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Bill O’Reilly revs up his war engine

Bill O’Reilly is playing his "War on Christmas" game again. It seems the Governor Steve Beshear of Kentucky decided that the seasonal tree this year would be called a "holiday tree" instead of a "Christmas tree" (he’s since revoked that decision and it’s back to being a "Christmas tree"). This, of course, drew outrage from offended Christians and the ever so fair-and-balanced Bill O’Reilly.

Here’s the video. My take on it follows.

I’ll start off with my opinion that calling the tree a "holiday tree" is stupid. It is a Christmas tree. Let’s just call it that. However, saying "happy holidays" is not stupid. It’s inclusive. Not only is it inclusive of other religious beliefs (Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Al Hijra, etc), but it’s also inclusive of other secular holidays (Thanksgiving and New Years Day, for instance).

Christmas has been secularized to the point where there are very few people who get offended over a Christmas tree, Christmas lights, snowmen, candles, elves, Santa, and the myriad of other secular Christmas displays. Similarly, I don’t know anyone who gets offended over religious displays when they are displayed in an appropriate place… like a church or on private property. The problem comes when the religious aspects of Christmas are displayed, promoted, paid for, or endorsed by any government (or taxpayer supported) organization.

That said… on to O’Reilly’s buffoonery.

He starts off announcing the story, and then says "Kentucky is a traditional place, as you know." By "traditional," what he means is "right-wing religious," but he uses the term "traditional" to make it sound warm and inviting… all apple pie and warm cookies. He also says "that kind of nonsense usually doesn’t play down there," planting his cleated feet firmly in the camp of religious intolerance (as if he needed to plant them deeper than they already are).

Gretchen Carlson states that she thinks that Beshear’s change of heart is "emblematic of what was goin’ on this summer at the tea parties. I think that now Americans have the "fight within them and they’re gonna stand up and they’re gonna be heard." O’Reilly thinks she may be right, of course… but I take offense at being lumped in with her version of what "Americans" are. I sincerely doubt that the tea parties had any real effect on rational, thinking Americans. The right-wing Fox News minions? Yes, perhaps.

O’Reilly turns his attention to Margaret Hoover and says that "we" (his show? Fox News?) had to hammer Washington state last Christmas because the governor there put up an atheist sign (OMG HORROR!) next to the Christmas tree and nativity scene. He charges right past the whole "nativity scene" bit. Perhaps he didn’t want to draw attention to the overt religious displays in government buildings. I don’t know.

Hoover says that we’re a multi-ethnic country (true) and that "atheists can’t impose their atheism on the rest of us… and vice versa" (also true).

O’Reilly, however, comes back with "But that’s not really true" and Carlson, in a flash of brilliance (not), says, "We call it Christmas because Christmas falls on December 25th. It’s Christmas!" Ummm… somebody needs to go back to remedial Sunday school, it seems.

O’Reilly’s argument is that "polls say" that 70% of Americans are "fed up with this nonsense" and want "Christmas to be Christmas." He doesn’t mention which polls or what "this nonsense" is specifically. He just gives a vague, unsupported statement as his means of "destroying" Hoover. He also says that the Christmas tree came from Germany and it’s a "tradition that America has embraced." He changes his tune slightly and says that (emphasis mine) "70% of Americans want traditional Christmas to be kept that way." Again, vague. I’m an atheist and, other than a Christmas Eve church service, my family’s Christmas is as "traditional" as it was growing up. O’Reilly’s statements are vague to the point of being… pointless.

But here’s where he really gets going. He says, "Don’t tell me about pluralistic nonsense. This is the tyranny of the minority." O’Reilly is a master of absurdism. Tyranny? Seriously? Calling a Christmas tree a "holiday" tree is tyranny?

Hoover says it’s up to the states to decide how to handle the issue and they have to answer to their citizenry. O’Reilly’s counter? "That dopey governor out there… and she is a giant pinhead… imposed her ridiculous view of life on Washingtonians." Wow. Because she allowed equal access for various religious displays (since the Constitution requires neutrality), she’s a dopey, giant pinhead? That’s classic O’Reilly, right there.

Carlson is no better and interjects that "they put up a Festivus pole" when, in actuality, they did not. They requested one, but the whole situation got shut down before getting too out of hand. Carlson goes on to make some remark implying that the American people would like to see their tax dollars being spent to stop all religious displays that are non-Christian.

O’Reilly finishes up by stating that the "Supreme Court has already ruled that you can have these displays. You don’t have to make these insane changes." What constitutes "these displays?" Christmas trees? Okay. Manger scenes? No. The Supreme Court has ruled no such thing.

O’Reilly is a master of delivering blustering, absolutist rhetoric while remaining pointless and vague. He spouts off with intolerant, bigoted tirades on a regular basis… but has a devout following of like-minded acolytes that hang on his every word, nodding their heads with a hypnotically zealous agreement. There was very little mention of Christianity in this video, but the undertone was there. From "traditional" Christmas to the tea partiers (who were, on the whole, overtly and fundamentally religious), the implication is that O’Reilly’s version of Christmas is the only acceptable way for Americans to spend the holiday season and, indeed, it’s the only acceptable holiday.

And remember, we call it Christmas because Christmas falls on December 25th.

Creation Museum Part 1

Petersburg, Kentucky On August 28th, Craig and I took an early flight (way too early) to the Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky airport to visit the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, about 7 miles from the airport. Having heard quite a bit about the museum, we were anxious to learn more about it in a way that only a first-hand visit could provide.

