Sunday, June 15, 2008

Bogus Interview

A few months ago, I was asked to give an interview for a sort-of local parenting magazine. Because I'm in no hurried to get sued, I'm not going to give the name of the magazine or contact. Instead, I'll call the magazine "ParentsRUs" (PRU) and the contact "Betty". Her first e-mail read as follows:
Possummomma, My name is Betty and I'm a reporter for PRU magazine. At
ParentsRUs, we are committed to gathering information from all manner of
families. I googled atheist mom and found your blog. A well received
blog. Can I inquire how large your audience is?....blah, blah, blah...we
are beginning a series on parents of different faiths. Would you be our
atheist representative? The interview would take approximately thirty
minutes and we will require contact information for five readers to obtain
quotes to support your article. *insert contact info and the standard "if
you have any questions..." verbage* - Sincerely, Betty


I responded and said that I was game to do an interview, but I would not give her any contact information for my readers that wasn't already obtainable from the site. I explained to her that some people are not "out" as atheists and seeing their name in print in a magazine could be a bad thing for their families. I also asked that my last name not be published. She replied that e-mails and first names would be fine. I also asked her to e-mail me a set of questions before the interview so I could prepare. She spoke with her boss and the boss said okay to my conditions.

Two weeks later, I received this e-mail:
...Sorry it's taken me this long to get the questions to you. Can we
set something in two weeks time?

I told her that week would be too hectic with family in town and end of school activities. So, we agreed on the following week. The questions are below (with my answers). All of these were things she could ask in the interview. When I saw the questions, I was baffled (you'll see why in a moment). I would think being an atheist would make some of those questions worthless! So I called her office and left a message. When Betty returned my call, I told her that some of those questions (most, in fact) didn't apply to us. She asked which ones. Um..let's see...how about all of the questions that presume we actually believe in a god, have a religion, or participate in a particular faith? She did one of those "silly you" laughs and said, wait for it..."Atheism is a faith just like any other." *head desk* I told her it wasn't and she blew me off by saying, "Just send me a draft of your answers and maybe we can change the questions up as necessary."

So...I did.
1. Your name, age, marital status, education, occupation and faith. - *personal info*
2. If married, name of spouse and his occupation, education, faith. - *more personal info*
3. Name(s) and age (s) of child(ren). - Alexis (13), Jake (12, by the time this publishes), Grace (5), and Owen (4, by publishing).
4. Were you born into the faith you claim now? - No. I was born an atheist and my parents made me Catholic.
4.a Answer for spouse. - He was raised an catholic and is now a cultural catholic, firm agnostic
5. How does your faith contribute to your daily life? - It doesn't. Atheism is not a faith.
6. At what frequency do you attend worship services/church? - The kids occasionally attend with their friends.
7. What services do you give to your church, if any? - None, atheists don't typically attend churches, so we don't often get asked to join church groups.
8. Are the children in religious education or faith based programs? - Our eldest was going to go to Camp Quest this summer, but it's not a faith based program. It is a camp for free-thinkers, atheists and agnostics, and secular children.
9. How faithful would you say your family is on a scale of one to ten, ten being most faithful? - 0 - hence the atheism.
10. Does your religion impact your house rules (radio, television, movies, books, time)? - No. But, we do apply common sense about what things might be appropriate or inappropriate for each child. Almost any book is fair game. We encourage reading as many books as possible.
11. Which is more important for your children's future - faith, education, or both? - Education, without a doubt.
12. If your child(ren) chose a different faith would you allow them to do that? - It's entirely up to them. I love my children and will support any choices they make so long as they are informed decisions and do not harm others.
13. What special religious holidays or rituals have you participated in with your children? - Darwin Day, National Day of Reason, Christmas, Easter, Fourth of July, Fat Tuesday, Hanukkah, Thanksgiving,...most holidays have been stripped of their religious significance in this country and are carried out as a cultural celebration. We'll take any opportunity to enjoy our children as they celebrate the fantastic culture and diversity this country has.
14. Do you ever feel persecuted for your religious beliefs? - I don't have "religious beliefs". We have had some difficulties with religious people who can't respect our philosophy of secular humanism. For some reason, it scares theists to imagine that children can be raised with high morals and standards with the inclusion of positive philosophies from the past and present.
15. Have your children had positive experiences in your family's faith? - For the most part, I would say "yes". Although, as I've said, it's not a faith. We believe in reason, logic, evidence, and truth. None of those carry any problems in an open and loving home. I imagine that it's wonderful for a child to be treated with great respect and appreciation of their unique talents.
16. How long have you belonged to your current church/place of worship? - We have been active in the atheist community for a couple of years.
17. Does your faith effect what products you buy for your family? - I'm unsure as to how to answer this. We don't buy Bibles. And, we try not to buy products that are manufactured under unethical or inhumane circumstances.
18. How do you educate your children? Do you homeschool? If so, what materials do you use? Are you following a faith based program? - Our children go to public school with heavy supplementing during home hours. We encourage the kids to study subjects or topics they show any interest in by buying them books, getting them in touch with people who use those interests in their occupations, and/or seeking out places that add to those interests.
19. Has your faith made you a stronger family unit? - If you need faith to strengthen your parenting, then I suspect you're doing it wrong.
20. Do you discuss the following openly with your children; faith, religion, God, ethics, and/or the texts of your faith? - Yes. Although, there are no texts for atheism. We encourage the kids to learn about all faiths. We also encourage them to read books by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and other scientists and atheists.
21. Who is your family's spiritual guide or role model? - We don't have a spiritual guide. But, we have many role models.
22. How has your faith helped you parent? - I still object to calling atheism a faith, but the values of atheism encourage free thought, the scientific method, applying ethics because it's the right thing to do (as opposed to a set of rules to avoid an unproven hell), listening to their ideas, and inspiring them to be great men and women.
23. Does your faith influence your choices for your child's friends? - No
24. Would you allow them to cultivate friendships outside your faith? - Of course!
25. Do your children show any signs of being leaders within your faith? - I think my children will grow up to be great thinkers. My wish is that they be happy and fulfilled. My goal is to prepare them to be whatever they wish to be. They are already leaders in their respective classrooms and aimed to do even more.

