Bill Maher Calls out Michele Bachmann and Antonin Scalia for Their Belief in Nonsense

On last night’s Real Time, Bill Maher explained that “loony” Rep. Michele Bachmann and “brilliant” Justice Antonin Scalia are really “the exact same idiot” — they believe the same kind of supernatural bullshit, after all:

I love this bit:

It would be one thing if Mr. Scalia sold pizza for a living, but this is a man we go to to interpret our laws. It’s like smelling a gas leak and calling an exorcist!

You see the world divided into teams of good and evil and suspect the wily one may be on the side of them, and when you start seeing compromising with your opponents as a compromise with evil, well, there’s your Tea Party.

(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.

  • Dan Weeks

    Exactly correct.

  • Malcolm Reynolds

    How do these lunatics get elected and/or appointed, and WHY are they still in their positions? We the people, are out of our fucking minds, for allowing this…

  • Lee Miller

    Because many Americans believe the same things, and sit in churches week after week where these exact ideas are preached as literal truth. Drive around on Sunday morning and look at the church parking lots. Or as I did recently, drive cross-country and scan the radio channels–program after program after program proclaiming the same ideas.

  • A3Kr0n

    Is there a way to petition the government to get this Duck Dynasty wannabe out of the Supreme Court?

  • Heretic

    Bill Maher believes that vaccines cause Alzheimer’s and autism, and he rejects the germ theory of disease.

    But I guess since he’s an atheist and generally a liberal, we don’t care if HE believes in dangerous nonsense?

  • Korou

    Quite true. Plenty of people in the freethought community have criticised Bill Maher for his own loony views.

  • Heretic

    Yup, but he keeps getting posted here whenever he “scores points” for “our team.” Even though he believes in dangerous nonsense. Literally dangerous nonsense. Vaccine deniers should be shunned.

  • EllK

    Have you actually read what Bill Maher says about vaccines, etc? Anyone who thinks vaccines are, “a miracle – that’s it debate over” is as ignorant and close minded as those who believe in any other brand of “dangerous nonsense.” It’s just not that simple. I have two children who can’t receive any further vaccines (they were fully vaccinated through their toddler years). This is based on the advice of three VERY mainstream doctors (neurologist, immunologist and pediatrician) who are very much pro-vaccine *most* of the time. If *I* hadn’t figured out that my children have an autoimmune disease and sought expert treatment they would have continued to be vaccinated and most likely harmed quite badly as a result. Vaccines are amazing and wonderful inventions, and they’ve done A LOT of good, but they’ve also done harm. And numbers don’t matter if it’s YOUR child that ends up harmed or dead because of it. There is NO question that they can cause harm. None. And with all the vaccines and medicines, etc that are pushed at us we are a horribly obese, unhealthy country of people. There is not a simple black/white, good/evil answer to the vaccine debate.

    I’m an atheist and a skeptic, but to me being a skeptic means doing my own investigation, examination of evidence and looking at all sides and using reason and rationality to examine information and data.

  • Heretic

    There’s no question that in a small portion of the population that vaccines can cause harm, just like any other medication. And I’m truly sorry for the harm to your children.

    But Bill Maher isn’t saying, “vaccines are generally good, but like all medication, there is some risk.” He promotes unscientific nonsense that vaccines cause autism. That flu shots cause Alzheimer’s. He pushes the lie that vaccines contain mercury, etc.

    That’s what’s dangerous about his anti-vaccine advocacy.

  • Kevin Kirkpatrick

    My favorite part:

    Bill: “Of course, if Bachman is right and Jesus is on his way back… he’ll be the first man she ever saw coming.”

    HA! Good one Bill! Get it? Bachman is so sexually unappealing THAT SHE’S PROBABLY NEVER BROUGHT A MAN TO ORGASM! HAHAHA! Man, did he ever put her in her place! Man did he ever give a good reason to be dismissive of her views.

    Anyway, yeah, that was my favorite part.

