Bill Maher discusses Religulous with Mike Huckabee.

December 28, 2008 | By | 11 Replies More

In this video, Bill Maher discusses Religulous with Mike Huckabee.  It’s all quite civil, though both sides work hard to make their points. Watching this video makes me relived that at least some people on the national stage can discuss these serious issues without undue heat (that tone is what I sought when I founded this blog nearly three years ago).  Not that it’s always easy to achieve.  Whenever we do succeed in having the right tone, though, it is worth it to have these conversations.

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Category: Religion

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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  1. Erich Vieth says:

    From the St. Petersburg Times, Paul Bloom suggests that American Atheists are less happy and less community-involved than the many atheists of Europe because they are excluded from American life and held in low regard by most Americans. He cites a 2007 poll showing that Americans are more likely to elect a Muslim, a homosexual, or a Jew than an atheist.

    In his new book, Society Without God, Phil Zuckerman looks at the Danes and the Swedes — probably the most godless people on Earth. They don't go to church or pray in the privacy of their own homes; they don't believe in God or heaven or hell.

    But, by any reasonable standard, they're nice to one another. They have a famously expansive welfare and health care service. They have a strong commitment to social equality. And — even without belief in a God looming over them — they murder and rape one another significantly less frequently than Americans do.

    Denmark and Sweden aren't exceptions. A 2005 study by Gregory Paul looking at 18 democracies found that the more atheist societies tended to have relatively low murder and suicide rates and relatively low incidence of abortion and teen pregnancy.

    So, this is a puzzle. If you look within the United States, religion seems to make you a better person. Yet atheist societies do very well — better, in many ways, than devout ones.

    The difference is that in America, the general public disparages and even loathes atheists, thereby shutting them out from their communities. For the entire article, see http://www.tampabay.com/news/perspective/article9

  2. I would differ with Bill Maher on one point, his assertion that most wars are religious wars. My take on history is that this is one of those cliches that must be done away with. I believe very few wars are religious in any way other than the propaganda used to get poor dumb bastards (as Patton would call them) to go die for their country/faith. Most wars are over resource. Period. Even the Crusades was a byproduct of trade problems along the Spice Road and a way to rid Europe of a nasty political problem—too many young heirs with no lands to rule. They ultimately failed because other solutions were found. I believe religion is only ever the public face, but the underlying causes are always resource driven. Always. Do away with the religious mask, then we use patriotism. Do away with that and we'll use "human rights" as a justification. Do away with that and we'll find something else. Until the resource problem is solved, we will have wars.

  3. Erich Vieth says:

    Mark: I agree that coordinated violence sometimes erupts over resources. But it's not the case the the nations that instigate war are always desperately low on one or more resources. I know that the U.S. invasion of Iraq had a lot to do with oil, but I'm not ready to write off bigotry, nationalism, a desire to look like we were doing something about our fear of "terror" and other motivations. Many nations that want/need resources don't go to war and many nations that seem to have plenty of resources (Germany during WWII) have been insatiable warmongers.

    I agree with Maher to this extent: societies and nations do divide, subtly at first, on the basis of religion. When there is no war going on, these are merely "divisions" or "differences." When violence flares, though, for whatever reason, those religious boundaries are natural places to draw the real life battle lines.

    The way I see it, then, is that cravings for resources often motivate war, but preexisting religious differences often draw the battle lines.

  4. Erich,

    I'm not saying at all that the nations instigating war are low on resources—they just want them. Name me one war that didn't have to do with acquiring land, water, or some other resource that was purely about religion. Make no mistake, "WANT" is an overwhelming urge. Today it comes under the rubric "National Security."

  5. Erich Vieth says:

    Mark: With the caveat that "want" is sometimes irrational and insatiable, I agree with you.

