Monday, January 26, 2015

Do Atheists Really Hate Carrie Underwood’s New Song?

            This originally came up a few months ago, but seemed to blow over before I had the chance to complete a post addressing it. But it has recently resurfaced, and it annoys me, so I thought I’d say something about it.

            Now, if you don’t frequent explicitly Christian or atheist web sites, or aren’t a big country music fan, you may not even be aware of the fact that Carrie Underwood released a song a little while back called “Something in the Water.” It wasn’t long before claims started popping up on the internet that atheists were “attacking” Underwood for singing about her faith, and trying to get her song banned.

            This came as a surprise to me when I first heard about it, since I’m not a country music fan and therefore hadn’t followed Underwood’s career at all. Also, I frequent a few atheist sites, and hadn’t heard a peep from any of them about her new song. In fact, the first time I’d seen any atheist blogger mention “Something in the Water,” was in response to the sudden proliferation of accusations that atheists were attacking the singer. And that response (as well as all the attached comments) appeared just as blindsided by the accusation as I was.

            Figuring there must be something really incendiary in the song to make people think atheists would be offended by it, I went and looked up the lyrics. It’s a pretty standard, cookie-cutter Christian “My life used to suck, then I found Jesus, and now everything is peachy,” story. There’s really not much in there to get riled up about, and it’s not like Underwood is the first (or even the seventy-first) country star to record feel-good god-music. This was looking pretty hinky to me.

            So I looked up some of the accusatory posts. This one is pretty typical. In fact, several sites were running this exact wording, verbatim. You notice anything interesting about it?

            In case you didn’t follow the link (or did, and just didn’t notice what I did), it’s this: there’s no attribution. No quote from an atheist speaker, writer, blogger, or what-have-you voicing a condemnation of the song. No links to any news story or blog post in which an atheist has anything to say about it at all. But there is a link to a video for the song, and a strong encouragement for people to view and share the song to support Carrie against us mean, nasty atheists.

            That’s when it hit me: this is someone’s idea of a promotional ploy!

            The atheist persecution of Carrie Underwood for “Something in the Water,” is entirely made up. It’s an invention, out of nothing, for the purpose of driving traffic to her song video. And it says a lot of very nasty things about those who made it up, those who repeated it, and those who responded to it.

            First, it’s built on the lie that atheists are actively offended by the mere fact that someone believes in the Christian god, and that we wish to ban all religious expression. For the most part, we aren’t and we don’t. It’s efforts to impose those belief structures on, and to demonize, us and everyone else that tends to offend us. This song represents nothing of the kind. This is, itself, an extension of the fake persecution complex in which certain segments of American Christians like to cloak themselves; if you can’t really be persecuted, at least you can pretend to be.

            Second, it absolutely relies on the intended audience not looking into the facts or even thinking about what they read. It’s so blatantly manipulative that it’s hard to believe anyone takes it seriously… until you read the comment sections and start to see posts from people who absolutely believe it’s true and are spewing anti-atheist vitriol in response.

            Third, the underlying mode of thinking is just plain ugly. Whoever came up with this idea didn’t say to people “You should listen to this song because it’s good,” or “You should listen to this song because you will find it inspirational.” The message they decided to go with was “You should listen to this song because atheists hate it, and you hate atheists.”

            The results are predictably toxic. A few more Christians convinced to see atheists as evil bogeymen, a few more atheists convinced to see Christians as unreasonable hate-mongers. More division and rancor where none was called for, all to drive a little more click traffic to a music video. And that’s if I’m being charitable – it’s entirely possible that the division and rancor were the actual goals of the campaign in the first place.

            In the grand scheme, this little dustup is not that important. It’s just a country singer singing about one of the topics country singers tend to sing about, and a little accompanying publicity flap. I don’t even think that Underwood herself is responsible for it – I have yet to find a quote from her one way or the other that actually relates to this particular event. But I think it is illustrative of the way some people are happy to use religious identity as a weapon to sow division and a tool to promote their own agenda. I hope that we can all strive to be better than to fall for it.

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