Personally, I like to see a Christmas tree in the town square.
While I understand David Silvermans argument, I don’t think it’s realistic to try and rename Christmas to something like a “Winter Solstice” holiday, just to keep to the letter of the law about government not endorsing any religion.
Would I be “offended” if a town wanted to display Muslim symbolism during Ramadan or Jewish symbolism during Chanukah? No, not really. Where I lived in England, there was a very large Indian/Pakistani community and that part of town was filled with decorations during the Hindu Diwali festival. The whole area just looked really impressive and there was a wonderful sense of community and peace there, as people celebrated their own cultural diversity. Here’s a link to some pictures of the festival.
The problem of course, is that it is simply not realistic to display decorations for every concievable celebration, because someone, somewhere will be offended either because they are left out or they disagree with a particular groups festivities. The easiest “solution” is to not display decorations at all. But no-one wants that – as I said above, I personally like to see a Christmas tree in the town square as much as anyone else, and I’ve already put my Christmas lights up. I may not believe in the nativity aspect of the holiday, but I can certainly appreciate a cultural celebration when I see one.
Silverman has a very valid point, and the reason that O’Reilly got so bent out of shape is because deep down he knows Silverman is constitutionally correct (which is why he tried to assert that Christianity is a philosophy, not a religion). However, I think Silverman sometimes goes out of his way to be as obnoxious as possible. There is definitely a need for atheists to stand up and say “Hey, I’m here and I exist”, but waving pitchforks at Christmas is not the way to convince people you mean them no harm…
That said, O’Reilly was pretty unprofessional in that interview. Calling your guest a “fascist” just because he has different views isn’t going to win you any points either.
Somewhere in between these two viewpoints is a place where everyone ought to be able to agree. It’s just a shame that we have to endure two extreme positions at either end of the bell curve, when I’m fairly certain most people fall somewhere in the middle, where compromise and rational discourse can be found.
I don’t want to take your Christmas tree away, so please stop telling everyone that atheists are fascists. Thank you.