Bill Maher Talks About Mormonism on The Rachel Maddow Show

Comedian Bill Maher appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show tonight. While Occupy Wall Street was the more important topic, they (not surprisingly) got into religion — specifically, Mitt Romney‘s Mormon faith — in the second segment:


[Speaking as Romney] “Yes, I’m a Mormon. That’s different than a Christian. But what’s important is that we all believe in nonsense.”

[Speaking as himself] “All religion is nuts. But Mormonism just takes it to a different level. I mean, all religion is magic tricks. Mormonism is just a particularly cheap novelty store brand of magic trick.”

Gotta love how Penn Jillette‘s book is on Bill’s background bookshelf, too :)

(Via Mediaite — Thanks to Masada for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Anna

    I don’t agree with Bill that Mormonism is any crazier than traditional Christianity. It’s just newer, that’s all. The theology is no more bizarre than Catholic theology. Most people who are Mormon are raised in the faith, and we all know that childhood indoctrination is a huge factor. Even when you take converts into account, Mormon religious activities seem very much like other Christian activities. They don’t hit you with the really strange stuff until you’re deep into the religion. On the surface, it’s no stranger than any other denomination.

  • Shared Vision

    Who doesn’t love Bill.  He’s like the uncle with everything, drunk and rambling on about how crappy the railroad treated him – and then giving You his little wink.

  • Advent Gred

    I don’t read comments for poetry (I can’t relate to cultural or personal interpretations of some kind of uncle).  Please be clear and specific of what your points are if you have something to say.

  • Rich Wilson

    Yep.  In the remote off chance you haven’t seen Julia Sweeney’s Leaving God

  • Anonymous

    Have you read that stuff about Kobol, people having their own planets, eternal marriages, golden tablets, them being somehow decedent from the ancient Israelites? I even read something about eternal pregnancies. It’s totally whacky even compared to talking snakes, virgin births, burning bushes, resurrections and ritual cannibalism. It’s a higher level of bizarre for me somewhere between Christianity and Scientology

    I don’t think even most Mormons really buy into that except for the eternal marriage part, which seems like just their version of heaven. But what pisses me off with Mormonism is the extreme group think, the social conformity, the pressure for women to appear perfect outwardly while suffering inside and the ostracism of dissenters. It’s very, very cult-like

  • Anonymous

    Did you just use one of his lines against him? Or did you just leave out the quote marks?

  • Kristen Kramer

    My husband and I saw Penn’s book on his book shelf too. I really liked listening to him. Bill is awesome.

  • Andy Breeden


  • Greg

    I think by definition it must be crazier than traditional Christianity – it has all the craziness of traditional Christianity, and then adds more craziness on top!

    Unless Christianity has somehow reached infinite craziness – which I suppose is plausible… ;) But infinity is a really complex concept that makes my head hurt, so I’ll stop here. :p

  • Greg

    I think by definition it must be crazier than traditional Christianity – it has all the craziness of traditional Christianity, and then adds more craziness on top!

    Unless Christianity has somehow reached infinite craziness – which I suppose is plausible… ;) But infinity is a really complex concept that makes my head hurt, so I’ll stop here. :p

  • Anonymous

    Advent, not everyone writes their comments just for you, so how about letting people say what they want to say?

  • david e

    What annoys me about the media coverage of this issue is that they’re clearly framing statements that Mormonism isn’t Christian as hate speech.  I’m not a Christian and it seems pretty obvious to me that Mormons diverge too much from Christianity to not be considered a new religion.   I don’t say that as an attack on Mormonism.  Why would it be when I hold Christianity in pretty low esteem? 

    But practically no one I’ve seen in the media actually discusses the reasons why one might not consider Mormonism a form of Christianity but, instead, something with a relationship to Christianity more like that of Christianity to Judaism. 

  • Nicole S

    It’s Kolob. But he’s right. They don’t tell you about that stuff when you’re first entering the religion, or when you’re a kid. You find out about that stuff once you’ve already sunk your life into it. 

  • Nicole S

    I’m so glad I’m not Mormon anymore…. I was raised in it, hardcore. 

  • Xeon2000

    “Bizarre” is culturally relative. Give Mormonism 2000 years to mature and I think the ideas would be more accepted. If Christianity were younger and less popular, perhaps mainstream society would cringe at ritualized cannibalism.

    Christianity doesn’t suffer from group think, conformity, and ostracism of dissenters? You’ve never seen a youth group? Never been around evangelicals? Sure, there are progressive-minded Christians, but the same could be said for Mormons.

    Female oppression… Sorry, I don’t really see a difference.

    In the end, both look the same to me.

  • Anonymous

    Bill looked like a petulant kid who’d been woken up from a nap.
    I wonder if he really wanted to do the interview or if he was coerced into it.

  • Anonymous

    It’s a matter of degrees. All religion contains those features to some extent, but they are a very big part of Mormonism and far more on the surface of it. Sure, there are more extreme Christian sects too, but mainstream Christianity? Nope. In fact, for many Catholics their religion is more of a cultural background than something they live with every breath.

    The cult-like qualities of some fundamentalist Christian sects are actually an almost uniquely American feature. To the extend that this behavior exists in other countries, they are tiny minorities.

  • Anonymous

    Mormonism is fascinating because you can see the process of a religion being created, and all the bullshit is out in the open. I wonder if Christianity or Islam would have survived that kind of scrutiny. God is not Great gives examples of messages, supposedly from God, that Joseph Smith delivered to specific people – e.g. “I command my servant Mary Smith to be obedient to her husband in all things” – the self-serving agenda is incredibly blatant. People must have been really gullible to swallow it.

