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The Secular Web in the News...Sort of

Richard Carrier

With a few minutes of nothing to do (that alone being a miracle) I decided to search for the Secular Web, Internet Infidels and infidels.org in every available media database in the Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe, which spans way back, well before our creation in 1995, and includes hundreds of magazines, newspapers, newswires, newsletters, and transcripts. I discovered that no American news source has ever even noticed us, until recently. We were mentioned as the preeminent website for everything atheist in the article 'Religion on the Net' in Yahoo Internet Life (7:12, Dec. 2001--so their online URL guide has us in there). And in The Village Voice, Russ Kick's article 'The hitchhiker's guide to the radical Web' (Oct 24, 2000) told readers our site 'offers a huge repository of information about what is commonly called atheism, but often goes by other names (like nontheism, secular humanism, etc.).' He added that 'among the many strong points of the Secular Web are its daily collection of news links, exclusive original articles, and library of past and present free-thought writings.'

But, interestingly, we are better known, or were first noticed, in the foreign press. This only goes to show once again that only Europe knows what news is. American media, in the meantime, is busy putting fluff spots for pugsy the three-legged cat as the number three story, after 'Three Dead in Local Fire' and 'President Bush Said Nothing Noteworthy Again Today, But We'll Spend Five Minutes Talking About That Anyway.' Since they spend 24-7 now on an uneventful small-scale war against a few thousand Taliban fanatics, and totally neglected to tell us that World War Three was just fought in Africa, or that Ethiopia is practically in the grips of a civil war, I'm not surprised the Secular Web gets little mention.

But England pays attention to us. On September 26, 2000, The Guardian of London included, in its education pages no less, 'On the web: Philosophy: The Atheism Web' (by Chloe Greenwood, Pg. 59), which listed the URL of our logic FAQ, telling readers that it was aimed at everyone and was 'an excellent introduction to constructing logical arguments, together with an intriguing list of common fallacies.' Earlier, the Daily Telegraph of London on July 28, 1999, published 'Science: Codebreakers find secret messages in the Bible and the genes: View from the Lab' (by Prof. Steve Jones, Pg. 20), which noted the rising tide of 'Bible Code' claims, recommending our website 'for an opposing view.' And the British publication New Scientist on May 29, 1999, opened an article with this paragraph:

Johann Beringer tried, in vain, to destroy his own legacy. In the 1700s, two colleagues of the German professor had carved fanciful shapes from stones--such as birds with fish heads--and had passed them off as fossils. Beringer fell for the elaborate hoax and wrote a book in which he claimed that the stones showed the varied handiwork of God. However, when he realised that he had been the butt of an academic prank, he spent his wealth trying to purchase all the copies of his book and destroy them. He died in 1740, his task unfinished. More on this at infidels.org/library/ historical/andrew_white/Chapter5.html. ['Publish and be damned,' Pg. 19]
So our Historical Library got a plug! Groovy. At least someone notices.

The German periodical FACTS has also referred readers to us--twice. The first mention came in June 18, 1998, in 'Seelsorge auf Mausklick' ['Soul-tending at a Mouse Click'] by Robert Zimmermann. Writing about numerous examples of 'spiritual outreach' on the internet, Zimmermann sees no contradiction in listing us among them without apology, writing, [translating from the German] 'Opposite the Pope's site the Secular Web is being built at www. infidels.org. Atheists and skeptics will find hundreds of links here. Among them is the 'God Simulator' for everyone who wants to play God sometime' (Medien: Internet; Pg. 126). I assumed they were referring to Victor Stenger's MonkeyGod program, but Stenger pointed out that they certainly mean the God Simulator in our Humor section. Then on December 23, 1999 we were included in their 'Five TOP SITES,' placing fifth after Seelsorge Net ('Soulcare Net'), The 'Roman Catholic Church' of Kantons Basel-Stadt, the Church of England, and the Prayers index from The Best of the Web (which has since gotten out of the religion business--the link is no more). About us, FACTS writes (translating from the German):

Secularization: that this secular site now has the upper hand on the internet is not well known because of all the forests of dirty pictures on the web. Godless earthlings find a home in the 'Secular Web,' where atheists conduct their discourse on why God is dead or at least cannot exist.' [Medien: Internet; Pg. 108]
I also found a mention in a Dutch periodical, Brabants Dagblad on September 18, 2000 ('In het web gevangen: Vrijdenkers' by Door Ed Schilders). Since I don't read Dutch I can't translate its contents in detail, but the gist of it was praise for our extensive Historical Library, especially our section debunking Deathbed Conversions. But there is the added criticism that we don't mention the great 19th century Dutch freethinker, Multatuli (Eduard Douwes Dekker). Well, let's end that oversight here and now: go see Multatuli's Home Page.

If you've seen or heard the Secular Web or the Internet Infidels mentioned in the news, let us know where and when. We are, after all, the world's largest internet library of atheist and agnostic literature and the most widely known and frequented online nexus for the secularist community, representing the views of nearly 10% of the American Population, and far more than that in Western Europe and Australia. Last month, nearly half a million souls visited our site, double what we've ever seen before, so many in fact that we actually exceeded our bandwidth limits. At the same time we lost our primary home, and have now moved our site in a temporary fix, and both these events conspired to mess up a few features here (as I'm sure you have noticed). But we are preparing even now to re-launch the Secular Web sometime next year with our new Content Management Software paid for by generous fans, in a new permanent home, and you will find big improvements when that happens. We will be a site more serious and impressive than ever before. But I doubt the American media will notice.

Published:
  2001-12-05

Categories:
  Freethought

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