(Or, “Who’s the Pinhead, Now, O’Reilly?”)
[Excerpt from my book, Supernatural Hypocrisy: The Cognitive Dissonance of God Cosmology]
THE ARGUMENTS GIVEN BY many theists, especially those of the fundamentalist variety, can be referred to quite accurately as A.I.–Artificial Intelligence, AKA Arrogant Ignorance.
Poster boy for this concept? Bill O’ Reilly.
On a segment of his show, O’Reilly had Richard Dawkins as a guest, but Dawkins was not treated as such. In his usual, haughty, overbearing, arrogant manner, O’Bully made sure that Dawkins never had a fair opportunity to respond, and it was blatantly apparent that Bill-O had absolutely zero respect for Dawkins, and wanted everyone to know it by railroading him through the interview that was merely a chance for O’Bully to spew his own ignorant and fallacious dogma.
B.O.–> “I think it takes more faith to be, like you, an atheist, than like me, a believer, and it’s because of nature. You know I just don’t think we could have lucked out to have tides go in tides go out, sun go up, sun go down; don’t think it coulda happened.”
Witness Logical Fallacy #1: Argument from Personal Incredulity. “I cannot explain or understand this, therefore it cannot be true.”
R.D.–> “We have a full understanding of why the tides go in and out, why the continents drift about, why life is there. Science is ever more piling on the evidence, piling on the understanding–“
B.O.–> “But it had to get there, I understand that, you know, the uh, physiology of it, if you will, but it had to come from somewhere, that is the leap of faith that you guys make, that it just happened.”
O’Reilly could not possibly understand the physiology of the subject matter, because if he did, he would not say “it had to come from somewhere” as if science had not already clearly explained the origins of most things.
R.D.–> “Well a leap of faith–you don’t actually need a leap of faith; you’re the one who actually needs a leap of faith, because you are actually…the onus is on you to say why you believe in something. There are infinite number of gods you could believe in, but I take it that you don’t believe in Zeus, or Apollo or Thor, you believe in presumably the Christian god–“
B.O.–> “Jesus. Jesus was a real guy, I can see it. You know, I know what he did.
Logical Fallacy #2- This is Petitio principii or Question Begging. He assumes because he can imagine Jesus, and because he believes there’s a book that tells him about Jesus, that Jesus therefore exists. This can also be an Argument from authority: Stating that a claim is true because a person or group of perceived authority says it is true. Of course in this case, the authority is O’Reilly himself, as he has an over-inflated view of his own authority.
…You know, I’m not positive that Jesus is God, but I’m throwin’ in with Jesus, rather than throwin’ in with you guys, because you guys can’t tell me how it all got here, you guys don’t know.”
This is an example of the Logical Fallacy known as Ad hominem. An ad hominem argument is any that attempts to counter another’s claims or conclusions by attacking the person, rather than addressing the argument itself.
R.D.–> “We’re working on it, it’s–“
B.O.–> (laughing derisively) “When you get it, then maybe I’ll listen.”
This is the Straw Man argument, another Logical Fallacy. It imposes a misrepresentation of the other person’s stance; namely, that science pretends or claims to explain everything.
R.D.–> “Well now, if you look at the history of science over the centuries the amount of knowledge that was gained is just stupendous. We don’t know everything, we have to be humble, we have to say in humility, that there’s a lot we still don’t know–“
B.O.–> (collusively, sarcastically) “And you know, being humble is a Christian virtue–so there ya go…”
Watch any episode of O’Reilly’s show, including this one, where he arrogantly makes statements about history and people and events that he is clueless about, pompously derides and dismisses anyone who disagrees with him, and one can see clearly that humility is most assuredly not something O’Reilly understands or practices.
R.D.–> “Well, I suppose it is, but–“
B.O.–> (dismissively) “So, when you guys figure it out, then you come back here and tell me, because until that time, I’m stickin’ with Judeo-Christian philosophy and my religion of Roman-Catholicism, because it helps me as a person.”
R.D.–> “Ah that’s different. If it helps you, that—“
B.O.–> (not allowing him to complete the statement) “Absolutely.”
R.D.–> “If it helps you, that doesn’t mean it’s true–“
B.O.–> “Well it’s true for me. See, I believe it.”
