Sunday’s First Page, Above the Fold, Part III: Imagine There’s No Heaven
The last item slipped onto the Sunday Providence Journal’s front page above the fold is the most inexplicable. Taken from the Washington Post, about atheists in England, the relevance of the article’s placement seems mainly to be that it allows the Projo to burnish its image among Rhode Island fellow travelers who accuse the paper of being “too conservative” by introducing them to “a thoughtful man with graying hair and clear blue eyes” who provides the story’s lede:
In the United States and Europe, atheists react against a resurgence of Muslim and Christian extremism.
Flocking to “surprise bestsellers,” such as a book written by rabid anti-religious atheist Richard Dawkins, such folks as Graham Wright see religion as a spectrum “from Muslim extremists blowing themselves up in God’s name to Christians condemning gays, contraception and stem-cell research.”
“There is a feeling that religion is being forced on an unwilling public, and now people are beginning to speak out against what they see as rising Islamic and Christian militancy,” [Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society of Britain] said.
As if in an effort to prove Wright’s notion that religion has become “a negative influence in… the world,” Sunday’s Projo is peppered with stories highlighting the negative about religion and religious organizations, all plucked from non-Projo sources. There’s the accelerating schism of the Anglican church over some branches handling of homosexuals on page A5. There’s the story of elderly, disabled nuns who’ve lost their convent because the Archdiocese of Los Angeles has abuse settlements to pay on the front page of the Sunday Extra section. There’s the non-commentary-page opinion piece claiming that “While American soldiers fight to establish a secular democracy abroad, many Americans want to create a Christian nation at home.” And there’s the story about the boys who are being driven out of a Utah polygamous sect to decrease the competition among males.
These are newsworthy items, all, but the unprompted collection of them into one paper with no clear local reason for interest suggests an extremism of the sort that Graham Wright voices when he says, “I truly loathe any sight or sound of religion.”