Sunday, September 30, 2007

Bill O'Reilly's Take on the Pledge

A member of the studio audience has brought my attention to a posting that tells of some statements that Bill O'Reilly made concerning the Pledge protest held at a local high school.

At Boulder High School, a number of students walked out during the pledge ceremony on Thursday (and plan to do so every Thursday) to protest the use of school time to impose a religious ceremony on the students in violation of the Constitutional prohibitions on establishing religion.

One of my most popular posts has been A Perspective on the Pledge which argues in favor of students protesting the message contained within the Pledge.

As I argued in The Moral Case against 'under God', the claim that 'under God' is not meant to establish religion and denigrate atheists is as absurd as saying that 'indivisible' was not added to the pledge to promote Union over rebellion, or that 'with liberty and justice for all' merely says is consistent with claiming 'there is nothing wrong with tyranny and injustice'.

It is a laughable absurdity whereby standing in front of a court and making the claim that 'under God' is neutral with respect to religion is as absurd as standing before a court and saying '2 + 2 = 5'. When thinking people hear individuals giving this argument in court, and see the judges nodding in agreement, it makes one gape in wonder at what humans can will themselves to believe when they want to.

The special case of Bill O'Reilly's comments is that he substantially seems to have accepted these arguments, shrugged his shoulders, and said, "That is what is so good about the Pledge?"

[The words 'under God'] were inserted in the 1950s to separate the United States, as you rightly pointed out, founded under the banner of God - God gives us our inalienable rights - from the Communist hoards in Russia and China. The United States Congress said [that] we want to have a pledge that separates our Judeo Christian tradition from our enemies, who are totalitarian atheists. Now, do you think anybody from Boulder understands that?

Well, yes, it is very easy to understand.

In a fit of religious zealotry, the United States congress passed legislation to denigrate a group of peaceful Americans by linking their belief (that the proposition 'no god exists') to totalitarianism - a link that is just as unjust and absurd as claiming that all religious people (including, for example, the Amish) are responsible for 9/11.

And O'Reilly does not think that it is at all right to protest an official government denigration of people (such as myself) who happen to have this belief, quite independent of the fact that many atheists such as myself argue quite well against totalitarianism. We still (according to O'Reilly) must be deceptively and unjustly branded as pro-totalitarian.

This is in addition to the lie that American was founded on Judeo-Christian principles. It is sad to imagine how much greater the world have been if, instead of bringing the 10 Commandments (whichever of the three biblical versions one accepts) off of the mountain, Moses would have brought a tablet that said things like:

(1) Thou shalt not permit any law to be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

(5) Thou shalt not hold a person to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury . . . nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

(8) Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

However, the 10 Commandments were invented by people who were as substantially ignorant about the facts of morality as they were about science - getting only a small percentage of their moral beliefs correct. It took the enlightenment, with its dedication to reason over scripture, to finally make some moral progress, and to bring forth the principles under which this country was founded.

Those principles can only be found in scripture under such pained and tortured interpretations that almost all Christians today simply ignore the immorality contained within the Bible, rather than try to make sense of it.

That itself is substantial evidence that Scripture came, not from a perfectly moral God, but from primitive, ignorant, humans.

[Note: In Doug Giles: Atheist Theft of Christian Morality, I explain where how the principles in the founding of this doctrine relate to the Judeo-Christian tradition which, actually, was the tradition of the Divine Right of Kings.]

Finally, there is the absurdity in O'Reilly's arguments that effectively says, "Our rights come from God; therefore, only those who believe in God have rights."

It has been a sad tradition in many religions to hold that members of their religion have an inherent 'God given' right to rule others, while those who do not belong to that religion lie outside of the realm of morality, and one may do whatever one pleases to them. Indeed, most scriptures speak about morality only when applied to another member of their religion, while biblical stories tell of untold horrors inflicted on any who lie outside of that religion.

This is simply a version of the argument that Christians used for 1300 years to defend "the Divine Right of Kings" - the doctrine that the Declaration of Independence argued against. This was the idea that the King obtained his right to rule from God, and any who challenged the King challenged God.

O'Reilly, and his guest radio talk show host Dan Caplis, seem to be argument that God gave special rights to the Christian majority, and that if one is not in the majority, one cannot be treated unjustly.

It is a doctrine immediately countered by recognizing the fact that the enslavement or murder of minorities would not be morally permissible regardless of the size of the majority defending it.

