Pharyngula

Bill Maher tells it like it is

Best line: “You can’t be a rational person six days a week…and on one day of the week, go to a building, and think you’re drinking the blood of a two thousand year old space god.”

Comments

  1. #1 Christianjb
    January 5, 2008

    Bill’s become one of the best national spokespersons for atheism. Yes he’s got a lot of faults, but how many show hosts can you think of who would take the risks he does? The audience did not sound happy and he made Conan nervous.

  2. #2 MAJeff
    January 5, 2008

    but how many show hosts can you think of who would take the risks he does?

    Colbert. To the President’s face.

  3. #3 octopussy
    January 5, 2008

    PZ’s now hailing Bill Maher’s opinion, a supposed comedian?

    We’re really grabbing, here.

    What are his credentials?

    I don’t know what’s worse, PZ taking Maher’s opinion as if it means anything or Maher thinking he’s funny; what a loser.

  4. #4 Ian B Gibson
    January 5, 2008

    “You can’t be a rational person six days a week…and on one day of the week, go to a building, and think you’re drinking the blood of a two thousand year old space god.”

    Yes you can. So he’s wrong (if, as it sounds like to me, he’s saying doublethink can’t exist).

  5. #5 Texas Reader
    January 5, 2008

    It was funny, and I laughed, but yes, people can act rationally in all other areas of their lives and chose to suspend rational thinking in one area – that’s not schizophrenia, its wishful thinking. Its sort of like people in miserable marriages who like to think that things will get better even though they and/or their spouses are making no efforts to change their relationships.

  6. #6 Tony Popple
    January 5, 2008

    Credential for what? Credentials to be a comedian?

    I think you set the bar too high. At the very worst, Maher still stands as one of the more intelligent comedians in circulation.

  7. #7 Carlie
    January 5, 2008

    Eh. Mahr lost me for good when he started ranting about how women shouldn’t be allowed to breastfeed in public, because as everyone knows breasts are made for him to leer at, and breastfeeding interferes with that. Man might be right about the God stuff, but he still can’t cope with the fact that we’re mammals.

  8. #8 Mike from Ottawa
    January 5, 2008

    You can’t be a rational person six days a week…and on one day of the week, go to a building, and think you’re drinking the blood of a two thousand year old space god.”

    Nevermind that there is copious evidence that you can, eh?

  9. #9 Dutch Delight
    January 5, 2008

    I don’t like Bill to much, he’s on the good guys team but when you go deeper it’s not for the best reasons and it shows sometimes. And could he and others please stop asking people if they “believe” in evolution. It’s a stupid and awkwardly loaded question to ask.

  10. #10 Hans
    January 5, 2008

    Maher is to democrats what O’Reilly is to republicans.

  11. #11 jdb
    January 5, 2008

    “how many show hosts can you think of who would take the risks he does?”

    What risks?

    Yes, yes, I know: Politically Incorrect was cancelled, possibly as a result of his remarks about terrorists. So instead he’s got a show on HBO. Oh, what sacrifice!

    Maher is working in a fairly atheist-friendly industry. Enjoy his stuff, by all means, but let’s not pretend he’s being particularly brave. It’s about as convincing as the claims that folks like Ben Stein and Dennis Miller are brave for “standing up to Liberal Hollywood.”

  12. #12 Ric
    January 5, 2008

    While I don’t agree with everything he says, generally Maher’s the man.

  13. #13 chuko
    January 5, 2008

    Isn’t Conan’s show still behind a union picket line? I guess the standards for “liberal” have dropped a bit.

  14. #14 Christianjb
    January 5, 2008

    Wow, does Maher have any friends anywhere? I’ve always enjoyed his shows without necessarily agreeing with every thing he’s said.

    Anyway, even if you think Maher is nutso in some of his political opinions, can’t we agree that he did a good job in the above video?

    And to people who think it’s possible to be rational for only 6 days a week… Yes, it’s possible, but only if you forego any pretense of consistency in your life- which is the point that Maher was making (“they’re schizophrenics”).

  15. #15 Way
    January 5, 2008

    Well, rational doesn’t seem to happen on Science Blogs sometimes… http://scienceblogs.com/omnibrain/2008/01/does_esp_exist.php

  16. #16 dkew
    January 5, 2008

    octopussy,
    Learn some history. Court jesters, humorists, & comedians have pointed out the foibles of governments for centuries.
    Ever heard of Mark Twain?

    It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress.
    Patriotism means being loyal to your country all the time and to its government when it deserves it.
    History may not repeat itself, but it does rhyme a lot.
    The political and commercial morals of the United States are not merely food for laughter, they are an entire banquet.
    Just the omission of Jane Austen’s books alone would make a fairly good library out of a library that hadn’t a book in it.

    Or Will Rogers?

