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I read an article titled “Leave God out of it, Zuma” on the Mail & Guardian website this morning. The article is written by a journalist with whom I studied and respect greatly. Verashni Pillay is an amazing writer and a gifted journalist and has been since our very first day at Rhodes University.
I have said all these nice things about her because it just goes to show that no matter how talented you are there will always be complications when writing about religion and politics. Even the best of us [Verashni] will occasional battle.
In the opening paragraph of the story Verashni manages to weaken her entire argument against Zuma by stating the following:
You know, it’s difficult enough being a Christian these days. Not only are there the money-making quacks to avoid, we also have to put up with smug and ill-read atheists. A tough job, all in all.
I believe that the argument is weakened because Verashni singles out one group to take aim at another.
Why is is that Verashni needed to firstly mention Atheists at all and secondly mention them in such a condescending and mocking tone? Hypocrisy? I think so. Verashni, how could you possibly consider writing an article criticising Zuma’s opinion on religion while in the opening paragraph of that criticism take a jab at another group?
There are a few things after the fact that bothered me a little bit more than the initial statement. In a reply to @gordonwells @michaelmeadon on Twitter Verashni believes she didn’t make a generalization. I sort of agree but why single out the “smug Atheists”? Why not applaud the well-read ones? Here’s that tweet: “True. Which is why I didn’t make a generalization. I spoke about a small group of people called smug atheists.”
Then Verashni states that the comment was a throw-away: “Not sure i DID want that. It was just one throw-away line that they’re ALL focusing on now. Sigh.” If it was a throw-away comment then why put it in the opening paragraph or article at all? When not just leave it out? Why pick on Atheists of any kind?
I agree with many of the comments in the original article but most of all what I’d like to add to the debate is that it’s not OK to single out a group in a condescending way if you are an impartial journalist whether you are writing an opinion piece or not. If the shoe was on the other foot and I’d written an article and added in a throw-away: “I hate dealing with Cheats, murderers and cocky Christians”. I imagine that the religious in the crowd would have a few things to say about that.
It’s the same thing. I don’t like being bundled with “Money-making quacks” or “smug and ill-read Atheists”. I am neither but now anyone who read her story thinks that Atheists are smug and ill-read.
Verashni, if you think it’s tough being a Christian in this world, walk a mile in my shoes.