American Atheists recently put up this billboard, as an advertisement for the southeast regional atheist meet. As a result David Silverman, current head of American Atheists was asked to speak on the O’Reilly Factor. I didn’t catch the interview on Fox News, but I did watch it later on YouTube.
I have found that this billboard and the subsequent interview have once again raised an issue within the atheist community that refuses to die. The issue being, are atheists all a bunch of pitiless jerks who say mean things to believers. Like the Hydra of Greek mythology every few months this issue is revived within the crucible of some event in which atheists are judged by some group of people, or individual who managed to get his own show. Some of these are obviously trumped up issues, for instance, the so called “War on Christmas” is almost entirely within the heads of religious conservatives.
I would like to point out a mistake I often see atheists making here. I’ll call this the “let’s make nice” fallacy. Often people seem to think that if we could just re-brand or be a bit better at P.R. that Christians would like us better. Personally I am not convinced it would make much difference except, perhaps, with more liberal believers. It almost certainly wouldn’t make much difference with most of the Christians who watch Fox News regularly. I see it as the classic damned if you do, damned if you don’t problem. The only way to be nice enough for most Christians to have no problem with atheism would be to simply shut up and never speak, and almost any open disagreement will certainly make some dislike us, accuse us of being shrill, etc. Now don’t get me wrong I am not advocating being a jerk just for its own sake, but we need to admit that as long we are willing to speak up about things many theists will have a problem with it. If we are willing to sacrifice anything for the goal of being well liked then we might as well give up ever telling people they are wrong. I am not saying that it is not possible for us to go too far at times; only that we cannot use the outrage of people like O’Reilly as meter to decide if we have
Meanwhile, O’Reilly is still the same idiot he has always been. Apparently he doesn’t know how the tides work and that proves there is a god. Very deep, right? It seems O’Reilly has never heard of the moon, yet he believes his knowledge is so exhaustive that if he doesn’t know how it works god must have done it. Does this give me the right to call O’Reilly a pinhead or would that be too insulting?