Grrr. Stedman.

Bill O’Reilly, as he always does this time of year, was ramping up this War on Christmas nonsense again. He’s peeved at the new billboard display from American Atheists in Times Square.

American Atheists launched a major billboard display on Tuesday that declares Christmas is better without the Christ. The huge 40′x40′ digital billboard is located in Times Square in Midtown Manhattan. Using motion graphics, the billboard proclaims, “Who needs Christ during Christmas?” A hand crosses out the word “Christ” and the word “NOBODY” appears. The display then says “Celebrate the true meaning of Xmas” and offers a series of cheery words: family, friends, charity, food, snow, and more. The commercial ends with a jovial “Happy Holidays!” from American Atheists and displays the organization’s website,“This season is a great time of year for a hundred reasons—none of them having to do with religion,” said American Atheists President David Silverman. “This year, start a new tradition: Don’t go to church. You hate it, it’s boring; you probably only go because you feel guilty or obligated. Instead, spend more time with your family and friends—or volunteer. There are better uses of your time and money.”

Ed Brayton jokes that O’Reilly should have invited him on to talk about it — he would have engaged in some merciless needling that would have annoyed the old windbag. It would have been nice, but no, no way was that going to happen; it would have been even better if David Silverman had been invited on…not only more appropriate, but Silverman is good at standing his ground and punching back. But no. O’Reilly brought on…

Chris Stedman.

He was awful. Well, from my perspective he was awful — O’Reilly seemed to think he was just wonderful, since Stedman was largely agreeing with him. O’Reilly showed part of the billboard, the bit where is it says “Who needs Christ during Christmas? Nobody,” and then cut away to O’Reilly asking Stedman what he thought about it. He replied that they were “not contributing to the destigmatization of atheists,” and later he said that he completely agreed, and he wanted “to see more of yes of atheism than the no of atheism.”

I can guess exactly how Silverman would have responded: by pointing out that the primary message of the billboard was the importance of this season as a family holiday, which certainly is the “yes of atheism”. Stedman either didn’t do his homework or was more interested in ingratiating himself with a far right blustering jerk, and decided instead to see if the snow tires on the bus could bounce over a few atheists.

O’Reilly was pulling his usual schtick, claiming that atheists are bitter, that they sue schools if they have the temerity to let a kid sing a Christmas carol, and whining that Macy’s department store brought in a Santa Claus and didn’t announce that it was Christmas. Why can’t those atheists just leave Christmas alone, he begged.

Most of these claims of atheists hating Christmas are lies, and the criticisms groups like the FFRF levy against schools and other state institutions aren’t that kids shouldn’t be allowed to pray or sing hymns if they want, but that these schools cannot selectively privilege only the Christian religion. Stedman was totally ineffective.

Further, when O’Reilly says “What I’m seeing here is an amazing amount of anger from atheists” and “I don’t really know what they are angry about”, when the angry ranter here is O’Reilly and the atheists aren’t expressing any anger at all, Stedman feebly goes along with it and agrees with the stupid host. I guess he’s hoping for a repeat invitation.

If Stedman and the Harvard Humanists want to put up a friendly, cheerful, unchallenging milquetoast sign, they are welcome to do so, and I won’t have a problem with it. I do have a big problem when a representative of the Harvard Humanists goes on the air to deny the righteous, forthright words of a less weasely organization, and when they are so ineffectual that they can’t even raise a word of rebuttal against the BS Bill O’Reilly lays on so thickly — familiar, tired BS that anyone going on the show ought to be prepared to slap down. It’s not as if he ambushed Stedman with a weird new claim.

Stedman is too feeble, and maybe Ed Brayton would be a touch too acerbic. If they can’t get Silverman to go on, may I recommend Rob Boston, instead? He wouldn’t let the bogosity fly by with a smile and a laugh. Anyone but Stedman.

I think I want these kids to handle O’Reilly.


  1. schism says

    Why would a propaganda outlet want to bring in someone competent for a counter-point? Seeing as the Silverman interview turned into a meme pinata, I doubt Bellow will allow anyone within a thousand miles of a decent argument for the foreseeable future.

  2. says

    Whenever I see the name Stedman I think of Oprah\s boyfriend. I’d hate to think what he or Oprah would think of an atheist billboard.

    Does anyone else think the little girl on the right of that |Santa picture knows exactly what the other girl’s gesture means?

  3. Al Dente says

    Stedman was given the opportunity to bash gnu atheists and he lapped it up. O’Reilly wasn’t actually needed at this point other than to set up the situation for Stedman to start bashing.

  4. Sastra says

    O’Reilly showed part of the billboard, the bit where is it says “Who needs Christ during Christmas? Nobody,” and then cut away to O’Reilly asking Stedman what he thought about it. 

