The debate got heated last night on Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor" when host Bill O'Reilly and David Silverman, president of the American Atheists organization, went head to head on the issue of Christmas and Christianity.
While Silverman argued that the government needs to practice neutrality toward all religions, and therefore not honor Christmas as a federal holiday because it is a Christian tradition, O'Reilly argued that Christianity is "not a religion, it is a philosophy," and therefore all non-religious Americans can honor Christmas.
The debate began with O'Reilly, a self-proclaimed Roman Catholic, questioning Silverman: "Why are you messing around with my tradition, why are you messing around with Christmas? Just leave it alone."
Silverman responded, "[Atheists are] not messing around with anything. We're stopping the government from preferring one religion over another."
O'Reilly counteracted Silverman's statement by calling his viewpoint "insane," adding: "You can celebrate Christmas without being a Christian."
"It is a fact that Christianity is not a religion; it is a philosophy," O'Reilly continued.
"If the government were saying that the Methodist religion deserves a special place in the public square, I would be on your side," O'Reilly added.
O'Reilly continued his argument by saying the Christmas tree is a secular symbol, and that the U.S. government should have a right to recognize Christmas as a federal holiday because it revolves around the Christian "philosophy," not "religion."
Silverman continued to advocate the importance of the government treating all Americans equally in regards to religious affiliation.
O'Reilly jumped on Silverman's equality argument, calling the leader and his fellow atheists a "merry band of fascists."
The initial reason behind O'Reilly's Nov. 28 interview with Silverman was to discuss Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee's recent decision to re-name the state tree a "holiday tree," as opposed to a "Christmas tree."
Evidently, the discussion between Silverman and O'Reilly quickly swayed from its initial purpose.
O'Reilly plans to question Gov. Chafee himself regarding his views on Christmas and Christianity on the Thursday, Nov. 29 airing of "The O'Reilly Factor" on Fox News Network.