    There’s no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you.
    This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer.
    I don’t make jokes; I just watch the government and report the facts.
    If the world comes to an end, I want to be in Cincinnati. Everything comes there ten years later.
    Instead of giving money to found colleges to promote learning, why don’t they pass a constitutional amendment prohibiting anybody from learning anything? If it works as good as the Prohibition one did, why, in five years we would have the smartest race of people on earth.

    The dim-wing now has O’Reilly, Coulter and Limbaugh, and the reality-based community has Colbert and Maher. One difference is that we know Colbert and Maher are humorists.

  17. #17 RamblinDude
    January 5, 2008

    Eh. Mahr lost me for good when he started ranting about how women shouldn’t be allowed to breastfeed in public…

    Now to be fair, what he said was they just need to keep things covered up and not let it all hang out for the entire restaurant to see. But I agree, it was still a strange rant coming from someone who keeps arguing for a less drug and chemically dependent society, and a return to a more natural lifestyle.

    I often get the feeling that, being a professional curmudgeon, sometimes he just grabs for the nearest thing handy. On his show, he gets a gleam in his eye when he can provoke an argument and get people agitated. He has Ann Coulter on sometimes just so he can marvel at the things she says.

    I don’t always agree with him, but on several issues I think he gets it exactly right. He’s an interesting, articulate, thoughtful guy and his show is usually pretty interesting.

  18. #18 Skeptico
    January 5, 2008

    Of course Bill Maher himself is irrational on vaccines and germ theory – so I guess he just proved himself wrong.

  19. #19 Pierce R. Butler
    January 5, 2008

    Drink the blood! Eat the flesh! Praise the zombie! Believe the babble!

  20. #20 Christianjb
    January 5, 2008

    Chuko:

    Like several other hosts, Conan has been paying the salaries of his striking writers
    http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117976716.html?categoryid=2821&cs=1&nid=2562

    Also, he is no longer doing a topical monologue whilst the strike is going on.

    Also, he reiterates his approval of the writer’s strike at the start of every show.

  21. #21 Janine
    January 5, 2008
    but how many show hosts can you think of who would take the risks he does?

    Colbert. To the President’s face.

    Posted by: MAJeff | January 5, 2008 7:24 PM

    True. ‘The Colbert Report’ is one of the funniest things on TV. Also, ‘The Daily Show’ segment, This Week In God, is not the same without him. But Colbert would never say what Maher said, he is Catholic.

  22. #22 Plac Ebo
    January 5, 2008

    Scares the shit out of me that we have people in power that are willing to sacrifice life on earth for an imagined eternal one in heaven. In our culture there is a high correlation with these people and believing in talking snakes and “drinking blood of a two thousand year old space god.”

  23. #23 Janine
    January 5, 2008

    Maher is to democrats what O’Reilly is to republicans.

    Posted by: Hans | January 5, 2008 7:59 PM

    I may be mistaken, but is not Maher more of a libertarian? Try an other analogy.

  24. #24 HadasS
    January 5, 2008

    “But Colbert would never say what Maher said, he is Catholic.”

    To be fair, why should he? He’s a comedian, he’s there to be funny. I watched both his interviews with Dawkins and Harris, and he didn’t give them a hard time (I mean, other than the hard time a right-winged bigot like his character would give, which works for atheists). I don’t think his religion is apparent in his work at all.

  25. #25 efp
    January 5, 2008

    Scares the shit out of me that we have people in power that are willing to sacrifice life on earth for an imagined eternal one in heaven.

    At least they’ve stopped using thousands of man-years of slave labor to build tombs for themselves. For now.

  26. #26 chuko
    January 5, 2008

    Nothing against Conan. From the little I know about it, he supports the writers and understand the issues (although I think the article says he was paying the salaries of the non-writing staff while the show was off the air, rather than the writers. Not that it isn’t a nice thing to do and supportive of the WGA strike in a way.)

    However, a lot of people are refusing to pass the picket line and appear on Conan or other shows owned and operated by companies that still aren’t paying writers their due, despite having respect for Conan personally. I imagine he might respect those people in the same way.

  27. #27 Ed
    January 5, 2008

    Bill Maher is always a good watch, but he isn’t always the most rational man himself. I was a little surprised this week when he went on the Late Show and told Letterman to stop taking his medications because they are “poison.”

    I suppose both sides of the political aisle have their nut-jobs.

  28. #28 MAJeff
    January 5, 2008

    Since we’re talking about the strike and all, major kudos to David Letterman.

  29. #29 Kevin
    January 5, 2008

    BLOOD BLOOD BLOOD!

    http://buffalobeast.com/117/let_there_be_retards.htm

    via Daily Kos…..

  30. #30 Alex
    January 5, 2008

    Bill Maher is kind of an ass.

  31. #31 Chris Hallquist
    January 5, 2008

    >”You can’t be a rational person six days a week… and on one day of the week, go to a building, and think you’re drinking the blood of a two thousand year old space god.”

