Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Colbert, Maher, and Pascal’s Wager

Bill Maher Stephen Colbert
Bill Maher with Stephen Colbert

by Catherine Giordano

Bill Maher was a guest on Late Night with Stephen Colbert discussing Pascal's wager. It was a lively discussion with a lot of beeeps. Maher is used to HBO where he hosts Real Time with Bill Maher Fridays at 10 pm. It seems like he forgets that you have to watch your language when you are on a network show. Or maybe, he just doesn’t give a beeep!

Maher talks a lot about sex, religion, and politics—it’s his comedic bailiwick. Colbert gently chided him for that saying that he must not get invited to any dinner parties since everyone knows you should never talk about sex, religion, and politics.

Oh really, I think it is the only thing worth talking about, although lately, I have the discussions via blogging and not at dinner parties. At dinner parties, I make small talk. But when I really want to know someone, a discussion about religion and politics will usually give me a very good sense of who they are. (I’ll leave the discussion of sex out of it until such time as I know someone well.)

Colbert is Catholic. Maher was raised Catholic, but is now an atheist. Atheism is part of his brand. I always wondered just how Catholic Colbert really is. Tonight Colbert cleared that up. He said, “I’m not very good at it. I suck at being a Catholic.” It seemed to me he was saying that he was Catholic because being Catholic is a family thing--"a connection with his ancestors" is how he put it. .

Colbert then teasingly invited Maher to come back to Catholicism. “The door is always open.” He brought up Pascal’s Wager to goad Maher. Maher took the bait and launched into a discussion about religion not being the answer to anything. It was lively and not without a few beeeps.

Nonetheless, there was not much of a discussion about the pros and cons of belief. There are many reasons not to take this bet. The most frequent criticism is “What if you choose the wrong god?” (Pascal’s wager assumes that the Christian God is the only God.) This argument was featured on an episode of the Simpsons.

There are many other fallacies in Pascal’s Wager. And to be fair, there are a few reasons to accept the wager, although eternal damnation in Hell is not one of them. I wrote a whole essay on it. Please click the link o see a complete discussion of the pros and cons of each side of the wager.

Here is a link to the video of the Maher-Colbert discussion of Pascal’s Wager.

Why do so many people insist there must be a god because they feel his presence? Blaise Pascal was a brilliant scientist and inventor, but he knew nothing about neuro-science. Biologist John Wathey does and in his new book (published in 2016) he will take you on a scientific journey to find the sources of religious feeling and the illusion of God's presence. Well-researched, yet elegantly written in a jargon-free and accessible style, he presents a compelling interpretation of the evolutionary origins of spirituality and religion.

CLICK HERE for a free preview
of The Illusion of God's Presence

Both Bill Maher and Stephen Colbert have written books. Check them out. 

Bill MaherNew New Rules

Stephen Colbert America Again

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Kim Davis Satirical Meme Photo Album

by Catherine Giordano

Kim Davis
Kim Davis

The Kim Davis controversy erupted around Labor Day when all our TV satirical hosts were on vacation. No Bill Maher. No John Oliver. No Stephen Colbert. And The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is off the air forever. I did my best to fill in with this collection of hilarious satirical jokes and memes that I  scoured the internet to bring to you.

As you probably all know by now, Kim Davis, a Kentucky County Clerk has refused to issue marriage licenses because it is against her beliefs as a Christian woman to put her name on a marriage certificate for a same-sex couple. A court has ordered her to issue the licenses, but she continued to refuse. She would not even allow her deputy clerks to issue the licenses. So on Friday September 4, she was sent to jail for contempt of court. Of course, she claimed she was being persecuted for being Christian. 

It seems that Kim Davis managed to finagle a meeting with Pope Francis when he was in Washington DC and she is now making a big deal out of it claiming she feels vindicated by his support.The Vatican has made it clear that the Pope did not meet with Davis to show support.The meeting was arranged by the Vatican nuncio (ambassador) to Washington. This nuncio is very conservative and his views do not align with those of Pope Francis. His service as nuncio had already been terminated to be effective in January. The Pope was not involved in the decision for Davis to be given an audience. 

A Vatican spokesman described the meeting as a typical “brief greeting.” He said, [The Pope’s] “meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects.” There was no discussion of Ms. Davis’ case. However, the Pope did grant an actual audience (lasting about 15 minutes) the day before to a gay man, a former student of the Pope when he taught in Argentina.

Pope Francis Kim Davis
Kim Davis lied about her meeting with the Pope.
The first thing everyone should know about Kim Davis is that she has not always been an exemplar of Christian values. Women who live their Christian values are not usually adulterers and fornicators. 