  6. Darfur, a barren, mountainous land just below the Sahara in western Sudan, is the world's worst man-made disaster. In four years, according to the U.N., fighting has killed more than 200,000 people and made refugees of 2.5 million more. The conflict is typically characterized as genocide, waged by the Arab Janjaweed and their backers in the Sudanese government, against Darfur's black Africans. But what is often overlooked is that the roots of the conflict may have more to do with ecology than ethnicity. To live on the poor and arid soil of the Sahel–just south of the Sahara–is to be mired in an eternal fight for water, food and shelter. The few pockets of good land have been the focus of intermittent conflict for decades between nomads (who tend to be Arabs) and settled farmers (who are both Arab and African). That competition is intensifying. The Sahara is advancing steadily south, smothering soil with sand. Rainfall has been declining in the region for the past half-century, according to the National Center for Atmospheric Research. In Darfur there are too many people in a hot, poor, shrinking land, and it's not hard to start a fight in a place like that.

    http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,…

    The article also says that climate change will increase the likelihood of conflicts over water and food.

  7. Vicki Baker says:

    Whatever you do, PL, don't make any wild suggestions that resource conflicts are ever caused by irrational, uncontrollable petrolueum addiction. We all know that the problem is poor people and their uncontrollable urges to reproduce. Goodness knows, civilization would come to a screeching halt if middle class people were forced to ride the bus.

  8. Erich Vieth says:

    A post from Larry Beinhart at Alternet called "We're Witnessing the Return of Religion as a Principle Cause of Warfare":

    God, religion, faith, spirituality — whichever face of the prism we are looking at — runs like a vertical pillar through all the levels of our lives. Our international policies are fixed largely around this war on terror. Our most volatile domestic political issues — regulating our sex lives, abortion, birth control, homosexuality, separation of church and state — are rooted in our religious views. Our social circles, our family structures, our individual lives, our world views, how we live and die, our health and happiness — are organized around our spiritual views, or lack thereof. All this, without a serious attempt to find out what religion really is. That's why we need to examine God, faith and religion.

    http://www.alternet.org/story/111076/we%27re_witn

  9. Vicki,

    While I will agree in principle that the West is generally resource wasteful, I would like to know how our taking the bus would change the dynamic in an area where two groups are fighting each other over local water rights? Our consumption of petroleum isn't making their water table scarcer or providing them incentive to overpopulate the local area. You will then have to explain why such conflicts occurred in the days before petroleum development, as they often did throughout the Middle East and along the entirety of the Sahara, not to mention the really brutal affairs in Mexico and Central America during the reign of the Aztec, Maya, Toltec, etc, which conflicts also resulted in ritual human sacrifice and cannibalism.

  10. I once commented on a friend of mine whether the attacks on 9/11 and the new religious conflict was not just an attempt of the rich Arabic elite to distract the population from their own political failures. For example, youth unemployment in Saudi Arabia is high (as in many other Arabic countries) and young males have a high potential for aggressive behavior.

    the official (and persistent) unemployment rate of Saudi males is 13 percent, and many independent experts believe that the rate may be as high as 25 percent. The substantial investment over many years undertaken by the Saudi overnment has not yielded satisfactory returns. The Saudi results are similar to the results in affluent Gulf nations. Statistics indicate that graduates are often not capable of integrating successfully into national economies. Leaders must question the relevance of the educational experiences they are providing.

    http://www.aljazeera.com/news/newsfull.php?newid=

    I'm not saying that the political leaders are not threatened themselves by Islamic fundamentalists, but for the moment it's probably quite convenient to blame Western infidels.

  11. Vicki Baker says:

    Mark:

    Global warming. Changing rainfall patterns. Could there be a connection?

    Water is not the only resource being fought over in the Sudan. This is China's war for oil. China underwrites our greed-fuelled lifestyle, meanwhile we are exporting car culture to China.

    Oil pipelines, pumping stations, well-heads, and other key infrastructure became targets for the rebels from the South, who wanted a share in the country's new mineral wealth, much of which was on lands they had long occupied. John Garang, leader of the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA), declared these installations to be legitimate targets of war. For a time, the oil companies fled from the conflict, but in the 1990s they began to return. Chinese and Indian companies were particularly aggressive, doing much of their drilling behind perimeters of bermed earth guarded by troops to protect against rebel attacks. It was a Chinese pipeline to the Red Sea that first brought Sudanese oil to the international market.

    -http://www.commondreams.org/views05/0819-26.htm

    See also:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7503428.stm

    http://www.businessweek.com/globalbiz/content/mar

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