    In all honesty, I think people can and do. It’s one of the enduring mysteries of human psychology, but there’s no getting around it.

  32. #32 Jared
    January 5, 2008

    > Nevermind that there is copious evidence that you can, eh?

    Really? There’s copious evidence that people who engage in such tremendous, incessant acts of doublethink, groupthink, and crimestop manage to keep their scary irrationality contained in that one little chunk of their brains? That that blatant willingness to abdicate rational thought doesn’t tend to spill over into other areas of their lives? Do tell.

    True, Dr. Altemeyer did demonstrate that RWAs are exceedingly good at compartmentalizing their beliefs in separate mental buckets without ever mixing them to see if they make sense together. But either way, it’s not behavior I would call sane or healthy.

    Tell you what. Imagine some nice, intelligent person. Friendly to everyone, minds his manners, is an excellent tipper, drives exactly the speed limit, anyone who knows him has nothing but positive things to say about him. A model citizen. Except that once a week, every week, he goes to a rally held by a bunch of white supremacists straight out of the Turner Diaries and appears to get really into it (i.e., a cult that teaches crazy, irrational, violent, and demonstrably untrue things). He is otherwise a paragon of congeniality to everyone, including minorities and gays. Yet one can’t help but wondering what the hell he’s getting out of those klan meetings, or more importantly, what’s going on in his head there that might show up in other settings?

    And that’s a best case scenario. The state of affairs in the USA right now is that this guy could spout his violent, hate-mongering claptrap loudly and full-time, and the worst that’ll happen to him is he’ll win an election or get hired by FOX News, or both.

  33. #33 brent
    January 5, 2008

    I have never liked Bill Maher and I don’t think he is especially intelligent or funny. He has always struck me as being overly pleased with his rather lame and predictable style of humor. Not that anyone should care what I think if they actually find him funny, but since we seem to be offering our opinions in that context, that is mine.

    As far as what he is saying here, I get it, and I have said similar things regarding religion myself but I don’t think it is quite right after all. People, lots of people, really live their religion. They make it a part of everything they do to the extent that that is possible. That certainly doesn’t make it any more rational but it doesn’t resemble schizophrenia in that regard. Its everyday and its all the time and not so compartmentalized as a once a week ritual, at least for a lot of people. I suppose if it were than none of us would really have to care too much about what people believe. It wouldn’t really be relevant to us.

  34. #34 Jason Dick
    January 5, 2008

    Bill Maher is exactly right when he says, “You can’t be a rational person six days a week…and on one day of the week, go to a building, and think you’re drinking the blood of a two thousand year old space god.”

    The irrational partitioning of our brain just doesn’t work that way. Instead, it is partitioned in a more topical nature: these facts are tentative and can be updated with new evidence, while these facts are absolute and certain. If evidence comes up against them, it must be the evidence that is wrong.

    The problem is that because of this partitioning into rational and irrational areas, the religious person loses grip on reality. Not everywhere, to be sure, but the religious person loses the capability to understand where that grip has been lost. So no, you can’t be religious just one day a week: if, during the week, a topic pops up that conflicts with your irrational nonsense, you’re going to respond irrationally.

    Sometimes, of course, we are simply forced to be irrational, because we are human, and humans just aren’t rational people. Love is an excellent example. There’s no way to not lose a degree of rationality when you’re in love, and I wouldn’t wish it upon anybody to not be in love at least once. But there’s just no good reason to sacrifice our rationality for things that just flat-out don’t exist.

  35. #35 leslie
    January 5, 2008

    I thought the line about Senator Byrd’s age disproving the theory that the world is only 6000 years old was priceless.
    The joke may have played differently if Strom Thurmond was still with us…

  36. #36 Orac
    January 5, 2008

    Bill Maher is a perfect example of how one can be rational on some things and not so rational on others. Not only his he an antivaccination nut and germ theory denier, as Skeptico pointed out, but he’s also a PETA supporter.

  37. #37 dale
    January 6, 2008

    Maher dated Ann Coulter. Both of their monologues and writings are highly contrived to keep their popularity intact; nothing more.

    If Ann Coutler is a christian, I am the Pope.
    If Maher is speaking for science, I am Edward Hubble.

  38. #38 raindogzilla
    January 6, 2008

    Maybe it just goes for Catholics, what with the transubstantiation- and the Baptists, with their “Lord’s Supper”(with grape juice, mind you), but going to church and consuming the Jeebus, whether symbolically or literally, either makes one a cannibal or a pre-schooler at an imaginary tea party. Regardless of what the rest of the week looks like.

