Bill Maher on Religion – Collection

July 26, 2014 | By | 14 Replies More

I just ran across this collection of Bill Maher stand-up routines on religion. I agree with most of his observations–cleverly presented. I found myself wondering what would go through the mind of a committed conservative Christian viewing this–I assume he or she would have an response to every particular jab, but I’m wondering whether any of this would get through and cause some need to rethink things, especially after a full hour of this. I know a least a couple Christians who write off Maher by simply stating he is “snarky” or “arrogant.” That cheap ad hominem serves to kick the can down the road, and avoids the need to consider his arguments which, though they are dressed up in comedy, are serious challenges for Christians to rethink their religion from the ground up.

Then again, people don’t adopt a religion through intellectual evaluation. They don’t shop for religions like they shop for cars, critically and skeptically examining the claims. It’s not surprising, then, that they don’t re-examine religion based on intellectual grounds. Further, blunt attacks on religion of the type the Maher is delivering will cause believers to circle the wagons and dig in. It is not Maher’s sole purpose to de-convert–he’s working primarily as a comedian. But he is clearly provoking people to reexamine their supernatural (and often oxymoronic) claims. As I viewed these clips, I wondered how Maher would adapt his presentation if his sole purpose were not to work as a comedian at all, but to cause Christians to reconsider the believes they have been repeating ever since they were taught these things as babies by their parents.

I should add that I don’t consider religion to always be a bad thing. As I see it, religion serves as a tool for social collaboration, tapping into subconscious tribal instincts. Good-hearted people use religion to collaborate to do impressive social good. Cold-hearted people use religion to collaborate with people like themselves to spread their social dysfunction. I see religion as a tool for social coordination, good or bad, and it’s never actually about the core beliefs–public declarations regarding these core beliefs (e.g., dead people waking up) simply mark social territory–they serve as radar to tell members of congregation who is loyal to the group. I’ve written extensively about this elsewhere.


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.

Comments (14)

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  1. Tim Hogan says:

    Religion is based upon faith. Faith is the belief in things in the absence of proof. My Roman Catholic Christian faith has certain core tenets which are embodied in the Nicean Creed and the two additional doctrines that Mary, Jesus’ mother, was concieved without sin and was assumed into heaven. Catholic teachings are all a matter of faith, not provable by facts. I have examined myself and my life through a framework of my faith since childhood, have explored other faiths and even examined what I would be without faith.

    I live my life as a person of the Roman Catholic faith by choice, infomed by what I see to be a faith which strives, and fails as humans do, to be a faithful expression of the Gospels of Jesus Christ. Christ’s new commandments are to love God with all our heart, soul and being and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. We may enter heaven only through the grace of God.

    I don’t run around grabbing people to make them believe as I do nor do I ridicule others for their beliefs or lack of belief because I would not have another do so to me. Most Catholics I know are like me. It is interesting that some others feel it necessary to ridicule Christian faith or belief, when such faith is merely something personal and a basis or framework for loving God and each other.

    I was thinking as Mr. Maher was cmmenting on the folks who preface what they say with,”Well I’m a Christian” as though that were some mark of morals superiority. It appears to me the same may hold true for some who do not profess a faith, especially when they indicate that faith is some sort of mental illness. The “Well I’m an atheist” can come across to some in the same way. Rather than name calling, let’s us try mutual respect and agree to disagee and get about making the world better for our kids.

  2. grumpypilgrim says:

    Tim writes, “We may enter heaven only through the grace of God.” This is a circular argument, because the existence — indeed, the concept — of “heaven” depends upon the existence, and active involvement, of a god. There is no evidence — whatsoever — that either exists.

    Bill Maher jokes about miracles. For a philosophical lecture about them, this video is an excellent place to start:

  3. Tim Hogan says:

    Grumpy, you apply logic and factual proof to a system of belief which is faith based, i.e. belief in the absence of proof. For example, if there were an historical man named Jesus, we can believe he was a good man and inspired others to believe in something outside of themselves and the world they inhabited but, nothing more. The rest is faith. I admit the possibility I have been hoaxed but do not believe so.

    As long as you require fact based faith, you will learn or understand nothing of religion. I see such as a common fallacy among skeptics and wonder why one would do such a thing. Your argument could be considered circular because it requires facts where the premise admits of none. Trust me, take it as an article of faith!

    Hope you are all well, too.

  4. Edgar Montrose says:

    World English Dictionary

    4. logic an error in reasoning that renders an argument logically invalid

    “I see such as a common fallacy among skeptics and wonder why one would do such a thing.”

