This past week Bill Maher has been all over the place promoting his new film Religulous. I am a big fan of Bill Maher. I find him both amusing and insightful on a whole host of issues and watch his show (Real Time with Bill Maher) regularly. However, I am a little taken aback with the way he speaks about both religion and those who believe in it. It is not Maher’s beliefs that I take issue with, he has every right to be an atheist. However, calling those of us who believe in g-d or a higher power crazy or delusional is downright bigoted.
This week on The View, Maher mocked the religious views of Sherri Shepard, telling her she belonged at Bellevue (a NYC based psychiatric ward). This is rude and unproductive. You can disagree with someone without becoming disdainful and insulting.
Not everyone is going to agree on everything, that is the beauty of America! We can disagree without resorting to schoolyard taunts and bullying tactics. I think we should question religion. As a Jew, I know that a large tenant of my religion is the constant questioning both g-d’s motives and reasoning. Judaism holds learning and the acquisition of knowledge of utmost importance. To portray religious people as idiots who will buy into anything their told is unfair and untrue.
Maher also differentiates between religion, spirituality and faith. Spirituality is ok with him, religion and faith on the other hand are apparently sub-par. Faith, whether it be tied to religion or not, is what keeps a large majority of us going through tough times. Faith is a gift we often give ourselves to keep us from giving up hope, because even in situations when everything else is lost we can still have faith.
I will probably see Religulous. It looks like it will be funny, entertaining and even informative. I dont think that Bill Maher means to be pejorative, perhaps it is just his way of arguing his point while trying to remain funny. As a religious person I find him insulting, but as a comedian I recognize the humor.
I love listening to religious debates, but they have to be conducted with respect and understanding. Maher has stated that he is trying to impart the message that “religion is just an opinion.” This may be so, but in arguing this he has to recognize that for many people (of all religions), it is not only an opinion but a very important part of their day to day lives. Without this recognition and respect, Maher comes off as mean and arrogant, and no one really puts any stock in anything said by one who comes off as a bully.