  39. #39 BlueIndependent
    January 6, 2008

    I don’t care what anybody says. Maher is the man. Yes his delivery of stand up really isn’t comedy so much as a long begging-the-question session with a few funny jabs. But I don’t listen to Maher for comedy, and anyone that does expecting a unique delivery is missing his point. He’s not trying to be funny. He’s pointing out absurdities in the culture in his own way. Maher is a social commentator first, and anything else last. I consistently hear him say stuff that is not only intelligent that happens to be funny, but that nobody else says, even radio talk show hosts in uncensored, un-FCC’d forums. He also doesn’t fawn over and bullshit his guests, or let them get away with BS (largely). He’ll call Hitchens out to lunch on Iraq, or take his show back when some right winger tries stealing the stage. He also doesn’t put up with crap from the audience, as any Real Time watcher can attest.

    Is he courageous? I would say definitely yes. His comment after 9/11 that got him fired was such a moment for him, especially in such close proximity to what had happened. So what if HBO is uncensored and he can say whatever he wants? People make it sound like there are a hundred people saying what he says and he’s just another number. He even manages to keep O’Reilly in check when he appears on there. Maher goes on plenty of mass market places (as evidenced here on Conan) and still says the same stuff he says on his HBO show minus the expletives. How is that not courageous?

    Colbert is courageous too, but in a different way. Colbert is a totally different type of talent, so comparing Maher and Colbert is total apples and oranges. Maher deserves his place and he is one of the most unique non-right-wing commentators around. There are few others I’d personally like to sit at a table with and scuffle about politics with.

  40. #40 Uber
    January 6, 2008

    I agree with #37 above. Maher is funny and he gets his point across. I wonder about some of theposts regarding his comment that you can’t be rational 6 days and then irrational in church. He was being rhetorical. He wasn’t saying it doesn’t happen insomuch as it doesn’t make sense to do so.

    His show is great and while I think he’s out to lunch on vaccines he gets alot correct.

    As for Colbert being a catholic I don’t get the impression he’s a practicing one.

  41. #41 Meaninglis
    January 6, 2008

    Bill Maher is gambling with his life. What if he is wrong?

  42. #42 Janine
    January 6, 2008

    As for Colbert being a catholic I don’t get the impression he’s a practicing one.

    Posted by: Uber

    Let us see what Stephan Colbert has to say. And I do mean the real Colbert, not the character from his show.

    Colbert called himself a “blogger with a camera and a comedic agenda,” not “an assassin.” “A nice guy,” he insisted. “I go to church I teach Sunday school. I have family values,” he said.

    http://hotlineblog.nationaljournal.com/archives/2006/03/colbert_seeks_r.html

    I would say he is practicing.

  43. #43 Zeno
    January 6, 2008

    I’m still upset after octopussy revealed that Maher has no “credentials.” How can I ever laugh at him again now that he has been exposed?

  44. #44 Uber
    January 6, 2008

    I would say he is practicing.

    Maybe so but I found that comment rather tongue in cheek. I’m not even sure the RCC has Sunday school class. I’vejust seenhim lampoon religion and the Pope enough to questionhis seriousness.

  45. #45 JD
    January 6, 2008

    Skeptico and Orac are right to point out Maher’s numerous irrationalities. Not only is he an antivaccination nut, but he is also a Peta-tard. Billdoe once implied that Christopher Reeves deserved his broken neck because he rode a horse. He “took it as animal abuse.”

    With spokespersons like Maher who needs enemies?

  46. #46 Kseniya
    January 6, 2008

    I often get the feeling that, being a professional curmudgeon, sometimes he just grabs for the nearest thing handy.

    Interesting choice of words, RamDude, given that the topic was breasts. :-p

  47. #47 andyo
    January 6, 2008

    Yeah, I was gonna say, but Skeptico and Orac beat me to the punch. Maher’s views on religion are good and all, but his interview with Letterman the day before was petty much the opposite as this one. He’s an alt-med proponent, and uses the phrase “Western medicine” a lot to point out the evils of Big Pharma. When Letterman asked him something like “you don’t think medicine works?” he said: “not western medicine”.

  48. #48 andyo
    January 6, 2008

    I must correct my quote.

    Letterman asked him if he was interested in medicine, and then Maher said: “Not western medicine…” and he went on a rant about “western” medicine being poison.

    Here‘s the whole Letterman interview. I also exchanged some messages there with others about it.

  49. #49 andyo
    January 6, 2008

    About Colbert:

    True. ‘The Colbert Report’ is one of the funniest things on TV. Also, ‘The Daily Show’ segment, This Week In God, is not the same without him. But Colbert would never say what Maher said, he is Catholic.

    Posted by: Janine | January 5, 2008 8:37 PM

    What MAJeff was referring to is Colbert’s speech at the White House Correspondents dinner, where he basically told Bush and everyone else they were fucking lying douchebags in their face. And he wasn’t trying to be obscure either. It was very clear (and deliciously uncomfortable for everyone there) that he was calling Bush an asshole. I don’t know if Maher would do that, but Colbert is currently the bigger balls comedian in my book.