I got a response from Betty who thanked me for my time and then said, "We've decided to go a different direction with this series."
WTF, CHUCK!?!

23 comments:

Oz Atheist said...

those are terrible questions they all assume you have a faith, as if everyone has a faith. It's a very one-sided questionnaire.

and then they have the gall to drop it!

I don't think I'd give that magazine any credence after this poor showing.

Mephitis said...

How bizarre. Clearly no comprehension of what atheism means involved in the compiling of that questionnaire whatsoever.

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Oz Atheist said...
those are terrible questions they all assume you have a faith, as if everyone has a faith. It's a very one-sided questionnaire.

See! That's exactly what I didn't understand. She stated, very clearly, up front that she was contacting me because she googled "atheist mom". I've done interviews before and the one thing you do, BEFORE you present your questions, is go over your questions to make sure that they're answerable for the interviewee.

Mephitis said...
How bizarre. Clearly no comprehension of what atheism means involved in the compiling of that questionnaire whatsoever.

I know! Why would you send someone who you've tracked down, to give you an atheist viewpoint, questions that aren't even applicable? I have been tempted to call her back and just say, "Hey! Did you know what the term "atheist" meant when you asked me to take part?" The more I talk it over with people, I'm beginning to wonder. What sucks is that I know my answers are flat and not good material for an article, but I was stuck with how I could answer those questions and NOT end up getting my words twisted or admitting that atheism is a faith when it isn't. That phone conversation where she blew off my concern makes me think that she is completely clueless about atheism, but...man...if that were your JOB, then wouldn't you be looking up stuff? And, not to be catty, but $20 says the "different direction" is going to be a parade of religious parenting without an atheist representative.

There needs to be an atheist parenting magazine.

Poodles said...

I think you are right in that they are only going with religious people for the article. You were better about it than I would have been. The minute she spewed forth her "knowledge" that atheism requires faith is when I would have ended the madness.

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...

I think even some religious parents might find some of her questions a little too leading.

Milo Johnson said...

Next week, we'll talk to an anorexic to get some good recipes, and we'll find out what her favorite restaurants are.

skepticdad said...

I think you were being baited into answering that atheism is a "faith", so that they could use it against you.

Be careful granting interviews. Look what happened to Eugenie Scott and PZ Meyers. They were hoodwinked by Ben Stein.

http://www.expelledexposed.com

Betsy said...

It seems obvious that she had the same manufactured questions for every person she intended to interview, rather than tailoring it to specific interviewees. Lazy journalism, if you can even call it journalism.

Hubby and I have mentioned that there is a need for an atheist parenting magazine too; his first suggestion is always for me to start one. There's always the online stuff, but to have an actual hard copy would be awesome.

