Home/Rod Dreher/Can A Good Journalist Not Be Religious?

Can A Good Journalist Not Be Religious?

The secularist nut Richard Dawkins, in that special way of his, tried to bully a magazine out of publishing the (non-religious) work of a faithful Muslim, because in Dawkins’s view, we ought to be skeptical of the credibility of a man who believes the things Muslims believe. Scott Stephens has had enough of Dawkins’ simple-minded bigotries. Excerpt:

This is why Dawkins’s haughty concession that Hasan “talks a remarkable amount of good sense” despite his Islamic beliefs compounds his initial offense and exposes the core of his delusion. The genius of the Judaism, Christianity and Islam in particular is their insistence on relativising every claim to self-sufficiency, as well as every attempt to establish political legitimacy by the bare exercise of power or by the refusal of any greater moral obligation. Whether it be the relentless critique of idolatry in Judaism, or the humble insistence on the ineffability of the will of God in Islam, or the manifestation of divine transcendence through self-giving love in Christianity, religious belief sharpens the polemical edge of political critique.

Even Christopher Hitchens admitted as much toward the end of his life. When asked what was the greatest contribution made by Christianity to his life, he said it was “the reminder of the complete ephemerality of human power, and indeed human existence – the transience of all states, empires, heroes, grandiose claims, and so forth. That’s always with me, and I daresay I could have got that from Einstein … and from Darwin. But the way I got it and the way it is implanted in me is certainly by Christianity.”

Far from being a suspicious or self-discrediting form of credulity, religious belief can be one of the most important ways resisting the nihilistic “cult of savviness” that predominates in journalism today. As counterintuitive as it may seem, I would even suggest that the more pressing question, pace Richard Dawkins, is not whether a religious believer can be a serious journalist, but whether it is possible to resist the suffocating cynicism and self-satisfied irony of modern journalism without some reference to the supernatural.

You don’t have to be a religious believer per se to be a good journalist, but as Stephens seems to say, if you don’t have some sort of conviction that there is an unseen order of some sort, and a belief in the fallibility of human knowledge and human endeavor — which is what the great religions teach — then you will struggle as a journalist to see what’s in front of your nose, and to judge it wisely. I do not believe a professional skeptic like Dawkins is any more free from confirmation bias than a professing Muslim, Christian, or Jew. It’s all about where you draw the lines. I have worked in my career with people who disdain religious believers as chumps, but who were themselves plainly willing to believe nonsense that suited their prejudices, and to disbelieve things that did not.

Funny how we in the news biz are always being told that diversity is our strength, and that people of different ethnicities can bring perspectives to news reporting that are important to painting a fuller picture of the world — but that this quest for diversity in the name of illuminating our understanding of the world via different points of view never seems to include religious believers. A practicing Muslim is going to see things I’m not going to be able to see. He may be seeing things that aren’t there — but how can I know for sure? And in any case, ought I not to have the intellectual humility to consider that he might have some angle on the truth that has eluded me, even if I don’t believe his religion is true?

[H/T: First Things]

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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