Kim Davis 4 Marriages
Kim Davis does not have a "godly" past

Kim Davis: Be careful what you wish for
Kim Davis: Be careful what you wish for

I’d feel sorry for her having her humiliating personal life exposed and being held up to public ridicule but then again if you don’t want other people to be involved in your personal life then maybe you shouldn’t involve yourself in the personal lives of others.

What goes around, comes around.
What goes around, comes around.

Ms. Davis has an answer for her past. She says:
 "Following the death of my godly mother-in-law over four years ago, I went to church to fulfill her dying wish. There I heard a message of grace and forgiveness and surrendered my life to Jesus Christ. I am not perfect. No one is. But I am forgiven and I love my Lord and must be obedient to Him and to the Word of God."

So she found religion and the slate is wiped clean. Her past sins do not matter anymore.

Ms Davis is an Apostolic Christian. She says that same-sex marriage is against Christian Scripture and therefore she cannot comply with the court’s order. She has claimed that she follows “God’s Law.” Except Jesus never said one word about same sex love or marriage.
"I never imagined a day like this would come, where I would be asked to violate a central teaching of Scripture and of Jesus himself regarding marriage. To issue a marriage license which conflicts with God's definition of marriage, with my name affixed to the certificate, would violate my conscience. It is not a light issue for me. It is a heaven or hell decision."
Furthermore, it appears that she has already broken some of the other laws in the Bible. 
Matthew 5:34: “But I say to you, do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God.”

U.S. county clerks must swear an oath to both God and country before entering office.

Romans 13: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”

She has clearly violated that bit of Scripture, too.

Moreover, marriage has been redefined many times since Biblical times. i won't even mention the Mormons and their belief that marriage is between one man and one woman and one woman and one woman ......and one woman. Here is another illustration of the changes in the definition of marriage. 

Definition of marriage
The Biblical definition of marriage

The correct thing for her to do would be to resign. She could surely get a job at Hobby Lobby or Chick-Fil-A where she would never be asked to do anything that would violate her Christian conscience. However, her current job pays $80,000 a year. I don’t think she’d be able to match that salary.

Obey your founding fathers
Obey your founding fathers.

I think this is analogous to a Buddhist vegetarian who is a waiter at a vegetarian restaurant. One day the owner sells the restaurant, and the new owner changes the restaurant’s menu—it is now a steakhouse. Can the vegetarian waiter refuse to serve the customers their steaks and expect to keep his job. Or how about a Quaker pacifist refusing to issue a gun permit? Or a Muslim DMV clerk who won't issue driver's licences to women? 

Here are some memes that show how ridiculous things would be if everyone started refusing to do their jobs because of their religious beliefs. This is exactly the kind of thing bill Maher would use for his mid-show comedy show, except he'd add some vulgarity.  

No burger for you.
No burger for you.

No driver's license for you.
No driver's license for you.

No prescription for you.
No prescription for you.

Kim Davis Joke
Kim Davis denies licenses for everything.

Kim Davis Gets Tofu
Turnabout is fair play.

And if we all get to use our religious beliefs to not do our jobs, how about we stop issuing gun permits.

All we want is love
All we want is love.

The United States is not a Christian nation. We have separation of church and state. Ms. Davis apparently would like the United States to be a theocratic country. Ms Davis is not being persecuted. She is being asked to do her job and obey the law. We too often have a double standard in the United States. 

Double standard
Double standard

No constitution for you.
No Constitution for you.

One reason the judge had to sentence her to jail instead of issuing her a fine is that she would never have had to pay the fine out of her own funds. GoFundMe has refused to allow an account for her because what she is doing is a criminal act, but I’m sure she would have gotten donations elsewhere.

You religion is not an excuse to break the law.
You religion is not an excuse to break the law.

After she gets a lucrative book deal and speaking tour, she’ll probably resign.  What a racket. Become a cause célèbre by refusing to do your job and get rich quick.   

If you would like to know why the United States is not a Christian nation and how separation of church and state has been eroded over the years, read: Is the United States a Christian Nation: Democracy Not Theocracy. 

Who is on the same side as ISIS?
Who is on the same side as ISIS?

Who is on the same side as Al Qaeda?
Who is on the same side as Al Qaeda?

And now for the obligatory Nazi reference. I apologize, but it is funny.

Sending the wrong signal?
Sending the wrong signal?

For our grand finale, we have to have a reference to Satanism. 

Songs of Satan
Songs of Satan

The deputy clerks are now issuing marriage licenses to everyone--same sex and opposite sex couples alike. So Kim Davis fought fought the law and the law won. 

