Bill O'Reilly does a lot of good, but he made a fool of himself last night on his O'Reilly Factor. It was painful to watch. In the course of a heated exchange with David Silverman, president of American Atheists, O'Reilly claimed that Christianity is not a religion, but a philosophy. At first I thought I had misheard, but Mr. Bill repeated the ridiculous assertion.
And yet O'Reilly was right to oppose the extremism of Silverman and the zealots who seek to remove every vestige of religion from the public square, though they seem to be rather less zealous when it comes to the 'religion of peace.'
It is not enough to have the right view; one must know how to defend it properly. A bad argument for a true conclusion gives the impression that there are no good arguments for it. And this is where conservatives tend to fall short. See my Anti-Intellectualism on the Right and Why Are Conservatives Inarticulate?
O'Reilly's bizarre assertion shows that he has no understanding of the differences among philosophy, religion, and Christianity. For part of my views on the differences between philosophy and religion, see here. There is room for disagreement on the exact definition of 'religion,' but if anything is clear, it is that Christianity is a religion. O'Reilly only dug his hole deeper when he claimed that while Christianity is a philosophy, Methodism is a religion!
I am reminded of the inarticulate George W. Bush. He once claimed that Jesus was his favorite philosopher. That silly assertion showed that Bush understood neither philosophy nor Jesus. Jesus claimed not only to know the truth, but to be the truth. "I am the way, the truth, and the life . . . ." That is a claim that no philosopher qua philosopher can make. A philosopher is a mere seeker of truth, not a possessor of it, let alone truth's very incarnation. A philosopher is a person who is ignorant, knows that he is, and seeks to remedy his deficiency.
Neither God nor Christ are philosophers. And we can thank God for that!