So last night on ABC’s “Nightline”–ostensibly a news program–the debate was fiery, and on a devil of a topic! Does Satan Exist? ABC apparently found the question important enough to organize their third national “face-off”. (Video and icky story at the link)
But not important enough to actually address the question. Though they say that “[t]he question of whether Satan exists is one of the most contentious theological debates possible”, ABC then chooses the equivalent of going after the most dangerous killer with a cork-gun and two water-pistols. It should not be terribly surprising, but the debate participants were chosen for their ratings-boosting personal quirkiness than for any evidence or insight they could add. There are brilliant theologians (even I admit), there are anthropologists and experimental psychologists, there are philosophers, who could have spoken with authority and data… but how could they compete with the founder of “Hookers For Jesus”? And Deepak Chopra? I once got kicked out of a bookstore because I picked up one of his books and started leafing through it… which led to my trying to retract the stupidity by banging the book against my forehead.
And every panel participant believed in a god! (I say “a”, because only three of the four were explicitly christian.) So it was a debate over somebody else’s invisible friend, hobbled by the requirement not to accidentally disprove one’s own invisible friend! Sure, the audience (at a church) would have shouted down an atheist, but it might have made for decent ratings…
It was a bit like watching a debate over the healthiness of McDonald’s hamburgers, where the expert panel consists of two fry cooks from Burger King, someone who once ate 17 burgers at a sitting and got sick, and a representative for the fast food industry. No nutritionist, no vegetarian (let alone vegan) view, no environmental impact data, no nothing.
This “debate” was junk food. It was fluff. It was a tale told by four idiots and a network full of enablers, full of sound and fury, signifying the depths to which ABC News has dipped.
Tonight, two sides begin debatin’
Whether there’s such thing as Satan,
Whether he is merely some imaginary friend
Like the playmate of a child
Whose imagination’s wild
Or a real and present danger, against which we must defend
ABC’s own Nightline newsies
Says there’s data for these doozies—
That Americans believe that such an entity exists
It’s a very weighty question
That deserves a good digestion,
From the expert theologians that they’ve plucked from off their lists
There’s the fundamental preacher,
Quite a wild and wooly creature
Whose collection plate depends upon his congregation’s fear
And the born-again ex-hooker,
Doesn’t hurt that she’s a looker,
Cos the network lives on ratings and the news must persevere
Next, a bishop, former minister,
Who came to think the sinister
Portrayal of the devil wasn’t bringing folks to God,
And then Dr. Deepak Chopra,
A celebrity, like Oprah,
Whose beliefs are slightly different, and sometimes downright odd.
Not an atheist among them,
One whose questions might have stung them,
Not a single theologian with authority to lend
No solitary skeptic was admitted to attend.
If it really is a question
Worth debating, one suggestion:
Give the sides some ammunition—as it is, they’re shooting blanks.
If it’s worth examination
There’s a certain expectation
That some experts, and some evidence, are welcome in the ranks.
But if all this fun debating’s
Not for knowledge, but for ratings,
Go ahead and pack the panel with some entertaining fluff
If the overall desire
Is to push the ratings higher
Then the hooker/preacher freakshow is authority enough.