    His This Week in God segment was also great. I found it very odd to hear him claim he’s an actual Sunday School teacher and a practicing Catholic. He seems to be only for the cultural part of it, despite what he says. He has said on an interview that he doesn’t talk to his children about hell (of course) and stuff. That’s pretty much similar to my own weak religious Catholic upbringing. My parents never talked to me about going to hell or such cruel nonsense.

  50. #50 andyo
    January 6, 2008

    Sorry for the fourth consecutive… but just wanted to mention something, Conan is an atheist. That poll doesn’t say much, but if you watch his show, there is a LOT of religious bashing and blasphemy. I think Catholic and Jewish comedians have a certain knack for the absurd.

  51. #51 anti-nonsense
    January 6, 2008

    If you want to see really funny and intelligent mockery of fundamentalist religion, go on Youtube and look up “Lewis Black, the Devil’s Handiwork” Priceless!

    I imagine many people here have seen it but I mention it for the benefit of anybody that hasn’t.

  52. #52 anti-nonsense
    January 6, 2008

    Oh yes, Lewis Black is a Jew, so I have to agree with the previous commenter about Jews and comedy.

  53. #53 bernarda
    January 6, 2008

    dkew # 16, “Just the omission of Jane Austen’s books alone would make a fairly good library out of a library that hadn’t a book in it.”

    I would like to mention that that quote is from Mark Twain’s “Following the Equator” – a absolutely marvelous book. Everyone should read. It is funny and serious at the same time. Twain takes on such things as racism, religion, absurd laws, and so on.

    - As to comedians, George Carlin does a damn good job of bashing superstition and many clips can be found on youtube.

    But it is wrong to describe someone who comes from a Jewish or Catholic family as a Jew or a Catholic. If they don’t believe in the dogma, they aren’t. Maher is not Catholic, the Pope is though.

  54. #54 Janine
    January 6, 2008

    andyo, I know about Colbert’s act at the White House Correspondents dinner. There is a reason why Rich Little hosted the next year. It was great seeing a person mock dubya when dubya could not get away.

    Uber, Colbert is a practicing Catholic. I am not even going to argue the point. But it is obvious he is not the William Donahue type.

  55. #55 Cain
    January 6, 2008

    Just to echo Orac and Skeptico, didn’t he go all alt. med insane is this exact same interview?

  56. #56 Escuerd
    January 6, 2008

    I love Maher’s humor. While he does seem smarter than most comedians I see, this doesn’t set an especially high lower bound on his intellect, let alone how careful a thinker he is.

    The “Western Medicine” and “PETA” stuff bugs me every time I hear it from him, but one doesn’t have to agree with a guy on everything to enjoy his humor. Actually, he seems intellectually honest and fairly willing to change his mind with the right argument (I prefer an intellectually honest person who’s wrong than someone who’s only right incidentally).

    E.g. In an interview with Garry Kasparov (a much more intelligent man who incidentally propounds a much stranger variety of woo) he had to pause a couple of times and admit that he had been wrong. Maybe that’s just being smart enough to recognize when you’re backed into a corner, though.

    Bottom line, he’s hilarious, but if he weren’t, there wouldn’t be much of interest that he’d have to say.

  57. #57 Chris
    January 6, 2008

    O’Reilly is an independent. Has anyone ever watched the show?

    You can’t rationalize the bible out of existence no matter how smart you may think you are. Even the most well known old world scientists and scholars were believers. Even the worlds greatest lawyer “greenleaf” i think his name was through all his research through means of legal evidences came to know scripture is historically accurate. Do the research, test the words before ignorant people like this spit out silly jargon to come to there quick conclusions.

  58. #58 andyo
    January 6, 2008

    O’Reilly is an independent. Has anyone ever watched the show?

    You can’t rationalize the bible out of existence no matter how smart you may think you are. Even the most well known old world scientists and scholars were believers. Even the worlds greatest lawyer “greenleaf” i think his name was through all his research through means of legal evidences came to know scripture is historically accurate. Do the research, test the words before ignorant people like this spit out silly jargon to come to there quick conclusions.

    What? Are you being funny? Cause I can’t tell. “Legal evdences” does not cut it for “ignorant people like this” to come to “there conclusions”.

  59. #59 AllanW
    January 6, 2008

    Re; comment #57 Chris

    You gotta be kidding, right?

    No-one wants to rationalise the Bible out of existance; it exists. It’s just that it was plainly written by a collection of humans not God.

    The best known scientists and scholars of old had some belief, sure, but the world has been explained far more since then and most do not believe now.

    Historically accurate scripture? Bollocks; there may be some elements of it that reflected actual events but the central thesis remains completely unproven and you know it :)

    I did the reading and the testing and do you know what? I think you’ll still call me ‘ignorant’ as I singularly failed to accept the notion.

