Bill Maher Is Wrong
by Maryscott OConnor, Sat Sep 20, 2008 at 06:42:23 AM EDT
Crossposted fromMY LEFT WING
Bill Maher is wrong about religious people when he says they are all either deluded, crazy, intellectually lazy or just plain stupid...
... and I say that as an atheist who thinks religion is responsible for more evil than anything else in human history, that all religions are plain fucking crazy and that most religious people are either deluded, crazy, intellectually lazy or just plain stupid.
Of course, I believe that the vast majority of HUMANS, irrespective of their religious beliefs or lack thereof, are either deluded, crazy, intellectually lazy or just plain stupid. That, in fact, these qualities might be causally related TO many people's religious beliefs.
But trust me -- I've known enough atheists to confirm for anyone who hasn't that the vast majority of ATHEISTS are ALSO either deluded, crazy, intellectually lazy or just plain stupid. These qualities are not in special reserve for the religiously inclined.
Full disclosure: I agree with virtually everything Bill Maher says about religion. I'll be among the first in line to see Religulous, and while my laughter will likely be raucous, I'll probably also be weeping on the inside for the travesty that is America the Religious.
But Maher, astute and intellectually sound as his arguments against religion are, always takes his position and his arguments to the point of ignorant bigotry himself, and so loses the case.
Look, I stipulate to the insanity of magical thinking, of believing in an invisible being who cares about your every thought, feeling and action. I think it's fucking crazy and stupid, too.
But allow me to quote William Shakespeare:
"There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy."
That one sentence has been my guiding philosophy when it comes to precisely such things as religion and religious faith; I think it's crazy to believe such things, but if you believe such things, I will do my damndest to respect the POSSIBILITY that you have an insight or a spiritual connection to the universe that I do not.
As long as you keep your religion out of MY life -- and that includes my government and its laws, we can co-exist as peacefully as man and fish.
The sort of arrogance Maher exhibits in pronouncing himself the arbiter of ultimate truth and denouncing all religious faith as hysterical, nonsensical insanity (without EVER making ANY room for the possibility that there MIGHT be something in the universe to which he is not personally privy) is exactly what divides not only people like him and me from, uh, MOST people on the planet, but also divides him from me.
When Maher takes the stage and excoriates the intrusion of religion into government, the evils perpetrated upon humanity by religion and its adherents, I applaud wildly. But then he veers off into territory utterly lacking in appropriate humility -- exactly the same mentality he deplores in religious people -- when he declares, definitively and brooking no dissent, that they are wrong and he is right, period... And I cringe.
Well, Bill, excuse me, but... HOW THE FUCK DO YOU KNOW THAT?
I have long argued that "atheist" is as much a misnomer as any declarative noun that assumes the existence of a god, because the non-existence of a god is equally unprovable as its existence. The very closest we can come to accuracy in describing ourselves is as "agnostics" -- literally, "not knowing." But laying aside semantics, perhaps we can agree that calling oneself an atheist is no less intellectually dishonest than claiming to "know" that there IS a god.
It's ALL a matter of faith. Maher can pooh-pooh this argument as much as he likes, but the fact remains that since he CANNOT know if there is or is not something larger than us out there in the universe, be it an omniscient, omnipotent single deity or a cabal of prickly, capricious gods who resemble the Justice League or merely an arrangement of energy and matter comprised of the collective unconscious of all humanity from the beginnings of its existence... Maher's atheism is a matter of faith.
Which means that his bold, declarative denunciations of religion as mass insanity and idiocy, while for the most part an opinion I share, are MERE OPINION. And that he could be wrong.
Now, Bill Maher's reflections and observations as to the evils of religion and its application in human society remain valid and righteous, and confirmed by the opinion of many others. He would do well, however, to stick to the facts and relegate his belief system (insofar as it relates to verifiable facts versus unverifiable faith and how subscribing to the latter automatically qualifies one for membership in the Society of Insane Buffoonery) to private conversation, lest he lose all credibility in this arena by becoming exactly the thing he professes to despise: dogmatic and rigid in demanding the rest of the world see things his way and no other.