Oct 2, 2008
I'm hoping to see the movie this weekend at the Neptune; it looks really interesting. We watched The Daily Show last night (from a couple days ago), and Bill Maher--host of Real Time on HBO--was the guest. It was one of the best interviews I've seen on The Daily Show, so good that I transcribed my favorite segments for posterity. He made a lot of good points, and I realized that while I don't exactly like Bill Maher (he's kinda slimy, although very smart), I certainly agree with him on religion. The movie clip that was shown had him in London, preaching actual Scientology tenets in the park to anyone who would listen; it was pretty weird.
Bill Maher: 60% of Americans believe in the Noah's Ark story, literally--they believe it is literally true. We wanted to make the point in the movie that if you ranted, as a crazy person, the tenets of any religion--we picked Scientology--and we did this in London where people don't know me, they just thought I was one of the ranters--it sounds crazy. Because it is. People started to feel sorry for me 'cause they thought I was a nutter, but I'm only telling you what Tom Cruise believes. If somebody says to you, "Xenu, the intergalactic evil warrior came to Earth 12 trillion years ago and gathered all the people in volcanoes and blew them up with H-bombs", the correct response is, "Well... I guess anything's possible." But to believe it's unimpeachable truth?
The thing is, you know--we laugh at this because that's the new religion, Scientology--but it's not really that weirder or crazier than Christianity, I hate to tell ya. We're just used to that one. Because if someone came to you today, and told you that story, you'd never heard that... and said, God had a son. He's a single parent. And He said to his son, "Jesus, I'm gonna send you to Earth on a suicide mission, but don't worry, they can't kill kill you, because you're really me. But it is gonna hurt for a hot minute, I'm not gonna lie about that--you're gonna hate me, but it's the best thing for ya, son...I MEAN ME! It's the best thing for ME! I'm YOU, you're ME! So here's the plan, son--I, God, the Father--wink, wink--I'll go down to Earth first. We'll split up the work because we're two people... NOT REALLYYYY! And I'll see if I can't find a Palestinian woman to impregnate so she can give birth to you...I MEAN ME!" It's just the silliest thing you'd have ever heard. And this is a monotheistic religion, you know?
Jon Stewart: Isn't there somewhere in our being the need to believe in these myths? We're the only ones who know that this life is finite. Doesn't that fill that purpose of comfort and aid?
Bill Maher: Well, it's comfort and aid that comes at a great price, like almost every war in history, and suicide bombers, and the oppression of women and minorities, and having sex with children...
Jon Stewart: But OTHER than that *laughs*, the comfort part?
Bill Maher: Look, when these books were written, like The Bible, it was at a time when Man didn't understand where the sun went at night--George Bush still doesn't--or what made their women pregnant, or what a germ or an atom was--so it was forgivable to make up myths and stories. But now it's 2008, okay? It's not that forgivable. And the fact that a 'Sarah Palin' might be a heartbeat away from the presidency... I think people should be very frightened at that, that this person who is going to perhaps be the Vice President, believes in The Bible literally.
Jon Stewart: We're here with Bill Maher, HBO's Real Time and the new movie, Religulous?
Bill Maher: Yes, it's like you're saying 'religion' and end with 'ridiculous', it's a word we made up, much like religion itself. But I heard you in the introduction say, 'Bill Maher will say there is no God'--I don't say there's no God. I'm not an atheist because I find atheism to be a mirror of the certainty of religion, and I don't like certainty about the next world because we can't know. What I say is, 'I don't know'.
Jon Stewart: What was nice about the movie is your quest is to just KNOW; it feels like curiosity for people who are certain. You seem to be saying, 'How are you so certain?'
Bill Maher: Exactly. I'm only asking questions. I think the reason why it's done so well in the screenings we had, even among religious people like this movie, it's 'cause it's not judgmental, it's not pointing fingers, it's not out to make people feel bad, I'm just asking questions. And it's amazing that these are questions that people are never confronted with, because FAITH is such a magic word in this country; when you say 'that's my faith', then all bets are off--can't go there. Well I went there. But I'm just asking questions like, 'Why is faith good?' Why doesn't God just defeat the Devil?' The Devil, himself--I asked a lot of people, 'What's the difference between the Devil and The Anti-Christ?' Nobody knows. That's what we found out is that religious people know so little about religion. Because I didn't know, I was like, 'Are they the same guy, the Devil and The Anti-Christ?' 'Oh, nooo,' they all said, 'he's not the same guy.' So I said, 'Okay, does the Devil work for The Anti-Christ? Or does The Anti-Christ work for the Devil? Or is it like the Joker and the Riddler, they're both bad guys, and sometimes they team up together?'
But it was my job and I feel it is my job to just keep asking these questions, because people are not confronted by them. I asked people everywhere I went, I said, 'How come God, who's all-powerful, always goes through a prophet?' He always takes somebody up on a hill or out in the middle of the desert or in the woods where nobody's around, darn the luck, and he says HERE'S THE DEAL and you go tell everybody else. Why doesn't He--He's GOD, He can do anything! Why doesn't He just go, Hey folks! Hey, take a break! It's me, God, and I just wanted to tell you that the correct religion iiiiiiis.... SHINTO!
Jon Stewart: AAAAAAAAAHSHINTO.
Bill Maher: I knew it!
And to this interview I say: Amen.