The religious fanaticism of Bill Maher

I saw a clip the other day of Bill Maher casually referring to Republicans as “a**holes.” That’s hardly news, and is in fact typical of the discourse-poisoning invective that caused Maher to be widely blamed by the mainstream media for the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords. (Or maybe they didn’t blame him; I forget.) But when I pondered what causes Maher to be so contemptuously dismissive of a plurality of his fellow Americans, an unlikely suspect emerged: Maher’s religious beliefs.

Now ostensibly, Maher has no religious beliefs. He is a self-described apatheist, which means that he follows no religion and is disinterested in the existence or non-existence of a higher being. That is a personal choice that I will not criticize. But Maher’s apatheism has not stopped him from behaving like the religious fanatics that he so despises.

Maher embodies the worst traits that he ascribes to people of faith: He holds his left-wing views not with mere passion, which I could respect, but with downright certitude (if I may attempt to reclaim a word forever made icky by Anthony Weiner). He is therefore completely intolerant of those whose views differ from his own.

Maher’s attitudes mirror not those of the typical religious believer, but rather those of the extremist who is drawn to religion for all the wrong reasons. Since Maher believes in no higher being, his political ideology is left, by default, in the paramount position of importance that others reserve for their religion. His ideology has become his religion. And he attacks those who are heretics against his secular faith with a fervor that can only be described as religious.

I coined the term “secular fundamentalist” to describe people like Maher. Mr. Google now rudely informs me that others coined it first. I use the term to refer to those on the left who are largely secular (not necessarily atheist or apatheist) but who channel their pent-up “religious fanaticism” through their politics. I do not claim that this describes most people on the secular left. Nor do I deny that there are intolerant people on the right, but we already have the mainstream media to tell us that every day.

Secular fundamentalism fills an important void for those who have rejected religion but nonetheless harbor many of the worst instincts that cause certain people to embrace religion. Secular fundamentalism allows non-believers to experience the thrill of religious bigotry without having to put up with the nuisance of religion.

I’m not putting intolerance against conservatives on the same level as the severe historical racism and bigotry that African-Americans and others have endured. But the underlying elements of this ideological intolerance are identical to those of bigotry: the emotional need to feel superior to the “other”; the need to demonize, dehumanize and demean the “other” rather than accepting respectful disagreement; the mean-spirited smearing of entire groups based upon the actions of a few; the use of unfair judgments and double standards to maintain the myth that one’s group is inherently superior to others; and the complete absence of the self-honesty to acknowledge that all of this is going on.

While secular fundamentalists are scornful of all conservatives, there is a special place in Secular Hell for conservatives who happen to be African-American or female. The most visceral hatred is reserved for them. It is an article of secular fundamentalist faith that liberal/left ideology is the only acceptable worldview for African-Americans and women; those race traitors and gender traitors who dare to think independently must be made examples of, like runaway slaves.


    Atheists do not have the concept of “faith.” Faith is the belief in something ethereal. Something that cannot be proven or disproven. So, the argument requiring “proof” is not valid. I may believe in God but there is no way I can prove His existence except by what I view in the world. Trees, insects, the Grand Canyon, and the birth of a child are all evidence to me that God exists and cannot be disproven by any “logical” argument. Since an Atheist can no more “disprove” the existence of God than I can “prove” the existence of God, this makes their arguments illogical. Me? I have faith.

  • slehar

    Liberalism IS a religion! The moment that Government stops treating people equally, and instead tries social engineering, doing “good” by taking from the “evil rich” and giving to the parasite class, the separation of church and state is gone. Liberals believe that Government is good, and we the people are evil, in need of correction and regulation. While they decry the overt signs of Christianity in our schools, they install their secular-dogmatic PC ideology to rule every aspect of our lives, as if we didn’t have the sense to know what to eat, drink, or do with our money. Liberalism is an evil ideology that seeks to rob us all of our freedom, and replace our representative government with an all-powerful and all-corrupt bureaucracy.

  • chillbrochill

    Yes Maher is dogmatic in his ideology. But what does he do about it? Crack some jokes? Make fun of people? He’s a comedian putting on a show. You don’t like it, ignore him. He’s no militant fundamentalist.

    Christian fundamentalists have killed millions of people in the past. Militant Christians still exist. In the US, they’ll tell people not to get married. They’ll lobby for stem cell research to be limited to adult only stem cells. They’ll ban a woman’s right to have an abortion, even in cases of rape or incest.

    Other religious fundamentalists opt for different approaches. They blow up buildings. They kill people. They riot and burn shit when cartoons make fun of them.

    Bill Maher is not the enemy. Comedy, free expression, irony, logic, reason – these are the solutions to a world that has seen enough bloodshed over made-up stories attempting to instill man-made moralities in as many people as possible.