    So scoot on back to your regular Sunday circle-jerk and make our lives a little less soiled.

  60. #60 bernarda
    January 6, 2008

    Billo-the-Wimp O’Reilly is a fascist propagandist to say the least. Here you have a typical wingnut chickenhawk who loves wars he doesn’t have to participate in. O’Reilly was a college baseball and football player, but he was too cowardly join the army to save the country from communism.

    Here is creationist O’Reilly. Of course he doesn’t understand anything that the scientist says.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40e8G06d0-g&feature=related

    Also, for some reason O’Reilly thinks that abortion has something to do with science. O’Reilly is not independent. He works for the worst Rethuglican scum and the extreme religious right.

  61. #61 ice weasel
    January 6, 2008

    The interesting, for me, wasn’t specifically Maher. All humans are studies in contradictions, some less so, some more so. But is was the audiences reaction. He clearly stepped over a line with a late night comedy show audience. It was interesting to me to hear the collective gasp and silence in reaction to his remarks, which were, specifically in this context, quite funny and apropos.

    What I get out of is that most people still think kicking religion is scary. Even if they don’t truly believe there is some kind of sky god retribution for kicking at the icons. I think that much was clear.

    It’s kind of sad but also quite predictable. As a civilization we still have a long way to go. That a discussion like this causes some to start arguing the particulars of the speakers or that the bible is historically accurate just demonstrates this.

  62. #62 mike
    January 6, 2008

    I saw Maher on Letterman the other day and I was hugely disappointed. He was babbling about some anti-modern medicine nonsense. “The doctors are out to get us.” Why is this sentiment so popular even in otherwise fairly rational people . Usually it takes religious conviction to embrace this kind of thinking.

  63. #63 spurge
    January 6, 2008

    “Usually it takes religious conviction to embrace this kind of thinking.”

    If only.

    All it takes is being human.

  64. #64 Moses
    January 6, 2008

    O’Reilly is an independent. Has anyone ever watched the show?

    You can’t rationalize the bible out of existence no matter how smart you may think you are. Even the most well known old world scientists and scholars were believers. Even the worlds greatest lawyer “greenleaf” i think his name was through all his research through means of legal evidences came to know scripture is historically accurate. Do the research, test the words before ignorant people like this spit out silly jargon to come to there quick conclusions.

    Posted by: Chris | January 6, 2008 6:53 AM

    What a load of utter horseshit. Historically speaking, the bible is quite inaccurate in places. For example, many of the places mentioned in Genesis didn’t exist until the 7th and 8th century BC. Yet there they are in events that happened in the 20th century BC.

    Oh, and getting the Philistines in too early. Big mistake. They didn’t show up until 1200 BC.

    And what about Exodus? Exodus is a complete historical mash-up and contains elements from so many historical periods that it boggles the mind. However, when viewed in context of King Josiah’s re-write of Judaism, it’s pretty clear to serious scholars that the story comes from the 7th Century BC.

    These details include the name of the land of Goshen, from Geshem, the dynastic name of an Arab people who dominated the Delta in the 6th and 5th centuries, the names of Egyptians mentioned in the story of Joseph, all of which became common only in the 7th and 6th centuries, and Pharaoh’s fear of invasion from the east, a fear would not fit Egypt’s strategic situation before the 7th century. Also, all the major places named during Israel’s wanderings were inhabited simultaneously only in the 7th century, some of them only then. In fact, it seems clear that the story of Exodus is modern re-interpretation of the Hyksos (from whom the Jews were descended, in part) being kicked out of Egypt because they were brutal enough tyrants that the indigenous Egyptians rebelled and kicked them out.

    Finally, it would have been impossible to wander the Sinai for 40 years. The Egyptians had put so many manned forts in the Sinai desert that it was, literally, covered in forts that were located within one days travel from each other. Yet, we’re supposed to believe that, despite the incredible military presence on the Sinai by the Egyptians that 600,000 Jews wandered for 40 years on a patch of ground the size of Lake Huron or San Bernardino County in California or about three-fourths the size of Maine.

    And that they didn’t leave a single shred of archaeological evidence of their passage.

    It’s totally ludicrous from an historical point-of-view. Yet you, apparently, think it’s “the literal word of God and without error.” Pffffftt!

  65. #65 Bjorn, James Bjorn
    January 6, 2008

    I thought “Do you believe in a talking snake” was his best line. Hard to answer yes to that one. Maybe. I’ll try it on some people.

  66. #66 BaldApe
    January 6, 2008

    My nomination for Best Line is “Fred Thompson was their favorite until they discovered he was too retarded even for them.”

  67. #67 Steve_C
    January 6, 2008

    Joe Rogan is a very funny comedian and he’s an atheist.