Kim Davis may be back in court soon. According to reports that came out on September 18,2015 she has altered the licenses. This may be a violation of the judges orders. Read the news story. Kim Davis Alters Marriage Licenses

This last picture is not a joke. I put Separation of Church & State: Founding Principles of Religious Liberty here to provide important historical education about the separation of church and state in the United States.(And also because I couldn't find any items about Kim Davis. Plus, I always like to include at least one item from amazon on my posts in the hope that someone clicks and orders something so I can earn a small commission.)

Now that I have included the word from my sponsor, I will add that it's a good book written by a history professor to combat the religious right that tries to subvert the clear intent of the founding fathers to create a secular state by cherry-picking isolated quotes and using them out of context. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Donald Trump: I Love the Bible and Other Panders

by Catherine Giordano

Donald Trump Alabama Rally
Donald Trump at his  Alabama Rally
Donald Trump is at it again--pandering to the Christian Right. He picked Mike Pence as his VP, a man who said "I am a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican--in that order." Funny, how he left out "American." Pence is evangelical and he has no compunctions about mixing religion with government.

Trump's new pander is his stated intent to allow religious organizations--churches--to have BOTH tax exemptions and the right to endorse politician and be openly involved in political campaigns. 

Donald Trump pandered to the Christian right from the very beginning.  At one of his first political rallies in in Mobile Alabama. he wanted everyone to know how much he loves the Bible. “What’s my first favorite book? The Bible! The Bible!.” His second favorite book is, of course, his own book The Art of the Deal, but he was quick to add that his own book “doesn’t even come close” to the Bible."  

He piled on with “The War on Christmas.”  “It is the greatest assault on Christianity ever." And “I go out of my way to say “Merry Christmas.”

And then he threw in Billy Graham for good measure. Referring to the size of the crowd that had turned out to hear him (about 20,000 people) he said, “I know how Billy Graham felt.” And “I love Billy Graham.”

Donald Trump began his campaign for the Republican nomination for president by speaking his mind. If nothing else, he was honest. His refusal to be politically correct or to pander was the basis of his appeal. Now, the polls have gone to his head. He’s still politically incorrect—the Republican base likes that. What else does the Republican base like? Religion!. So now Donald Trump who never had much use for religion –he called the communion wafers “crackers” just a few weeks ago—talks about religion as if he was a Christian revivalist.(In reality, Donald Trump is a Presbyterian who seldom goes to church.)

A few days later,  an interviewer asked Trump, "What are one or two of your favorite Bible verses?" It could have been a gotcha moment. Trump sidestepped the question. "I wouldn’t want to get into it because to me that’s very personal. You know when I talk about the Bible it’s very personal.I don’t want to get into it.” The interviewer pressed him for an answer and Trump continued to evade the question. His final comment was "The whole Bible is incredible.... I think the Bible is something very special."  Nice try, but Trump is not so easy to catch. 

On September 15, another interviewer—this one from the Christian Broadcasting Network-- tried to get Trump to reveal his favorite Bible verse. This time he had an answer. "Proverbs, the chapter 'never bend to envy,'" he said. "I’ve had that thing all of my life where people are bending to envy." Only one problem—that phrase is not in the Bible.

Remember Trump has now had several weeks to actually take a look at the Bible and choose one. (Or have one of his assistants do it.). Evidently he did finally have one of his assistants look it up for me and they found one that at least included the word “envy.” Trump aides told called the interviewer and said that the candidate was referring to Proverbs 24:1-2: "Be not thou envious against evil men, neither desire to be with them. For their heart studieth destruction, and their lips talk of mischief."  Is Trump casting himself as an “evil man” who people should not be with because they “study destruction” and “talk of mischief.” It seems so. Maybe Republican primary voters should study Proverbs 24:1-2 very carefully.

Trump made a fool of himself again on January 18, 2016 when he tried to quote the Bible at Liberty University (a Christian school). "In Two Corinthians ..." he began. He meant "Second Corinthians," which appears in the Bible as "II Corinthians." (Evidently, the Roman numeral threw him off.) 

Trump is so easy to parody. Donald Trump talks in superlatives and makes short simplistic statements. He doesn’t have to deal with pesky facts. His campaign is like religion in that way. His pronouncements don’t have to make sense, they just have to make people feel good.

Bill Maher gave us the King Trump Bible for his mid-show comedy segment on 9/18/2015. It’s hilarious. See it for yourself. 

The Art of the Deal Donald Trump
The Art of the Deal

It should offend sincere Christians that Donald Trump often uses the Bible as a segue into his pitch to buy his book. He said his book, The Art of the Deal, is his second most favorite book (after the Bible.). And it is not even close to his first favorite book, The Bible. 

