Oh, Billo

I wasn’t surprised when I starting seeing around the Interwebs that Bill O’Reilly, in an interview with David Silverman of American Atheists and meme fame, claimed that Christianity was a philosophy rather than a religion. What did surprise me, however, was that he was so adamant in the claim. I had figured he just said yet another stupid thing in passing, but that wasn’t the case. He really meant it. Check out the video.

Billo goes on to call atheists fascists for having objections to government-endorsed religious icons, symbology, and content. That, of course, was quite silly. I think Silverman held his own quite well, not letting Billo push him around. I do, however, think he had two points of falter. First, he said atheism was a philosophy. It isn’t. It is highly compatible with certain philosophies, such as humanism, but it is not itself a philosophy. It can’t be. It’s descriptive. Second, he said he would be forced to take Christmas off because it’s a federally mandated holiday. I think what he meant was that federal employees and those who work in certain other areas of the economy would be forced to take the day off, being prevented from conducting business as usual at the post office, city hall, etc. This was a small trip due to a lack of specificity. Overall, I think he did very well.

All that said, I do happen to be okay with Christmas’ status as a federal holiday. Past court rulings have provided a legitimate basis for why this is not an endorsement of religion: The day has been sufficiently secularized. Between the commercialism and routine traditions such as vacation time (and maybe even watching A Christmas Story), the day is not about Christianity as far as the government is concerned. Perhaps 100 years ago a different ruling would have been in order (though, given the cultural context, unlikely), but such a reaction is no longer needed today.

But then, what do I know? I’m just a fascist.

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One Response

  1. The Brits have got it right

    From BBC News

    Teaching evolution key to free school funding deal

    Failing to teach evolution by natural selection in science lessons could lead to new free schools losing their funding under government changes.

    The new rules state that from 2013, all free schools in England must teach evolution as a “comprehensive and coherent scientific theory”.

    The move follows scientists’ concerns that free schools run by creationists might avoid teaching evolution.

    Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, said he was “delighted”.

    Sir Paul told BBC News the previous rules on free schools and the teaching of evolution versus creationism had been “not tight enough”.

    ‘Creationist myth’

    He said that although the previous rules had confined creationism to religious education lessons, “the Royal Society identified a potential issue that schools could have avoided teaching evolution by natural selection in science lessons or dealt with it in a such a perfunctory way, that the main experience for students was the creationist myth”.

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