Sunday, September 21, 2008

Bill Maher Doesn't Have It Right?

There's a connection between magical thinking and not thinking clearly about practical issues...Sarah Palin is a Pentecostal. They believe the Holy Spirit can heal. So, why do you need health insurance?
--Bill Maher

Last night I watched the most recent episode of Bill Maher's Real Time program. One of his guests was acclaimed author and political blogger Andrew Sullivan. At one point, the two of them got into a heated argument about religion and politics. Maher claimed that too many Americans and American politicians are influenced by the "magical thinking" of Christianity and religion in general to solve our pressing domestic and international problems, and he implied that we'd be better off if we and our politicians rejected all religion and its nonsense.

Sullivan, a Roman Catholic, strongly disagreed. While he conceded that biblical fundamentalists like Sarah Palin might well be compromised by their simplistic religious beliefs, he argued that many religious people embrace much more sophisticated religious understandings that can be reconciled with the secular truths and approaches of the sciences, economics, politics, and so forth.

However, Maher vehemently disputed this. He argued that nonsense permeates all Christian beliefs and can't help but influence the way all Christians think about the world and try to solve its problems. At one point, he mockingly remarked to Sullivan: "You're saying God had a son, and he sent him on a suicide mission that he survived because he was really him." Sullivan bristled at this. "Don't describe my faith to me," he retorted. "You mean I don't have it right?" challenged Bill. "No, you don't have it right," Sullivan replied. Yet, the discussion continued without Sullivan ever elaborating on this.

It seems to me that Maher does have it right. Even "sophisticated" Christians believe Maher's characterization, whatever elaborate theological structures they build on this foundation and then, like Andrew Sullivan, try to fool us and themselves into believing that they don't do this. In other words, Christianity is based on nonsense.

The question is, does this, as Maher claims, inevitably taint the Christian's approach to all secular problems and concerns, or can wiser Christians do as Sullivan claims and realize "that there is a difference between heaven and earth. Some of us believe in that difference and can deal with the earth on secular terms and with our faith on religious terms."?

But doesn't one's "faith" concern both heaven and earth?


masquelero said...

Here, moron. Why does someone like you, who constantly whines about being brain damaged, feel he is entitled to opine about things his brain cannot possibly understand?

masquelero said...

To put it another way, the reason why you are prey to believing such moronic and self-defeating things is precisely because you are not religious. The "brain damage" is just a story you tell yourself to legitimize your failures, which are all rooted in an absence of virtues that you would have long ago cultivated had you been religious instead of a self-hating and God-rejecting idiot. Trust me -- irrespective of whether or not the vacuous community agitator becomes president, you'll still hate yourself and your life just as much as ever.

Nagarjuna said...


What am I not understanding? Don't virtually ALL Christians worthy of the label believe Bill Maher's characterization of a grounding assumption of their faith, or do they not? If they do, how is this belief NOT nonsense? If they don't, what DO they believe instead?

I readily concede that I may be too "brain damaged" or too much of a "moron" to understand the truth of your answer, but can you at least offer one?

I read the article to which you linked. Thank you for directing me to it. It may well be true that if people don't embrace nonsensical Christianity, some, many, or even most of them will embrace some other kind of nonsense instead. Thus, Bill Maher, who appears to be guilty of this himself, may be naive in thinking that relinquishing religious beliefs will inevitably lead to wiser decision making in politics and other parts of the secular domain.

But isn't Ms. Hemingway being silly when she says, "It's the first effect of not believing in God that you lose your common sense, and can't see things as they are." For haven't those who believe in the conventional Christian God already forfeited their common sense and ability to "see things as they are," and those who substitute belief in the "occult or the paranormal" merely exchanged belief in one form of nonsense for another?

Do Ms. Hemingway and you REALLY mean to suggest that people should cling to Christian nonsense in order to avoid clinging to other kinds of nonsense instead, or wouldn't you prefer that people relinquish ALL nonsensical belief for sound belief?