O'Reilly Debates Atheist Group President Over Religions Are 'Scams' Billboard


This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," January 4, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Impact" segment tonight: Just before Christmas, an atheist group purchased a giant sign outside the Lincoln Tunnel here in New York City that said belief in Jesus as God is "a myth."


Then just last weekend, another sign appeared, this one in Huntsville, Alabama. The message says this about religion: "You know they're all scams," picturing Christian, Jewish and Islamic symbols on the sign.


So, what's going on? With us now, David Silverman, president of the American Atheists group, which is responsible for both billboards. So, why the insults?


DAVID SILVERMAN, PRESIDENT OF AMERICAN ATHEISTS: Well, they're not insults. They are truths.

O'REILLY: Wait, and we just heard Nancy Pelosi said that it's pay as you go, so let's try to get into to the truth going here.


SILVERMAN: This isn't about pay as you go. This is about telling the truth.


O'REILLY: Right. If you say…


SILVERMAN: Because we're saying what we believe.


O'REILLY: No, no, no.




O'REILLY: Let's just be -- let's just be regular guys instead of I'm a Catholic and you are an atheist. We're just regular guys now, OK? You say something is a scam on a sign and then you come in here where millions of people are watching you and say that's not an insult. What does the word "scam" mean to you?


SILVERMAN: Scam means deliberately misleading people.


O'REILLY: That's not an insult?


SILVERMAN: It's not an insult to the people. The people are just falling.

O'REILLY: It's not an insult to the people?


SILVERMAN: It's a statement to the people who are falling to the religion, and it's really attacking the people who are in the pews.


O'REILLY: All right.




O'REILLY: Wait, wait, wait. Now, let's stick with the insult because this is certainly an insult in my opinion, and I know I'm not the smartest guy in town. But, OK -- so, religion is a scam. But it's not the people's fault. They've just been lured in.


SILVERMAN: That's right.


O'REILLY: Whose fault is it?


SILVERMAN: It's the leaders of the religion.


O'REILLY: The leaders?

SILVERMAN: Of course.


O'REILLY: All right. The pope.


SILVERMAN: The pope, absolutely.


O'REILLY: Right, all of these people.

SILVERMAN: This is not brain surgery and this is not world news. Everybody knows religion is a scam. The only news here…

O'REILLY: Everybody knows? I don't know, Mr. Silverman.


SILVERMAN: Yes, you do.


O'REILLY: No, I don't. I got to tell you…


SILVERMAN: You sit here and you're skeptical every day and then you go to church and you get on your knees and pray to an invisible man in the sky and you don't think that's a scam?


O'REILLY: No, I don't. You know, I'll tell you why.




SILVERMAN: …with a man that was built by a man.


O'REILLY: You know, I'll tell you why it's not a scam, in my opinion, all right? Tide goes in tide goes out, never a miscommunication. You cannot explain that. You can't explain why the tide goes in…

SILVERMAN: Tide goes in, tide goes out.

O'REILLY: The water, the tide comes in and it goes out, Mr. Silverman. It always comes in…

SILVERMAN: Maybe it's Thor on top of Mount Olympus who's making the tides go in and out.


O'REILLY: No, no, but you can't explain that.


SILVERMAN: A scam and a myth. The myth and religion are the same thing.


O'REILLY: You can't explain it.


SILVERMAN: It doesn't matter if I can explain it.


O'REILLY: It doesn't?

SILVERMAN: That doesn't mean an invisible magic man in the sky is doing that.


O'REILLY: And you're free to believe that, but when you insult -- all right.


SILVERMAN: We're not insulting. Look, there are thousands…

O'REILLY: And you're calling religion a scam and a myth.

SILVERMAN: It is a scam and it is a myth. But that's a statement of fact.

O'REILLY: It is not a statement of fact. It's a statement of belief.

SILVERMAN: Invisible man in the sky.

O'REILLY: That's what you believe.

