Dave Silverman Talking About the Religious ‘Scam’ with Bill O’Reilly

When American Atheists put up this billboard in Alabama this week, I knew it would get attention, but I also felt it would be much more difficult to defend:

To the atheists who sit in pews each week despite not really believing what they’re told, it makes sense to say “You know it’s a myth.” But can you really tell to people they’re being “scammed”?

AA President Dave Silverman had to defend that statement and he was on The O’Reilly Factor tonight to talk about it.

O’Reilly decided to try to fool Silverman with science, something neither man is an expert in (and why would they be?)… but it led to this facepalming exchange:

O’Reilly: I’ll tell you why [religion's] not a scam. In my opinion, all right? Tide goes in, tide goes out. Never a miscommunication. You can’t explain that. You can explain why the tide goes in…

Silverman: Tide goes in, tide goes out…?

O’Reilly: Yeah, see, the water — the tide comes in and it goes out, Mr. Silverman. It always goes in…

Silverman: Maybe it’s Thor up on Mount Olympus who’s making the tides go in and out…

O’Reilly: No no, but you can’t explain that… you can’t explain it…

(Psst. Hey Bill… Check it out.)

So O’Reilly’s case against the billboard’s statement is that there’s something we might not possibly know…?

Actually, his main argument is that the billboard is “insulting” or untrue — So how dare the atheists put it up!? — but Silverman barely gets a chance to explain both answers.

He does get a nice plug in at the end, though :)

To answer the question that Silverman didn’t get a chance to, let me quote the great George Carlin:

Religion has actually 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 special list of ten things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish, where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry forever and ever ’til the end of time!

But He loves you.

He loves you, and He needs money! He always needs money! He’s all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing, and all-wise, somehow just can’t handle money! Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes, and they always need a little more. Now, you talk about a good bullshit story. Holy Shit!

(via An American Atheist)

  • Tony

    David Silverman is a bit of a curmudgeon but he did handle O’Reilly pretty well. Not Hitch-slap well, but pretty well all the same.

  • Danielle

    Caught a bit of that when my dad watched O’Reilly today (he’s a fan, I’m not). I didn’t catch the tide part, but really? It’s explained by science, Bill. *facepalm*

  • http://onestdv.blogspot.com OneSTDV

    I have a problem with Mr. Silverman as an atheist spokesperson considering he has quite an affinity for one particular religion.

    I can’t find it but he wrote an article about 10 years ago saying how great the Jewish religion was if one viewed it as a cultural edifice.

    I’m not sure why he doesn’t afford Christianity the same courtesy, especially since it has been an integral part of our nation’s history.

  • Josh

    I wish he would have mentioned how several preachers/pastors/ministers know it’s all a scam, too.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com WMDKitty

    Saint George does it again!

    Ah, is there nothing that man didn’t tear apart?

  • Richard Wade

    O’Reilly: I’ll tell you why [religion's] not a scam. In my opinion, all right? Tide goes in, tide goes out. Never a miscommunication. You can’t explain that. You can explain why the tide goes in…

    O’Reilly:
    No no, but you can’t explain that… you can’t explain it…

    I’m never surprised when O’Really tries to build an Argument from Ignorance, because he has such an enormous supply of ignorance to draw upon.

    Hey Billo! Don’t you know anything? The tides are caused by Charybdis sucking in the oceans and spitting it out twice a day. Everybody knows that. I mean, I learned that in the fricking fourth grade, dodo brain.

  • http://www.mycultlife.com Lisa

    Josh, I couldn’t agree more. :)

    Btw: I love the George Carlin quote. Absolutely amazing.

  • vexorian

    It also rains sometimes, and you can’t explain why it rains! So, something is up!

  • http://www.eurovisionamerica.com Michael (SQFreak)

    I’m not an expert in science, either, but at least I know that tide is caused greatly by the moon’s gravity. That’s why it changes depending upon the moon’s phase. Maybe that’s because I live only 200 miles from the coast. I’m actually disappointed in Silverman’s response, but I think he was so shocked at the absurdity of the argument that there are tides therefore Goddidit that he couldn’t come up with a response on the spot. I don’t know if I could have either.

  • Lauren

    I don’t like this one. I go to the UU Church sometimes. It is a great community and there is no dogmatic requirement. (shared values blah blah)

    so I don’t believe in god and I go to a church that has a diversity of beliefs. I get a lot from it, and I don’t think it is a scam. There are tangible benefits to having a community group accept you.

    Also, if you believe the thing yourself are you really scamming people?

    Lots of churches have charity drives. The collection plate goes to a different charity once a month or something. That is a good thing and not a scam.

    in terms of publicity, yes this will get people’s attention, but it is more rude as it implies ACTIVE fraud instead of just myths.

  • Dan W

    Bill O’Reilly is a moron. I’m not sure which annoys me more- O’Reilly’s ignorance or his frequent interrupting/talking over any guests on his show who disagree with him. Or his hypocrisy (saying atheist billboards are insulting people then going on to insult Silverman, etc.). O’Reilly just irritates me whenever I see even a short, few minutes long video with him in it.
    /rant

    I think Silverman did as best he could in that video, considering the moronic asshat he was talking with.

