Monday, August 25, 2008

Larry King discusses religion with Bill Maher

Up until tonight I thought the most painful hour of television ever produced was an hour long 20/20 episode where Geraldo Rivera interviewed Barbara Streisand about making her film Yentl.

But tonight I have been listening to Larry King interview Bill Maher on the subject of religion. It is impossible to convey just how stupid these two people are, but here's a sample:

KING: Is there evil?

MAHER: Is there evil? And what should we do about it? So Obama gives a very nuanced answer, and again this is why I do like this guy. He sort of can't win for -- lose with the winning. I mean, he's damned if he does and he's damned if he doesn't. He gives a nuanced answer, which I like, and he loses the crowd.

He said, "Yes, we should be aware of evil, but we should be humble about evil." And what he was trying to say, I think, was you know what? It's easy to sit back in America and go, "Well, we're the good people. That's common knowledge. Evil is always over there and never here."

He was saying you know what? We have a lot of evil right here. Look at the prison system. Look at the justice system. Look how we treat immigrants. We torture people now in America. There's, you know, rampant sexual harassment of women in the military. There's a lot of evil that we're doing. OK. This didn't go over very well.

Then McCain is asked. What do we do about evil? Two words. Defeat it. Now, of course, to the people in this audience, this goes over great because when they hear evil, they think of something very tangible: the devil. They're not kidding. They believe in this comic-book figure called the devil who's going to poke your ass in hell if you're bad. Heaven, air conditioning. OK.

So, you know, you have to take this into account. These are voters. These are people who think evil is the devil. We can defeat it by the end of my first term. We will defeat evil. And, you know, how are you going to have a country, supposed to be a super power, in this world making the right decisions if this is the kind of thing, thinking that goes into it? It's like trying to write a song when half the keys are out, you know, the keys on the piano are out of tune.

This answer points to the fact that Bill Maher doesn't understand basic concepts of good and evil or many of the issues that religious people contemplate on a daily basis.

Check out this bit of idiocy:

MAHER: I've heard it the other way. Jesse Ventura had that great quote, religion is a crutch for week minded people who need strength in numbers. Pretty harsh words from somebody who I think was governor at the time.

KING: He was.

MAHER: I don't know how it's more weak minded to be the one who is saying, look, I don't know what happens when you die. So I'm just going to say I don't know. That, to me, seems a more honest approach than believing in -- KING: Well, in truth, don't most people think that? Would you gather that they don't know? Because if they knew, why would they fear it so much?

MAHER: Right.

KING: Why would they not -- why would you not -- why fear death?

MAHER: You know, I agree. I've never been the person who's been troubled by those big questions. I've never been able to answer them and I know I never will. And you just give yourself a headache thinking about them. I mean, if you start thinking about these things, you kind of get down to why is there anything? Try to ponder that one afternoon, if you're not high. You'll be, you know --

KING: Why is there anything?

MAHER: Well, like if the universe begins at a certain point, what was before the universe? Nothing. But how can nothing -- we can't contemplate that, because nothing is something. See, there may be answers. I'm not saying that there isn't something out there. I'm not strictly an atheist. An atheist is certain there's no god.

KING: That's a religion.

MAHER: Sort of. You know, people say could it be Jesus? Yes, it could be Jesus. It also could be Furbee (ph) or the lint in my navel. I have a feeling it's probably not something that smacks of the story that bronze-age men would write down, people who didn't know what an atom or a germ was, or where the sun went at night, or why their women got pregnant. You know, if the Bible was written by a god who's beyond time, it wouldn't be so limited to the morays of that era.

Listening to Bill Maher wrestle with these Ontological questions is sad - horrifying in that he has a new movie coming out to trash religion and an hour long show on HBO.

The entire transcript is to be found here

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