Sunday, March 23, 2014

Bill O'Reilly mischacterizes atheists (again), is generally an egotistical pinhead...

In terms of predictability, this ranks right alongside "the tide comes in, and the tide goes out"...but (surprise) Bill O'Reilly mischaracterized atheists, again, this time in an interview with Sally Quinn of OnFaith.

They were discussing O'Reilly's rather infamous proclamation that the Holy Spirit is responsible provided inspiration for and the gifts that make possible his writings (58 seconds, in the clip below).

O'Reilly was mocked at the time for a suggestion that, essentially, boiled down to God choosing him to write a version of Jesus' death that was in fact more accurate than the Bible. Perhaps the best response to O'Reilly's claim came from fellow Catholic and comedian extraordinaire Stephen Colbert:

 In relation to the story, Sally asks
I saw the ‘60 Minutes’ interview where you talked about how you believe that the Holy Spirit guided you to write this book. That comment was derided, but I wanted you to talk a little bit more about what you think your earthly purpose is and how your faith informs what you do.
O'Reilly prefaced his answer (the typical 'all good things in my life come from God [not the nasty ones, that shit just happens]' line) with this:

The problem with the secular-progressive movement is it simply cannot accept any people of faith and take them seriously. They’re so condescending and they’re so arrogant that, even though you might be a brilliant person, if you believe, you’re an idiot. So that just knocks out the whole Jesuit organization. It knocks out Thomas Aquinas, Augustine. Everybody is knocked out because they believe. That’s what the genesis of the criticism was.
I don't presume to speak for all secular progressives, but I do think I speak for many when I, as both a progressive and a secularist, call BS. I'm not religious. I don't believe in gods. But I was and have done. I don't think I was an idiot then. Just as a religious person will think that I am wrong now, I think I was wrong about that topic (as I'm no doubt still wrong about many things, subjects upon which I have not yet discovered the error of my thinking). But not an idiot. Being wrong about something does not an idiot make.

So, let me say unequivocally, smart people can be wrong about important things. I would not presume to dismiss someone as an "idiot" (or, say, a "pinhead"?) because I disagree with them and think they're wrong about something. No, smart people aren't "knocked out" because they believe. Intelligent secular progressives (and religious people) can and do respect intelligent people with whom they disagree over the god question. (Obviously, "idiots" can get the same question wrong [from my POV] too, but the fact that someone gets it wrong doesn't prove them to be an idiot.) That's a big, fat red herring, Bill: you were mocked not because you were religious, but because you were exceedingly pompous.

Oh, and speaking of pompous, do note the caliber of O'Reilly's other examples of religious persons likewise dismissed (in his absurd reality) by big bad secular progressives. There's Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, the Jesuits and...oh yes, Bill O'Reilly.

Anyway...after ensconcing the tales of his tribulations amidst swipes at "arrogant", and "condescending" secular progressives, O'Reilly spends some time arguing that he was merely attributing his success and ideas to his deity -- something that "all Christians, if they understand their faith, should believe". While this is a better defense than "they see me Christianing, and they hating," it's still not really accurate. O'Reilly was criticized for presuming that his deity picked him to correct his holy book. It was the idea that, when God needs someone to update the record he calls Bill O'Reilly, and not an "I give thanks to God because, without him, I'd be nothing" attitude that people mocked.

(Speaking of arrogant, O'Reilly's comment about "haters" really is worth reading:
I’m not comparing myself, but who was the most hated person in Judea 2,000 years ago?Many, many loved him, but just as many despised him. They’re always going to do that. If you speak your mind, you’re going to have some who like you and some who hate you.)