  • http://theehtheist.blogspot.com The “Eh”theist

    Someone please tell me how tall Mr. Silverman is so that once the hole he’s dug for himself is deep enough we can start shovelling the dirt back in on him.

    As Hemant pointed out, this all started with the use of the word “scam”-if it hadn’t been used, it wouldn’t have to be “defended” (I don’t think a good defense of its use was made, hence the quotes).

    There was nothing forcing Silverman to appear on O’Reilly-sometimes it’s better to simply say “no”. Silverman really seems to like the spotlight and one of the benefits he mentions in the clip is that the billboard got him this airtime. So what does he do with it?

    @Tony mentions Hitchens, who as we’ve seen from debates, always has a concise, unanswerable example to back up his charges. Talking about Mother Teresa, Benny 16 or Kissinger, he always has evidence. When O’Reilly questioned the use of the word “scam” the best Silverman could muster was “they are too scams.” *eyeroll*

    O’Reilly is frequently off the mark and his non sequitor about the tides is a great example of that. Instead of trying to bring that around with a clear question to O’Reilly such as “Bill, what evidence do you have that the answers your religious leaders give you are more correct than those of the imam or rabbi down the street? How do you know they’re telling you the turth?” he makes the Thor statement that O’Reilly brushes off.

    Bill then scores the win in the discussion-having gotten Silverman to own the word “scam” he takes Silverman’s comments to their logical conclusion-if churchgoers are all “scammed” and “duped” by religious leaders than Silverman thinks they are stupid.

    How does Silverman respond? By saying people are gullible rather than stupid. So if you don’t agree with him when he’s presented no evidence for his case, you’re gullible-not the best example of evidemce-based rational skepticism.

    This clip is likely to be replayed in the future to show atheists as smug and scornful of average people-not the best approach to get the public to consider your position. Now people will expect not only a defense of “scam” but a defense of the “defense,” the hole just gets deeper.

  • stevesie

    Well said “eh”theist. I have not been a fan of Silverman’s recent media outings. He is not the spokesperson for me.

  • http://murrbrewster.blogspot.com murr brewster

    Wow. I don’t suppose it would sturdy up his theology, but O’Reilly really should ask for a do-over of fifth grade.

  • DA

    ” he has quite an affinity for one particular religion.”

    Wow, there’s a pot, there’s a kettle….

    Hey, for NLA and OneSTDV I can pretty much just write every post in advance.

    “Hey, I’m an atheist but Christianity is AWESOME and atheists suck and should respect Christianity more. But I’m not a Christian, I’m a hardcore atheist skeptic except I think you shouldn’t be so hardcore about it, just talk about it anonymously online and keep your mouth shut anywhere else and for god’s sake don’t actually challenge anything”.

    You can just cut and paste this EVERY TIME. Save you the trouble of writing anything! You’re welcome.

  • Kyle Von Stroodle

    I can not believe how many people are attacking Bill for his “tides” argument. It should be obvious that he isn’t speaking of the physical tides. It’s about reliable systems, things that never change. For example, the laws of physics. To him, that suggests design.

    If none of you have seen his first exchange with Dawkins, I advise you to watch it because this is mentioned there as well. It’s simply dishonest or ignorant — the same things you constantly rag on religious folks for — to think that Bill was really referring to physical tides.

  • http://www.youtube.com/aajoeyjo Joe Zamecki

    He worships the moon?? Well at least the moon really exists…

    That’s some powerful logic there, Fox News! lol

  • Iason Ouabache

    Silverman: Maybe it’s Thor up on Mount Olympus who’s making the tides go in and out…

    Not to nitpick, but Thor didn’t live on Mount Olympus, he lived in Asgard (supposedly). He’s getting his mythologies mixed up.

  • Alex

    Sometimes the truth hurts. I’m glad AA has the courage to just say the truth.

  • cypressgreen

    O’Reilly just irritates me whenever I see even a short, few minutes long video with him in it.

    I’m with you, Dan W. I find it hard to listen to him for any length of time. He annoys the hell out of me.

    There are tangible benefits to having a community group accept you.

    Lots of churches have charity drives. The collection plate goes to a different charity once a month or something. That is a good thing and not a scam.

    Lauren, while I agree that church provides community for many people, I must point out that there are thousands of other ways to belong to a supportive group without it being a tax free, myth based thing. In my time, I have belonged to the SCA, JCs, and other smaller groups with community benefits.
    Also, what if 100% of the $$ given to a church went to charity, instead of covering heating, snow removal, upkeep, minister salaries, etc? I think last year I gave about 10% of my money to charity. If I had given it thru a church, how much would have really gone to the needy?

  • Defiantnonbeliever

    Religions sell magic as real=Scam/Bloody effin Fraud. Believe it or not.

  • Sue D. Nymme

    I really can’t stand American Atheists. I don’t mind assertive, in-your-face activism… but AA just comes across as jerks too much of the time.