But which book does he hold up for the television cameras at every opportunity? The Art of the Deal. He's still a businessman and he doesn't earn royalties from the Bible.
Maybe you would like to get the truth about Donald Trump, instead. Read the unauthorized biography, Never Enough, and/or The Truth About Trump.  by Micheal D’Antonio, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist. This book answers the question, “Who is Donald Trump?"  The book reveals that he is a promoter, builder, performer, and politician who from his earliest days has pursued success with a drive that some might call obsession.
Never Enough
Truth Trump book
The Truth About Trump

You might also like these essays: 

Is the United States a Christian Nation?: Democracy, Not Theocracy

Does Religion do More Harm than Good?

Should Churches Be Tax Exempt?  

Donald Trump: Move Over Jesus

Bill Maher’s Guests: September 18, 2015  

Jorge Ramos:  Anchor of Fusion’s America with Jorge Ramos Univision’s Noticiero Universidad. Everyone knows who Jorge is--He’s the one Donald Trump threw out his press conference. He has written several books about the immigrant experience, including A Country for All: An Immigrant Manifesto 

Mark Cuban: Entrepreneur, owner of the Dallas Maverick’s basketball team member of the Shark Tank team. (The 7th season begins on September 25th.)  He is also the author of How to Win at the Sport of Business: If I Can Do It, You Can Do It

Chris Matthews: host of MSNBC’s  Hardball with Chris Matthews. He is the author of six best-selling books; his most recent book is Tip and The Gipper: When Politics Worked.

George Pataki: Former Governor of New York and a candidate for the Republican nomination for president. He is also the president of The Pataki-Cahill Group which works in energy, infrastructure, and clean-tech. In 1998 he wrote an autobiography (with Daniel Paisner) Pataki: An Autobiography

See the full recap and review of this episode at High Energy

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Charlatans in the Pulpit: John Oliver Exposes the Prosperity Gospel

Charlatans in the Pulpit: The Prosperity Gospel
Charlatans in the Pulpit: The Prosperity Gospel

by Catherine Giordano

Bill Maher likes to joke that “Pope Frank” (as he calls Pope Francis) may just be an atheist. He has said that gay people shouldn’t be marginalized and that atheists will be welcome in heaven. He has a lot about the problems of income equality  and climate change while not saying very much on issues like contraception and abortion.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Pope Francis was an atheist. I researched the issue of religious leaders who are secret atheistS. I discovered that this is a lot more common than you may think. It seems that one of the fastest ways to become an atheist is to attend a seminary. I wrote about my findings in an article titled, Atheists in the Pulpit: Non-Believers in the Clergy.
From Apostle to Apostate
(A group called the Clergy Project is an online group led by volunteers to provide educational, charitable, and peer support to current and former religious professionals who no longer hold supernatural beliefs.  It was founded in March 2011. You can read about it in this book, From Apostle to Apostate: The Story of the Clergy Project, written by Catherine Dunfrey, a founder of the organization, with a forward by Richard Dawkins.)
I think that many ministers who are atheists are not deliberate hypocrites. They began their studies and careers with sincere belief; and by the time they realized that the dogma of their religion was false, they felt trapped. Some did not want to leave their profession because they felt that they were helping people and doing good in the world, and this is what they genuinely felt they were called to do. Some felt that being a minister was the only way they could earn a living and they often had a family to support. Some felt that they could not bear the consequences of “coming out” – they would lose the respect of their community and the love of their families.

Your friendly neighborhood preacher may be one of those trapped in the clergy. These people are mostly good people who made a mistake and they don’t know how to get out of it.

However, there are others who are deliberate charlatans. They preach the prosperity gospel because they are greedy; some may even be authoritarian personalities with a sick need to have power over others.They become millionaires and billionaires preaching the prosperity gospel and bilking the poor and the desperate. "Send a faith offering to me," they implore, "and God will reward you—your credit card debt will vanish, you disease with be cured, your life will be blessed." The charlatans live in mansions and own private jets while their flock of suckers are induced to hand over their last penny.

It’s just one of the ways that religion does more harm than good. Here is a good article that enumerates the little bit of good and the enormous harms done by religion. Does Religion Do More Harm than Good These charlatans do a tiny bit of good--they give people hope--but an enormous amount of harm when their hopes are dashed and they don't have enough money left to live on.

It’s all legal. The law can’t touch them. If your stockbroker promises you unrealistic returns or simply takes your money and never puts it into any investments (like Bernie Madoff) he can be sent to prison or at least be sued. But this is religion and the law can’t lay a glove on it.
John Oliver, a comedian, exposed this brilliantly on his HBO show, Last Week Tonight, which aired on August 16, 2015. (Each week's show premieres at 11:30 pm on Sunday night on HBO.)