    I was a little disappointed with the rest of the segment. After showing a picture that demonstrates Scalia one of the most conventionaly unattractive men I’m likely to see on television, I waited with baited breath to see how Maher would absolutely rip him to shreds with speculations on his inability to attract women or bring women to orgasm….

    Strangely, though – nothing, just a focus on the things Scalia said.

    Truly bizarre, that.

  • Infidel Poetry

    For Maher, number one, he’s not in office.

    Number two, at least his bad ideas are not so patently supernatural. There’s at least a chance that evidence may convince him otherwise; i.e. Michael Shermer recently said he accepts climate science.

    As atheists, there’s plenty of disagreement in our tribe on certain issues, but we don’t have the luxury of pointing to the Bible to justify our beliefs and shutting out all reason.

    Not so if you believe in end times prophesy and a literal devil figure.

  • aj

    I interpreted that joke to mean that since Michelle Bachman is so sexually repressed (as are nutty rightwingers generally), she has probably never had sex with the light on.

  • aj

    When Maher’s claims are wrong, we call him on it. When his claims are right, we applaud it. That’s the same treatment any personality gets on this blog.

  • EllK

    Again, go ahead and read his piece on the subject. Personally I find that so many skeptics/atheists fall into the trap that religious people do about religion. By that I mean that while the religious point to their holy book and say, “that’s it! End of discussion!” so do many skeptics point to the science we have *now* and say, “That’s it! End of discussion!” Immunology is a very new science, relatively speaking, and there is A LOT we don’t know yet. Same with brain science, and many other areas of medicine. What we have learned is amazing and stunning in it’s scope, but science has barely scratched the surface. Autism is not one disease; it’s a label to describe a subset of symptoms of varying degrees, the causes of which are largely unknown. Do vaccines trigger autism in a subset of children with an unknown genetic predisposition? Almost certainly yes. Just as it is known and accepted that vaccines can trigger other autoimmune disorders in susceptible people. Worth the risk? Perhaps on paper, but when it’s YOUR child, you start thinking, “Hey, maybe this blind, one-size-fits-all rule is pretty damn shortsighted. “

  • Heretic

    “Do vaccines trigger autism in a subset of children with an unknown genetic predisposition? Almost certainly yes.”

    There is no evidence in the available literature to support this position.

  • IAmAGuest

    I thought it was because her husband seriously looks like a gay man and probably is a closet gay.

  • Heretic

    “we don’t have the luxury of pointing to the Bible to justify our beliefs and shutting out all reason.”

    There are plenty of irrational atheists and plenty of rational religious people. Atheism is simply a lack of a belief in god. That lack of belief is no guarantee that a personal is going to be generally rational in their opinions. And a belief in God (even though I disagree with that belief) doesn’t make a person irrational in all things. Take Justice Ginsburg, for example!

    Maher is misogynist, supports racial profiling, and believes that Louis Pasteur recanted the germ theory of disease on his deathbed. And his little documentary about religion was riddled with errors about religion, which just undermined his credibility.

    I don’t get why he has so much respect in our community.

  • TheG

    I can’t decide if you are committing the fallacy of argument from ignorance or simply fear mongering.

  • Heretic

    Yes, in the context of Bill Maher’s misogyny, that’s TOTALLY what we should take from that. *rolls eyes*

  • Heretic

    Yes, because all soft-spoken, more effeminate men are gay, and all normal, butch guys are straight. That’s totally how it works…. *sigh*

  • Kengi

    “Maher is misogynist, supports racial profiling…”

    I think you, unfortunately, answered your own question about why he has so much respect in our community.

  • Kengi

    I feel the same way about that whole Earth being round nonsense. Why trust the science on that when they won’t let me fly on the ISS to prove it? What it it they are trying to hide from me?

  • IAmAGuest

    Yea, that’s exactly what I said… *sigh*

    And what I forgot to add to my post is that Bill Maher has previously joked about her husband probably being gay.

  • Kevin Kirkpatrick

    Even in that light, it’s clearly a denigration of Michele that brings her sexuality into a discussion that was supposed to be mocking her end-times views. It was a bizarre and utterly off-topic remark. I’d love to hear someone explain why it seemed to be the thing to say in this context (I do have a theory).

    I see lots of take-downs of Robertson, Falwell, Scalia, Limbaugh, etc., saying some truly asinine things. But, unless the religious speaker said an asinine thing about a sexual topic, we don’t see criticisms involving god-awful puns to mock either their attractiveness or presumably repressive sex lives.

    Consider Hemant’s recent commentary about Reverend Austin Miles – can you spot the part of the criticism that wasn’t in the original:

    Rev. Austin Miles is very unhappy that the Nobel Prize in Physics went to two of the scientists who theorized the existence of the Higgs Boson (a.k.a. the “God Particle”).

    His problem isn’t with the scientists, per se, or even the Nobel committee. It’s with the tool that allowed them to make their discovery: the Large Hadron Collider. And Miles isn’t just annoyed at someone getting good use out of their “tool”. Miles thinks it’s all a waste of space and (somehow) anti-Christian.

    Really. (Emphasis and sloppy grammar his.)

  • Heretic

    Sad but true. I tend to avoid the comment sections in the atheist blogs on Patheos for that reason. I ironically find the liberal religious blog comment sections to be more amenable, even though I’m an atheist.

    But this just caught my ire to the point that I finally got around to creating a Disqus account!

  • Todd Heath

    He ran a gay reparative therapy clinic. That is a good sign he is most likey a closet case. As a gay man I can tell you he pegs out my gaydar and it is not just his soft spoken manner either that sets it off.

  • IAmAGuest

    So in the context of Bill Maher’s previous jokes about her husbands sexual orientation, this joke was most likely directed towards that and not her sexual attraction or whatever.

  • EllK

    Your statements are proving my point quite nicely, thank you.

  • Heretic

    I don’t think EllK is fearmongering. There are small risks from vaccines, as EllK unfortunately discovered firsthand. I think that the first-hand experience is causing EllK to make some understandably exaggerated claims, but EllK seems sincere to me. And EllK’s point that vaccines are not 100% safe is well-taken, even if some of the claims are mistaken.

  • dandaman

    I’ve watched his video Religulous several times, and while I’m not an expert on theology, I didn’t see any glaring errors, perhaps you could point some out and educate me.

  • Heretic

    Probably the most glaring is kind of obscure, but the entire section involving the “parallels” between the Jesus myths in the Gospel and Egyptian mythology gets the Egyptian stuff almost completely wrong. (see e.g. Straight Dope here:

    There’s a whole lot of other stuff in the same vein in the movie. Just a lot of little, sloppy errors throughout to serve the narrative.

    Really, my favorite part of the movie is the two Catholic priests he talked to, who IMO came off way better than Maher did. :)

  • yellownumberfive

    So, pretty much like any other week on Politically Incorrect.

    That’s why I watch it.

  • TheG

    “Immunology is a very new science, relatively speaking, and there is A LOT we don’t know yet.”

    Sounds a whole bunch like an argument from ignorance.

    “Worth the risk? Perhaps on paper, but when it’s YOUR child…”

    Using those scary CAPITAL LETTERS to convince parents that it is okay to not vaccinate their children? Looks a bunch like fear mongering. Along with that whole Bill O’Reilly attitude of “Hey, we’re just asking questions here” leads me to believe that he is almost certainly trying to scare people.

    Either way, most rationalists I know try to shy away from emotional manipulation.

  • SattaMassagana

    Absolutely. Nothing is more important than ideological purity. The tea party understands this.

  • IAmAGuest

    Heretic, if I somehow thought that all soft-spoken and effeminate guys were gay, then why do most effeminate and soft-spoken guys I’ve seen NOT look gay to me?

    I can’t explain why he looks gay, anymore than why I find some women insanely attractive. To somehow say that because I find one woman with blue eyes and blonde hair attractive, that all women with blue eyes and blonde hair is attractive is just silly and shows how silly your post is.

  • Infidel Poetry

    I don’t respect him per se; don’t disrespect him either. He’s just a guy with a show. Some ideas I agree with, some I don’t. My father has misogynist tendencies, it doesn’t make him wrong about everything.

    I suppose I should qualify that by atheists, I was still referring in terms of “tribe,” the sort of organized atheism that brings us all here. But it’s not necessary for my general claim.

    That atheists don’t have the luxury of using the Bible and that there are irrational atheists and rational religious are not mutually exclusive ideas. I don’t believe I indicated that atheists (tribal or general) have a monopoly on rationality, just that the opportunity to quote scripture isn’t a ready option.

    I don’t have a problem with religious people. I have a problem when they are determining public policy based on their holy book. Maher is right to call this out. I don’t think we have to endorse every single thing Maher believes by agreeing with him on this. As his other views didn’t seem to be all that relevant to the clip I saw I don’t feel inclined to comment on them. I never saw Religious either.

    I guess you’re getting at Maher’s credibility, and that’s fair, but I didn’t really read that much into the video.

  • yellownumberfive

    Yeah, he can’t say anything true or be funny since he’s been wrong in the past. Fuck him.

  • yellownumberfive

    No, it’s because her husband is a “recovering” homosexual.

  • C Peterson

    He does make an incredibly important point. People who believe bullshit do not deserve respect. At all. For the most part, being fundamentally or dogmatically religious makes a person incompetent to do more than deliver pizzas. They should not be in positions of power that require the ability to reason. They are demonstrably incapable of holding such responsibility. Scalia and Bachmann are, indeed, idiots cut from the same cloth. Claiming a belief that the Devil is influencing people should be grounds for removal from office. It is overwhelming proof of insanity.

    Our Constitution rightfully (for now) forbids religious tests for office. But any sensible person will perform such a test before going to the voting booth. If a person believes the Devil is orchestrating events (or believes some god is doing so), they don’t belong in office, they belong in a hospital.

  • primenumbers

    Good point. It’s not that respect should be earned for reality based beliefs, but that holding faith based beliefs of any kind dangerous. It’s great for Maher to point out the faith based beliefs of others, especially those in elected office or on the supreme court where those beliefs can do real damage, but at the same time, we must point out to Maher the dangerous nature of his non-reality based beliefs.

  • Octoberfurst

    But isn’t Bachmann’s husband a supposedly “ex-gay”? Didn’t he run a Christian treatment program to turn gay people straight? I thik that was what the joke was about. That Michelle and Marcus have never had sex.

  • Varuka Salt

    Why does anyone listen to this anti-science, anti-vaxx, racist, misogynist asshole anyway? He makes liberals look like morons. Quit giving this idiot so much attention.

  • atoswald

    EllK, I nearly posted the same link, then I read your post. I completely agree with you. I don’t believe that Bill Maher is an anti-vaxxer, I believe he is a true skeptic. He is basically of the opinion that we should do our homework instead of blindly following the crowd. I am an atheist and a skeptic (which I don’t think is always synonymous.) I personally never get a flu shot, but my children have had all of their immunizations, and my daughter, who has a compromised immune system, does get a flu shot.
    I am also a woman, and contrary to popular belief, I don’t believe that Bill Maher is a misogynist either. I think he occasionally makes some stupid, sexist comments, but I have also heard him make comments in support of women. There is a difference between sexism, which generally stems from stereotypes and just being too lazy or ill informed to overcome them, and all out hatred of a group of people based on gender. I have been guilty of sexism (as I am sure the majority of us have at some point) but that does not make me a misandrist.
    I think what people forget to take into account is that he is a comedian, and shock value is often a comedian’s sharpest knife.

  • Alierias

    Half of my immediate family are brainwashed, fervently believing this crap! They are the stupid ones — my brother, sister, sister and brother-in-law haven’t read a book other than the bible since they got out of high school — and proud about it!!
    They are members of the American Christian Taliban…

  • aj

    “my brother, sister, sister and brother-in-law haven’t read a book other than the bible since they got out of high school — and proud about it!! ”

    This just sent my jaw to the floor and my stomach into knots. I have no words for how sad, and how scary, that is. And I’m sure they’re not alone.

  • IAmAGuest

    Heretic, I’m sorry about my last post, I think my brain just farted. You’re right, just because he looks gay to me, doesn’t mean he, or that it is even likely that he is, which was obviously your point. Sorry again!

  • matt

    The joke is her husband is gay

  • Anat

    Sorry, the vaccine-autism supposed link comes from a fraudulent paper by Wakefield. See wiki page for a quick summary. This ignorant repetition of lies is harming people now, as measles is making a come-back because of the falling vaccination rates in some areas.

    There are some evidence-based reasons to avoid specific vaccines in specific people (sometimes the avoidance is only temporary), but fear of autism isn’t one of them.

  • Kevin Kirkpatrick

    “It is overwhelming proof of insanity.”

    “If a person believes the Devil is orchestrating events (or believes some god is doing so), they don’t belong in office, they belong in a hospital.”

    This is not only excessively hyperbolic, but demonstrably wrong. I once believed these things. When I did, I was neither insane nor incompetent at any of the innumerable secular responsibilities I had while holding these beliefs; I was simply indoctrinated into a belief system which caused me to be wrong about certain aspects of how the world worked. Neither my underlying psychiatric condition nor general competence were remotely affected by my deconversion from Christianity.

    I’m all about being critical of religious beliefs, but this reads as a true adhom personal attack. Reversing the logic would amount to Christians being logically consistent in refusing to elect atheists into office because, from their vantage point, atheists are so incredibly (delusionally/insanely) wrong about how the world works.

  • momtarkle

    I’m glad you asked, Salty One. I listen to such people because I enjoy hearing the opinions, or supposed opinions, of other people. This most often reinforces my (contrary) beliefs, but, on rare occasions, encourages me to modify them.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    I was once convinced that Nickelback sucked, until I listened to one of their supporters’ glowing words. After much consideration, I modified my opinion to include the possibility of their also blowing.

  • C Peterson

    I once believed these things. When I did, I was neither insane nor incompetent at any of the innumerable secular responsibilities I had while holding these beliefs;

    That is a matter of opinion. In fact, while you had those beliefs, I would consider you, if not insane (in a clinical sense), certainly mentally incompetent. That you were capable of managing some tasks in this state does not make my assertion “demonstrably wrong”.

    You may choose to consider my comments “ad hominem” (although I don’t). They are not, however, an example of the logical ad hominem fallacy.

    (And I think fundie Christians should generally refuse to elect atheists to office, because otherwise they are acting even more irrationally than usual.)

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    I don’t find him funny anymore for pretty much those reasons (and I did actually like him quite a bit) and don’t pay him a great deal of mind, but I’d describe his attitude as sexist, not misogynistic. They’re both miserable behaviors, but are worlds apart as flaws go.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    *winces* Um, ouch.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    Science is not an ideology. Using one’s soapbox to push a pseudoscience-informed ideology that quite literally leads to dead children is not something to be tolerated for the sake of inclusiveness.

  • WallofSleep

    You can count me as another atheist who doesn’t care for Maher at all. But, when he’s right, he’s right. And in this case he’s right. Though I could do without the sexual speculation crap. That’s amateur hour shit. But hey, he’s supposedly a comedian, and we have to expect that kind of thing from comedians.

  • momtarkle

    YOU’RE WEARING OUT MY GOOGLE! Do you really think that we normal North Americans know about your obscure, stinking, Canuck rock groups?

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    They’re from Canada? Well that explains it. That state might as well be a foreign country to a Southerner like myself.

  • WallofSleep

    What is it about the human condition that compels us to negatively speculate about the sexual predilections of those we dislike or disagree with? I find it somewhat off-putting.

  • NG

    Yeah, that’s what I thought too. How many gay men want to come with a woman?

  • Bdole

    Bill Maher is sorta like John Stewart’s darker alter ego, or maybe if Stewart were on HBO.

  • Anat

    If EllK’s children are not being vaccinated because of a diagnosis of autism then either EllK and EllK’s family were defrauded by doctors, or the doctors were too wishy-washy to tell EllK (and other parent, if present) that the choice not to vaccinate in this condition is counter to the medical consensus.

    IOW from what EllK wrote I don’t see that EllK learned first hand about the downside of vaccines, unless the reson not to vaccinate the children was something else and the bit about autism was just some random example.

  • zeggman

    When Bill denies germ theory and claims that vaccines are dangerous, I join the chorus of voices saying he’s wrong.

    Being wrong about some things doesn’t mean he’s wrong about everything, however.

    I have no interest in shunning him or attempting to demolish his soapbox, because he mostly uses that soapbox to express opinions I often agree with on politics or religion.

  • Nancy Shrew


  • Nancy Shrew

    Nickelback is hardly obscure. They are pretty much the go-to band when talking about sucky music these days.

    ETA: I’ve just entertained the thought that you’re being sarcastic, so I’m sorry if you were.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    I like to pick on Nickelback, but honestly, I love them. Their music is so affordable! Just buy one song and you’ll hear everything they’ve ever done.

  • momtarkle

    Nancy, I really had never heard of them. I’ve probably never heard of 98% of rock groups. I mostly listen to hymns.

  • Larry Meredith

    The Michele Bachmann thing is pretty funny for me actually because I overheard my mom listening to that Understanding The Times thing. When I heard Bachmann I just immediately said “Is that Michele Bachmann? She’s one of the craziest people in the American congress. She’s known for frequently pulling the strangest bullshit right out of her ass.” Lo and behold, she was doing that exact thing at that moment.

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    It was pretty funny whether you were joking or not, because you seemed to realize instinctively that they deserve to be obscure.

    And Rock is the only true music of Heaven. :P

  • Carmelita Spats

    It’s comedy…Comedy tears down…It is irreverent, biting, and it is unleashed on an object…Comedy flips niceties and social conventions…It is carnal, carnivalesque and obliterates the social order..The use of the body, sex acts, bodily functions and the profane has always been a staple of comedy from Aristophanes to Rabelais to Saavedra to George Carlin to Bill Maher. I’d shoot myself if I lived in a censored dystopia where “Everybody Loves Raymond” and mother-in-law jokes were the standard to evaluate comedy, language and criticism.

  • WVHeisenberg

    “Being wrong about some things doesn’t mean he’s wrong about everything, however.”

    Shouldn’t the same standard, then, apply to Scalia? If he makes a correct legal opinion, he’s correct, regardless of whether he believes in a literal devil, no?

  • Heretic

    Don’t sweat it. Glad you took my point. I find the speculation among my fellow liberals and atheists that her husband “must be gay” to be unseemly. Maybe he is – I can’t read his mind – but a lot of the speculation seems to be fueled from the way he looks and acts and to me, that just reinforces stereotypes.

  • Heretic

    Isn’t that what he’s saying about Scalia? That since he’s wrong about the devil he’s wrong about everything?

  • Heretic

    He has never been described as “ex-gay.”

  • David McNett (Nugget)

    Interesting we all came to such different interpretations of the joke.

    I thought it was a reference to Bachmann’s husband who appears to be so deep in the closet that he can see Narnia. The guy scores a 950 milliHaggards on the RoyCohnDar scale and presumably whatever sex life he and Michelle share isn’t very stimulating for him.

  • Matt D

    If you had a point, then why is there a half dozen posts before Kengi’s you ignore? Cat got your tongue for *some* reason?