    Laugh all you want at your fancy little term “secular fundamentalist.” It’s kind of funny I guess. But don’t we all really prefer a tv show personality telling a couple jokes. Or you want the alternative: other people telling you how to live your life.

    An endorsement of Christianity is still an endorsement of organized religion in general. That means you’re still legitimizing the terrorists. So take your pick: comedian on HBO once a week for one hour that you don’t have to watch or guys flying airplanes into buildings.

    • vandi

      Geez, talk about false choices. Maher makes fun of conservatives. Conservatives make fun of him back. That’s the give and take of a free society. I didn’t realize that conservatives responding to Bill Maher’s nastiness was tantamont to endorsing terrorism. That’s the typical attitude that says that liberal nastiness is harmless; conservative nastiness is DANGEROUS. Good thing that no killing has ever been done in the name of “utopian” societies that attempt to wipe out religion, because that would undermine your entire argument.

    • BigRmv

      Quite a broad brush you paint with there, Chiller. Anything else you’d like to get off your chest?

  • BigRmv

    “…there is a special place in Secular Hell for conservatives who happen to be African-American or female. The most visceral hatred is reserved for them.”

    True. And I have never heard (or read) it stated so eloquently before.

  • WordOfDog

    Let me nutshell it for you all: religious beliefs are absurd and all the religious followers are chumps.

    Further, religion distracts from the real problems in this world because most all of them profess that this world does not matter.

    What is wrong with caring for our planet and those that exist here?

    We really need only one principle to guide us and that is Kant’s categorical empirative: never will your maxim save that it be universal law. Simply put: when faced with a decision to act, one must ask what the consequences would be if everyone acted that way.

    • minicapt

      1. Kant cant.
      2. You really don’t understand from where he derived his magic statement?
      3. Atheist/philosophers think child things (yes, it’s a ‘Biblical’ reference)


    • BigRmv

      So, you read the article, saw no parallel to yourself, and then jumped right in with both feet to try to impress us with quotes from Kant? Thank you for illustrating the author’s point.

      I believe in God. I am Christian. But I’m not perfect in any way. I don’t believe in forcing you to believe as I do. I always try to follow the Golden Rule on the advice of my Savior that Kant so cleverly paraphrased and you quoted and failed to see the similarity thereof. Personally, I’m surprised you didn’t quote Richard Bach’s take on it.

      Anyway, one of the beautiful things about faith is that my beliefs don’t require your acceptance. In fact, Jesus instructs us, not to ‘throw our pearls before the swine’ so we don’t waste our time trying to convince you.

      What is odd about Bill Maher–unlike you, WordOfDog–is that rather than accept Pascal’s Wager (famous, look it up), he goes the extra mile to show his hatred, his contempt and his arrogance for anyone he perceives as “beneath him.” I suspect that means everyone.

      • WordOfDog

        It has been a long time since I majored in philosophy but I am well aware of where Kant’s CI comes from.

        As for Pascal’s Wager, one has to wonder about a god who is fooled by such ‘good’ behavior. I live my life in a good way because it is the rational way to live one’s life not because I am sucking up to some juvenile god.

        As for the article, I only read the first part…its the same old thing…yet another ad hominem attack on a liberal. I loved Maher’s film and find him sincere in his quest to rid the world of it silly religiousness. Religion is the gift that keeps on giving as far as comedians are concerned and Maher makes full use of it.

        And I forgot to post my favorite link for people that believe in two things only: God and market forces: http://freethought.mbdojo.com/foundingfathers.html

        Peruse this site for bit…

        • BigRmv


          No one said that God is fooled by someone using Pascal’s Wager as a ploy. The point of Pascal’s Wager is to make a person think, “Would I live my life differently if there were no God? Why?”

          I tend to believe that good people will ask themselves that question and come to the understanding that, if God doesn’t exist, then we must do whatever we can to make the world a better place during our time here. They don’t have to be grandiose “look at me” acts, just everyday little pushes towards the better. Those random acts of kindness that help ‘pay it forward.’

          The problem with Maher is that–while he would like us all to think he’s a comedian and has some intelligence–he’s hateful (just review his and Janeane Garafalo’s recent conversation). He can’t accept the fact that other people have different opinions and may only be doing what they think is “right.” He only knows he is “right” and they are “wrong.” And what does he do with that “knowledge?” He insults the core values that those “stupid” people hold dear.

          Fortunately, neither the truth nor my religious beliefs depend on my telling others that they are stupid or wrong (or doomed). I can and do disagree with how others see the solution to our problems, but deep down, I believe we all want a better world. And I honestly hope that everyone–even you–gets to Heaven when all is said and done.

          So, don’t take it too harshly if others disagree or have faith that you can’t fathom.