The result was an oddly enjoyable combination of admiration, amazement, bewilderment, amusement, aggravation, and sadness.

Museum Parking Lot Entrance I can’t speak for Craig, but when the cab driver dropped us off in front of the museum and drove away, I felt just a twinge of intimidation. The guards in the parking lot were dressed like state troopers, complete with official-looking arm patches and even more official looking firearms. I didn’t remember seeing armed guards when I visited the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences. I felt somewhat like an interloper, or, if I wanted to add a more masculine adventure flair to my description, a spy.

Creation Museum Entrance We had decided that we were going to remain “undercover,” so to speak… at least for the first day, in order to avoid any out-of-the-ordinary treatment. I gave a big smile to the guard and commented on the beautiful weather. He responded in kind, and seemed very friendly. We found that to be the case throughout the museum. The staff was very pleasant and helpful (with only a few un-noteworthy exceptions) and were quick to return my smiles and engage in light chit-chat.

04_Notice Posted on the front door was a notice stating that the Creation Museum was private property, a Christian environment, and an outreach of Answers in Genesis, Ken Ham’s ministry that teaches a literal interpretation of the bible, including a six 24-hour day creation and a 6,000 year old Earth. The notice was fairly worded and I didn’t find it offensive or inappropriate, even for a secular museum (other than the first sentence, of course). Be nice, be polite, etc. Good advice in a museum.

So far, so good. We got in line to get our tickets and purchased a two-day pass along with a few special tickets for the Planetarium shows and a presentation called “Microscarium” which was to show all the life that can be in a single drop of water (more on those shows in later posts). The two-day pass was only about $7.00 more than a single day pass, so we opted for that so we could come back and get any pictures or video footage that we missed on our first day.

05_Lobby Finally we got to the lobby and our first real taste of the kind of quality production values that were consistent throughout the entire museum. Every display, structure, statue, and facility was top-notch. To quote John Hammond, they “spared no expense” when they built this place… and it showed. Had I not known what the museum contained, I would have been filled with admiration and excitement rather than a sense of dread.

Walking past the mammoth skeleton in the front of the lobby, we got our first glimpse of where we were truly headed. A young girl and boy played in a stream while a pair of raptors (no, not the birds… the dinosaurs) stood together behind them. It was like The Flintstones, only presented with animatronic realism… and presented as actual history.

06_DinoGirl 07_DinoKids

The idea of dinosaurs living at the same time as humans is presented, even emphasized, throughout the museum’s exhibits. A literal reading of Genesis demands it and the Creation Museum revels in it, as Craig and I were about to find out.

We wandered around the lobby for a bit to take a look at the exhibits outside the main “Walk Through History” exhibit. There was plenty to see and we checked it out before heading into the staff-recommended Men in White video presentation in the special effects theater. We got a bit more of a taste of what we would be seeing later that day when we ventured deeper into the museum, including the Seven C’s in God’s Eternal Plan (the overarching theme throughout the museum) and an anti-scientific declaration mixed with worship.

7 C's in God's Eternal Plan Our Back Yard - So Much Difference

The Men in White video, like the rest of the museum, had extremely high production values and was very entertaining, though riddled with long-debunked creationist propaganda and absurdly caricaturized science teachers. It was easy to see how viewers who are not well-versed in basic science would be pulled into the descriptions and then walk out of the theater thinking that maybe there was something to the whole “6,000 year old Earth” thing. It was like listening to a fast-talking carnie who was also good-looking, charming, and gave you free candy… so you wouldn’t notice that the live, two-headed snake woman was neither alive nor two-headed.

Creationist Paleontologist We then headed into the “Walk Through History” exhibit, which was designed to guide the viewer along the biblical explanation for life on earth. It starts with the paleontologist room. Two men are digging up a dinosaur fossil. The television screens in the room explain that the two men are finding the same fossils, but they come up with different views depending upon their starting point.

What do we know about Dinosaurs? This is another key point that is hammered into the viewer repeatedly throughout the museum. A dichotomy is set up between “Human Reason” and “God’s Word” (with “God’s Word” portrayed as the ultimate truth, of course).

“Dinosaur fossils don’t come with tags on them telling us how old they are,” the sign proclaims. “We have to figure that out from a few clues we find.” That’s true, of course, but what the museum consistently ignores throughout its halls is that we have an overwhelming number of “clues” from numerous branches of science… and they all tell us that dinosaur fossils are millions of years old. Different Views... Different Starting Points It’s not a matter of interpreting the clues differently. It’s a matter of creationists ignoring clues that don’t meet their biblical requirements.

It’s the same with the “different starting points” claim, except this claim is more accurate, though probably not in the way the museum means it to be. Scientists do have a different starting point than creationists. Scientists start with the evidence and examine it to see where it leads. Creationists start with the bible and examine it to see how they can make the evidence fit. Scientists will change their ideas and theories based on new evidence. Creationists will never change their theories in the face of new evidence because, in their view, the bible trumps all evidence.

Same Facts, but Different Views… Why?


Why, indeed.

(The tour will continue in part 2)

Almost Unbearable Irony

Craig and I just returned from a trip to the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. The museum is an attempt to show that the bible is scientifically accurate when you read the book of Genesis in a completely literal way. Though the museum is physically amazing (clean, well built, very high quality, etc), it pretty much fails from the science aspect.

So it was to my great amusement that I found this t-shirt available… though I heard it was discontinued and this was on clearance for $9.00…

Creation Museum T-shirt - Science is Awesome!!!

Detailed write-ups (with pics!) will be forthcoming.