My second audition file. The sound quality isn’t perfect, but I adjudged not bad enough to prevent posting here.
December 2014 saw a splash of anti-Christian pieces in the media.
There is Steve Siebold’s December 24 HuffPost article, entitled, “Don’t Just Question the 10 Commandments; Question the Entire Bible.” I may respond to that at a later date.
And then there was Jeffrey Tayler’s December 22 Salon.com piece, entitled, “Let’s Make Bill O’Reilly’s Head Explode: We Desperately Need a War on Christmas Lies;” to which I will respond now.
On The William Tell Show, we seek to teach principles of critical thinking, using the handy online manual entitled Free Speech Handbook. In his first paragraph, Jeffrey Tayler runs afoul of quite a number of the guidelines in that handbook — no less than five of the thirteen principles.
We can begin with Guideline No. 1, “Judge the thought, not the thinker.” This deals with personal attacks, or what is known as ad hominem. I don’t need to re-quote the pertinent portions of Jeffrey Tayler’s personal attack on Bill O’Reilly; it’s clear he’s going after O’Reilly personally, and not addressing any merits of O’Reilly’s case.
Bill O’Reilly (Credit: Fox News/Screen montage by Salon)
Salon.com continues the ad hominem in the large graphic that accompanies the piece, which shows what could have been a screen shot of O’Reilly, with an apoplectic expression on his face, waving his finger at the camera, and the on-screen caption of “War on Christmas; attacks on Christmas songs.” The photo credit says, “Credit: Fox News/Screen montage by Salon.” In other words, this image never appeared on-screen. Rather, Salon.com Photoshopped the images to get that facial expression of Bill O’Reilly paired with the language about a war on Christmas.
Next, Jeffrey Tayler runs afoul of Guideline No. 5, “Avoid pejoratives.” I will go through these throughout the article; I haven’t counted them; the article is 2,289 words. The pejorative terms Tayler uses here include: blather, Xmas, lie, ignorant, pompous, preposterous, godless, perverted, pinhead, leftist-loon, pious (Not normally a pejorative term, but he uses it that way.), miming, lip-syncing, turgid, nonsense, spew, impudent, beclowns, knee-jerk, superstitious, chintzy, laughable, killjoy, cloying, absurdity, cynicism, gullibility, shyster.
From the perspective of The William Tell Show, use of such language never strengthens’ one’s case.
Free Speech Handbook Guideline No. 6 advises, “Avoid sarcasm.” We find this in this passage: O’Reilley “has declared his opposition to the ‘war on Christmas’ allegedly being waged against the good Christians of the United States by the godless, perverted and no doubt ‘pinhead’ leftist-loon mavens of multiculturalism.” We have, first, the problem of whether Tayler himself views those people that way; if he doesn’t, then we are, indeed, dealing with sarcasm.
Next, we have the issue of Free Speech Handbook Guideline No. 11, “Deal with exactly what the person says.” If O’Reilly himself has not called these people “godless, perverted, ‘pinhead’ leftist-loon mavens of multiculturalism,” then we have at least an ethical issue in attributing that language to him.
In the segment of The O’Reilly Factor that Jeffrey Tayler is complaining about, O’Reilly was concerned principally with certain billboards that were put up during the Christmas season by the American Atheists association. He featured, on the show, Danielle Muscato, the P.R. director for the organization, who explained, “A lot of atheists feel alienated at this time of year, and we want them to know that they’re not alone, and that it’s OK to admit that there’s no God and to be open about that.”
That’s all well and good; I would hope to support such a goal; but this doesn’t seem to be the billboards’ actual purpose. American Atheists is the organization founded by Madalyn Murray O’Hair, whose lifelong quest was to offend rather than persuade; and the billboards seem primarily to function along the lines of that mission. Tayler says, “The organization’s website says the billboards have been placed mostly in Southern states, and are located ‘in more residential areas to be near schools and churches.'” This has more [to do] with causing alarm to Christian parents than encouraging atheists.
