October 2, 2008

Bill Maher Is Pissing Me Off A Bit

I really like the fact that Bill Maher is doing the circuit right now to promote his movie Religulous. I do think he is going to get many theists to question their beliefs and the real history of the bible, and perhaps even create many more atheists and agnostics in the process.

I've seen him on four shows now, and he has pretty much used the same material on each which is understandable. In case you haven't seen him, this interview is pretty much what he says more or less in a nutshell.

But it is the following that irks me:

When replying to this statement by an interviewer, "I guess that brings us to the topic of "Religulous," which I read as this effort to get agnostics and atheists out of the closet in American society," Bill Maher came back and said,
"That's certainly one of the goals. I don't use the word "atheist" about myself, because I think it mirrors the certitude I'm so opposed to in religion. What I say in the film is that I don't know. I don't know what happens when you die, and all the religious people who claim they do know are being ridiculous. I know that they don't know any more than I do. They do not have special powers that I don't possess. When they speak about the afterlife with such certainty and so many specifics, it just makes me laugh."

I have a feeling he is just trying to appeal to the masses by not labeling himself as an atheist. A term that causes many a theist to flinch. By labeling himself as agnostic, he is just trying to be accepted.

It is evident in everything he says beyond avoiding the atheism label, that he is an atheist.

An atheist doesn't have to say "there is no God, or no afterlife." Most of us say or think that "there is no evidence for God or an afterlife, so why even consider something that has no evidence to back it up?"

It is a cop out for Maher to say "I don't know what happens when we die." It is like saying "I don't know if Leprechauns live in Ireland and avoid being seen by humans." I'm sure that he is completely certain that since there is no evidence of an afterlife and since nothing else supernatural ever appears to happen, and since one can't trace back their existence before one is conceived, it a mathematical certainty that when we die, our consciousness dies with us.

The thing that pisses me off the most is that he is dissing atheists by misrepresenting what most atheists are, by equating atheism with religion, implying a religious fanatic and an atheist are equal when it comes to the person's certainty. An atheist does not have to be certain, just as someone doesn't have to be certain that an actual Tooth Fairy doesn't exist. Religious people buy into something based on zero evidence, while atheism is a position that doesn't accept things that have zero evidence.


Here is an interview I just watched for the first time this morning (I'm up to 5 interviews now):

I preach the Gospel of "I don't know." I don't buy it Bill. And either do you.

Although, he has stated that he considers Gods existence, I'm almost positive it is only for PC reasons to keep his audience as large as possible. If he realizes that believing in the bible is childish, he has to realize that the same line of reasoning applies to believing in any God. He doesn't consider that the bible could be real, so where exactly is the doubt?

See also, Bill Maher Is An Atheist, Whether He Knows It Or Not

16 comments:

  1. It's not a cop-out. As a recovering Christian, myself I decided to believe in Occam's Razor and slash that which did not have evidence and even Atheism is a belief amongst itself. There are plenty of us Agnostics who are of the belief that the possibility of a God is not outright unbelievable as much as the religions founded are unbelievable. This is not saying we believe in a God, only that we do not believe in any god established by current religions. In fact I don't know if there is a god, I do know for a fact that Jesus was not the son of one, Muhammed was a warrior not a prophet and that the rest of the religions are 100% wrong. And I'm sure Maher is along the same lines.

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  2. No, I'm with you on this BEAJ. I love it when he skewers religion and calls religious beliefs to the mat, but I think you are right...he does this cop out in order to seem "fair and balanced" so as not to offend some of his religious followers.

    He completely ignores Dawkins' "teapot agnostic" line of reasoning.

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  3. I thought the exact same thing when I saw him on The Daily Show recently. Either he doesn't understand the meaning of the word "atheist", or he is trying to not give offense to others who may not understand.


    In either case, I'm afraid he's doing a grave disservice to Atheists by fostering a continued misunderstanding of the term.

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  4. There is a good summary of the distinction between 'atheist' and 'agnostic' at the Iron Chariots site (run by a few guys who do a cable access show in Austin, TX called 'The Atheist Experience'. They're actually not mutually exclusive. Gnosticism has to do with 'knowing' there's a god, while theism has to do with 'believing' there's a god. It is possible to be one of four combinations of the two terms.

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  5. Sean, I realize that there are many definitions of atheism and agnostic out there. And there is also many definition for God.
    Nothing is black and white in the definitions game.
    However, Maher is trying to paint atheism with one strict definition.
    But you may fall into true agnostic by the sound of it.
    My guess is that if you asked Maher is he believes in God, he will say no....that makes him an atheist period.
    Like Epe points out, in many definitions atheism and agnosticism are not mutually exclusive.
    Most atheist admit we cannot "know for sure" so most atheists by many definitions are agnostic atheists.
    My stance is that since there is no evidence for God or Gods ever, and since almost everything that was attributed to God in the past (like lightning) has been resolved with a scientific explanation, there is no need to consider the existence of God, just like there is no need to consider the existence of Leprechauns.

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  6. Actually, he's stated previously he does believe in some kind of 'force', just not religion. So he's more of an agnostic theist.

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  7. I have seem him discard atheism as "people who are certain there is no god" so many times it's getting more than annoying. I think someone should write an open letter to Bill Maher, say that quite a few atheists are offended, and correct his definitions for him.

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  8. Those who don't want to be considered "the ones who believe there is no God" should have the courage to call themselves agnostic.

    Who actually is cowardly here, those who proudly (but often wrongly) call themselves atheists, or those whose genuine position is "we simply don't know for certain" and call themselves agnostic? Because fear is often why people prefer to label themselves atheist rather than agnostic: fear of considered a fence-sitter (both theists and atheists are guilty of that sometimes).

    Even the "mathematical certainty" of which you speak BEAJ is a misnomer and largely borne out of ignorance regarding the statements mathematics can and cannot make.

    Logically we're all agnostics: theists, atheists and agnostics alike, as Maher correctly points out. And American atheists do indeed sometimes come across as believers.

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  9. OK Gert, so we are also agnostics when it comes to Leprechauns too. I guess we can't make mathematical statements about their existence either.

    Again, an atheist stance is an honest one when he or she says that there is no evidence for God, so I don't buy into God.

    I think we should look at which definition of atheist you are looking at.

    How would you define me? I don't believe in God because there is no evidence for God or any supernatural being. There is no reason to put God into the equation of possible outcomes/causes because of the lack of evidence, there is no reason to consider God other than our natural need to think there is a chance at immortality, which is emotional and not logical.

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  10. "We're all agnostic" in the sense that when a theist talks "God" all of us don't know what the fuck he/she is talking about. Including the theist:)

    "Logically we're all agnostics: theists, atheists and agnostics alike, as Maher correctly points out. And American atheists do indeed sometimes come across as believers."

    When a "theist" says that they "believe in god" they're talking shit!
    When an "atheist" says that they "don't believe in god" they're talking up shit!

    And when an "agnostic" says they "don't know whether god exists" they're taking a shit, and being saner-than-thou about it!

    "God" is ...
    ... a shit.

    "God" is nonsense.
    Gobbledegook!
    A five-year old can see that!
    Get a grip already!

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  11. BEAJ:

    Yep, it's largely a linguistic confusion. Maher simply uses a definition that's stricter and I think that's the correct thing to do.

    But for all intents and purposes practical, I have no choice, depending on social context, to call myself an atheist because many have never heard of 'agnostic'. And so to avoid a long and (to them boring) explanation I simply and accept the atheist label.


    Panatheist:

    And when an "agnostic" says they "don't know whether god exists" they're taking a shit, and being saner-than-thou about it!

    Being cavalier with the exact meaning of words leads to confusion, so I don't mind being 'saner-than-thou'.

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  12. Please, these discussions are silly, and 'atheists' end up talking bullshit, in dogmatic fashion, much of the time.

    First, define 'god'--when you get that settled, then existential questions can be weighed.

    However, in heat of challenging hazy beliefs (again, without strict scrutiny), everyone ends up looking silly.

    Granted, I view the creationists as being less cogent that the typical evolutionist--but this is my bias as a self-described 'agnostic'.

    In short--you might consider taking a few more of those hated philosophy courses in order to become more cogent. Just a thought.

    Also, while you are at it, you might consider the 'terrorist' appellation--with respect to both the US and Israel.

    Fanaticism--it's a mutha.

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  13. Typical evolutionist? Do you not accept evolution? Or are you saying we don't know when it comes to evolution?
    Creationists are silly.

    Also, Israel has every right to defend herself, and the Palestinians have shown they do not want a state as long as Israel exists. If the Arabs dropped their arms there would be peace. Calling Israel terrorists is just retarded.

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  14. I kinda don't blame him -- Any celebrity or any politician who goes around putting down god becomes such a target! We all know what he means, but I don't blame him for covering his bases with kinder terms! ;) I mean, it's a sad world we live in when every politician HAS to say they are religious, or they WILL NOT get elected. They just won't, and we know it. So I applaud Bill's courage. With all the jihad's against people who slam god, he's probably already on some hit list somewhere. Ah, religion.

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  15. Frankly, I was a little nervous when I popped the movie in my DVD player. I thought that it could be completely un-PC; more "Borat"-ish in style, and I dislike watching people squirming as they are attacked and skewered over a subject about which they are passionate.

    I mean, it's ok to be polite and not completely on the attack when you're questioning someone's beliefs, isn't it? I actually thought he did a great job and was very respectful. I don't mind him calling himself an agnostic if it opens more minds to his argument.

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