    Calling religion a “scam” implies that the leaders full understand that it’s false and are deliberately deceiving the laypeople. Yes, this does happen sometimes — many cases have been documented — but the vast, VAST majority of religious leaders honestly, sincerely, truly do BELIEVE what they are preaching.

    They may be wrong, but to call it a scam is to call them deliberate, scheming liars who are simply out to rip people off. That is clearly false. And to tell the believers that their leaders are scheming liars is not going to convince anyone you’re other than a loon — because for most people, it’s simply not true.

  • Drakk

    While I can’t say I liked the rebuttal to the whole tide comment…I honestly don’t see how Silverman could have acquitted himself any better. I don’t know him to be a scientist. I’m assuming he did the sensible thing and made a list of his key points after agreeing to be on the show, but when you get thrown a non-sequitur like that, all you have to rely on is background knowledge, and if that’s weak to begin with then it’s probably a good job he didn’t use it.

    @Kyle V. S: He said “water”. And it is not Silverman’s prerogative, or ours, to know that O’reilly is making a reference to some discussion he had with Dawkins before. The argument is taken at its face value. He mentions tides, we will tear holes in his argument about tides. I’m sure you don’t have evidence that he actually meant reliable systems that never change.

    …speaking of which, the tide does change, you know. What’s your argument again?

  • Inthewater

    Carlin was a genius.

    He is dearly missed, by this godless heathen.

  • Defiantnonbeliever

    true or false?
    magic works?
    2+2=4?
    2+2=infinity?
    2+2=4.00000001?
    unknowingly selling stolen goods is illegal?
    teacher competence is important for a society?
    incompetent teachers teach reality and do great service because they are so friendly?
    Religions don’t profit from the falsehoods they spread?
    Truth isn’t dependent on motivation or belief?

  • OverlapingMagisteria

    Ugghh… I hate how O’Reilly handles guests who he disagrees with. He just invites them in so that he can spout his own opinion on them. Same thing happened when he “interviewed” Dawkins, he just kept talking and barley let Dawkins get a word in edgewise. Whats the point of having a guest if they’re just going to be a face to yell at?

  • http://everydayatheist.wordpress.com Everyday Atheist

    This is the wrong medium for this message. This is a call to nonbelievers to bring them to a regional meeting. Full stop. In that context, I don’t have a problem with using “scam,” although I agree with @Sue D. Nymme that it implies a deliberate deception that isn’t present in most believers (including most clergy). Totally appropriate on AA’s website, this website, Freethought Today, Skeptic Magazine…take your pick of a thousand outlets.

    But plastering “scam” on a billboard dances close to self-caricature. I defended the “You KNOW It’s a Myth” billboard as a strong public, in-your-face criticism of religion. Don’t see a problem there. But “scam” is just too loaded. This isn’t about being nice to believers. It’s about composing an effective message that does at least as much good as harm. At that task, AA failed here.

  • Robert W.

    As a spokesman for the atheists I don’t think Silverman does your cause any favors.

    The argument that a billboard that all non believers are going to Hell is offensive, yet a billboard saying that a believers worldview is a scam isn’t, is ludicrous.

    The idea that he trying to convey is that atheists are the holders of the “truth” and yet he then follows that up with the lie, “we are just trying to reach out to atheists”.

    So the torchbearers of the truth are lying about their intentions to offend people and he accuses religion of being a scam?

    He would have more credibility of he truthfully said- Yes we are trying to offend because we have discovered that when we do I get on Fox and we raise more money for our cause.

  • Lauren

    Also, what if 100% of the $$ given to a church went to charity, instead of covering heating, snow removal, upkeep, minister salaries, etc? I think last year I gave about 10% of my money to charity. If I had given it thru a church, how much would have really gone to the needy?

    If you enjoy a community you have to pay for community upkeep. if you don’t want to pay for salaries of people, then don’t. But I’m, happy to contribute to the young adult and youth programs. I’m happy to pay for a social justices ministry, I’m happy to pay for Arvid to live and continue his work as a minister and have enough for vacations and whatnot.

    Of course money goes back to the church. I like to sit in heated rooms, in buildings where ceilings don’t leak etc. I’m willing to pay for them. that is not wasted money, so it still does not qualify as a scam.

    and every other week the entire collection plate goes to a charity. There is a description of the charity so you can decide how much you want to give on that day.

    I’m not saying You should go to church. You don’t need to give any money to a church. I’m saying that a blanket statement that they are all scams is inappropriate and rude.

    also depending on the charities you give to, how much “really goes to the needy?” many charities themselves are scams, but that doesn’t mean we should give up the entire idea of charity.

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    Well, Religion is a scam. The core of any religion is that the supernatural exists, and that there is some benefit in believing their particular system that will be granted in the afterlife. Both of those are false. There is no evidence to support their claims. Meeting people and enjoying the company of others who also believe in the same scam, does not make the underlying deception of religion go away. Even if a church does wonderful things in the community, its foundation is still a lie. People may be offended by the truth, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

  • http://Whowilldefendgod? John D

    I am a big David Silverman fan. I have been waiting for someone at American Atheists to be bold. Now is the time and AA is better positioned to be a bit gruff than other organizations.