This isn’t Amherst.
Next, O’Reilly interviewed Karen Ruskin, a psychotherapist and agnostic, and this interview seems to be what particularly upset Tayler. I don’t understand it.
Free Speech Handbook Guideline No. 10 says, “Make judicious use of qualifiers,” and in her remarks, Ruskin seems to me to make quite clear that a bullying attitude may appear among some atheists, but not all. Tayler takes her as speaking of all atheists as bullies, which is quite mistaken. He quotes her: “There is an emotional confusion for some … in their need to push their product to others to help themsel[ves] feel they’re right.” That certainly applies to certain Christians, also.
Tayler then turns his attention away from O’Reilly to attempt certain attacks on Christianity itself. Notwithstanding that I am a Christian myself, I have no impulse to defend Christianity; but as an intellectual, there is a need to correct certain mis-statements of fact.
Tayler correctly states that there is no reliable record outside Christianity of the existence of such a person as Jesus. He says, “The Gospels are not historical records and don’t count; they were composed decades afterward.” I’m afraid that doesn’t mean they don’t count. Matthew, Mark and Luke incorporate substantial material that must pre-date Paul. That makes this material very early in Christian history. But I wouldn’t necessarily expect Tayler to know that. He’s not a Bible student. And this is a good example of why I myself generally avoid trying to debunk the sacred writ of other people’s faiths — the Torah, the Koran, the Vedas — about which I just plain don’t know too much.
Tayler next says, “It has even been credibly proposed that Paul and his cohorts created the savior with strokes of their quills by mythologizing history.” He links to a previous Salon.com piece featuring the work of David Fitzgerald. On the one hand, I have to agree that “mythologizing history” must have happened. If there were such a person as Jesus, it’s inevitable that myths and legends would have collected around him, as they did around George Washington and Davy Crockett. Davy Crockett is said to have “killed a bar when he was only three.”
On the other hand, David Fitzgerald does not talk about “mythologizing history.” He talks about the exact opposite, “historicizing myth.” Fitzgerald theorizes that Paul and others began with an idea for a myth and a need for a savior, and concocted a completely fictitious character who would have the desired attributes; and that this is where Jesus came from. This strikes me as absolutely incredible and impossible. We have the historical issue that the Twelve and, the Twelve Disciples and the church at Jerusalem pre-existed Paul, and regarded him with suspicion. [Acts 21; Galatians 2:12.] That bunch would not have collaborated with him on anything.
Tayler concludes by speculating on all the wonderful things that would come to pass if Christianity were to disappear. He has a long list. The last two items are of interest to me.
The very last item, he says: the “peaceful demise of the decoy culture wars the Republicans wage to persuade ever-more economically disadvantaged Americans to vote against their interests.” On the one hand, I question the legitimacy of identifying Christianity with the political right wing; Tayler has also done this in other pieces. On the other hand, this personally touches me.
You can’t get much more economically disadvantaged than being homeless, and in fact all the support I see homeless people getting in this country comes from Christians. I see no activity by atheists to operate any homeless shelter. Every homeless shelter in Baltimore City is operated by Christians. The only state-funded shelter is operated by Catholic Charities, because the civil servants weren’t able to maintain order.
The next-to-last item in his wish list reads, “the discrediting of the End Times nihilism that permeates the country’s discussions on a range of problems urgently requiring rational solutions.” I’m all in favor of rational solutions, but rational solutions — Rationality can only function in the context of a certain degree of emotional maturity. Problem-solving skills don’t exist among the infantile. One has to have at least a desire to find solutions, a desire to listen to the other side, a willingness to make sacrifices; and it’s for these reasons that William Tell displays some interest in equipping people for emotional maturity.
If Jeffrey Tayler is interested in such goals, I hope that he will find some better way to express himself than engaging in public tantrums.
That’s all for today.
Originally posted 2015-01-17.