This is a Logical Fallacy called Non-Sequitur. In Latin this term translates to “doesn’t follow”. This refers to an argument in which the conclusion does not necessarily follow from the premises. In other words, a logical connection is implied where none exists. To say “it’s true for me (because) I believe it” is to say two things with the same meaning, neither of which provides a logical explanation of why one believes.
R.D.–> “You mean true for you, is different from true for everybody else; how can you say–
B.O.–> (talking over him) “Absolutely, because I came through–“
R.D.–> “It either is true or not—“
B.O.–> (talking over him) “I can’t, no, no, I can’t prove that Jesus is God; that truth is mine and mine alone, but you can’t prove to me that Jesus is NOT
This is the Logical Fallacy known as ad ignorantiam. The argument from ignorance. It basically states that a specific belief is true because we don’t know that it isn’t true.
B.O. (cont) so you have to stay in YOUR little belief system, and—“
Another ad hominem argument (personal attack).
R.D.–> “You can’t prove that Zeus is not. You can’t prove that Apollo is not–“
B.O.–> (sarcastically)”I saw Apollo, man, he was down there, man, he’s not lookin’ good. Now. We also differ in that you believe that religion has been a bane, B-A-N-E,
This is a fallacious homonym attack (I made that one up) meaning, it’s a suggestion that there is a homonym for “bane.” The only one is bain, which is a type of bath, and I’m sure viewers didn’t confuse the two.
B.O. (cont) to civilization and think that atheism has, and I will point to the worst mass murderers in uh, modern times: Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot
Pol Pot believed in an altered form of communism derived somewhat from Buddhism. Hitler was Roman Catholic, and as previously cited, said in a speech that he killed Jews for GOD; the others were not atheists in the modern sense, and their actions and decisions had nothing to do with their atheism, but with their communist and Marxist views.
B.O. (cont)…all confirmed atheists, all people who wanted to wipe out religion. Now I know you can point to the Crusades, and you can point to Al-Qaeda right now, I mean it’s there, there’s no question, but I’m sayin’, I’m throwin’ in with the Founding Fathers
Now, when he says Founding Fathers, does he mean the 57 who signed the Declaration of Independence? Or the 39 Convention Delegates who signed? Does he include the 18 OTHER Founding Fathers in these numbers?
B.O. (cont) of the United States which [sic] saw religion and spirituality as a moderating influence as a good thing if people embraced the true tenets.
Which “true tenets” does he refer to? The Founding Fathers were of many differing beliefs.
B.O. (Cont) Go ahead.”
R.D.–> (finally given permission to speak) “The Founding Fathers of the United States were secularists above all, some of them were religious and some of them were not but they were above all secularists who believed in keeping the church and state separate–
B.O.–> (interrupting) “They had to, because of the oppression in Europe.”
R.D.–> “That’s what they were…precisely, but–“
B.O.–> “Almost all of them, they all said a prayer before their deliberations,
Not true. In Albert Henry Smyth’s 1906 edition of The Writings of Benjamin Franklin, Franklin preceded the actual motion for prayer before deliberations with a page and a half of explanation supporting the idea. After the motion, there is a footnote by the editor that reads: “Note by Franklin.–‘The convention, except for three or four persons, thought prayers unnecessary.'” (vol. IX, page 601).
B.O. (cont) in their letters and I have almost all their letters,
This is highly unlikely, as “almost all” of their letters are not yet available to the public. The 70,000 documents of this kind, from 900 different locations, including foreign repositories, are compiled and published by Princeton University. Jefferson’s represents the largest number of these. The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Volume 34, from 1 May to 31 July 1801, is 816 pages, and sells for around $100. This represents only 3 months of Jefferson’s letters. It’s improbable that B.O. is telling the truth, here.
B.O. (cont) they all referenced the deity, our Declaration of Independence referenced heavily
Referenced Heavily? Out of the 1,319 words comprising the Declaration of Independence, there were only 2 mentions of a deity, comprising 3 words, “Creator” and “Divine Providence.” Hardly an example of “referenced heavily.” And it might be noted that The Founding Fathers were a mixture of all kinds of belief, including deists, non-believers and agnostics. The phrasing was careful to be inclusive, but not overtly Christian, nor even mildly religious.
