Monday, August 15, 2005

A response to Bill O'Reilly

Any frequent viewer of the O'Reilly Factor on Fox knows that Bill O'Reilly believes that "securlarism" is ruining the United States of America. In this recent column, God Help Us, Bill asserts that secular and liberal Americans are the reason that sexual offenders and terrorists have not been brought to justice. Being that I am a secular humanist, I feel that a response is in order.
The relentless attack on public displays of spirituality and religion by progressive secularists has been extremely effective worldwide. Churchgoing in Western Europe, for example, has collapsed in many countries.
O'Reilly fails here to notice that countries that have not separated church and state, such as England, have seen a decline in religious belief, while in the US religious belief has thrived. Secondly, he also fails to consider that other factors other than "the relentless attack on public displays of spirituality and religion" may account for the decline in church attendance. And lastly, Bill acts as if church going decline is in itself a bad thing.
Ferguson cites a Gallup Poll that shows barely 20% of Western Europeans attend church services at least once a week. The number is 47% and falling in the USA. In Britain, only 10% of those polled said they would be willing to die for their religious beliefs. And guess who loves that statistic? Can you say the Islama-fascists?
1. So what? Are we to attend church to spite Islamic fanatics? This point is asinine.
2. Only 10% of polled British citizens are willing to die for religious beliefs and that's a bad thing? I'm confused, is O'Reilly suggesting we should be more like the terrorists and be willing to die for religious beliefs? I'm reminded of Bertrand Russell's attributed answer when he was asked if he would die for his beliefs: "Of course not. Afterall, I may be wrong."
If the fundamental moral tenet of protecting the lives of innocent people superceded all other political concerns, Osama bin-Laden and the boys would be on the gallows right now. But that is not the case as we all know.
Here O'Reilly asserts that secular humanists do not believe protecting innocent lives is a fundamental moral tenet. One must wonder if Bill has ever met or spoken to a secular humanist; a quick survey of the affirmations and principles of secular humanism would reveal otherwise. Also, O'Reilly is here blaming secular humanists for failure to capture Osama bin-Laden? That is absurd. One could more appropriately claim bin-Laden has not been captured because the United States diverted two hundred billion dollars and one hundred and forty thousand troops to a war in Iraq, a war which O'Reilly supported.
In America, the anti-religious forces are led by the ACLU and activist liberal judges who are aided by an increasingly secular media.
An increasingly secular media? As opposed to what, our previously religious media? More nonsense. A study of the media in this country will show that it is extremely credulous when it comes to supernatural and superstitious beliefs. And Bill is once again equating the separation of church and state with "anti-religious forces."
The Founding Fathers knew that religion, if handled correctly, could be a powerful force for good.
Apparently Mr. O'Reilly is unaware of the Age of Reason or the Jefferson Bible. But disregarding the personal beliefs of the Founding Fathers, a general belief they held in common was that religion should be kept seperate from government, which is of course why they created a secular government.
The moral guidance provided by The Ten Commandments constrains bad behavior, that's why the Commandments appeared in Scripture.
The Ten Commandments didn't contrain bad behavior IN Scripture, note the numerous examples of genocide committed by people living by the Law.
But now, the secularists insist there is no place in the public square for the Commandments. There is no place for constraints that may offend.
Bill does here what is a common error of those who claim America is a "Christian nation," he equivocates two defintions of public square. There is room for the Commandments in public, but not in the public square of government. There is no room for constraints which violate the first amendment.*
Think it over. If every human being chose to set up his or her own moral program, there would never be a consensus of what is proper and what is not. There would never be universal outrage over terrorism or terrible crimes
There has never been a consensus on the Ten Commandments. People following them have always disagreed to their application. However, people who think the Ten Commandments are the literal word of God believe they are following moral absolutes. And as noted by Ludwig Feuerbach in The Essence of Christianity, "whenever morality is based on theology, whenever right is made dependent on divine authority, the most immoral, unjust, and infamous things can be justified and established."
Moral outrage is the only way to defeat terrible behavior. Today, many of us don't even know what terrible behavior is. Could gangsta rap music have existed 30 years ago? How about partial birth abortion?
Interesting. And by what mechanism will our moral outrage defeat terrible behavior - magic? Moral outrage may serve as an important motivation to take action, but without a rational course of action moral outrage in itself will do nothing to combat bad behavior.

Bill is entitled to his opinion of gangsta rap, although I'm not sure O'Reilly is able to distinguish between his opinions and fact, but he demonstrates a high level of ignorance regarding partial birth abortions. Yes, they could have existed thirty years ago, that is, presumably, if we were interested in performing a procedure meant to protect the life of the mother when there was some sort of serious complication (such as the fetus already being dead or having hydrocephalus) to the pregnancy putting her life at risk.
Hitler and Tojo were defeated by men and women who were willing to die so those villains could not enslave and kill other human beings. It was moral outrage over Pearl Harbor that led to the demise of the dictators
This is something of a patriotic oversimplification, as there was afterall, a draft during WW II. But nevermind that, is O'Reilly suggesting that secularists are not willing to die to protect human rights? If so, that position is indefensible. The basic human rights contained in the Bill Of Rights were an outgrowth of centuries of secular and religious humanists giving up their lives to obtain and defend those very rights. Is O'Reilly unaware of the fate of Giordano Bruno or Sir Thomas More?
The terrorists and perverts understand that only moral outrage will beat them back.
If the terrorist were worried about moral outrage beating them back they would not be brutally decapitating people or exploding children. The terrorist do not fear being beaten back, indeed, they do not fear death even, because they believe their actions are divinely sanctioned and they will be handsomely rewarded for them in the after life.
A person or nation with no moral compass will never be able to summon up that outrage. A human being that lives in the gray area of right and wrong is likely not to make a stand against evil.
The hidden assumption here being that secularists have no moral compass. Some of the most moral exemplars in history have been secularists: Epicurus, Jeremy Bentham, followers of the Carvaka, Voltaire, Robert Green Ingersoll, Thomas Paine, Spinoza, David Hume, Socrates, John Stuart Mill, Mark Twain, Confucius, etc.

Finally, Bill believes that if one does not believe in moral absolutes, one will be unable to recognize the difference between right and wrong. This too is false. Let me illustrate by analogy: one can acknowledge that their are shades of gray between night and day, i.e. dusk and dawn, where it is difficult to distinguish between night and day, and still be able to tell the difference between night and day, e.g. 2 pm and 2 am. Similarly, one can recognize that their are cases where there is a fine line between right and wrong and still see a difference between right and wrong.

*Note the first four Commandments directly contradict the first Amendment.

1 comment:

gawker said...

It is seriously amazing to me that O Reilly wrote all this bullshit and then did not reread it without deleting every word he had written because he found every argument of his was so flawed. His primary theory seems to be that having a rigid, unquestioning belief in the principles of your religion would create a morality whereby no evil would be committed. But isnt that exactly what is happening in case of the terrorists, who have a similar rigid and unquestioning belief in Islam? Or maybe he does not believe Islam to be a valid religion at all and his theory only applies to Christians?

And what is the significance of people not going to church anymore? What are the benefits accrued when people go to church? He doesnt specify.