I’m a fan of Bill Maher. I watch his show “religiously” every week. He will always be my very favorite Bush-basher of all time — bar none. Of course, my fondness of Bill is largely the result of sharing similar views on most topics; that and the fact that he’s a sarcastically funny guy. But sarcasm has its limits, and so does Bill. While he appears to be well-read on most topics, and thoughtful in his approach, he really does have a couple areas where he just goes stupid — and religion is one.
This past Friday, the Real Time panel consisted of Newark Mayor Cory Booker, Daily Beast columnist John Avlon, and author S.E. Cupp. The discussion started with the nomination of Elena Kagan, and Bill making jest of the fact that the best the Democrats can do is a “huge question mark.” He then asked a legitimate question, “Why can’t the liberals get somebody who’s a liberal on the court to balance it?” Cory Booker offered a respectable defense of the nomination, and everything was moving along quite swimmingly, until the conversation turned to religion.
Bill made his segue by evoking alleged suspicions that President Obama is an atheist, and then called upon Ms. Cupp, a self-identified atheist, for support. He followed with a reasonable assertion that the Supreme Court, which is currently composed of Jews and Catholics, could use an atheist. But then, always unable to discuss human belief systems in an intelligent manner, Bill resorted to BULL and started his typical half-witted pejorative rant. According to thinker-Bill, diversity of thought on the Court should include somebody who doesn’t believe in “magical thinking.”
If this had been the end of it, I could look the other way — after all, Bill is a comedian. But it didn’t stop there. No, he was just getting started. In response to a John Avlon comment about mediocre Court appointees, Bill had the unmitigated gall to assert that “Non-atheists are mediocre thinkers.” He then turned again to Ms. Cupp, this time for her to back his statement that “people who believe in God are deluded,” and he proceeded to argue with her when she rebuked his assertion. Bill insisted that, if she is an atheist, she “must think” that believers are deluded. To her credit, Ms. Cupp didn’t falter, nor did she lose her cool when pill-Bill decided to accuse her of not having “the courage of [her] convictions.”
What ensued was a round table of panel members trying to show Mr. Bill the error of his reasoning. S.E. Cupp stated clearly one reason she doesn’t condemn religion, even though she is an atheist, is because studies prove “religion is very good for you.” Bill’s reply, “Really . . . boy . . . it causes most wars . . .” So, John Avlon tried to interject that Bill’s accusations were better brought against “Absolutism, ideology, extremism,” and that “people’s individual faith” is not at fault. Obviously the odd man out around the table, Bill attempted to move on. But, God bless Cory Booker, because he had something to say first.
“You have the zeal of a Baptist preacher in your atheism. You’re just as dogmatic and intolerant as you accuse often the people on the religious side of being,” Mr. Booker was the first person I’ve witnessed with the constitution to tell it like it is. Bill made a joke of the point and moved on, but Cory Booker would soon take another tack with his appeal. Launching off a John Avlon remark about arrogance, Booker suggested that it’s arrogant to assert you have all the answers. “Faith, to me, necessitates humility. How can a finite being understand the infinite?” said Booker. And as he tried to articulate his point on the positive aspects of religion, Bill Maher couldn’t let him talk. Obviously bothered that he had essentially been called “arrogant,” Maher attempts to turn the table and assert that it’s Booker who’s arrogant. “You’re the one who thinks you know what happens when you die,” says Bill, “That’s arrogant.”
Never mind that it seems to escape Bill that, as an atheist, he too, “thinks he knows what happens when you die.” I can even forgive his repeated misquoting of Jesus. But what became very obvious to this viewer is that, when it comes to religion, Bill Maher cannot be objective. And when it comes to his atheism, he routinely shows that he lacks the capacity for coherent thought. Unable to mount a logical argument, every time Cory Booker asserted his faith, Maher could only respond with fragments from his “religion is bad” diatribe. I was disappointed that Booker let him off the hook so easy, but I was equally perturbed that Maher is so full of himself that he just refuses to listen.
Now, I don’t claim to be privy to what Bill Maher truly believes, but his refutation of a statement of faith, merely by citing incidents of religious abuse, is ignorant at best, inescapably fallacious and in the end — extremely dishonest. Either Bill is as stupid as he so often accuses everyone else of being, and he really believes in the pseudo intellectuality of atheism, or alternatively, he understands that whether you believe in a god or not, it takes a leap of faith. If the former is true, then Bill would be well served to contemplate the difference between religion and faith. If it’s the latter, then he’s just dodging the point and taking the opportunity to bash religion. In either case — shame on you Bill Maher.