B.O. (cont) but, they saw it as a moderating influence, because the federal government at that point couldn’t control the country and they said you know if people follow Jesus, the country is gonna be better—“
R.D.–> “It may well be a moderating influence, as for Hitler and Stalin and of course–Hitler was a Roman Catholic—“
B.O.–> “No, he never was, He was raised in that home, he rejected it early on–”
Hitler was a Roman Catholic, just like Bill O’Reilly. Perhaps that’s why he was so quick to deny Hitler’s religion-he did not want to be aligned with him. This doesn’t, however, make the denial accurate.
R.D.–> “Well we can…we can dispute that. Um, Stalin was an atheist, no question, but Stalin did the bad things he did not BECAUSE he was an atheist, I mean, Hitler and Stalin both had mustaches but we don’t say it was their mustaches that made them evil—“
B.O.–> (laughing derisively) I don’t think they had any moral foundation, any of those guys…
Again missing the point. As if there is any question that there was a lack of moral foundation. This statement is a type of throw-away, underhanded comment used as a rhetorical device that clouds the subject matter. Atheists don’t think Hitler and Stalin, et al, were moral or ethical. They acknowledge they were despicable human beings. But Christians will never let an atheist explain that fact. That’s why so many of us have to write books. So we can get a word in edge-wise, and state the case without arrogant interruptions.
B.O.–> (talking over him) I will say that your book is fascinating, you know congratulations on your success and thank you for coming on here.”
R.D.–> “Thank you very much indeed.”
Now, while Dawkins was being every bit the gentleman, and endeavored to use the usual conventions of intelligent debate, O’Bully continued to run over him, dismiss him, deride him, make light of him, and generally show his hypocritical, Fundie ass.
First, to elaborate on the footnotes, regarding B.O.’s statements about the Founding Fathers, and his pompous mention that he owns so many of their private letters, and this is how he knows they were Christians (which is the obvious implication)—while some were, others were not, and in no way was the Declaration of Independence founded on the precepts of Christianity. Never are the words Jesus Christ, God, Christianity, or the Bible mentioned. Nor are they mentioned in the Constitution of the United States. Furthermore, the 1796 Treaty with Tripoli begins, “As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion…”
In reality, the Founding Fathers’ beliefs were a potpourri of religions and non-religions. Among them were Protestants, Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, Methodists, Lutherans, Congregationalists, Dutch Reformed, and anti-clerical, which meant, in modern terms, deists, though some of their writings suggest several of them could have been agnostics and/or atheists.
Regardless, religion was never the reason for any of those documents and the ideas they represented. As Deists, many of them believed the world was created and then left to it’s own devices; that there was no personal God watching over things and listening to prayers; nor penning holy tomes for our edification. The Founding Fathers were also staunchly for the separation of church and state.
Consider the following quotes from these exact letters that B.O. mentions:
“I have recently been examining all the known superstitions of the world, and I do not find in our particular superstition, Christianity, one redeeming feature. They are all alike, founded on fables and mythology.”(Thomas Jefferson).
“… Some books against Deism fell into my hands…It happened that they wrought an effect on me quite contrary to what was in-tended by them; for the arguments of the Deists, which were quoted to be refuted, appeared to me much stronger than the refutations; in short, I soon became a thorough Deist” (Benjamin Franklin).
“Whenever we read the obscene stories, the voluptuous debaucheries, the cruel and torturous executions, the unrelenting vindictiveness, with which more than half of the Bible is filled, it would be more consistent that we call it the word of a demon than the word of God. It is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind” (Thomas Paine).
“I have generally been denominated a Deist, the reality of which I never disputed, being conscious I am no Christian, except mere infant baptism makes me one; and as to being a Deist, I know not strictly speaking, whether I am one or not” (Ethan Allen).
“Christianity…(has become) the most perverted system that ever shone on man. Rogueries, absurdities and untruths were perpetrated upon the teachings of Jesus by a large band of dupes and importers led by Paul, the first great corrupter of the teaching of Jesus” (Thomas Jefferson).
“What influence in fact have Christian ecclesiastical establishments had on civil society? In many instances they have been upholding the thrones of political tyranny. In no instance have they been seen as the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty have found in the clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure and perpetuate liberty, does not need the clergy.” (James Madison).
And from Paine’s Age of Reason:
“I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief and for my own part, I disbelieve them all” (Thomas Paine).
“Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned. What has been the effect of this coercion? To make one half the world fools and the other half hypocrites to support roguery and error all over the earth” (Thomas Jefferson).