    So what you are saying is that expecting FACTS to support what is claimed to be FACTUAL by those who profess faith is “an error in logic”. The logical statement “A -> B” (“A implies B”) is replaced by “A -> ()” (“A implies nothing”), when applied to faith.

    Now replace “A” with “God exists”, and see what you get.

    Faith does not stand up to logical analysis. When logic is applied to faith, the faithful premises are consistently proven false by reductio ad absurdum.

  5. Tim Hogan says:

    I do not claim any factual basis for my personal faith beliefs. Edgar, trying to apply logic and fact to a system of belief based upon faith (belief in the absence of proof) is absurd. You might as well compare a supernova to a fart, although the gaseous natures of both are far more closely related than logic and faith.

    Roman Catholics believe:

    “I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

    I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven, and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate, he suffered death and was buried, and rose again on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead and his kingdom will have no end.

    I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified, who has spoken through the prophets.

    I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.”

    Add to Roman Catholic beliefs the only “ex cathedra” Papal statements that Mary, the Mother of Jesus was conceived without sin-the Immaculate Conception-and that Mary was assumed into heaven and did not die and you have the basics of our beliefs. Every statement starts with “I believe…” None of the professions of the Roman Catholic faith claim fact or that such is true to the exclusion of all other faiths or facts (please note the small “c” on “catholic” in the Creed).

    None of my faith is anything I can prove by facts or logic. Please stop conflating fact with faith and things will be much better in the world.

    • Edgar Montrose says:

      I think that my response might have been interpreted as more confrontational than I intended. As I said in another thread, atheism is not militant denial of the existence of God. My intent in this thread was simply to point out that people of faith would be well advised to avoid any mention of logic in the context of religion, since it can so easily and effectively be turned against them.

      Your beliefs belong to you, and as long as you do not expect ME to embrace them, everything is basically OK as far as I am concerned.

  6. Ben says:

    Tim: “Faith is the belief in things in the absence of proof.”

    But I feel like you and many other “faithful” take it a bit farther than that.

    The “faith” you speak of seems to trump evidence and reason and even common sense.

    In fact, there is *nothing* ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!!1@21 which would sway your so-called “faith”. (That is… anything which contradicts your little Begotten Son blahblah… Pontius Pilate… blah blah speech)

    Tim, what you call “faith” is better known as Blind Faith.

    “Blind, irresponsible faith is the belief in things in the absence of proof.”


  7. grumpypilgrim says:

    Tim wrote (repeatedly), “faith is belief in the absence of proof” and, “faith cannot be subject to facts and logic.”

    Tim’s definition of faith is only part of the story. I urge you to watch the video I referenced. Among other things, the video points out that many beliefs are unjustified (i.e., irrational), despite whatever faith some people might have in them. For example, even if a fortune cookie gives a prediction that later turns out to be true, we are still not justified in believing that fortune cookies have any predictive or prophetic power, or that the people who make fortune cookies should be worshiped as gods. Likewise, belief in astrology, faith healing, unicorn blood, fire-breathing dragons, etc., have all been found to be unjustified. Even faith in miracles can be shown to be unjustified (the video gives two compelling arguments). Why do we know this? Because when faith makes claims about the real world, then facts and logic can very definitely be applied to that faith.

    Christianity has its own issues. For example, despite several millennia of experience, there is still no evidence whatsoever that prayer to the god of the Bible (either of the Old Testament god or the New Testament one) produces outcomes that are any different from those predicted by chance. People who pray do not have better scores on exams, they do not have better outcomes from surgery, they do not have fewer car accidents, etc. Indeed, I have often wondered why there are so many fatal bus crashes involving Baptist teenagers, when we may presume that everyone on those buses had prayed quite fervently for a safe journey.

    But you don’t have to believe me. Just try to find an insurance company — *any* insurance company (life, medical, dental, auto, boat, homeowners, etc.) — that will give you a premium discount because you pray. Or, try to find one that will give you a premium discount because the owners of the insurance company pray. You won’t find any, because statistically (i.e., according to actuarial data), prayer makes no difference.

    The bottom line here is that faith — belief in things unseen — has two components. When it relates to the real world, we have every right to consider facts and logic in deciding whether (or not) that faith is justified — whether it is rational or irrational. Only when faith relates to metaphysical (imaginary) things (heaven, eternal life, an immortal soul, etc.) can it claim its independence from facts and logic.