  • Anna

    See, that’s where I disagree. In order to determine whether Mormonism is crazier, you’d have to go around to every church in America and make a list of the number of supernatural things they believe. I don’t think the Mormons actually believe more supernatural things than any other Christian denomination. They just believe in different things. I compared them to Catholics specifically because there’s a huge amount in Catholic theology that isn’t in the Bible. Most of those rites and rituals and beliefs have come from thousands of years of tradition.

  • Anna

    Truthfully, I don’t see it as inherently bizarre. It’s a matter of cultural exposure. Is getting to be a god on the planet Kolob any wackier than believing that a single god can be composed of both a father and a son and a spirit and still be one deity? Or that a god sent his son (who is also himself) to commit ritual suicide in order to save humanity from ‘sins’ that the god himself created? Are eternal pregnancies really weirder than being impregnated by a deity? Catholics officially believe that their holy rite turns the eucharist into the actual flesh and blood of Jesus Christ. That’s mainstream Christianity, and I honestly don’t think it gets much stranger than that. That’s not just ritual cannibalism, that’s actual cannibalism.

  • Anna

    Yes, I’ve seen the DVD. I think Letting Go of God would be an excellent choice for fence-sitters. Sweeney delivers a gentle smackdown of several different religions.

  • Anna

    Exactly. I went to Mormon summer camp when I was 14, and I can assure you that there was no discussion of Kolob or anything that struck me (as a naive kid with no religious background) as weirder than anything I’d read or seen about mainstream Christianity. Mormonism keeps all of the strangest things under wraps, with secret rituals that the faithful don’t know about until it’s actually time to go through them. By the time people find out about the really insane stuff, they’ve invested their entire life into it.

  • Therese Doucet

    Mormonism is to Christianity as Christianity is to Judaism – that nails it. Look at the parallels:

    Christianity: Believes in the Jewish scriptures and prophets, but adds on its own newly revealed scripture and saints as well.

    Mormonism: Believes in the Christian scriptures and authority figures, but adds on its own newly revealed scripture and prophets as well.

    Christianity: A founder (Jesus) who begins as a rabbi, becomes critical of the status quo of the religion, and falls afoul of its authorities.

    Mormonism: A founder (Joseph Smith), who begins as an ardent Christian, becomes critical of the status quo of the religious, and falls afoul of its authorities.

    Christianity: Jesus performs miracles and claims direct contact with God, and his followers claim that having faith in him conveys quasi-magical powers

    Mormonism: Joseph Smith does miraculous things and claims direct contact with God, and his followers claims that having faith in him conveys quasi-magical powers.

    Christianity: Founder is martyred and then revered all the more because of it.

    Mormonism: Founder is martyred and then revered all the more because of it.

    Christianity: Embellishes standard practical Jewish rabbinic ethics with new “wacky” Messiahnic ideas and mysticism

    Mormonism: Embellishes standard Christian ethics with new “wacky” ideas borrowed from freemasonry and Kabbalah mysticism

    Christianity: Followers enjoy status as mavericks in the early Roman Empire, are proud of their persecuted status which binds them together into a cohesive socio-cultural group, consider themselves martyrs

    Mormonism: Followers enjoy status as mavericks in early America, are proud of their persecuted status which binds them together into a cohesive socio-culture group, consider themselves martyrs

    Christianity: Early Christianity is highly evangelical, tons of converts

    Mormonism: Mormonism is highly evangelical, tons of converts

    Christianity: Enters political and social mainstream after early period of pariah-hood, gains material wealth and political power

    Mormonism: Enters political and social mainstream after early period of pariah-hood, gains material wealth and political power.

    I could go on and on! It’s kinda fun …

  • Therese Doucet

    Kobol: Battlestar Galactica
    Kolob: Mormonism :)
    (Coincidence that Mormons were involved in creating the original BSG series? I think not.)

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, I’m a huge nBSG fan, which may explain the mistake

    And Glen Larson certainly did that intentionally. There are plenty of other Mormon influences in the Original Series mythology. Especially the Quorum of Twelve and the depiction of marriages

  • Anonymous

    Hmm…sounds like Scientology. They don’t reveal the Xenu stuff until you’ve plunked down several hundred thousand bucks. Well, they DIDN’T reveal that stuff until Anonymous started ratting them out.

  • cr0sh

    Well, heck – they already believed his revelations were coming thru via gazing at a magic stone in a hat (essentially, a form of scrying); self-serving propaganda was an easy sell after that BS.

  • Advent Gred

    we can have both clarity to folks like me, and we can have  others expression at the same time.  Probably.  Anyways, as a personal request I would like interpretation for my own curiosity.

  • Jayneseo

    I dislike Maher because although he is an athiest, he peddles woo and disinformation about things such as vaccines.

  • Ben Finney

    Credit where it’s due, please: It was Operation Clambake that were the brave pioneers in ratting out Scientology, and who persisted in the face of fierce opposition when it was much harder to organise safely.

  • B Davis31306

    Mormons say that they too are christian. Mormons are allot crazier and strange than any religion ive seen. Promise.I live in Utah and come from a mormon family. Mormons are nuts!!!

  • Rsurrey

    Bravo!!   I don’t believe it either.  You are exactly rigtht and  elieverquite a delight.
    Offering a sidebar to the  rescentley deceased, Davy Jones.       
    I’m a non believer, unbeliever, but I’ve tried.

  • Kingarepa

    Republicans don’t like anyone?  Since when has Bill Maher liked anyone?  I’m starting to get sick and tired of his cynical rants.  We need constructive people with positive ideas to help America.  Contribute to society and lift people up…don’t spend all your time tearing people down.