It’s another lousy Tuesday evening and I’m mindlessly browsing the web again, hungrily consuming lengthy articles on what one dollar buys in other countries and the top ten best ways to toast bread. I’m swallowing and digesting the information in each and every single one of them without hesitation– sharing incessantly because everyone needs another ten pictures of cats in boxes.
I go browse my Facebook feed, to find more useless information to cram into my head, when I stumble across a Western Journalism article titled:
“Militant Atheist Viciously Beats Ohio Pastor after Church Service: Cops.”
It sounds horrible, I know. I conclude that the article is about a religious hate crime and become severely disappointed. I came close to clicking that “share” button so the world (or at least the people on my friends list) know it’s not okay to beat up anyone over belief. Instead I decide to finish pissing myself off by actually reading the article.
The basic story goes like this:
James Maxie, a “self-described militant atheist” who has a criminal history of assault and sex offenses, and his girlfriend attended a religious service lead by Rev. Norman Hayes. While in Maxie’s presence, Hayes asked the girlfriend if she was being abused by her boyfriend.
I’m thinking the pastor wasn’t in his right mind either considering that he knew Maxie had a short fuse and decidedly proceeded to poke at him with a stick.
Long story short: Maxie gets offended and beats Hayes to a pulp.
“I questioned his girlfriend in his presence if she felt safe,” Hayes, 57, told the paper. “He was very very upset that I’d even suggest that he would hurt her. Then he turned around and hurt me very badly.”
You don’t say!?
I don’t condone the behavior of Maxie in any way, but the assault was clearly not related to religion. The creator of the headline didn’t write anything that was untrue but the specific order of words is very misleading.
Obviously, a better headline for this article would have been simply “Man Viciously Beats Ohio Pastor.” It doesn’t omit the sensationalist propaganda we all know and love. It’s also non-inflammatory and honest.
The original article got over 600 shares on Facebook. Plus, there are many others with similar, incendiary headlines. For those who mindlessly browse and share a headline like that can spread a negative perception of atheists as a whole. It’s important to keep our reasoning skills sharp and try our best to refrain from propagating deceptive information.