When Bill Maher Loses the Storyline

Bill Maher regularly loses his composure over one, and only one, issue: Religion.  Two opening caveats by me: 1) I like Maher’s show, watch it regularly, and secretly long to be invited on as a guest; and 2) I’ve not seen his “documentary,” Religulous.  I’ve got nothing against it, and I’m sure I’ll see it someday.  But I’m disinclined to make time to watch it based on the tepid reviews it received, and because of the way that he talks about religion on his show, as exhibited this weekend (clip is 14:33 long):

I understand that Maher is a blowhard.  That’s what gets him in trouble and what gets him viewers.  I’m down with that.  I’m not easily offended, and his barbs sometime make even my hair stand on end.  But I’m not troubled by his language, his weird aversion to medicine, or his avowed pot-smoking.

But he’s gotten so strident about his antipathy for religion that he literally will not allow his guests to complete a sentence.  He behaves around religion as he does about no other issue.

For instance, in the clip above, he repeatedly interrupts Newark super-Mayor, Cory Booker to tell Booker what Booker believes!  When Booker attempts to articulate the more liberal stance to eternal life, basically stating that there are many ways to heaven, Maher responds by mis-quoting Jesus.  Then Maher tells Booker that Booker doesn’t believe the Bible.  Having misquoted John 14:6 several times, Maher says that he, unlike Booker, “reads the whole book.”  Seriously, Bill?  Talk about redonkulous.

Maher savaged another guest, S.E. Cupp and her book, Losing Our Religion: The Liberal Media’s Attack on Christianity. Honestly, I thought that she came off looking as stupid as any guest Maher’s ever had on.  Her book clearly sucks, as evidenced by the Amazon reviews.  She’s eye-candy for some publisher who bought her some Ashleigh Banfield glasses and turned a fan to blow on her during her cover photo shoot.  The cover of your first book is not your head shot — especially if you’re a 30-year old who just finished a Master’s degree — unless someone is trying to get you a gig as a FOX News analyst.

But Maher’s evisceration of Cupp was overshadowed by his blathering and nonsensical interruptions of Booker.  My biggest problem with how Maher handles religion isn’t even his atheistic anger — I can handle that.  It’s that it makes for bad TV.  It’s incredibly frustrating to watch.  In fact, the only defender to religion that I’ve seen Maher allow to speak is Andrew Sullivan.  With all others, it seems that Maher is blinded by his own rage at religion.  Here’s what I mean, as evidenced on Friday night:

  1. Maher says that all wars and misery are caused by religion
  2. Cupp responds that the fascist rulers of WWII were not religious
  3. Maher responds that Communism is a state religion, thus stating that religion is a much broader category than most would allow
  4. Booker then tells Maher that Maher’s atheistic zealotry is religious, which, by Maher’s own definition, seems obvious
  5. Maher disagrees, vehemently

This is what I mean by Maher’s usual liberal-libertarian logic being obfuscated by his own hatred of religion.

I like it when religion is talked about on TV.  Most shows — nightly news, Sunday morning political talk shows, etc. — avoid it like the plague for fear of offending someone.  Some — 60 Minutes, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Rachel Maddow, and Bill Maher — will talk openly and honestly about it and allow guests to do the same.  It’s why I watch their shows and not the others.

But I’m losing patience with Bill Maher.

Bill, if you’re listening, get over it.  We all know you hate religion.  But your hatred of it is starting to interfere with your real job as an entertainer/commentator.


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