    He has tons of videos on youtube. He likes to ask people about their funny delusions and make fun of them too. Oh and he despises rightwingers.

    http://youtube.com/watch?v=dgbmMaOXXYg

  68. #68 spurge
    January 6, 2008
  69. #69 BaldApe
    January 6, 2008

    “Bill Maher is gambling with his life. What if he is wrong?”

    To me, the sad thing is that there can be no moment when pompous assholes like Jerry Falwell realize they no longer exist and have one final “Oh shit, I was wrong” moment.

  70. #70 dantheman
    January 6, 2008

    ” Even the worlds greatest lawyer “greenleaf” i think his name was through all his research through means of legal evidences came to know scripture is historically accurate. ”

    This ‘greenleaf’ wouldn’t happen to be the one and only Lee Strobel? And I’m assuming you refer to his book ‘The Case For Christ’?

    I think ‘world’s greatest lawyer’ might be stretching things a bit far. He admits quite openly in his books how he was a very corrupt member of the legal profession. It comes as no surprise, then, that all of his arguments for the historical jesus are entirely disingenuous, aimed squarely (and quite shamelessly) at the ignorant and the credulous. I hate to admit he had me vexed for little while, but a bit of good old honest research soon fixed that. Thank vishnu for the internet.

  71. #71 Michael Bubb
    January 6, 2008

    I personally think Maher is one of the better shows on tv but beneath the level at which such a debate becomes interesting.

    Look at where the discourse ends. He cracks the joke about the looney Catholics (or possibly Anglicans as they take communion weekly, dont they?) acting rational for the week and engaging in a bizarre ritual.

    I like the way Maher’s joke relativizes this ritual and makes seem more akin to what is typically considered even stranger beliefs like Scientology…

    But there it fizzles and dies. He doesn’t ‘tell it like it is’. Much more interesting to my taste are the challenges thrown by Camus, Kierkegaard, Walter Benjamin, Ernst Bloch. Or outside of the philosophy, someone like William Blake.

    Bloch writing in post war (East) Germany in his “Atheism and Christianity” wrote that the ‘true Christian is very close to an atheist.’ And this is what is often missed. Why talk about the bleary slobs (and I am one of them) that live a life of one sort during the week and then participate in symbolic (actually sacremental) cannibalism?

    Why rational people still believe in just about any religion, today is a rich question. Bill Maher is great at what he does – but a bit out of his league here. It is easy for a cynic to sneer at what thay cant possibly grasp. And safer.

    It is much more important to believe in something and search for truth. And I have more respect for atheists who (as you characterized in your movie review of “I am Legend” dare to be happy, well-balanced individuals. But I have also alot of respect for dedicated Christians like Dorothy Day, the Berrigans, Mother Theresa, etc.

    Marx – “All critiques begin with the critique of religion…” A modernist idea but I think it is still valid. And as much as I love Colbert, Stewart and to a lesser extent Maher – this is mere entertainement.

  72. #72 Rey Fox
    January 6, 2008

    We’re all gambling with our lives.

  73. #73 ruhk
    January 7, 2008

    O’Reilly is an independent. Has anyone ever watched the show?

    Actually, O’Reilly claims to be an independant, but is actually a registered republican. http://mediamatters.org/items/200510030001

  74. #74 Steven Novella
    January 7, 2008

    Maher, unfortunately, is guilty of the exact kind of hypocricy that he criticizes. He is (as someone else pointed out) guilty of irrational conspiracy-mongering nonsensical beliefs about toxins, alternative medicine, anti-vaccinations kookiness, and more. (http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2008/01/is_bill_maher_really_that_ignorant_part_1.php) His crap on Letterman was just the tip of the iceberg. He also has stated that he believes in astrology.

    It does not appear that his atheism is based upon a deeper appreciation for science or reason, making his criticism of believers hollow.

  75. #75 Will E.
    January 7, 2008

    I know atheists/agnostics who are well-educated but still fall for science-y woo like “alternative” medicine and toxins and even health-related urban legends. Haven’t there been studies done that show college-educated lefties go in for Maher’s style of BS, while less educated or more traditional folks go in for other kinds, like UFOs or creationism? I’m pretty sure I’ve read that somewhere.

  76. #76 David H
    January 7, 2008

    @ #50 –did you notice that Maher is on that list, too? Interesting reading–loved Sarah Vowel’s response: “Absolutely not.”
    —-
    UNTIL THIS SUMMER, BILL MAHER WAS HOST OF THE ABC LATE-NIGHT TALK SHOW POLITICALLY INCORRECT.
    The Onion: Is there a God?