Calladus said...

It sounds like she either has some preconceived notions or is lazy, or both.

"Silly you, of COURSE Atheism is a faith" is one of the fastest ways for a believer to get on my bad side.

This sort of Christian thinking reveals a sort of built-in Christian arrogance and condescending attitude that is all too common among Christians. It has been my experience that Christians can be made aware that they have this attitude if they are willing to discuss - honestly discuss - our differences.

But too often, they only want to hear their own version of the story, and so discussion is frequently pointless.

Jason said...

I think it has to do more with lazy journalism than built-in Christian arrogance and condescending attitude. But that's just me.

Uncle Sam said...

Frankly, I don't expect any better from a "parenting magazine." A publication that specific in topic is counting on a very specific audience, which most likely consists of faithful readers. "Ignorant Betty" is obviously a faithful person who can't comprehend the possibility that an atheist could be a good parent, and planned to imply that in her article. She expected responses like, "there's nothing for atheist kids to do, since we don't go to church!"

Bad journalism.

reVAMPed said...

Milo, you made me spew with laughter. Good one, lol.

11. Which is more important for your children's future - faith, education, or both?

That has to me the stupidest question I've ever heard. No wonder America is getting behind other nations in education. I'm pretty sure a lot of the uneducated "faithful" said faith was more important than education. *sheesh* *rolls eyes*

Jason said...

reVAMPed said... "I'm pretty sure a lot of the uneducated "faithful" said faith was more important than education."

So quick question...Why do the "Faithful" have to be uneducated?

And what would have been so wrong with the "Both" answer?

Rene Descartes for example had a deep religious faith as a Catholic, which he retained to his dying day, along with a resolute, passionate desire to discover the truth.

ronan51 said...

Personally, I probably would have refused to even waste the time answering her "questions" if she just laughed off your phone call with a "silly you" type of answer.

Lev P. said...

Well, sometimes interviews can be good... Yours truly participated in one back in April, about Camp Quest.

See the result in USA Today (second photo and the couple of last paragraphs R us)!

We had a very nice conversation with the writer, and the rest of AP staff were equally good.

P.S.: With that link you can put face to the name, or should I say face and name to the nickname ;) ...

Becca said...

this makes me mad, as it makes journalists look stupid. Obviously a journalist who didn't do her prep and sent you canned questions that don't fit all.

"Next week, we'll talk to an anorexic to get some good recipes, and we'll find out what her favorite restaurants are." HAHAHA!!!

Amanda K. said...


There needs to be an atheist parenting magazine.


well wouldn't that be a project for you! ;)

and hi, btw, I've been lurking for quite a long time now, it's shydescending from LJ :)

Atheist in a mini van. said...

HEY SHY!!! I'm so glad you're here!

Milo, holy crap man! That made me blow Diet Pepsi out my nose.

Jason said...
I think it has to do more with lazy journalism than built-in Christian arrogance and condescending attitude. But that's just me.

You are trying my patience, Jason. If you'd bothered to read the entire thread, then you'd see that you're not the only one who chalks this one up to lazy reporting.

Jason said...

So quick question...Why do the "Faithful" have to be uneducated?

They don't! But, unfortunately, a lot of them choose to be. Look at the number of people who buy into ID and literal creationism.

And what would have been so wrong with the "Both" answer?
In my opinion, there would be nothing "wrong" with any of the answers.

Rene Descartes for example had a deep religious faith as a Catholic, which he retained to his dying day, along with a resolute, passionate desire to discover the truth.
Should I even go here? I'm going to hope that you're providing a very, very simple portrait of Descartes here. Please say you are and that you have also studied his theories on dualism and corruption within the Catholic Church.

Cikgu Screwtape said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Paul said...

Cikgu, I know that there is a language barrier and all, but that site is full of crazy.

fsmismyhero said...

Cikgu, I have to agree with Paul. WTF?

Atheist in a mini van. said...

Cikgu - If you're going to spam a blog, then you might want to check out the rules.
"If you want some traffic for your blog - send me a link (or just sign in with comments) and we'll check it out. But, please don't put gratuitous links to your own blog in comments."

Sharon said...

I've got your blog on my feed reader and love it.

Anyway, those were dumb questions, but I was impressed at how you managed to turn them around and answer them in such a way as to make your excellent points anyway.

Silly magazine for not running it. I'm sure it would have stirred up a debate. It sounds like they expected your answers to be more hopeless and demonstrate what (they think) you are all missing.