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.