    I watched the clip over at Ed’s and had no idea it was part of a longer message. I really hope Stedman didn’t do his homework because the billboard is making a point I’ve been endorsing for a long time. Christmas doesn’t have to be a religious holiday; in fact, it’s better when it isn’t.

    The billboard is thus a measured response to the mean, insulting, nasty bit of tripe you see slapped all over, bedecked with angels and stars: “Keep the Christ in Christmas.”

    I always think: “No. Stop scolding and shame on you.”

    The AA billboard then IS a positive message. Christmas is not just for Christians. The “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” complaint is an angry, divisive one.

    I have no objection to the Harvard Humanists putting up a sign like “Christmas for Everbody!” But I bet O’Reilly would.

  5. screechymonkey says

    1. Read Stedman’s blathering nonsense about “the yes of atheism” and the “no of atheism.”
    2. Feel blood pressure rising
    3. Go back and re-read’s Tom Scocca’s excellent essay “On Smarm”
    4. Feel much better

  6. zenlike says

    Dear Stedman,

    Please join some liberal christian church. We all know you want to. Just get it over with.

    (Really, reaching out to christians is aok with me, but reaching out to the hateful windbag o’tool and his equally hateful followers? No comprendo, except when old Steddy really is going for a future conversion and cash-in.)

  7. zenlike says

    Also, is it totally wrong of me to have read that title as being shouted by PZ in the manner of your typical angry dean in a stupid 80ies college movie?

  8. says

    Stedman seems like a nice young man (I’m 45 tomorrow, I get to call people “young man” now). But he comes off as woefully naive when he’s put in these situations. He seems either blissfully unaware of the phenomenon sometimes called Hippy Punching (wherein a liberal gains credibility with centrists and conservatives by bashing fellow liberals) or he knows and just doesn’t care that he’s being used as part of a propaganda process.

  9. ekwhite says

    What I can’t understand is why he would go on to talk about *another group’s* ad to begin with. How would he react if David Silverman showed up to take a dump on a project of the Harvard Humanists?

  10. says

    This is essentially the same thing as when Brad Paisley went to LL Cool J for his “Let’s Talk About Racism” song, rather than say, Chuck D. Except Brad Paisley doesn’t seem like one of Earth’s biggest assholes, which O’Reilly most certainly is, and a strong contender for biggest.

  11. =8)-DX says

    The main thing about that billboard is:

    It is a horrible sweat-drenched, gasping and bloody designer’s nightmare! Please, AA: get a graphics person with more that two brain-cells devoted to the task. Yes, Xmas is always sappy and kitschy, but seriously is this the best you can do? Putting up a billboard on Times Square isn’t cheap I’m guessing – putting up something so grossly disgusting is not a return on investment – it’s not really constructive to have poeple associate atheists with bad taste. Message – good, design – worse than bad.

    Next time go full comic sans again, at least that’s predictable.

  12. says

    As someone who actually does hate Christmas, I think the American Atheist billboard is the very definition of Not Helping.

    I want Christmas to remain a Christian holiday. And to be regulated to the spheres in which religion is appropriate; i.e., not plastered all over every fucking public space and school and workplace and everywhere for what is now getting to be up to TWO MONTHS of the year and ahhhhhhhhhhhhh make it go away! It’s not the best time of year; it’s definitely the worst–it’s cold and dark and I’m too sleepy to party and everywhere I go it’s full of shitty Christmas muzak and people telling me to spend spend spend buying shit for people even though I have zero money around this time of year because I’m a contract worker so I don’t get paid for any of these incessant fucking holidays. I want Christmas to remain Christian so that the excuse “But I’m not a Christian” will GET ME THE FUCK OUT OF HAVING TO PARTICIPATE IN IT. I want Christmas to go back to the churches and fucking stay there.

    Bill O’Reilly can still go fuck himself, though. If all the atheists hate Christmas so much, why are they fucking trying to stake a claim in it?

  13. chigau (違う) says

    thecynicalromantic #16

    I want Christmas to remain Christian so that the excuse “But I’m not a Christian” will GET ME THE FUCK OUT OF HAVING TO PARTICIPATE IN IT. I want Christmas to go back to the churches and fucking stay there.


  14. Nick Gotts says

    I want Christmas to remain Christian so that the excuse “But I’m not a Christian” will GET ME THE FUCK OUT OF HAVING TO PARTICIPATE IN IT. I want Christmas to go back to the churches and fucking stay there. – thecynicalromantic@16


  15. rnilsson says

    Why isn’t Dr Stedman’s first name In? As in Eric Satz.
    Oh, that was a philosophical query. Sorry. Don’t answer that.