Nor is it morally permissible to take government money (that everybody must contribute to by force of law) and use it to promote one set of religious beliefs among others. A civic form should be a place where all peaceful individuals can come as equals to discuss how to live together in peace, not a place that Christians claim as their own where non-Christians must come to beg for indulgences.

If God gave every human rights, then it is possible (however much O'Reilly may want to deny it) for Christians to treat others unjustly, and those others have a right to protest this injustice. The Pledge of Allegiance as written unjustly denigrates a whole group of peaceful Americans by associating them with rebels, tyrants, and criminals. This is, in fact, an instance of the moral crime of 'bearing false witness'. And if this crime is indeed declared so by God, then on what grounds do people like O'Reilly defend, in the name of God, make an instance of 'bearing false witness' national policy unworthy of protest?

In closing, I want to ask the same question I asked a couple of days ago in the post, A Reason to Protest

We know full well that if any broadcaster were to go on air and state about any other group of peaceful citizens that the official policy of this country is one of denigration with the intent of eliminating them not only their own personal enemy, but America's enemy, as sanctioned by Congress, then the members of that group would scream bloody murder.

And, yet, I suspect that the atheist community - including those so-called 'militant' atheists, will remain substantially passive.

Will O’Reilly face the level of protest befitting his remarks?


Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say:

KBPI, one of the local radio stations, was having a conversation about the walk out on Friday. The host, "Uncle Nasty," stated several times, something to the effect of, "There have already been accommodations made; they don't have to recite those words of the pledge, they don't have to recite the pledge at all, so what are they protesting?"

I did my best to get something to the effect of the following on the air: "the problem with the pledge in it's current form is that it contains the words 'under God' at all. It would not be acceptable to have the pledge say 'one nation, for whites...' or
'one nation, for Jews', and it's not acceptable to have it say 'under God.' The pledge needs to be changed to remove those words, and in the meantime the students are perfectly legitimate in protesting this violation of their rights and the constitution at their school."

So if it's worth anything, you did help make one atheist take a least a little more action than just screaming at the radio while alone in my car. I picked up the phone and attempted to be heard.

Alonzo Fyfe said...


Yes, it's worth something.

Ultimately, however, the so-called 'atheist leaders' need to take it upon themselves to start getting their hands dirty tackling every day news events.

Ultimately, Dawkins or Harris should visit the school - or at least send a letter - thanking the children (or writing to the newspaper).

In addition, we can only do what we can do.

Hume's Ghost said...

No matter how many times I hear such sentiments I still find it absolutely remarkable that folks such as O'Reilly believe that such protests constitute an attack on his own freedom of religion.

Neil Phalanx said...

Well handled. I am too tired to post anything intelligent that will move the conversation forward, but every little bit helps. Keep it up.

Sheldon said...

"Finally, there is the absurdity in O'Reilly's arguments that effectively says, "Our rights come from God; therefore, only those who believe in God have rights.""

As I have understood it when hearing various conservatives make the statement "Our right's come from God..." They are not neccessarily claiming that only believers have rights. Although they certainly are claiming that because rights allegedly come from God, then they are justified in forcing these statements on the polity as a whole.

Of course, it is absurd to think that our rights come from God. If that were so you would think that all those people in Biblical times would have had those rights.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to mention that I wouldn't be satisfied even if "under god" was removed for the pledge. Just say "pledge of allegiance" out loud, now that you're not nine years old and have learned so much about world history.

It's sick and fascist. No one should say it.

Unknown said...

I think "fascist" is a too extreme a description for the Pledge, but I do think the Pledge promotes some very pro-government sentiment. I'd rather it not be shoved down our kids' throats at all.

Regardless, "under god" doesn't belong in any statement of loyalty to our government.

And Alonzo, if you haven't already been, tag.

Shap said...

In O'Reilly's perfect world, public school children would be forced each morning to swear their allegiance to the christian god. Teachers could point a gun at the student to coerce them into this pledge.

During the 2 months preceding and following December 25, students would be required to wear red and green, spend a minimum amount of their allowance on gifts, and wish at least 15 people a "Merry Christmas" every day. Without being snide about it.

Anyone caught smoking pot, will be thrown in solitary confinement, along with all homosexuals.

O'Reilly himself would come to the school and harass you with a falafel if you don't comply.