    Yet even in this latter case there are exceptions. For example, one of the arguments used by believers in young earth Biblical creationism is the suggestion that the god of the Bible simply created the Universe to appear older than it is, in the same way that the god of the Bible supposedly created Adam to appear older that he was (i.e., as a fully formed adult). While Tim might say we cannot apply facts and logic to this argument, because it pertains to faith in a particular creation myth, logic clearly can be applied. The Bible states that the god of the Bible never lies, that all dishonesty and deception comes from evil. Well, those who say the universe is only 10,000 years old, and that it was also created by the god of the Bible, have taken two mutually exclusive positions, because if the the universe is only 10,000 years old then the universe is a deception…and, therefore, it could not have been created by the god of the Bible. If people of faith make claims that are mutually contradictory (even metaphysical ones), logic and faith are perfectly valid responses to that fallacy.

    I have one more point about applying facts and logic to faith, closely related to the point in my first paragraph. Not only can facts and logic be applied to faith, I would argue that it is absolutely essential that we do so. Because, without facts and logic, there is no limit to the nonsense that some people will believe. Things like faith healing and astrology are just the tip of the iceberg. Without facts and logic, the Christian church might still be burning witches, it might still be teaching that the earth is the center of the universe, it might still be teaching that illness is caused by evil spirits, etc. Heck, without facts and logic, George Bush might even still be declaring that Iraq has WMDs. We *need* facts and logic to be applied to beliefs, so that we can distinguish between truth and (sometimes dangerous) superstition.

    • Tim Hogan says:

      Grumpy, your concerns about absurdities and faith in an everyday world were of a concern to me as I wrote of my specific beliefs as to my Catholic faith. I do not make claims outside of those beliefs as written by me. I admit that it is possible that I may be a complete fool and wrong in my beliefs.

      The Earth is about 4 billion years old and the universe some 14.3 billion years old. There are many contradictions in the Bible, and “laws” which are not applicable today to most religions (Leviticus, etc.). I do not claim infallibility in the Bible. Many Biblical stories are parables or allegories for guiding people in another time but, those times have passed and have been replaced by new commandments to love God and your neighbor as yourself.

      I generally make no judgments about others regarding their faith beliefs or their professed skepticism. Matters of individual faith beliefs are generally their business and not mine. I take grievous exception to faith beliefs which deem me unworthy of living because of my faith or of another’s faith or the lack of the same. I recognize that such perversion has been done by some in the name of my own faith and see the same things in others now and reject such beliefs.

      I don’t get what appears to be a fascination with some in debunking faith or requiring things of the faithful which are simply not part of their belief system nor necessary for the operation of a person of faith in everyday life. Just because I have faith does not mean I have abandoned all reason.

  8. Ben says:

    “Earth is about 4 billion years old and the universe some 14.3 billion years old”

    4.54 Billion (Earth)*

    13.7 Billion (Universe)*

    *Approximate age

  9. grumpypilgrim says:

    I appreciate Tim’s clarification. I was troubled by his assertions that seemed to suggest that faith was a trump card that could be played against anything the real world might present against it. I was troubled because we have all encountered (too many) people of faith who actually do treat it that way — i.e., as a wild card to disregard or deny whatever facts or logic they find inconvenient (e.g., the age and creation process of the earth, the age and creation process of the human species, the existence and causes of global climate change, the existence and causes of species extinction, the social impact of interracial or same-sex marriage, etc.), or as a magic card to claim actual and certain knowledge of unknowable things (the immortality of souls, the existence and character of eternal salvation, the morality of abortion, the god-of-the-Bible’s plan, etc.).

    As regards debunking faith or requiring things of the faithful that are not part of their beliefs, the problem is that an individual’s faith is not always easy to decipher, especially when so many people of faith declare membership in a particular sect while simultaneously rejecting one or more established components of their declared sect.

  10. Tim Hogan says:

    grumpy, some people of faith are as much asshats (or more!) than skeptics. Ben, I used “about” for the ages of the Earth and universe. If we human animals don’t stop trashing the earth, it will not support us or any liefe as we know it. God does not trash the earth, we do. The idea that humans and dinosaurs existed at the same time is less plausible than the possibility that I will be the next President of the US.

  11. grumpypilgrim says:

    I just finished the book Irreligion, by John Allen Paolos (the author of the book, Innumeracy). It’s an excellent book — Paulos expresses himself clearly and refutes about a dozen of the common arguments for the existence of a supernatural god.

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