    American Atheists has my full support. In fact, I think I will donate more to AA and less to AHA this year… I guess I just got sick of being nice!

  • Defiantnonbeliever

    @Lauren and others who see little harm in little falsehoods let alone big ones for services rendered

    “You don’t need to give any money to a church.”

    false, until churches get zero tax write offs and the ‘faith based” social services are 100% church/private funded. And the degradation of secular community organizations and services is rebuilt with the unconstitutionally pilfered funds.

    If only a mill is taken from each bank transaction no one gets hurt and I donate some of it back and so do good?

    If a moon shot trajectory or DNA sequence were only .00001% off what’s the harm?

    How many more people will die if climate change science isn’t accurate or doesn’t doesn’t get implemented in time due to belief in misinformation?

    I’d love to go to a civic center to do and discuss all sorts of things but there are 30 churches and as many miles between where I live and the nearest one.

  • http://Whowilldefendgod? John D

    PS – Scam is the right word for religion. We call homeopathy a scam… right?

    I would suggest that many people who practice homeopathy think it works and is real. Does this mean we should not call homeopathy a scam? Oh – I don’t think so.

    The scam of religion is based on its basic assumption that preachers, priests, ministers, rabbis..etc. will help you get to heaven/nirvana/etc and that they should be paid a salary to do it.

    If you want to give to charity there are plenty of options… try the Red Cross.

    If you want community, have friends over, or go to the pub, or attend a sporting event, etc.

    Churches are simply a pyramid scheme where pastors and priests skim money from people who think they are donating to charity.

  • http://olfroth.blogspot.com Ol’Froth

    For the O’Reilly “fans” this is a classic!

  • Robert W.

    Holytape,

    Well, Religion is a scam. The core of any religion is that the supernatural exists, and that there is some benefit in believing their particular system that will be granted in the afterlife. Both of those are false.

    That is just your belief. It is not the belief of people who belief in Christ. I think that your belief that there is no God is false and that if you promote it and sell books about it, or set up a 501(c)(3) organization to seek donations to further your cause you are perpetrating a fraud.And then if you say that part of your donations will be given to charity but that some is used to pay your salary to run the organization and some is to pay your rent, etc… then you are running a pyramid scheme.

  • Jonas

    This one didn’t hit it for me, and it highlights one of the reasons I don’t support AA. — Myth and Scam are not the same, and not all Christians are Catholic.

    Yes some of religion is Myth, Legend, an Morality Plays. But to say all religions are Scams is to send the wrong message. — That would include as religions Humanism, Humanistic Judaism, Ethical Culture. Should everyone abandon their cultural ties, because in a sense their cultural ties are a kind of religion?
    — No.

    As to the Tide goes In, Tide goes out. — WTH was O’Reily talking about? — Sure we can explain it with science, moon’s gravitational force and so on. Hopefully no religious person is so dogmatic to refuse to believe that because Newtonian physics isn’t in the Bible.

  • http://www.atheistspot.com James

    A scam involves an intent to deceive, usually for some kind of gain on part of the deceiver. While there are plenty of religious scam artists, religions in and of itself cannot be honestly said to be scams.

  • Robert W.

    John D,

    If you want to give to charity there are plenty of options… try the Red Cross.

    If you want community, have friends over, or go to the pub, or attend a sporting event, etc.

    And if I enjoy church and get something out of going and I believe in their cause, then I can do that as well.

  • Slider33

    Every “conversation” with Bill O’Reilly goes the same way — a lot of shouting and interrupting. Same goes for most of the talking head shows. What an awful format for discussion and debate.

    I’m glad David is out there–getting on news shows and establishing a presence in the news cycle. I get the feeling his goal is to make people aware that there is a much larger number of atheists in the U.S. that people might think. A side benefit being that it might actually cause someone to stop and think.

    Going on FOX and stirring up controversy (for FOX viewers) is a decent way to bring attention to it, even if it does feel dirty to participate and watch something on FOX news.

  • RJ

    Why anyone would go on the O’Reilly show and think they would get a fair shot at expressing their opinion is beyond me. B.O. loves to cut people off in mid answer because he’s afraid he’ll get pinned into a corner.

    American Atheists should not be using Silverman as their spokesperson either IMO. He stammers and stutters in every interview I watch him in and he gets flustered very easily. He also seems to lack certain basic knowledge that would enable him to refute and debate morons like O’Reilly more effectively. I mean who doesn’t know that the moon is largely responsible for the Earth’s tides? I thought that was middle school science. Meh, I don’t think either of them were very good at getting their points across in this interview.

  • RJ

    Religion and insurance are the 2 biggest scams ever perpetrated on human kind. Period.

  • Lauren

    but my church doesn’t state any dogmatic beliefs in the supernatural or promise life in a place after death. while some members have beliefs in the supernatural, it is not part of the church’s doctrine.

    wanting to reform how the government interacts with churches is a different point. I agree with that point. but if I know where my money is going and I want it to go there, it is NOT a SCAM. The billboards are aimed at people attending church who are being scammed. While it may be true that the governement gives preferential treatment to religious bodies, that is an issue separate from the one the billboard raises.

