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Jerry Coyne Goes on Polish Television to Extol the Merits of Atheism


Jerry Coyne of Why Evolution Is True has been traveling in Poland, and he's been invited by a Polish television station to talk about atheism. 

Jerry's post, with my commentary:

I am astounded that this is even happening, but what I’m told is a fairly large nationwide TV station will interview me tomorrow morning (Monday) at about 9:30 a.m. The show is called Good Morning, Poland, and the amazing thing is that they want to talk about -- atheism!

Jerry is under the delusion that he's going to teach the Poles something they don't know about atheism. The Polish people have a long, intimate experience with atheism.  

Remember, this is a country where “insulting religious feelings” is a crime punishable by a fine and, in principle, jail.

Blasphemy laws are terrible. I'm sure Jerry agrees that it shouldn't be illegal to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of any idea, anywhere, anytime.  

Right now, as I mentioned in an earlier post, it’s big news that a nonbelieving policeman has asked that a crucifix be removed from his office (crosses are everywhere!), and for that simple request he’s being prosecuted. He may be fined, lose his job, or even incarcerated, though I doubt he’ll see jail time.

In Poland, criticizing God will get you into trouble. In America, criticizing Darwin will get you into trouble. 

Religious education -- always by priests or nuns -- is obligatory for two hours a week beginning in kindergarten (!) through high school -- and although students can opt out, it’s done in a way that stigmatizes them.

In America, indoctrination in Darwinism, atheism's creation myth, is obligatory for public school kids. They can't opt out.

The religious instructors are chosen by the local bishop and they can neither be fired nor told what to teach. This forced indoctrination, and the blasphemy laws, are the two biggest things obstructing the secularization of Poland.

The main thing obstructing secularization in Poland is the Polish people's memory of the last time Poland was secularized.  

So atheism is pretty much a taboo subject in a country whose inhabitants are 95% Catholic...

Atheism isn't a taboo subject in Poland. It is discussed continuously. The history of Poland from 1945 to 1989 is the history of atheist rule in Poland. 

... and a TV interview is good opportunity for me to spread the gospel (so to speak) in a way that I hope will be persuasive.

Atheism is a "gospel" now? The Poles will be interested to learn what aspect of their half-century experience with atheism was "good news."

The TV folks have submitted a lists of questions that they might ask me, and suffice it to say that those questions are both straightforward and provocative.

Here are some suggested questions for Professor Coyne: 

  • "Could you please describe the state of political and religious freedom in Poland under the half-century of atheist rule?"
  • "When atheists and Nazis divided Poland in 1939, why was it that Polish refugees tended to flee from the half of Poland occupied by atheists into the half occupied by Nazis?"
  • "From 1945 to 1989, atheists who ruled Poland committed crimes against humanity on an historic scale. Why should Poles welcome the re-emergence of atheism in their country, given that contemporary atheists won't even admit the crimes atheists committed just a few decades ago?"
  • "Who was Fr. Jerzy Popie?uszko?"
  • "What famous Pole said 'Being an atheist . . . means not knowing the true nature of created reality but absolutizing it, and therefore "idolizing" it...'"? 
  • "When Pope John Paul visited Poland in 1979 after 34 years of atheist rule, millions of Poles chanted 'My chcemy Boga!' What does My chcemy Boga mean, and why were they chanting it?"

I believe the interview will take place outdoors, in the lovely town square of Cracow...

For a discussion of the impact of atheism on Poland that will resonate with the Polish people, perhaps Jerry should conduct the interview in the town of Katyn. There is, or once was, a charming forest nearby.

Image: Katryn forest, mass grave, 1943/Wikipedia.