On Friday night on his Fox News Channel show, Bill O'Reilly made a show of attempting to understand the motivations and thinking of the people he deemed "angry" atheists, asking, "Are they that bitter against religion?"
Raw Story spoke with Dave Muscato of American Atheists, Inc. to find out whether there was any merit to O'Reilly's charges, which were part of the cable host's annual protest against the so-called "War on Christmas."
"Bill O'Reilly has this fantasy that Christians are being persecuted," Muscato said, when in fact, "Bill O'Reilly is the epitome of a privileged person; a straight, white, cisgender American. The reason that he's obsessed with this 'War on Christmas' is because he knows there's nothing he's really being oppressed by."
When asked if he is an "angry atheist," Muscato laughed and said, "I'm a passionate atheist. And I believe that there is a place for anger in activism. Anger is a natural emotional response to injustice and I don't think we need to apologize for that."
He was careful to stipulate that it's not Christmas or even Christianity that is the issue, here, but the mingling of religion and government.
"It's not about attacking Christmas," he said, "it's about the mixing of religion and government, because that's a legitimate problem."
Raw Story asked if Muscato is "bitter against religion." He said that he is not, in spite of the fact that religion gives atheists plenty of reasons to feel that way.
"It's not that we were hurt by religion and we're bitter," he explained, "it's that we're concerned about religion hurting people now and in the future and we want to keep that from happening by keeping religion in the private realm."
"Religion does more than just hurt people," he explained. "Religion kills people. There are reports from all over the globe of religious persecution ending in people's deaths."
Right here in the U.S., he pointed out, Herbert and Catherine Schaible of Philadelphia allowed two of their children to die of entirely preventable causes because they would not take their children for medical treatment. The couple believed that God would heal the babies rather than allow them to die.
American Atheists recently launched a campaign to "Take Christmas Back from Christians," in which the group is reminding people that the bulk of our holiday traditions are pre-Christian pagan rites. Some Christians have contacted the group to complain, Muscato said.
"We've never had a problem with Christians celebrating Christmas," he said. "What we have a problem with is Christians trying to insist that the entire winter season belongs to Christianity."
"Winter celebrations have existed for thousands of years, since long before Christianity was even on the radar," he said. "Anybody can have fun and enjoy the season, it has nothing to do with Jesus."
Watch video of O'Reilly's anti-atheist rant, embedded below via YouTube: