Bill Maher: Faith is ‘Nothing to be Admired’

On last night’s Real Time with Bill Maher, one of the New Rules focused on Rick Perry‘s unnecessary signing of the “Merry Christmas” Law, Sally Quinn‘s reprehensible criticism of Hillary Clinton for not including her faith in her Twitter bio, and how the thing Christians fear more are atheists like Rebecca Vitsmun who aren’t as scary as the stereotypes would suggest:

I love Maher’s response to the idea that Clinton needed to talk about her faith: “Faith means the purposeful suspension of critical thinking. It’s nothing to be admired.”

(via Mediaite)

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.

  • WallofSleep

    Yeah, well, neither is Maher. Not that I disagree with that quote (sorry, can’t seem to get the vid to work, so that’s all I’m going on for now), but Bill ain’t exactly far from credulous.

    Yet as I said, I can’t disagree with that statement. Faith is not a virtue, it’s a vice. Bill should ponder upon that right along side his anti-vax bullshit.

    • blackwolf

      He’s been very quiet about that vax thing for a long while. I may have missed it; do we have any current information on his opinion?

      • Rain

        One from February 2013:

        https://twitter.com/billmaher/statuses/304807734115721216

        CDC: flu shot “just doesn’t work” “dismal failure”in words of NBC news; agst A strain in over 65, 9% effective. Yeah, I was way off on that.

        So apparently he predicted “A strain in over 65, 9% effective” I guess, if we take his sarcasm literally. /sarcasm

        • SinginDiva721

          If I had to guess, it sounds like he’s just against the flu vaccine. I’m not an anti-vax person but I do refuse to get the flu shot. Mostly because I don’t think it’s that effective so I’m not paying to get it. I knew a lof people who got the flu shot and still got the flu this past winter. I just make sure I eat healthy, get sleep and take care of myself.

          • Rain

            I was surprised by the low numbers too. But like Jack Nicholson says in Mars Attacks, “I want the people to know that they still have 2 out of 3 branches of the government working for them, and that ain’t bad.” Well 56% ain’t bad either. But yeah not exactly ideal though.

        • C Peterson

          Well, to be fair, the flu vaccine does have problems. There is actual medical evidence that it’s not very effective in older people, and fundamentally, the standard vaccines may be targeting the wrong part of the virus.

          Of course, those aren’t issues with vaccination in general, and there are no significant risks from the flu vaccine, just a problem with efficacy.

          It’s entirely possible that Maher’s comment was a barb against vaccination in general, but in terms of actual content, doesn’t present the standard anti-vax line.

          • Rain

            It’s possible he’s referring to his Bill Frist interview. That’s what he got the most flack about. If that’s what he was referring to, then I’m not sure what it is that he was not “way off on”.

    • MD

      I’ve been looking for info on Maher’s anti-vaxer views, but I can’t find anything with him actually saying anything about it. All I find are people accusing Maher of being anti-vaccinations.

      • David Mock

        Well PETA then. And the fact that he says he’s Libertarian yet most of his political critiques don’t sound that way.

  • The Vicar

    He’s quite right. We shouldn’t be criticizing Hillary Clinton because of her faith (or lack thereof, or lack of specification thereof).

    We should be criticizing her because she has demonstrated repeatedly that she’s a liar, a mindless shill for corporate power and authoritarianism, basically George W. Bush in the shape of a woman, just as Obama is George W. Bush in the shape of a black man.

    She’s going to get the nomination, and she may well lose although it’s not a given; her best justification for getting the nomination is that it’s “her turn”, and we know how well that’s worked out the last several time’s it’s been tried. (Hint: it’s what Dole, Gore, and McCain all shared in common.)

    • Jeff Simons

      Also Romney

    • El Bastardo

      Way to miss the point.

    • skinnercitycyclist

      You claim she will take the nomination because of some sense it is “her turn,” but can you think of any other democrat currently poised as “front runner” (quote marks because this really is too damn early to be discussing 2016 in any serious way)? She is the most prominent Democrat at the moment and was Obama’s only real rival in 2008. It is not a matter of “whose turn” but of “who else”? And we could do a damn sight worse (as GOP repeatedly demonstrates.

      • The Vicar

        That’s the logic the Democrats always use. “Well, hey, maybe Obama has sent troops to more places than Bush did, maybe he’s been deporting more people, maybe he hasn’t shut down Gitmo, maybe he’s still torturing people, maybe he’s still doing extraordinary renditions, maybe he’s spying on absolutely everyone in the world and lying about it, maybe he’s perpetrating drone bombings which every single expert is agreed create more terrorists than they kill, maybe he’s still pushing religion as a good thing, maybe he’s unwilling to stand behind any of his nominees for cabinet posts and folds the minute there’s any sort of objection, maybe he protected the banks from prosecution after they destroyed the economy, maybe he refused to prosecute anyone in the Bush administration for the many, many crimes they committed, maybe he wasted the two years when he had full majorities passing a “reform” bill which was actually written by Republicans and industry figures, maybe he killed off the public option personally, maybe he’s the least-transparent president ever, maybe he’s never actually stood up to the Republicans even once, maybe he met with the Republican leadership behind the Democratic leadership’s back to try to arrange cuts in Social Security and Medicare, maybe he’s unwilling to cut even the most wasteful military programs…

        …but we could still do worse.”

        HOW? For FSM’s sake, BUSH did less damage to progressive policies and to America than Obama has, and Obama still has years to go! We now have evidence, in the form of what has happened with Obama and Bush, that it is better to oppose a right-wing thug than to have a nominal ally who betrays us at every turn (and who partisans are unwilling to admit is betraying us because he ran from the Democratic side, no matter how outrageously Republican his politics are)!

        And don’t trot out “at least we have gays in the military now”. I have yet to meet a gay person, a bi person, a trans person, or anyone else for that matter, who, given the choice, would not have preferred prosecutions for the banks, or a real fix to the foreclosure crisis, or a public option for health insurance (which, I remind you, Obama personally and deliberately killed, ostensibly in order to try to stir up Republican support which, predictably to anyone with a brain, never materialized) to letting gays join the military and help make us even more enemies abroad. Obama has used gay issues on the Democratic base exactly the way Republicans use abortion — have you noticed how Obama dragged his heels on actually ACTING on things like DOMA? He gave some pretty speeches and then threw up his hands and said “it’s not my job to change how the law is executed, even though I’m the head of the executive branch”. What a wanker!

        Hillary will, without any doubt whatsoever, be exactly the same. And when she’s pushing the extremes even further — although we’re reaching the point where further pushes sound utterly surreal; what next, NSA-controlled cameras in private homes? Dropping Al Queda recruitment leaflets on other countries (it would be the only way to speed up their recruitment at this point)? Just announcing that the rich will no longer pay taxes at all? — when she’s doing that, you’ll be sharing with us the wisdom that “a Republican would have been worse”. Presumably, that’s because of the hypnotic “D” after her name, which all tribalists find all-important.

        Yes, let’s all go and vote in favor of our corporate masters. Surely if we keep mindlessly voting for them, no matter how bad they are, things will get better! After all, there’s a bunch of sock puppet bogeymen over there who might otherwise get in to office. (Meanwhile the third parties, who actually have platforms which might, you know, actually fix some problems, are dismissed. Because of the usual self-fulfilling prophesy that they’ll never win. Just like “we could always do worse”.)

    • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

      Everyone seemed to think she was a shoe-in for the nomination in 2008. She’s clearly the front-runner without even announcing her candidacy, but it’s not a sure thing.

  • Jesus Smith

    Faith noun. 1. To falsely represent unverified propositions or baseless superstitions as truth.
    Synonyms. Lying

    • Deus Otiosus

      What you just defined was a verb, not a noun.

      • pRinzler

        Interesting dictionary Mr. Smith has got there.

  • nnmns

    I clicked on this and got an advertising window that I could only close (without clicking the only button on it) by closing my browser. The second time here it didn’t show up. I hope you can get better control of what comes with your column.

  • C Peterson

    I’m not sure that there is anybody I can think of who would be thought of as a “person of faith” that I have much respect for. Having faith always reduces my respect for somebody, but most people who claim faith don’t actually operate on it in practice, except in fairly trivial ways. Fortunately!

    • SJH

      Atheists often act in faith. They have faith in governments and the scientific community. Especially the scientific community. I’ve seen atheists all to eager to accept a scientific notion as long as it contradicts religion. In fact, it does not have to be very scientific at all. If it contradicts religion, then it is often accepted as truth.
      We all act in faith to some degree. It is not bad to act in faith but it has to be tested with reason.

      • smrnda

        I’m an atheist and I’m always eager to hear about new scientific findings. Given that most religions are products of pre-bronze age people, it’s pretty much a given that scientific facts will contradict them. Science has a pretty impressive track record, and is a self-correcting enterprise, and the scientific method is a way of systematically testing hypothesis that goes against the types of biases we’re likely to have.

        To say ‘we all act in faith’ is to turn the word ‘faith’ into just a synonym for ‘belief’ which renders it meaningless, and is the standard trick pulled by desperate theists.

        I have a degree of confidence that the pills my doctor prescribes will help my medical condition(s). The reason is that they teach real science in medical school, and that the people who design meds know real chemistry, and that drugs are tested extensively to evaluate their effectiveness and safety. I think this is a lot different than my religious neighbor who has ‘faith’ that god answers prayers, even though so far, most of what he’s prayed for hasn’t happened. His ‘faith’ is immune to falsification. My faith in the pills I take is not.

        • SJH

          Your example is perfect. The medical/pharmaceutical community does not have a perfect record in releasing medications for public consumption. The fact is that money, greed, impatience and/or flawed research often allows bad drugs to hit the shelves. The last group I would have faith in is the pharmaceutical industry.

          • C Peterson

            What does your “faith” in some industry have to do with religious “faith”? You haven’t responded at all.

            And to be accurate, it is extremely rare for bad or unsafe drugs to reach the market. And that’s because there is a rational system in place that largely prevents greed and other human weaknesses from allowing that to happen.

            I don’t much trust the pharmaceutical industry, but I have a very high level of trust in the quality and efficacy of the drugs produced. And there’s no issue of faith in either case.

      • C Peterson

        Same word, completely different meaning.

        Religious faith cannot be “tested with reason” because faith is the complete absence of reason.

        • SJH

          I was equating “faith” as you define it with the “faith” of many atheists. Atheists like to think that they act out of reason alone but that is not generally true. Atheists are just as guilty as using their emotions and bias to make conclusion as any other group. As I said in my original post, many atheists are all to willing to go with the flow as long as it contradicts religion regardless if it is reasonable or not.

          Regarding “Faith”, I would actually define faith differently than you do. Faith should always be tested with reason. If it contradicts reason than it is not faith at all but ignorance.
          You are wrong that faith cannot be tested with reason. Your statement would be true if you said faith cannot be tested through science but reason is another story. It is perfectly reasonable to believe in a creator given the philosophical reasoning which can be found all over the place if one were to take the time to research it. I have faith that God exists and it does not contradict reason therefor my faith makes sense. If I had faith that something came from nothing, then that would defy reason and I would be ignorant not faithful.

          • C Peterson

            I know what you were saying. It doesn’t change that you are using different meanings of “faith”.

            All humans make decisions and have a world view that is based on both reason and emotion, on both the rational and the irrational. Faith (in the religious sense) lies firmly in the emotion and irrational category. When this becomes dominant, it’s bad. It’s not something to admire. It’s a voluntary rejection of what is fundamentally human about us.

            If you believe in a god, if you believe in Christian dogma, you have not applied reason. Reason is fundamentally at odds with these. Every single human being who is capable of reasoning, is armed with a fair degree of information, and is willing to apply reasoning will reject Christianity and theism. It is impossible to do otherwise. Those who claim to have tested their faith with reason do not know the meaning of reasoning, or are working from inadequate data.

            Everyone is subject to biases, but when it comes to the question of theism, I can’t think of an example of atheists “going with the flow” in supporting unreasonable arguments against religion. There are no reasonable arguments for religion, which makes it relatively easy to dismiss unreasonable ones (which can only be so because of formal logic failures).

            • SJH

              “Reason is fundamentally at odds with these.”

              Please give me an example of how reason is fundamentally at odds with Christian dogma.

              “Every single human being who is capable of reasoning, is armed with a fair degree of information, and is willing to apply reasoning will reject Christianity and theism.”
              I feel that I am capable of reason and a fair degree of information and am also willing to apply reason and I do not reject Christianity or theism so your statement is wrong.

              “Those who claim to have tested their faith with reason do not know the meaning of reasoning, or are working from inadequate data.”

              So I looked up the definition of reason and sure enough I did know what it meant…
              rea·son [ree-zuhn] Show IPA noun
              1. a basis or cause, as for some belief, action, fact, event, etc.: the reason for declaring war.
              2. a statement presented in justification or explanation of a belief or action.
              3. the mental powers concerned with forming conclusions, judgments, or inferences.
              4. sound judgment; good sense.
              5. normal or sound powers of mind; sanity.

              And I suppose you believe that your data set is adequate and comprehensive as opposed to the Christian’s data set. Do you truly believe that there is no possibility that someone knows something that you do not. All of the incredibly intelligent people out there including scientists who are also Christian and you can guarantee that you are smarter than them and can refute all of their arguments. Some how I doubt that is true.

              • C Peterson

                Please give me an example of how reason is fundamentally at odds with Christian dogma.

                Christian dogma depends upon believing in a deity (or several), and depends upon a belief in the supernatural.

                It is not possible to believe in these things if reason is applied. Since theism falls to reason, so does all the dogma that theism produces.

                You may indeed be capable of reason. But you are not applying it, or you would not be a Christian. You choose to believe in something despite a complete absence of evidence, and worse, in the presence of very powerful evidence against your beliefs. That is not a demonstration of reason. That is faith, and faith is nothing to admire.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        No one believes for an instant that you aren’t aware that the word has more than one meaning.

      • Derrik Pates

        There’s a difference between faith with evidence – usually based on past performance – and faith based on “I really like this, and it makes me feel warm and squishy, but I don’t really have any real reason”.

  • http://nomadwarriormonk.blogspot.com/ Cyrus Palmer

    I dream of a day when theists cannot dream of getting elected to public office over atheists instead of the other way around.

    • http://parkandbark.wordpress.com/ Houndentenor

      I’d be happy if crooks and liars couldn’t get away with hiding behind their supposed faith.

  • Octoberfurst

    I find it maddening that many people in this country expect polticians to always make references to their faith. They have to sprinkle their speeches & bios with talk about how much their faith means to them and “our shared Christian values.” And of course EVERY speech must end with the mandatory: “God bless you and God bless America!” >groan<
    Politicians need to realize that there are a LOT of us atheists out there and our numbers are growing by the day. So they don't need to always pander to the religious crazies. I'm just sayin'.

  • David Mock

    I’ve been asking Christians this since I saw “Religulous” about a year ago. Why is faith good? I haven’t received a legitimate answer.

    • TheNuszAbides

      generally (assuming any actual response) they are only able to dance around the shameful admission that it simply feels good/right (which, of course, a non-believer would inevitably take ‘the wrong way’).

      • David Mock

        That’s the problem, faith is literally a belief system in which evidence, logic, and reasoning is suspended.

        • Derrik Pates

          Suspended because a supernatural father figure says they need to feel bad for being human, and they’re gonna go to hell when they die, but he sent his son (who’s really him) with an out, if you just believe in him, with… oh wait, zero evidence. And that makes them feel good. It’s a really weird thing to feel good about.


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