SILVERMAN: This country is filled with billboards attacking atheists and this country has several billboards.

O'REILLY: Where -- all right. Show me -- tell me where there's one attacking atheists.

SILVERMAN: Oh, just go all up and down the New Jersey turnpike and you'll see, we're going to hell. We're going to burn. Hell is real.

O'REILLY: I have never seen one like that. You can tell me what exit that is? I'd like to go see it.

SILVERMAN: 8A, go ahead.

O'REILLY: All right. Who bought that?

SILVERMAN: It doesn't matter. The point is they are allowed to say what they want to say, and we are allowed to say what we want to say.


O'REILLY: And so are you. OK. So, what good does it do the atheist community in the United States, which according to Pew Religious Center is about 1 percent -- 1.6 percent of Americans. What good does it do you to insult 80 percent of the American people by saying they are too stupid to know what they're doing?

SILVERMAN: We didn't say stupid.

O'REILLY: No, but if you say that the people are duped and I can't possibly believe it.

SILVERMAN: Gullible, that's the word.

O'REILLY: You know, you are calling me a moron.

SILVERMAN: I'm not calling you a moron.

O'REILLY: Yes, you are.

SILVERMAN: It's the greatest scam in the history of the world.

O'REILLY: And then I fall for it.


SILVERMAN: And you fell for it, yes.


O'REILLY: So, I'm an idiot.


SILVERMAN: No, I didn't say that, man.


O'REILLY: Well, then how could I not be?


SILVERMAN: You know, your teaser for this segment was atheists are attacking religious people in public.



O'REILLY: If it's a fact, according to you, that there is no God, then I would to be a moron to believe in God. I'd have to be stupid.


SILVERMAN: Well, we want you to think about that, and our position is that the churches are filled with atheists. Our position is that the churches are filled with people who know it's a myth.


O'REILLY: Why do they go to church?


SILVERMAN: We don't know.


O'REILLY: You don't know! You don't know why it is.


SILVERMAN: Well, Bill, the whole point is that there's a lot of familial and social pressure keeping people in the church. But that's a good question. Why?


O'REILLY: What good does it do…


SILVERMAN: They are writing checks and they know it's a scam. They are on their knees and they know it's a scam.


O'REILLY: OK. Look, if you think that people go into church and they know that this is a scam and they write money to it, if you believe that, you are a loon, OK? There you go.


SILVERMAN: Now, I didn't insult you, but you just insulted me. You just called me a loon and you are accusing we are assaulting believers in public.


O'REILLY: The word if -- if you believe that, you're a loon. What good does it do two percent of the population to attack and insult 80 percent? It's not going to help your cause.


SILVERMAN: We are not attacking and insulting the 80 percent. We are luring the atheists out of the pews.

O'REILLY: You are luring them out.


SILVERMAN: We are. We're telling them that this is not one percent…


O'REILLY: So they're going to see your sign, you know what? That's right.


SILVERMAN: Well, if that's the case, I'm not here on "The O'Reilly Factor" now, am I?


O'REILLY: No, you are here because I don't understand what you're trying to get out of it. But now that you've explained it to me, that most people go to church are atheists…



O'REILLY: Just a few percentage of them.

SILVERMAN: That's right.

O'REILLY: And these signs are going to lure them out.




O'REILLY: Now I understand it perfectly.


SILVERMAN: It raises the awareness. It tells people that there's a place where they can go. People they can meet.


O'REILLY: Where, New Jersey turnpike?




O'REILLY: Is that where they can go?

SILVERMAN: It's not about the New Jersey turnpike. This one is about the Alabama Huntsville meeting. Find out more at


O'REILLY: Oh, all right.

SILVERMAN: You got to put a plug in there, my friend.

O'REILLY: Now, listen, we appreciate you coming in and taking the heat.


SILVERMAN: Thanks for having me on.


O'REILLY: You're welcome.


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