O’Reilly’s additional assertion that Hitler was an atheist and though born into a Catholic home, “rejected that early on” can be addressed quite simply by going to the source. Let us examine what Hitler really believed by using his own words, first in a speech, and then set down for posterity in the infamous book Mein Kampf.
In a speech that Adolf Hitler gave in April, 1922, and then published in “My New Order”, he proclaimed:
“My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded only by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who–God’s truth!–was greatest, not as a sufferer, but as a fighter.”
“In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was his fight against the Jewish poison.
“Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed his blood upon the Cross.”
“As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice. And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly, it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people. And when I look on my people I see them work and work and toil and labor, and at the end of the week they have only for their wages wretchedness and misery.
When I go out in the morning and see these men standing in their queues and look into their pinched faces, then I believe I would be no Christian, but a very devil, if I felt no pity for them, if I did not, as did our Lord two thousand years ago, turn against those by whom today this poor people are plundered and exploited.”
Volume I of Mein Kampf was published in 1925, and Volume II in 1926. It is a political treatise mixed with biographical features. Note that Hitler was 36 years old when the first volume was published. This does not indicate to me, as it did to O’Reilly, that Hitler rejected his Catholicism and turned atheist “early on.” Since Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945, at the age of 56, and his stance on his religious beliefs had not appreciably changed in relation to what he had written in Mein Kampf, as relayed by Richard Steigmann-Gall in The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity:
“Hitler often praised Christian heritage, Ger-man Christian culture, and professed a belief in Jesus Christ. Hitler, despite his native Catholicism, favored aspects of Protestantism if they were more amenable to his own objectives. At the same time, he adopted some elements of the Catholic Church’s hierarchical organization, liturgy and phraseology in his politics.”
Hitler’s belief system touted a “Positive Christianity”, which could be divorced from the traditional Christian tenets he found objectionable, and which reframed Jesus as a hater of Jews.
To illustrate the beliefs that Hitler held, one need only read these portions of Mein Kampf:
Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.
(Volume One: A Reckoning. Chapter II: Years of Study and Suffering in Vienna): Once again the songs of the fatherland roared to the heavens along the endless marching columns, and for the last time the Lord’s grace smiled on His ungrateful children.
(Volume One: A Reckoning. Chapter VII: The Revolution): Therefore, the stature of the theoretician must not be measured by the fulfillment of his aims, but by their soundness and the influence they have had on the development of humanity. If this were not so, the founders of religion could not be counted among the greatest men of this earth, since the fulfillment of their ethical purposes will never be even approximately complete.
(Volume One: A Reckoning. Chapter VIII: The Beginning of My Political Activity): The great masses of people do not consist of philosophers; precisely for the masses, faith is often the sole foundation of a moral attitude. The various substitutes have not proved so successful from the standpoint of results that they could be regarded as a useful replacement for previous religious creeds. But if religious doctrine and faith are really to embrace the broad masses, the unconditional authority of the content of this faith is the foundation of all efficacy.
(Volume One: A Reckoning. Chapter X: Causes of the Collapse): …the Jew himself. His life is only of this world, and his spirit is inwardly as alien to true Christianity as his nature two thousand years previous was to the great founder of the new doctrine. Of course, the latter made no secret of his attitude toward the Jewish people, and when necessary he even took to the whip to drive from the temple of the Lord this adversary of all humanity, who then as always saw in religion nothing but an instrument for his business existence. In return, Christ was nailed to the cross, while our present-day party Christians debase themselves to begging for Jewish votes at elections and later try to arrange political swindles with atheistic Jewish parties–and this against their own nation.
Seems to me, his opinion of atheists, was the same as his opinion of the Jews.
“Human culture and civilization on this continent are inseparably bound up with the presence of the Aryan. If he dies out or declines, the dark veils of an age without culture will again descend on this globe. The undermining of the existence of human culture by the destruction of its bearer seems in the eyes of a folkish philosophy the most execrable crime. Anyone who dares to lay hands on the highest image of the Lord commits sacrilege against the benevolent creator of this miracle and contributes to the expulsion from paradise.”
(Volume Two: The National Socialist Movement. Chapter I: Philosophy and Party): A folkish state must therefore begin by raising marriage from the level of a continuous defilement of the race, and give it the consecration of an institution which is called upon to produce images of the Lord and not monstrosities halfway between man and ape.
