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Christmas under attack

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," December 6, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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O'REILLY: "Factor Follow Up Segment" tonight even though many secular Americans deny there's a war on Christmas, there is one. Every day we see attempts to ban Christmas displays and even the word Christmas in some cases.

Yesterday a "New York Times" columnist Gail Collins wrote quote "Led by the American Family Association and Fox News's Bill O'Reilly, conservative Christians have been encouraging boycotts of stores that do not connect their aim to sell massive amounts of clothes, toys, electronics and linens over the month of December with the birth of Christ."

That is a snide comment, is it not? It's also false. The only time we get involved with stores is if they forbid their employees to say Merry Christmas, a direct violation of freedom of speech. Ms. Collins has misled her viewers and readers before and the editors of the "The New York Times" don't seem to mind. We asked the woman to appear this evening, but she is hiding under her desk.

Joining us now from Boston, Chris Stedman, the assistant humanist chaplain at Harvard University and author of the book "Faitheist: How an Atheists Found Common Ground with the Religious."

First of all Mr. Stedman I want your opinion on this massive display in Times Square put up by the American atheist group, which says "Who Needs Christ during Christmas? Nobody." It's kind of mean-spirited, is it not?

CHRIS STEDMAN, ATHEIST: Well, I'm going to go out on a limb here, Bill, and say that I do not think that the number one issue facing atheists in the United States today is Christians celebrating Christmas, right? I think we have much bigger concerns.

In my mind, one of those biggest concerns, if not the biggest is that atheists, according to a number of surveys, are widely distrusted in the United States, perhaps more so than just about any other group and I do not see these billboards as contributing to the de-stigmatization of atheists - -

(CROSSTALK)

O'REILLY: Ok so you're basically saying they're harming themselves. But I want you to try to explain to the audience the mentality. Look I'm a simple man. You probably know that even though I attended Harvard. They're embarrassed that I actually got in there. Just leave Christmas alone. Just leave it alone, ok?

It has nothing to do with you. You're an atheist. You don't believe in Jesus, you don't believe in any of that, but you do get the day off. Have fun, all right, go ice skating. Leave it alone for the people who revere it. I don't understand why they just don't have that philosophy.

STEDMAN: Well, on some level, I somewhat understand what some of the concerns are, mostly because this is a society where Christians do benefit from a level of religious privilege.

Now, does that mean that these billboards are a good strategy in addressing that? No, I don't think so. I would much rather see a billboard saying "Do you not celebrate Christmas? You're not alone." Or "Do you celebrate Christmas without believing in Christ? You're not alone." Instead of saying "Who needs Christ in Christmas, nobody."

O'REILLY: Yes ok, so you want -- but why are some atheists -- and there are groups, entire groups devoted to suing schools that might have the temerity of letting kids sing a Christmas carol. I mean come on. Why? Are they that bitter against religion? Is that what it is? Did they have a bad experience with organized religion? Is it bitterness?

STEDMAN: Well, I don't want to psychoanalyze atheist activists who do prioritize that, but what I will say is that I think that the separation of church and state is in place to insure that the government does not privilege one religion over any other. It does not endorse one religion over any other.

So my feeling on Christmas displays in public spaces, in public schools is that if those are there, there should be displays for many different religions and many nonreligious --

O'REILLY: I don't think many people have a beef with that. I don't think -- not in my crew.

STEDMAN: No --

O'REILLY: Nobody has a beef with that.

STEDMAN: I would hope not, yes. Yes, exactly.

O'REILLY: I mean, we don't like, we don't like --

STEDMAN: I mean, look --

O'REILLY: I have to amend this. There are two things that have come up, one in the capital of Washington State, in Olympia. There were some atheist groups who said if you have a Christmas tree, I'm going to put a sign up -- an obnoxious sign saying that all believers are morons or something like that.

Now, that's not in the spirit of anything. If they wanted to put up a sign saying, just what you said, if you don't believe in Christmas, you're not alone, contact Ziggy and here's his phone number. That's fine. I don't bother that.

And the second thing is Macy's --

STEDMAN: Yes, I mean --

O'REILLY: Macy's brought in Santa Claus, St. Nicholas, ok? But refused to say what holiday St. Nicholas was being brought in for. I just thought that was absurd and I mocked them, all right? However, what I'm seeing here is an amazing amount of anger, not from you, because you're a humanist chaplain, all right? You can't be angry. You have to be nice. But from other atheists that are just so angry, and I don't really know what they're angry about.

STEDMAN: Well, you know, I completely agree, in terms of, when it comes to these public displays, I would much rather see a lot more of the yes of atheism and humanism in the public square than the no of atheism. You know I want to hear from atheists what do we believe in? What do we stand for? What are our highest values? And I think that atheists have a unique contribution to make to the public discourse on religion and ethics and we should be putting our energy and attention toward that, rather than --

O'REILLY: Right, rather than alienating 82 percent of the population which sees you guys as cheap-shutting them. Mr. Stedman you make a lot of sense and I really appreciate you coming on the program. Thank you.

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