I was dismissed as ‘professional atheist,’ ‘insensitive,’ ‘self-absorbed’ by local newsradio host

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In my last two posts regarding the Christian response to the death of Tyler Winstead, I argued that Rev. Michael Brewster’s comments were vapid, did nothing to address problems of violence, and were problematic considering they offer false hope to people who believe they’re actually doing something to address a problem. If you haven’t read the posts, please take some time to read them so you can understand the context of this post.

Drawing on the comments from my two blog posts, I posted some comments on WILK Newsradio’s Facebook page responding to this following status

Tyler Winstead’s funeral packed the Mt. Zion Baptist Church with celebration, heartache and the promise of church-led community action to make Wilkes-Barre a better, peaceful city. What will it take for the dream to succeed? Talk to “Corbett” at 3 about the future.

addressing what I considered to be the vapid response of Rev. Brewster. It seems to be the case that people in the community are looking to Rev. Brewster from Mt. Zion Baptist Chruch for answers (the Facebook status even recognizes this noting “church-led community action”). Rev. Brewster has had many opportunities to lay out a plan of action as he has been promising, but so far all of his comments — it seems — were appeals to God and his faith. He even was said to have planned a town meeting for Wednesday…and that was cancelled! After discovering this, it seems that Brewster is grandstanding in the name of his faith as I note.

Rev. Brewster’s words of change are vapid. According to news reports, his plan of action is to “employ the weapon of unconditional and radical love for humanity.” Brewster also says that Tyler “is in the best hands he will ever be” seemingly asserting — whether he realizes it or not — that he is better off dead and allegedly in the hands of God than he is alive. Perhaps to even make matters worse, Brewster claims that God has forgiven the person who killed Tyler and that Tyler’s family has also forgiven. I wonder…how can someone possibly forgive someone whom they do not even know the identity of?

The solutions to this problem will not be found by appealing to faith, some other alleged world, or a so-called ‘holy man.’ Instead of talking so much about an alleged God in his sermon, Brewster could have put forth real plans for responding to violence rather than “the weapon of unconditional and radical love.”

Nothing fails like prayer.


It’s an utter shame that Brewster is grandstanding in the name of his faith and offering false hope to those in Wilkes-Barre and NEPA who are looking for real change and not some empty words about God and “unconditional and radical love.” I don’t suppose to know or have the answers, but one thing is for sure – Brewster doesn’t know or have the answers.

The person posting under the WILK Newsradio handle — perhaps radio show Steve Corbett or perhaps not — dismissed my comments and, instead of responding to the content of my posts or something similar, claimed that I “lack sensitivity for the grief of others.”

Did you ever think that your lack of sensitivity for the grief of others might be one reason that some people will never take you as seriously as you would like, Justin?

The person posting under the WILK Newsradio handle also wrote the following and, once again, failed to respond to my content although this time levied personal attacks against me simply for, as it seems, objecting to Rev. Brewster’s comments.

Ok, Justin. Your overrunning this exchange with your self-absorbed sense of self-importantc is simply not acceptable. This discussion is about a dead child, not your childish need for instant gratification. Get over yourself for at least a day. Grow up. Tyler does not have that chance.

Additionally, on live radio, radio show host Steve Corbett dismissed me as a “professional atheist” noting, if I recall correctly, that I am pushing an ‘agenda against faith’ and being disrespectful by posting on the Facebook page. [Unfortunately, the show isn’t archived, so I can’t link it.] Never mind, of course, the fact that I am a graduate student, a writer, a blogger, and do other things with my life. A commenter, also, on the NEPA Freethought Society’s website wondered if me being a “professional atheist” is a reason to dismiss my comments should also lead people to dismiss “professional Christians.”

It’s quite unfortunate that whoever posted under the WILK Newsradio handle directed these comments at me when — at the same time — WILK Newsradio presents itself as an open forum for the discussion of ideas in which people are welcome to share their opinions. Apparently, some ideas are now simply ‘out of bounds’ and the words of Rev. Brewster are immune from criticism. Apparently, instead of responding to my comments, the tactic is now to just object to him even posting and levy personal attacks.

One thing I learned from the skeptical movement is that if one’s ideas have merit, one should be able to counter others’ ideas with ideas of their own by providing arguments rather than attacking the person making the arguments. Arguments stand or fall based on their merits, not the person making them. Apparently, even though my posts were so objectionable, the objectors didn’t even bother — for some reason — to pose objections. Personal attacks are the order of the day, it seems.

It’s even more interesting that not one single argument was made against what I was said — or even regarding why I shouldn’t type what I typed — but rather people were objecting to the discussion even taking place to begin with and calling, for some reason, for me to ‘respect beliefs’ (in other words, sit down and shut up). The same person who is calling for me to be ‘sensitive’ is levying personal attacks at me using phrases such as “self-absorbed sense of self-importance,” “childish need for instant gratification,” “get over yourself for at least a day,” and “grow up.”

“Get over yourself for at least a day?” Excuse me? Are you honestly stating that my posting on a thread disagreeing with comments from a reverend and arguing that his comments are vapid is indicative of my entire character in which I am, on this accounting, “self-absorbed” with a “childish need for instant gratification?” Because, of course, writing eight-page papers concerning theological fatalism and writing about philosophy of science is really me being self-absorbed on every day of the week and me trying to fulfill my alleged childish need for instant gratification. One thing that will satiate my childish need for instant gratification, for sure, is writing about philosophy! That’s the rub!

It’s time for atheists — and everyone else — to call for an end to this extremely harmful meme of ideas being above criticism. How are we, as a society, supposed to progress if mere disagreement is unacceptable and the preferred method of choice is — instead of responding to arguments with arguments — personal attacks? Is that really going to get us anywhere? In the wake of the death of Tyler Winstead — what the whole conversation even started because of — people are calling for peace and love, but we’re hardly seeing this from WILK Newsradio’s comments. We can disagree and still be respectful of one another, but apparently that wasn’t the case yesterday.

As always, I welcome comments and even disagreement. If you think that my comments are, for whatever reason, uncalled for or out-of-line, please post your reasons for thinking so, but don’t attack me. Let’s have a respectful discussion.

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