    Bill Maher: I think there is. We did a show last night about God and religion with Dave Foley, who I love, and we were arguing against this one woman who had a book called I Like Being Catholic. Someone said, “Oh, boy, a lot of atheists on this panel.” I said, “I’m not an atheist. There’s a really big difference between an atheist and someone who just doesn’t believe in religion. Religion to me is a bureaucracy between man and God that I don’t need. But I’m not an atheist, no.” I believe there’s some force. If you want to call it God… I don’t believe God is a single parent who writes books. I think that the people who think God wrote a book called The Bible are just childish. Religion is so childish. What they’re fighting about in the Middle East, it’s so childish. These myths, these silly little stories that they believe in fundamentally, that they take over this little space in Jerusalem where one guy flew up to heaven–no, no, this guy performed a sacrifice here a thousand million years ago. It’s like, “Who cares? What does that have to do with spirituality, where you’re really trying to get, as a human being and as a soul moving in the universe?” But I do believe in a God, yes.
    —-

    Maher’s belief sounds as advanced and thought out as that of a lazy and unimaginative child. Unlike all the sky gods and intricate stories coming from the more imaginative children.

  77. #77 jre
    January 7, 2008

    Like so many here, my reaction was “Bill Maher? You have got to be kidding me!” To paraphrase Maher himself, you can’t believe in one part of biology, then turn around and believe that there are no infectious pathogens and all disease is caused by evil spirits^M^M^M^M^M^M^M^M^M^M^M^M toxins. That is, without being inconsistent and irrational. PZ, does anyone who gets off a good wisecrack at the expense of religion[1] get your seal of approval, even if he rejects science in other parts of his brain?

    [1] NTTAWWT!

  78. #78 raj
    January 7, 2008

    The thing that is often overlooked

    You can’t be a rational person six days a week…and on one day of the week, go to a building, and think you’re drinking the blood of a two thousand year old space god

    is that the rite is nothing more than ritual cannibalism.

  79. #79 BlueIndependent
    January 7, 2008

    All I see here is a lot of people taking Maher a little too seriously. Maher is a guy who begs the questions. For those that think he’s vying for some important place philosophically or politically, I gotta say, you’re just reading too much into the guy. I’m pretty sure he’d agree with you that he’s no Kierkegaard. Maybe he’s crazy about the vaccination thing or other medical issues. But consider the source: He’s an unmarried, childless, womanizing pot-smoking political commentator with a mostly adults-only TV show on a limited network (and who was on super-late even when he had a network TV show). He’s an atheist-leaning media talent with unique perspectives (from my POV) who doesn’t steamroll or allow steamrolling on his program.

    In a way Bill is his own worst enemy because, yes, he can be hypocritical…but who isn’t. He just looks moreso than most people because he’s in the spotlight. Also, nobody is likely to take his vaccination opinions seriously, since the people that affects are likely to be parents (not always of course), and Bill’s not exactly the model family man. I do think he’s exactly right on this country’s diet. And by corollary I think he has a small point about medical treatment, that we wouldn’t need a lot of our visits if we just stopped eating garbage.

    I like the guy because he makes no bones about his own stances. He’s not shy about his pot smoking and womanizing. He’s not shy about his view that too many Americans are fat, lazy boob-tubers sitting in the drive-up lane for too much of their lives. The guy is not shy about giving American what they deserve many times, and I like that, even when it’s about me. He has no time for establishment mentality, much like some of what Hitchens does. Maher just does it much less elegantly, and is more uncouth about it. Maher saunters through doors other people wouldn’t touch because their careers would be affected; Maher in contrast doesn’t care what anybody says, and I love that. He’s a “tough talker”, but not in the pathetically caricatured sense that right-wingers have made that term out to be.

    How is Maher different from an O’Reilly or Coulter? Well, he doesn’t go around stumping for people with overtly offensive lannguage like Coulter. His dating her is irrelevant IMO. He so obviously is exactly the opposite of her, which is enough of a “saving grace”.

    O’Reilly lovers like to point to his one or two moderate positions to make BillO out to be this paragon of centrism. But the guy is a massive headcase, perhaps even moreso than Hannity. BillO thinks he’s actually a relevant journalist beyond his ratings, and seeks to insert himself and play the intrepid reporter card any time he thinks it’ll make a splash. Look at the Obama incident, or his ambushing of JetBlue’s CEO last year. They guy rarely does the dirty work, and even when he does, is surprised that people shut him out. The guy is a self-entitled blowhard. Maher is absolteuly nothing like this, beyond holding a place in public opinion on politics. Maher keeps to himself and throws stuff out there for consumption. If you eat it, great. if not, he could give a shit.

    I dunno; I guess where Maher is concerned, I’m easy . =/

  80. #80 Pyre
    January 7, 2008

    Bernarda @ 53:

    But it is wrong to describe someone who comes from a Jewish or Catholic family as a Jew or a Catholic. If they don’t believe in the dogma, they aren’t.

    Two different situations there.

    To be Christian is to hold a belief.

    To be Jewish is to belong to a people, by reason of birth (or a kind of adoption).

    There are atheistic Jews, even an organized movement called Humanistic Judaism.

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