out with the emPHAsis on ordinary. AS in,"That's an ordinary chair."

She's an ordinary WOMAN (avec curled lip), and there could be grounds for misogyny.

By the by, Wiki also claims that Hunter has co-written with such stellar personages as Queen Latifah, Al Sharpton, LL Cool J and Cedric the Entertainer.

Also, may I express my heart felt condolences on your particular version of Ground Hog Day over t' the NGB.

pdrap said...

SWEET! That was really good. I also had an exchange with Ms. Hunter.

I am absolutely tickled to have an e-mail from a Pulitzer Prize winner containing just the text "I know you are, but what am I." It doesn't get any better than that.

Anyway, my web log is at http://www.pdrap.org, and my whole exchange with Ms. Hunter is described there.

Krystalline Apostate said...

remy - Ground Hog day? You mean my wrasslin' w/fundie jcc over 'original intent'?
It gets pretty old pretty quick. All these folks blithering about how 'this is an xtian nation'!
I used ta think so - till I sat down & really looked at it.

Krystalline Apostate said...

pdrap - your profile & website aren't showing up at all, just a 404 error.

Tommy said...

KA, if you type www.pdrap.org, you can access it. I think he just used the wrong address in the link.

Krystalline Apostate said...

Thanks tommy.
pdrap - wow, she used the 'I know you are but what am I' zinger? Wow, you must be so...crushed.
& she's trying to tally up points by saying, 'hey, at least I responded. Who else did?'
Hmmm...oddly familiar.
Is she a grown woman, or is some middle-school child handling her damage control?
I can understand her being under the gun...somewhat. But her repartee, for a teaching professor, is...underwhelming, at best.

Mesoforte said...

nor would I engage in an argument with you, telling you you're wrong. You're no more wrong to not believe in God as I am to believe.

When people say this, they usually already know that they can't when in an argument. Its kind of like having a debate with a 'post-modernist.' Which, if you ever get stuck in that situation, apply their own logic (all worldviews are not based upon reality, but are subjective interpretations) to their own arguments.

you say you are subjected to things like the Pledge of Allegiance, our money, Christmas, etc. But none of that infringes on your ability to be an atheist. You can choose not say the "under God" part, you can refuse to pray when everyone else is praying.

I don't think you referenced Christmas or money in a direct way. Methinks she didn't bother to read the first e-mail and just fired off her mouth.

Krystalline Apostate said...

Hi MF - no, fairly sure she didn't read the email. She had a pre-canned response plotted out for any atheist who emailed her.
I can't fault her for that - what I CAN fault her for is a lack of originality, effort, or caring.

Anonymous said...

I'm flabbergasted that she is actually suggesting that if one is a member of a religious minority than one should keep that to himself, that if one experiences discrimination due to being part of a religious minority it is one's own fault for letting it be known. Furthermore, is she so week inttellectually that she can not see that prayer in school will invariably be of the majority, therefore prayer in public schools is de facto establishment of state religion. This not only limits the religious freedom of atheist, but also the religious freedom of each and every religious minority, both non-Christian and Christian. Judeo-Christian nation or not, and there is much in our history that speaks to the contrary, the establishment of state religion by way of the public schools is not only un-American, it is wrong.

Krystalline Apostate said...

Anonymous - yeah, I'm flabbergasted too. Pulitzer prize winner, black woman - she'd be the last person to tell selected folks to 'shut up & sit down'.
Ummm...atheists are non-religious BTW.
But you're correct: it's un-American all right.