Known far more for his bluster and pomposity than for his intelligence and eduction, Bill O'Reilly recently managed to lower people's opinions of him even more by asserting that Christianity isn't a religion. If this assertion were true it would come as a great surprise to just about every Christian and scholar who has ever lived.
Bill 'Herp-a-Derp' O'Reilly
Photo: Giulio Marcocchi/Getty
It's not that unusual to find Christians who say that Christianity isn't a religion. Usually, though, they try to argue that Christianity is really "a personal relationship with God." To be fair, O'Reilly's position is arguably a bit more sensible since it can be argued that Christianity is (in some sense) a philosophy. The problem is, denying that it's a religion is just asinine.
This probably isn't the most asinine thing that Bill O'Reilly has every said during one of his programs, but I suspect that it' ranks as one of the worst. It's the sort of thing that makes people wonder if O'Reilly is just putting on an act for his show like Stephen Colbert - except that Colbert does it for humor whereas O'Reilly would be just doing it to fleece unsuspecting and ignorant conservatives.
"It is a fact that Christianity is not a religion, it is a philosophy," the Fox News host declared confidently. "If the government was saying that the Methodist religion deserves a special place in the public square, I would be on your side."
Silverman said he would be just as upset if a public figure promoted atheism.
"Jesus Christ," O'Reilly said, then apologized. He added that Christmas trees had nothing to do with Christianity and were a secular symbol.
Source: Raw Story
It is not a "fact" that Christianity is not a religion, it's merely a delusion of Bill O'Reilly's fevered imagination that Christianity is not a religion. That Christianity is a religion is actually revealed by O'Reilly himself, in a way, when describes "Methodist" as a "religion." You can't have a Methodist religion without Christianity, of which Methodism is a denomination, also being a religion.
A more interesting and significant problem with Bill O'Reilly's comment is also a problem with the more common claim that Christianity is really just a "personal relationship with God" - namely, that if Christianity isn't a religion then Christian institutions and organizations should lose their First Amendment protections under the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses. Instead, they should be limited to the same protections as every secular and civil group or organization.
This means no more religious exemptions for Christian schools, churches, and other groups from anti-discrimination laws, for example. There can be no more demands that Christian pharmacists get religious exemptions from having to fill prescriptions that they disapprove of. There can be no more automatic tax exemptions for Christian churches and charities - they have to go through the same application and reporting procedures as secular charities.
Do you think that any Christians would accept these consequences of de-classifying Christianity as a religion? Of course not. What's more, Bill O'Reilly would surely be the biggest, loudest blowhard complaining about it if it happened. Some might say that this is an indication that he doesn't really believe what he's saying. Alternatively, it might be a sign that he's simply an incompetent thinker.
Bill O'Reilly's weak grasp of reality was made further evident when he accused atheists of being "fascists" for daring to demand that government agencies be forced to follow the law on church/state separation:
O'Reilly: You and your merry band of fascists --
Silverman: Fascists?! Fascists.
O'Reilly: You get [Christmas] revoked!
Silverman: You called me a fascist!?
Silverman: I am a patriot, sir!
O'Reilly: You are a fascist.
Silverman: I am a patriot who is taking the crazy notion that everybody in this country is equal and that the government has to treat everybody fairly. That's fascism?!
Of course it's not fascism to insist that the government not endorse, promote, or favor any particular religions, religious symbols, religious holidays, or religious doctrines. Historically, fascist governments have tended to actively support and encourage religion, not insist on separating church from state.
Lying ideologues will argue that separating church from state is 'fascist' because they are trying to deceive people into thinking that their rights are being taken away when in fact they are simply being denied special privileges. The goal is to deny equal rights to others under the guise of preserving alleged rights of traditional majorities. Ironically, that is actually a common goal in fascist systems.
Mentally incompetent people will say argue that separating church from state is 'fascist' because they are incapable of basic reasoning. They don't comprehend what fascism actually is and they don't comprehend what is required for minority groups to be equal.
Reasonable people will disagree on which most accurately describes the situation with Bill O'Reilly.