As Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly blames hip-hop for America’s decline in religion, Shaun Ponsonby suggests he takes a good hard look at himself.
Originally published on Getintothis
Fox News’ noted fabulist Bill O’Reilly last week appeared to blame the decline of organised religion in America on rap music. He took to his train wreck of a news programme-cum-conservative propaganda machine to babble; “There is no question that people of faith are being marginalized by a secular media and pernicious entertainment. The rap industry, for example, often glorifies depraved behaviour. That sinks into the minds of some young people – the group that is most likely to reject religion.”
O’Reilly was referring to a study by Pew Research which showed that the number of people who consider themselves Christian has been declining rapidly since at least 2007, and decided that he would use an art form he didn’t understand to scapegoat deeper issues that have led to the fact that not everybody believes the same things he does.
Well…I’m going to throw my cards on the table straight away; I am an atheist. I like some hip-hop. But I can honestly say that the two things aren’t related.
Many rappers – Tupac, Kendrick Lamar, Rick Ross – have explored Christianity and religion in their work. The glorification of depraved behaviour that he refers to is also misleading, let alone vague. What O’Reilly appears to be unwilling to even try to understand is that, like most art forms, many of those in hip-hop are merely commenting on what they see around them. It has to exist before anyone can comment on it, and if O’Reilly thinks that this world is contributing to the decline of Western civilisation, it’s probably because, like a lot of conservatives, he is longing for an idyllic time in America’s history that never existed outside of privileged white people’s homes.
Yes, the halcyon 1950’s, for example. The greatest time in American history, a conservative’s wet dream. Don’t let the cold hard facts of the threat of nuclear war, racial segregation, misogyny, homosexuality still being illegal and the continued popularity of the Ku Klux Klan (an organisation that claims it’s practices are wholly Christian, by the way) ruin the falsehood that everyone was living a life of Leave It To Beaver-esque bliss.
I don’t think the decline of religion is a bad thing. I don’t even think it’s necessarily a good thing. It’s just a thing. I don’t care about your personal beliefs in that regard. I don’t mind having the debate once in a while, but ultimately whatever works for you is the right answer.
But as an atheist, I can honestly say music and entertainment didn’t inform my beliefs. I went to a faith school, and nothing has the potential to make you an atheist quite like a faith school. The juxtaposition between having a science class right before a religious studies class exposed far too much for my liking.
But, musically, I’ve always loved gospel music, and my favourite artist is Prince, who occasionally gets pretty bloody dogmatic (a recent single of his, What If, for example, called anyone who didn’t believe “simple minded”), so if music is the reason I don’t believe in an unprovable giant in the sky, you should probably factor that in, if only to realise how far off the mark you are.
As for his exclamation that “people of faith are being marginalized by a secular media”, he can absolutely get fucked. Particularly in America, where being a Christian is still a big deal. An openly atheist president is unlikely to get elected, and many states have laws forbidding atheists from running for office. After Christian institutions have spent thousands of years dictating to people how they should live their lives, an age where people have more freedom should be celebrated. Just because differing views are able to be presented today does not mean you are being marginalised. If that was the case, you wouldn’t have a TV show.
Here’s an example of how atheists have been traditionally treated. In 1987, the first Bush – then President of the United States – said to journalist Robert Sherman; “No, I don’t know that atheists should be regarded as citizens, nor should they be regarded as patriotic.” Let’s replace the word “atheist” with any other minority in that statement and cue justified outcry.
You know when the British blasphemy law was revoked? 2008. Fucking 2008. By definition, an atheist can’t blaspheme. S/he can’t take the Lord’s name in vain because, as far as they’re concerned, The Lord doesn’t exist.
For those who are unaware, O’Reilly is like a disapproving headteacher, and allegedly a pathological liar. He’s an unlikeable blockhead who thinks that shouting down people who disagree with him and cutting their mike so they can’t counter his point means he’s right and you’re an imbecile.
The 2004 documentary Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism includes a section where O’ Reilly is interviewing Jeremy Glick, a young man who lost his father in 9/11 and signed a petition against the ensuing war. After a shouting match in which O’Reilly says that Glick’s father – whom O’Reilly knew nothing about – would disapprove of him and evoking his mother, a grieving widow, by saying that he hopes she wasn’t watching, O’Reilly spent the months following twisting Glick’s words and distorting his views. When Glick tried to sue O’Reilly, he found that because O’Reilly lies so frequently, it’s harder to prove that he knew he was lying.
So, with that in mind, the thing that set me on the path to atheism was judgemental, conservative blowhards like Bill O’Reilly. I asked my own questions along that path, and found the answer that made sense to me. It has fuck all to do with entertainment, and to suggest as such is insulting to the human intelligence. Like your show. Rap isn’t responsible for the decline of organised religion, despicable oafs like you have had more of an effect, Bill; people who give Christians a bad name.
Never Mind The Buzzcocks has been cancelled…about ten years after it should have been.
The Prodigy have announced a European arena tour, with none other than Public Enemy as support. There’s a parallel universe somewhere where that bill is the other way around, and I think I’d rather live in that world.
Art Garfunkel has labelled Paul Simon a “monster with a Napoleon complex”, not at all being bitter about the fact that he needs Simon a lot more than Simon needs him.