    I haven’t gone to most churches. Maybe most churches are scams. But, my church is very clear about where funds go. Maybe that is the exception, but it certainly exists. giving to church is not giving to charity and I don’t know anyone who thinks it is the same, (beyond defining church as a charity). funds go to pay for salaries, and to renovate buildings, and put on events, pay for electricity etc.

    a pyramid scam is a specific thing. “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyramid_scheme” most churches don’t qualify I wouldn’t think.

    I never said the beliefs were harmless. I said that not all churches are scams. there are many harmful organizations that actively do what they say on the box, so are not fraudulent.

    NOM (national organization for marriage) is not a scam, but is very harmful. This is a different issue.

    Do you really think people are so stupid they don’t understand there are overhead costs? Even charities have them. Secular charities hire people, and pay them money for food and rent. Just as I research what charities I donate to, I also research about what happens with money that goes to my church.

    Having a space where people with similar views get together isn’t a scam. Especially when those views lead to a lot of charitable work. we don’t just go to the pub, because we have anti racism workshops, and sex ed for teenagers, and phone banks to stop prop 8 in California (that didn’t go so well though, did it?). It requires more space than just a pub and a different ambience. A community of shared values is a lot more than just “hanging out”, though social interaction is part of it.

  • MV

    James:

    Your definition of scam describes organized religion. They claim to offer special knowledge and benefits (that they don’t really have) in return for compensation (of various kinds). And just because you receive some benefits from a scam doesn’t mean that it isn’t one. Think Madoff, Enron, Ponzi schemes, homeopathy, etc.

    Another definition (from the OED) “a dishonest scheme; a fraud”. I think that fits.

  • http://yashwata.com Roy Sablosky

    I am astonished by the number of commenters saying they didn’t like Silverman’s performance. In my view this interview is a triumph and a delight. Silverman is totally confident (which is different from arrogant, please note). Rhetorically, he has O’Reilly on the run from beginning to end.

    There is room in the infosphere for many different approaches to the theism/atheism debate. “You know they’re all scams” is a perfectly legitimate way to attack the question. The best reply O’Reilly can come up with is “that’s an insult!” This is a terribly weak response.

    I am not a member of American Atheists, but I may yet sign up, because like this Silverman guy a lot.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com Sharmin

    I’ve been enjoying the interviews of David Silverman. He’s usually ready and gives decent answers. This time, though, he did seem confused by O’Reilly bringing up the tides. It also annoys me when Christian interviewers pretend that they’ve never seen billboards that insult atheists.

    As for the “scam” part, should we judge differently based on whether the religious leader really believes it or not? What about an organization in which the leaders believe it, but are misusing the money anyway?

    On the one hand, if the leaders believe it, they’re not intentionally scamming the members. On the other hand, the fact that the leaders believe it doesn’t make it true or above criticism. It’s still wrong.

    @Richard Wade:

    Hey Billo! Don’t you know anything? The tides are caused by Charybdis sucking in the oceans and spitting it out twice a day. Everybody knows that. I mean, I learned that in the fricking fourth grade, dodo brain.

    You comment made me smile. It reminded me of when we read the Odyssey in 9th grade.

  • bigjohn756

    It must be incredibly frustrating to have a ‘discussion’ with Bill O’Reilly. when you start making a point and it seems to begoing anywhere Billo starts yelling at you so you can’t finish. Typical Faux News, all volume and no content.

  • kyle s.

    as an atheist i’m uncomfortable with my belief system being advertised as the one that really knows what’s going on; that sort of tone is part of what makes religions so alienating. but that sort of message is the one that gets into the mainstream, and i can’t deny that there’s a comfort in hearing voices out there that represent at least a part of my views.

  • Vanessa

    I don’t understand why he still goes on Fox News. He’s a glutton for punishment….

  • Monty Gaither

    Being on TV and hearing a completely stupid statement can throw one.

    Even if one cannot explain something that would be a very stupid reason to believe some deity was the cause. As for the tides, the moon and sun’s gravity and the spinning of the Earth are reasons for the tides. No deity is required to explain the tides.

    Whether or not OReilly’s critical thought processes are so messed up that he actually believes in a deity or if he pretends to believe just to get and keep the believers as followers is unknown. But the FACT that all religions are myths should be no more questioned that the fact that all matter has the property known as gravity.

    Logic dictates that the xtian god cannot exist based on the KJV of the bible.

  • Kyle Von Stroodle

    @Drakk

    It’s based on the context of his argument. He specifically states that, yes, they could explain why they go in and go out. In this botched debate, neither party really allowed the other’s argument to develop past elementary and unclear stages. Thus, we get what we have now.

    So, since he stated that they can indeed explain why, then why would he even bother with that argument? Well, obviously, it isn’t the same “why” is it? As we know, theists, which Bill is, have another why they like to often involve in many matters, that being purpose. In this case, Bill was referring to the purpose of the order we observe.

    That’s how I took it. It seems pretty common sense to me that his argument wasn’t as simple and stupid as people are making it out to be. People are too quick to jump on people like Bill.

  • http://hauntedtimber.wordpress.com/ timberwraith

    I’d like to make a modest proposal.

    Since David Silverman thinks that religious people are so gullible, I suggest that the next American Atheist billboard should have this caption: Religious people are dumb-asses. I think this is the kind of honest, edgy message that we need to win people over atheism.

    I mean, that is what we think of religious people, right?

    Right?

    /sarcasm

  • DA

    I find it kind of puzzling that so many people are claiming that religion isn’t a scam. I mean, arguing that the billboard is bad PR…Yeah, I can see that, even sort of agree with it. But I mean, I don’t think everyone who falls for a scam is stupid, which doesn’t imply I can’t call the scam for what it is. Religion fits all the criteria; transparently false claims that much of the upper management knows are false, in an attempt to elicit things like money and temporal power. There is no major religion that doesn’t fit this template, and thus none that I’m not comfortable calling a scam. Religion here in China is often OPENLY a scam; the Daoists and Buddhists often offer straight up magical solutions for money. In a way it’s kind of refreshing. As with shamans and witches in primitive societies, the best religious leaders now are the ones who are effectively atheists; they’re less likely to make career-damaging mistakes. Throughout history, religious leaders have lived at direct variance with their teachings; check out all the corrupt gurus, or read the histories of the Popes and Dalai Lamas respectively; they clearly knew it was bullshit and used it to further their own ends. The relative stability if Muslim dynasties like the Umayyads largely came from an effectively secular elite controlling the religious fanatics. Am I supposed to believe it’s really so different now? It always has been a pyramid scheme, and it always will be.

  • Sue D. Nymme

    @timberwraith: Excellent! I love it!

  • Nam

    derp its 10% non religious

  • Peter Mahoney

    I think that David Silverman did a FANTASTIC job.

    Bill O’Reilly tries to cut him off essentially every single sentence that Dave starts, and I am convinced that 99% of the population (including probably 99% of us atheists here on this blog) would be plowed over by Bill’s rude, loud incessant interruptions.

    But Dave Silverman consistently finishes his sentence each time, even when that required talking through the interruptions of a rude host who has years of experience running the show on his own turf.

    When Bill mentions ‘tides coming in and out’, Dave’s response clearly captured that Bill’s tide comment was wacky and off-topic.

    Also, I agree with American Atheists that religions indeed ARE a SCAM. Let’s test it. If I sold you a promise of a car and took your money, but the car turns to NOT exist, have I scammed you? YES! But what if I am deluded and I really think the invisible car exists and now it’s yours? Should I keep your money? Have I still scammed you? YES! Whether I believe in the car or not, I duped you out of your money (whether I duped you intentionally or not).

    Dave handled well the erroneous allegation that he was saying that believers are stupid morons. Instead, he says that they are being duped. Believers are victims of the biggest scam in all of human history. Just like we wouldn’t say that people are stupid morons if they lost their pensions to con artist Bernie Maddoff. We would say that they were victims of a scam. Similarly, we don’t say that rape victim is a stupid moron for having put herself in that situation, we blame the perpetrator, not the victim.

    Decades ago, when I first thought to myself that my christian upbringing was crazy superstitious nonsense, I came across NO ONE publicly saying they agreed (I never happened to catch a TV interview of Madalyn O’Hare, etc.) . It was decades before I heard a George Carlin tape and thought, wow, that’s what I think. Now, I would bet a million $ that there are Fox viewers (and kids within listening distance of their home TVs) who prior to that O’Reilly show NEVER before heard ANYONE publicly question the truth or sanity of their religion. Then they hear god irreverently called an “invisible man in the sky”, and some of them with finally stop and think. At least for a few, the spell will be broken.

  • Erik

    @Lauren, just wanted to give another shout out for the UU churches. My wife is an atheist, regularly attends a local UU congregation, and they are doing a lot of positive things with the money we give them.

    I also regularly attend a Christian church where the staff have to have full time jobs to support themselves (church doesn’t pay them) and we have several churches that meet in our space to help pay the rent. The majority of money given there goes right back out to help people in our community regardless of their religious affiliation. The rest just keeps the lights on and replaces chairs/etc when they break.

  • Defiantnonbeliever

    @Lauren and other UUs,the last church I was in was a UU, it was ‘ok’ and I had a friend there but Hated the woo, it gives me visceral spasms. Talk about improving community, helping people, good science’s importance, education, health, toxics prevention and clean up, and lose the woo, and I’m on board, keep the woo and no way, not on my time or tax dime. I see mild woo as a gateway woo that led my brother into ‘promise keepers’, and creationism via 12 step cult groups, and his indoctrinated son into left behind theology.

  • http://www.atheists.org Ed Buckner

    Count me, please, among the legions of Dave Silverman fans–in general and on this encounter w/ O’Reilly.

    The crap about “another religion”–Silverman has a culturally Jewish background but has unamibguously rejected all the supernatural bits of Judaism–is, it seems to me, just a red herring thrown out by an obviously Christian lurker (if s/he isn’t, how about a real name?).