While you ponder how O'Reilly's not just in the Thomas Aquinas/Augustine category, but also the Jesus one...Quinn's next question couldn't have been better chosen to pander to O'Reilly's persecution complex.
Why do you think that there is so much sneering and ridicule toward religion by people who don’t believe?
And he was in fine form, answering with a duplicitous bit of misdirection so dodgy and dishonest that it must be quoted in full:
Because they don’t want to be judged. They believe that religious people are judging their behavior, and they don’t want to be judged. They want to do what they want.
Take a guy like Bill Maher. He’s probably the most visible atheist in the American media. Well, Bill Maher does not want to be told what to do. He wants to do whatever he wants. And if it’s take drugs, he wants to be able to do that. If it’s commit adultery, he wants to be able to do that. Whatever it may be, he doesn’t want anybody telling him not to. And the people that would do that would be religious people, so he strikes out against them.
First of all, there are plenty of Christians (and religious people of other faiths) who find the continual judgment inherent to many belief structures to be abhorrent. (I was one of those people, when I was religious). Many conservative Christians seem to get off on making other people's lives miserable, but there are plenty of Christians who actually try to live according to the values of the "Christ" of their Christ-ianity, and honor the exhortation to "judge not".

Secondly, that is neither here nor there, because that's not the reason that any sizable proportion of atheists are critical of religion. It's all well and good that O'Reilly tries to cast aspersions on individuals, but the assertion is utterly bogus. Atheists aren't annoyed with religion for calling them on doing bad things; we're annoyed when religion tries to control, persecute and marginalize people (which is why, while we disagree, most atheists have no issue with religious people in general; just the people who use religion as an excuse to cause harm). Atheism's beef with faith, when there is one, isn't because atheists are bad people intent on naughty actions. This is somewhat like the "but what's to stop you from killing/raping/etc. without God?" line that Penn Jillette addressed so well:
The question I get asked by religious people all the time is, without God, what's to stop me from raping all I want? And my answer is: I do rape all I want. And the amount is zero. And I do murder all I want, and the amount I want is zero. The fact that these people think that if they didn't have this person watching over them that they would go on killing, raping rampages is the most self-damning thing I can imagine.
I say "somewhat" because it's similar but not entirely the same. O'Reilly seems to think that atheists, having already forsaken the restraining dictates of religious morality (not that restraining, one can only conclude from O'Reilly's own life -- seeing as how sexual harassment and divorce still happen despite falling in his faith's "not cool" bucket), now simply want to go around taking drugs, committing adultery, etc., without the pesky bother of religious people telling us not to do that.

This is a self-serving, simplistic and downright idiotic thing to say. (This would be a good example of me considering someone with whom I disagree on the god issue an idiot -- not because of his opinion on that question, but because he's, well, an idiot). He is shifting the conversation from ideas to personal attacks. It's not that atheists (and many religious people as well) think his self-aggrandizing claims that God instructed him to correct the Bible are laughable; it's that atheists are immoral meanies who don't want to be reminded of their wrongs. Christians like God's new mouthpiece are the line between vice and virtue, the line that keeps atheists on the straight and narrow, and we react strongly and negatively to that righteous coaching. (I can't help but wonder what Bill would say if someone reminded him that atheists make up a disproportionately small percentage of the prison population; an interesting fact, in light of our nefarious tendencies...)

Interestingly enough, in the same interview that he decries "condescending" "arrogant" secular people, he attributes criticism of religion (or, more accurately, absurd, self-flattering quasi-religious notions) to a desire on the critics' parts to do wrong unjudged. Because there's not a damn thing arrogant, condescending or presumptuous about that...

And all the time he completely ignores the fact that right wing Christianity -- largely furthered by him and his network -- continues to try to marginalize and persecute people who fall outside of their bounds of their select group (hint: that group is white, they have penises [which are only, ever used in a recreational fashion in relation to baby-makers women], and they pray to his god). He ignores the fact that conservative Christians continue to try to override constitutional separation of church and state in order to enshrine their particular brand of Christianity in law. He ignores that, when successful, conservative Christianity in this country destroy and even ends lives -- depriving citizens of healthcare, limiting food, forcing pregnancy on people, inciting deadly anti-gay hysteria on other continents, etc., etc. And while Bill focuses on the imaginary evils of other people, he misses the actual problem: the poisonous impact of cruel, tyrannical religious dictates imposed by clueless idiots who are incapable of compassion or introspection.

Speaking of which...the interview also explored whether or not O'Reilly had "ever had a crisis of faith" or if his views had changed much since childhood. Don't fall out of your seat, but the answer was no, to both. It must be awesome to be born with parents who know everything. But, hey, I guess that's small potatoes when God's asking you to re-write his Bible...

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