One of my guilty pleasures is watching the ABC reality show Wife Swap with my mom. For those who don't know how Wife Swap works, the show has the wives in two families change places for two weeks. For the first week, each woman lives by her new family's rules; at the beginning of the second week, she gets to make some changes. Usually, both families come away having learned something, or at least give the impression of having done so.
The episode I saw today, which originally aired on November 28, 2005, featured two families, the Stonerocks and the Finleys. Both families learn to pay more attention to their childrens' needs, but the key theme in the episode is religion. The Finleys are hard-core atheists, while Jeff Stonerock preaches in what looks like a pretty fundamentalist church. Kelly Stonerock takes over Reggie Finley's Infidel Guy radio show while Amber Finley hires a secular tutor for the homeschooled Stonerock kids. Predictably, fur flies.
For me, the key moment came when Amber discussed discrimination against atheists with Jeff, explaining that she rarely goes out because of it. That topic NEVER comes up on TV. Later, when the families meet, they again discussed prejudice against atheists/agnostics/Brights and the religious Stonerocks sympathized, telling the Finleys, "We are on your side". The show's finale? Jeff Stonerock preaches a sermon at his church, saying that atheists are worthwhile individuals and God loves them and Christians equally. Amen to that! :-)
Seriously, I hope today's show starts to open a discussion of the civil rights of secular individuals. Religion is here to stay, and so is doubt. With tolerance, reason and separation of church and state, we can get along while disagreeing and build a better society for everyone.