    Silverman is a superb spokesperson and president for American Atheists–and he deserves the support of atheists. Bravo, Dave! –Ed Buckner, ebuckner@atheists.org

  • ButchKitties

    Fucking tides, how do they work?

  • Lauren

    what does “woo” mean? If you don’t like it, don’t go. there are sermons which are better than others, but usually my particular minister is really good at “preaching” to a diverse group that includes quite a few atheists. I’m sure every minister is different.

    again. saying that you don’t think churches should have tax breaks, is different than saying the church is a scam. Wouldn’t you take advantage of tax breaks you could get whether or not you agree with them in principle? Or do you give more money to the government to make up for it?

    saying it is a scam is different than saying I don’t want government money going to it.

    I commented on the word “scam” not on any other issue related to religion in general. it may be a hold over from my days as a mathematician, but I really like accurate language. Saying they are ALL scams is inaccurate. I have provided an example of one that is not a scam. That is all that is required to prove the statement is false.

  • slingshot

    Wait, Bill O’Reilly doesn’t know what causes tides?? Don’t they teach that in kindergarten?

  • http://hauntedtimber.wordpress.com/ timberwraith

    Lauren, I’ve heard really good things about Unitarian churches. I have a couple of friends who attend one in the suburbs of Washington, DC. I also have a few friends who have attended them in Minnesota. From what I’ve heard, it’s one of the few environments where you can find people from a variety of faiths and philosophies (atheists included) who are actually capable of sharing a common experience relating to life philosophy without making snide remarks at each other.

  • Crax

    Wait, why did neither of the people know that the sun and moon make the tides move? I knew that in second grade. I knew it while reading “Goodnight Moon”. This is vaguely sickening.

  • Ben Finney

    Thanks Peter Mahoney, I agree that David Silverman made a good pass at this.

    When Bill mentions ‘tides coming in and out’, Dave’s response clearly captured that Bill’s tide comment was wacky and off-topic.

    Right. So many people here seems to have been successfully thrown by that; either “wow is he dumb for bringing that up” or “wow Silverman missed an opportunity to explain”. No, that’s not what would have happened.

    Rather, O’Reilly’s tactic with raising the “tide goes in, tide goes out, never a missed communication” was to sidetrack the conversation down the rabbit hole of “that’s explained by such-and-such” “Oh yea, how do you explain that, then?” ad infinitum.

    Witness the same tactic being pulled in the earlier O’Reilly exchange with Dawkins. O’Reilly just wants to pander to his audience’s conviction that science answers are know-it-all answers, and to get them to admit they don’t know the ultimate cause of everything.

    Witness, even, O’Reilly’s exultant crowing later in the same clip with Silverman when he finally gets a “we don’t know” answer. “Ohhh! You *don’t know*!” That was exactly what he wanted. Fortunately Silverman completed the point he was making.

    Really, if you think a session on the O’Reilly Factor can ever be a rational discussion of anything or avoid ludicrous sidetracks and brow-beating from a two-metre-tall man, you’re deluded. Silverman, for all his faults, did remarkably well here and got the information out. Three cheers.

  • Defiantnonbeliever

    @Lauren
    Woo-any unsubstantiated, irrational claim, often of the supernatural, and the language to describe and embellish those claims. Magic, religion, fad diets, palm reading, etc. http://crispian-jago.blogspot.com/2010/07/periodic-table-of-irrational-nonsense.html

    Scam-falsehood, deception, fraud, lies with intent of getting power and/or income and influence.

    While the intent of believers to con people for money or power may not always be there(many are dupes who do the conman’s bidding) the effect of teaching falsehoods as truths and the collection of money to, in addition to any helpful use, to perpetuate the meme(power &/or money) usually is. How much more good private community social organizations that were based on reality and good self correcting knowledge could do time may tell to the extent they get started despite the competition from the woo talkers. Time spent teaching woo steals time from teaching reality.

    As for taxation, some atheists are starting to form ‘churches’ to get the unconstitutional tax breaks given spreaders of woo and thereby level the playing field. http://www.churchofreality.org/wisdom/introduction/ is one example

  • Robert W.

    DA and Defiant,

    Religion fits all the criteria; transparently false claims that much of the upper management knows are false, in an attempt to elicit things like money and temporal power. There is no major religion that doesn’t fit this template, and thus none that I’m not comfortable calling a scam.

    While the intent of believers to con people for money or power may not always be there(many are dupes who do the conman’s bidding) the effect of teaching falsehoods as truths and the collection of money to, in addition to any helpful use, to perpetuate the meme(power &/or money) usually is.

    These statements are blatantly false. What proof do you have that those that preach in mainstream christian churches know that what they preach is false and only do it for money or power? There is no proof of that. What you think is false I and billions of others, including the church leaders, think and believe is true.

    What you call teaching falsehoods as truths is just your opinion and in my opinion is wrong. So if you would call preaching about God and Christianity a scam, I would call Hitchens, Dawkins and others who spread the lie of atheism a scam.

