I won't make this long. No need to rant. Rant I shant.
Paul Raeburn wrote this brilliant blog post at Huff-Poop: Memo to Religious Fellow Citizens: Please Get Out of My Way.
Notice how carefully (throughout the piece and in the title) Mr. Raeburn qualifies who he's talking about/to? Religious fellow citizens--how precise can a writer get? You don't suppose he knows that most of Huff-Po's readership is made up of fashionably anti-faith sorts given to sometimes childish paraphrasing of sam harris and richard dawkins? (Ha! I can play the lower-case-to-demonstrate-lack-of-respect game, too!) You don't suppose that he, or Huff-Po, would openly cater to prejudice for the sake of numbers (and, hence, advertising dollars). Gosh, no.
Another possibility is that Mr. Raeburn never learned to write, that he went to an unusually laid-back high school where the English teachers gave A's for penning unqualified vitriol. However, take a look at Raeburn's resume, as listed in great detail in his Huff-Po celebrity bio:
"Paul Raeburn is the host of Innovations in Medicine and The Washington report on ReachMD on XM satellite radio, channel 233. He is the former senior editor for science, technology and medicine at Business Week." And so on. In other words, he has no excuse for not knowing how to qualify his statements with a simple phrase or two. Which doesn't mean he knows how to do any such thing--just that he has no excuse.
His essay received the usual Christians-are-evil-and-ape-like-and-they-spread-cooties type of comments that Huff-Po might, for all I know, resort to writing itself when they fail to energize the yahoos in question. Wouldn't put it past them. Meanwhile, I wrote a short response--totally in keeping with the tone of the former AP science editor's essay--pointing out that I'd figured out the difference between "religious" and "fundamentalist" by the time I was eight. (True.) I added that qualifying our statements is not only the professional thing to do, it's respectful of others. Hey, this is a progressive blog--such appeals should hit right home, no?
They didn't allow my comment to go up.
I wrote Raeburn an email and cc'd it to Huff-Po (they are really going to care!). Now, let me clarify two things: People have the right to want nothing to do with religion. A constitutional right. They even have the right to slander all people of faith if they choose to do so--there's no law requiring that journalists write as if they'd been to school and understood the stylistic evils of broadly generalizing.
And Huff-Po has the right to censor anyone and anything it chooses to. If they want to play to a certain crowd, so be it.
But I have an equal right to point out what schmucks they are.
And I heard back from Mr. Raeburn, who insists that my comment went up. I replied that, no, my comment did not appear. And that, no, he did not in any way qualify his charges against his "religious fellow citizens."
I wrote, "You have a right not to qualify your statements, and, for all I know, to do so might be a violation of Huff-Po's editorial policies. However, I have an equal right to call you on it."
Best of all, Mr. Raeburn, who instructs all who disagree with him to get out of his way, says, "I made clear that I am happy for people to believe as they like." If so, that's an odd way to put it, though it's understood he doesn't literally mean it. Rather, he'd like those who would stand in the way of scientific progress on stem cell research not to do so.
Which isn't the issue. The issue is that not all people of faith are against the research. I don't have figures at my disposal, but anyone knows the figure isn't 100 percent either way. File under Duh.
I received a second response from him--"As I said, I have no complaint with you, or with anyone else who wants to practice religion. My comments were directed to those who want to limit my freedom."
If so, he should have qualified his comments. Isn't it a little scary that the former science editor for AP doesn't understand what I'm saying in that regard? I speak as one who vividly recalls catching grief for making an unqualified claim on a junior high school essay. And I got the point right away. Most people do. Then again, most people don't work for the AP.