While I am thinking about Bill O’Reilly (see my last post, you’ll get what I’m talking about), I thought that I would comment on something that he recently said. In an interview with David Silverman, O’Reilly was talking about the “war on Christmas.” A fantasy that Christians have dreamed up in order to get sympathy from the public. It has never, and will never exist. Kids can still sing Christmas carols (a contention that Glen Beck said they could not), people can still say “Merry Christmas.” I have heard it plenty of times for as far back as I can remember. So yeah, this is a mute point. But when this interview turned into another yelling duet, as all of O’Reilly’s interviews do, O’Reilly decided to point out a rather interesting thing that he believes –
It is a fact that Christianity is not a religion. It is a philosophy.
Really? That’s a point you’re really making? Okay, let’s examine this. For real, let’s take this position and really take it apart, because I want to show you how and why you’re dead wrong.
First, let’s examine what a philosophy claims.
For instance – there is an argument that was put forth by Hume that since all we can know that exists in this world is what we perceive, there can be no supernatural. Only what one perceives is real. Kant believed that all moral judgments are based on human nature. We get our morality from what we naturally are inclined to do. He also claimed that all events must have a cause. What was uncaused cannot be. Aristotle claimed that no emotions are virtues, and that virtue is something beyond that. These are among the myriad of philosophical arguments.
Here is one of my own – I believe that morality is a system, given to us by those of authority. They are a code of behaviors that are designed to keep people in line. I believe that instead of following a system that can be tailored and exploited by the corrupt, we should instead try and use our empathy in order to achieve a true morality that is not tied to any group or leader. See how that works?
These philosophical tenants, or beliefs, if you must, are made by individuals that correlate with things that are perceived in the real world. Even questioning reality, as some philosophers have, is still an assertion made with an understanding of what the real world is. These beliefs cannot be tailored by the supernatural.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at Christianity. Christianity is a belief system that tells people how the universe came in to be, has a series of stories that almost all involve the supernatural, and tells its audience not to question these beliefs, as that would make them wrong. They make assertions that are not allowed to be questioned, and go outside of the realms of their own understanding in order to make correct.
I mean, look at the story of the beginning of life on Earth. God creates the planet, moon, Sun, life and man in six days, while napping on the seventh. Oh, and he also created billions of other galaxies as an afterthought. No worries. Then, he creates a guy and his chick (from his rib, if you believe one of the two Genesis creation stories) and tells them not to eat a fruit, but then, a talking snake tells them that they should, and when they do, they are suddenly self-aware. And when they do this, evil sky-wizard decides to banish them and curse the world they lived in. If you follow O’Reilly’s logic, that’s a philosophical argument.
The argument that Christianity is not a religion flies in the face of philosophy. Christianity asks you to accept what you know is false. The whole point of philosophy is that if it’s proven wrong, the theory must be adjusted. Christians don’t do that. They try and adjust reality to fit their narrow vision. Back when we didn’t understand earthquakes, the reason for them was because God was mad. Back when we didn’t understand the water cycle, rain was because God opened up a firmament between Heaven and Earth. All of these things have been proven wrong by science. We know the reason for earthquakes. We know the reason for rain. We also know that man didn’t get created a few thousand years ago. We came to be in this world from a slow, gradual process called evolution by natural selection. We know this, beyond any form of doubt.
But to the religious, this is unacceptable. They have to have their beliefs make sense. Since the world of science doesn’t allow that, they turn to something else. Their beliefs, by understanding what a religion is, are centered around the contingent that they cannot be proven, and must therefore be taken on faith. Belief in something without evidence. That is NOT a philosophy. And any argument that it is is folly and ridiculous.
But here’s the thing that really interests me about O’Reilly’s statement – why are Christians making this argument? O’Reilly isn’t the first. I have heard this argument from other Christian apologetics. But why do this? Well, that’s pretty obvious – the bad press.
For the bulk of its time on Earth, Christianity has been giving religion a bad name. This isn’t to say that all Christians are bad, because that isn’t true. Some atheists will make that argument, but I am not among them. I know that that is false, and I won’t stand behind it. However, that said, the actions of the church at large have been monstrous. The Catholic church has a vast history of genocide, murder, rape, robbery and child molestation. The number of individual cases is unthinkable. There isn’t a single brand of Christian, aside from the super-PC liberal ones that try and pass God off as a cool guy who you could smoke a joint with who don’t have some blood on their hands or dirt on their shoes. The Christian religion has such an ugly history, and is still being ugly today in a way that those who follow it are trying very quickly to walk away from it. They want to re-brand this belief system as something far less horrible than what it is.
The fact is that Christianity is a religion. That’s a fact. But I find this new wave of argument interesting because it says one thing to me – Christians are becoming ashamed to be associated with their religion. Here’s my question, then – why not leave it? It worked pretty well for us atheists. Losing that whole pointless guilt complex worked wonders.
Until next, a quote,
“Religion has convinced people that there’s an invisible man…living in the sky, who watches everything you do every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a list of ten specific things he doesn’t want you to do. And if you do any of these things, he will send you to a special place, of burning and fire and smoke and torture and anguish for you to live forever, and suffer and burn and scream until the end of time. But he loves you. He loves you and he needs money.” -George Carlin