(Volume Two: The National Socialist Movement. Chapter II: The State): How boundlessly unideal and ignoble is this whole system! People no longer bother to breed the best for posterity, but let things slide along as best they can. If our churches also sin against the image of the Lord, whose importance they still so highly emphasize, it is entirely because of the line of their present activity which speaks always of the spirit and lets its bearer, the man, degenerate into a depraved proletarian. Afterwards, of course, they make foolish faces and are full of amazement at the small effect of the Christian faith in their own country, at the terrible ‘godlessness,’ at this physically botched and hence spiritually degenerate rabble, and try with the Church’s Blessing, to make up for it by success with the Hottentots and Zulu Kaffirs. While our European peoples, thank the Lord, fall into a condition of physical and moral leprosy, the pious missionary wanders off to Central Africa and sets up Negro missions until there, too, our ‘higher culture’ turns healthy, though primitive and inferior, human beings into a rotten brood of bastards.
(Volume Two: The National Socialist Movement Chapter II: The State): It would be more in keeping with the intention of the noblest man in this world if our two Christian churches, instead of annoying Negroes with missions which they neither desire nor understand, would kindly, but in all seriousness, teach our European humanity that where parents are not healthy it is a deed pleasing to God to take pity on a poor little healthy orphan child and give him father and mother, than themselves to give birth to a sick child who will only bring unhappiness and suffering on himself and the rest of the world.
(Volume Two: The National Socialist Movement. Chapter II: The State): Here, too, we can learn by the example of the Catholic Church. Though its doctrinal edifice, and in part quite superfluously, comes into collision with exact science and research, it is none the less unwilling to sacrifice so much as one little syllable of its dogmas. It has recognized quite correctly that its power of resistance does not lie in its lesser or greater adaptation to the scientific findings of the moment, which in reality are always fluctuating, but rather in rigidly holding to dogmas once established, for it is only such dogmas which lend to the whole body the character of a faith. And so today it stands more firmly than ever. It can be prophesied that in exactly the same measure in which appearances evade us, it will gain more and more blind support as a static pole amid the flight of appearances.
(Volume Two: The National Socialist Movement. Chapter V: Philosophy and Organization):…only because, thank the Lord, they have become thoroughly convinced by now of the ineffectualness of their own speechmaking.
(Volume Two: The National Socialist Movement. Chapter VI: The Struggle of the Early Period): …the Significance of the Spoken Word…But since, thank the Lord, this cannot be done…
(Volume Two: The National Socialist Movement. Chapter VII: The Struggle with the Red Front): In this the Catholic Church can be regarded as a model example. The celibacy of its priests is a force compelling it to draw the future generation again and again from the masses of the broad people instead of from their own ranks.
(Volume Two: The National Socialist Movement, Chapter II: The State): [White girls are] given to the earth by God’s grace…of God’s will, and actually fulfill God’s will, and not let God’s word be desecrated. For God’s will gave men their form, their essence and their abilities. Anyone who destroys His work is declaring war on the Lord’s creation, the di-vine will. Lord, protect them…on God’s earth…
(Volume Two: The National Socialist Movement. Chapter X: Federalism as a Mask): And God does not follow the principle of granting freedom to a nation of cowards…
(Volume Two: The National Socialist Move-ment. Chapter XIII: The German Post-War Policy of Alliances): And this action is the only one which, before God and our German posterity, would make any sacrifice of blood seem justified: before God, since we have been put on this earth
(Volume Two: The National Socialist Movement. Chapter XIV: Eastern Orientation or Eastern Policy): God help us if victory does not reward our arms on the very first day.
I think it’s quite clear, amid his rantings about the superiority of the Aryan race, that he feels justified in his actions and beliefs because he feels he is doing God’s Work. Hitler saw himself as a soldier of Christ. And evidently, the Catholic church agreed. The Pope called Hitler’s opposition to Russia a “high-minded gallantry in defense of the foundation of Christian culture.” So—Bill O’Reilly, unsurprisingly, was wrong on every point in this interview with Dawkins.
On richardawkins.net, a poster named maton100 said on April 19, 2007, “O’Reilly called Dawkins a ‘pinhead.’ On the other hand, if O’Reilly’s brain was even close to the size of a pin, you’d still have enough room left over to write The Epic of Gilgamesh on it.”
Well done, maton.