Bill Maher on Religion

For the most part, Bill Maher irritates me. I normally wouldn’t bother with any of his rants or interviews, but this one seemed to be a little more honest and a little less insulting. He brings up good points. Some misunderstood, some plain as day.

He sort of believes in God, but says he wouldn’t be surprised to learn there isn’t one. He holds a tremendous amount of resentment for those who seriously believe and that in which they believe.

“Be a good person just because it’s the right thing to do. How ’bout that?”

How does he know it’s the right thing to do? Who told him this? Could he possibly be abiding by some of the morals that come from the religion he so passionately derides? He wants to reject the basis for his ethics, but somehow hold on to a few of them? Why bother?

Maher’s memories of the Catholic portion of his childhood are hardly fond.

“They tried to scare me,” he says. “I remember vividly once when I was preparing for my first communion . . . I remember I was sitting, my arms were on the pew in front of me. I was slumped over. And I remember a nun said to me, ‘The boy who is slumped over is going to go to hell.’ For slouching.”

I grew up Catholic and had nuns tell me crazy stuff like that. But that doesn’t mean all scripture is “made up.” It just means the people who taught me got it really, really wrong. If a math teacher kicks her students when they make a mistake, that doesn’t make math wrong, it makes the teacher wrong.

“It’s arrogant to think that, if there is a force in the universe, this force, whom most people refer to as ‘Him,’ has the time and inclination to listen to your stupid, petty laundry list of what you want in this life. Prayer. That’s another, silly Santa Claus notion. Pray to Santa, and he’ll give you what you want. It’s so silly. It’s so childish. And so much of the world is getting over this,” he says, his voice dripping with sarcasm.

He’s right. Sort of. It would be arrogant to think God is interested in what we have to say - if it weren’t for the fact that He told us to talk to Him. God does tell us He will provide for us, but many Christians do treat Him like Santa Claus. How dare we think we know better than God what we need in life? For once, Bill has a really good point.

“So many of these born-agains, these evangelicals, when you hear them speaking, no matter what the question is, they can’t leave Jesus out of it for two seconds,” he says, his voice rising. “It’s OK when you’re a child. Children have an imaginary friend. When you get to be an adult, no more imaginary friends. But Jesus is their imaginary friend. Everywhere they go, everything they do, Jesus is along.”

How much crazier is it to believe in an Almighty Creator God who loves us than it is to believe all of this order, design and life appeared out of nothing by chance? I think it takes more faith to not believe in God than to believe in Him.

“Jesus is one of the greatest role models I can think of.”

Me too, but if you limit Him to just being a good role model, you are making Him out to be liar.

“It’s a shame that Christianity has gone so far from the teachings of Jesus. “

I agree.

“I don’t know anyone less Jesus-like than most Christians.”

People who are not Christian, and even some who are, don’t seem to understand that people aren’t sinners because they are Christian - they are Christian because they are sinners. You hear people say, “I’m not going to church, those Christians are a bunch of hypocrites and liars!” Yeh, pretty much. That’s why we get involved with fellow believers who can encourage us and guide us in the right direction. A church fellowship is like a hospital for the soul, but you don’t hear people say, “I’m not going to the hospital! There are sick and injured people there!!”

“One way you could perceive the afterlife, and the difference from this life, is life on Earth is filled with all sorts of dualities,” he explains. “It’s fractured. Everything is fractured. There’s man and woman. There’s past and present. There’s good and bad, heaven and hell, what you have and what you want. Everything is a duality, and that causes all the tension and pain in life.

“And, once in a while in life, when you kind of square that circle and make it something unified, when giving is receiving, when you feel like, ‘Oh, the greatest gift is that I gave to you,’ that is sort of touching the edge of heaven there,” he says. “When lust and love are completely aligned, when your work is your play. Whenever you’re squaring these dualities, that, to me, is a little taste of what a successful bridging of the afterlife might be.”

He’s close, but missing a very important detail: the why. Things on this earth are fractured because of sin and separation from God. When we are in Heaven, we won’t have that separation anymore. Our work will be our joy, not toil and hardship. Giving God His due will be sheer delight, not drudgery. I wonder, when asked about why he should be allowed to get into heaven, if he would reply with the common “I’m a good person” response. And further, I wonder how he’d respond to the law and gospel - learning that no matter how many good things he’s done in life, he can’t make up for his sin, then learning that no matter what he’s done, Jesus paid the debt for his sin - that salvation is a free gift from God. I wonder if understanding that would change his perspective about why Christians do what they do.

Asked how what he does for a living is affected by his spiritual beliefs, Maher is ready with a provocative answer: “Well, I’m spreading the anti-gospel, aren’t I?”

Like any polished preacher, his anti-gospel message, based on the premise that religion is “dangerous,” can be summed up in three clear points.

“It wastes energy — so much time and energy that could be spent on more important things, more-constructive things.

Bill, what could possibly be more important than your eternal security?

“It stops people from thinking.”

No, Bill. It starts us thinking. Before the wide spread of Christianity and consequently Judeo-Christian values and ethics, the common entertainment was watching wild animals tear people apart and eat them. It was watching men fight to the death. That sort of entertainment would be highly offensive now. True, most religions requires less discernment and more unquestioned following, but it was Christianity that started us thinking.

And it justifies insanity,” he says, laughing. “Flying planes into buildings was a faith-based initiative. Other than that, I love it.”

Yeh, some of it does. What’s the difference, then? The difference is that a follower of Christ who kills others to get his point across is not being faithful to the message he purports to confess.

If he could really get the difference between the ritual of religion and a relationship with God, I think Bill would make a fine Christian.

2 Responses to “Bill Maher on Religion”

  1. David M. Says:

    Sometimes, I think, the hypocrisy thing does have some basis in fact. Yes, Christians are sinners. But there are also people who aren’t really Christians but pretend to be. I know, growing up, I knew a lot of people who claimed to be Christians. But I saw them leading double lives, and I thought I already lived a more moral life than they, so what need had I of Christianity? Of course, that was a misunderstanding, because Christianity isn’t fundamentally about morality. But it was only when I had some friends who were REAL Christians (that is, their Christianity actually affected their lives) that I became interested in finding out what the bible actually said. These were people who really were shining as lights.
    I agree with most of what you said. I just want to point out, when we hear things like what Maher said about hypocrites, it should spur us on to shine as lights and love those around us, because that’s one of the things God can use to convince people that there really is something to Christianity. When Christians are different from the world, people will notice. And if we’re practicing Biblical Christianity, there will be people who see it as a good thing, and want to know what makes us different.

  2. Parableman Says:

    Christian Carnival XLII
    I’m now a week behind on this, but events have conspired, and I’ve had less time to read these things than I would like. I am now done reading through last week’s Christian Carnival, which returned for its 42nd edition…