  • DA

    Lauren
    I’m sorry, but your church–which as far as I can tell doesn’t actually, you know, believe anything, and will let anyone join and retain their former religious leaning–is an outlier that acts more than anything as an exception proving the rule. Whether Unitarianism is a scam or not it doesn’t change that the real religions, which people actuallyy believe in, are. I’d hesitate to call (say) Asatru a scam, for example, because nobody really derives any serious benefits from it, but then again Asatru is just a hobby for folklore buffs, nobody seriously believes in Odin and Thor anymore. Let’s look at one of the religions in the billboard (none of which looks like a UU church to me). I’ve already looked at Christianity and Islam, did you see the Shinto arch there? Remember how Hirohito gave up his claim to godhood? Obviously you can’t stop being a god, you can just stop pretending to be one, so Shinto is a pretty transparent scam on that basis alone.

    Robert
    “What proof do you have that those that preach in mainstream christian churches know that what they preach is false and only do it for money or power? There is no proof of that.”

    As I mentioned earlier, history is full of examples. In the present day of course we have many cases of people who preach even though privately they say they know it’s false (Daniel Dennett did a study on this). And those are just the ones who would admit it even anonymously. Not to mention all the people who bring up the pragmatic defense of religionn (i.e., whether it’s true or not doesn’t matter, it makes my life better).

    “So if you would call preaching about God and Christianity a scam, I would call Hitchens, Dawkins and others who spread the lie of atheism a scam.”

    What are you, eight years old? If you think it’s a scam, say so, If you don’t, don’t. But don’t just say it to somehow punitively get back at me, as if I even cared.

    Anyway, your comparison is flawed for one very basic reason; there are atheists who pretend to be Christians. It would be really hard to imagine a sincerely believing Christian posing long term as an atheist. For the comparison to be accurate, you’d have to assume many outspoken atheists secretly believe in God and are consciously trying to mislead people for their own benefit, which is a pretty stupid idea on its face.

    “What you think is false I and billions of others, including the church leaders, think and believe is true.”

    I didn’t say everyone in the scam was in on it. Some people really believe it. A lot very obviously don’t.

  • Peter Mahoney

    OK, well now that Stephen Colbert has picked up on this Silverman-vs-O’Reilly interview, it is even MORE awesome for Silverman, American Atheists (and us atheists in general). Especially ridiculed has been O’Reilly’s assertion that there must be a God because the tides come in and out and there’s no other way to explain tides, except that God is doing it.

    Colbert did a great job of MOCKING Bill O. for his silly/ignorant basis for theism, which Colbert summarized as Bill O. essentially saying “There MUST be a God because I don’t know how things work.” Then, enter stage left Neil DeGrasse Tyson, to explain how the moon’s gravity causes tides.

    Then, blogs and news articles pick up on Colbert creaming Bill O’s theology, and Silverman has not only helped get an atheist/realist viewpoint across on Fox, he has also gotten an even wider media to end up mocking the basis for theism of Bill O. and lots of other folks.

    Silverman and American Atheists can speak on my behalf any day they want. Way to go!

  • Denise

    Laura and Erik- Have you ever TOLD those you attend church with that you are not a believer? If you have, I would be interested in the response. My suspicion is that you will be quickly ostracized, but I doubt they would stop taking your money. If that is the case, you make Silverman’s case for him.
    And, if you have not voiced your lack of belief, why not?

  • Defiantnonbeliever

    @Robert W.- I don’t like feeding trolls, which if I didn’t stretch beyond my cut off point to give you the benefit of the doubt, I perceive you to be, I might ask you to point to any credible source for the difference between opinion and what is verifiable. Certainly there is a difference, but how could we figure out what it is? Both the rules of logic and science suggest some ways but they are difficult to learn if they haven’t been taught well, could you suggest other rational ways? In all likelihood, I’ll let others take it from here if you do.

  • Robert W.

    DA,

    As I mentioned earlier, history is full of examples. In the present day of course we have many cases of people who preach even though privately they say they know it’s false (Daniel Dennett did a study on this). And those are just the ones who would admit it even anonymously. Not to mention all the people who bring up the pragmatic defense of religionn (i.e., whether it’s true or not doesn’t matter, it makes my life better).

    Nice try at changing what you said. Your point is religion is a scam because it preaches lies, not because of your accusation that some preachers preach when they are truly atheists. I do recall a post about that a few weeks back and my response would be those preachers are scamming their congregations not that religion itself is a scam.

    And yes, if your criteria to define a scam is spreading lies, then I would call Hitchens and others scammers because they are spreading the lie of atheism. But i truly think that the definition is different then that. There is no reason for me to doubt that Hitchens believes what he is saying, so I wouldn’t call him a scammer by the real definition, I would just call him wrong.

  • DA

    I specifically said that it preaches lies THAT A LARGE PORTION OF THE UPPER MANAGEMENT KNOWS ARE LIES. Nice attempt to make it look like I changed what I said, if, you know, what I said wasn’t outlined RIGHT THERE. Take some reading courses or maybe just try a book that’s not the bible once in a while.

  • Paddyswurds

    Can’t believe that Silverman didn’t demolish O’Reilly when he said we don’t know what causes the Tides to come and go. Is it possible Silverman doesn’t know either?