O’REILLY TRIES TO SETTLE A THEOLOGICAL DEBATE…. Debates between atheists and monotheists over the supernatural can be lively and spirited, but generally don’t serve much purpose. No matter how well meaning, participants almost certainly aren’t going to change the minds of their rivals.

But Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly seems to think he knows how to win these fights. This week, he interviewed David Silverman, president of American Atheists, whose group has put up billboards calling religion a “scam.”

O’Reilly found that message “offensive,” not surprisingly, but proceeded to offer his version of proof of God.

O’REILLY: I’ll tell you why [religion’s] not a scam, in my opinion: tide goes in, tide goes out. Never a miscommunication. You can’t explain that. You cannot explain why the tide goes in.

SILVERMAN: Tide goes in, tide goes out?

O’REILLY: See, the water, the tide comes in and it goes out, Mr. Silverman. It always comes in, and always goes out. You can’t explain that.

I’ve seen plenty of arguments in defense of faith and the supernatural. This isn’t one of them.

“Tide goes in, tide goes out”? That’s‘s O’Reilly’s theological trump card? If Silverman had brought along a scientist who could explain the effects of the moon and its gravitational influence on the spinning earth, would O’Reilly be inclined to give atheism a second look?

Every side of the theological spectrum needs articulate, thoughtful representatives in the public sphere. I can’t imagine many monotheists are pleased to have O’Reilly making the case for them.

At one point during the interview, O’Reilly notes he’s “not the smartest guy around.” On this, he’ll get no argument from me.

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.