He began with an exposé. He presented it in a hilariously funny way, but the comedy was overshadowed by the pain of the sympathy I felt for their victims. Fortunately for comedy, the second half was unadulterated parody and comedy gold. John Oliver actually set up a church named “Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption” (that is, tax exemption, folks) and mimicked the exhortations of the charlatan preachers. He even brought in a gospel choir.

It was wonderful. Watch it here.

James Randi The Faith Healers

John Oliver used his comedic skills to expose the preachers of the prosperity gospel. James Randi, a magician, used his skills as a master of illusion to expose the faith healers. He wrote about their tricks and how he exposed them in his book, co-authored by Carl Sagan, The Faith Healers.

Take a scholarly look at the prosperity gospel—its origins, unifying themes, major figures and its effects on Christians and Christianity.. Kate Bolwer, the author, an assistant professor of the history of Christianity in America at Duke Divinity School, does a complete examination of the topic in her book Blessed


The “Reverend” John Oliver returned on Sunday, August 23,t2015 to lead another service with congregants of his “Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption” church. He preached the gospel of “the seed” once again, only this time he stressed he did not mean actual seeds. He wants only U.S. currency, thank you very much.

As he sat in a room full of United States Post Office crates piled high with the mail he received, he told us that the response was greater than he expected. Since the money will eventually go to Doctors without Borders, please keep the donations coming.

Here is a video clip of the follow-up segment. [Sorry, it has been disabled for now.  You can watch it if you CLICK HERE )

Final Update

The “Reverend” John Oliver shut down his church on Sunday September 13. The Gospel of the Seed had gone a little too far. Lots of people sent in money, all of which will be donated to Doctors without borders. That part was just fine. Some people continued to send in actual seeds—the kind you plant in the ground to grow vegetables. That part was just silly. But a few decided to take “seed” to a new level and sent in “man-seed” as Stephen Colbert used to call it on The Colbert Report. Yes, I'm talking about semen. That part was just gross.

So Rev. Oliver decided the ministry had run its course, and with his lovely wife, Wanda Jo, by his side, he announced the end of his ministry, as workers disassembled the set around him. 

His final words were, "If you want to send money to a fake church, send it to Scientology. "

Here is a video of the final update. CLICK HERE

Monday, August 17, 2015

Any Word from God? The Republican Debates, Bill Maher, and Atheism

by Catherine Giordano

Republican Debate Lineup
The Republican Debate Lineup
On Thursday, August 6, 2015, the nation got to witness the first debate presenting the candidates for the 2016 Republican nomination for president.  A record 24 million people watched it. In comparison, only 3.2 watched the first debate for the 2012 Republican nomination.

The huge ratings were because Donald Trump, the clear frontrunner for the nomination at this time, was going to be on stage. We all tuned in because Donald Trump is so entertaining.

The last question for the Republican candidates lucky enough to make it to the prime-time debate on Fox News was a question submitted by a viewer and selected by the moderators:

 "I want to know if any of them have received a word from God on what they should do and take care of first."

The premise of the question stunned me. God is talking to the candidates about what they should do when they become president? The fact that a cable news station would actually ask that question also stunned me. It is like no one in that room had ever read the Constitution. 

Article VI Section 3
"No Religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States."

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. Fox News isn’t about news, it is about Republican propaganda. And the principle of the separation of church and state, so clearly stated in the first amendment is routinely violated by politicians. You can read more about this in this essay: Is the United States a Christian Nation?

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas was first up. He deftly avoided a hidden trap in this question. It wouldn’t look good to be seen saying that God has you on speed dial.

Ted Cruz said. “Well, I am blessed to receive a word from God every day in receiving the scriptures and reading the scriptures. And God speaks through the Bible.

Governor John Kasich of Ohio was next. It looked like he was going to evade the question entirely, but he finally got to it, being careful not to say that he was God’s chosen one, but kind of implying that he was the one who would do what God wanted.
John Kasich said: “… the lord is not picking us. But because of how we respect human rights, because that we are a good force in the world, he wants America to be strong. He wants America to succeed. And he wants America to lead.

Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin was not afraid to get all holier-than-thou. He concluded his answer by implying that union-busting is God’s will. (Walker brings up union-busting every chance he gets.)

Scott Walker said: “It's only by the blood of Jesus Christ that I've been redeemed from my sins. So I know that God doesn't call me to do a specific thing, God hasn't given me a list, a Ten Commandments, if you will, of things to act on the first day. What God calls us to do is follow His will. … . living my life in a way that would be a testimony to Him and our faith.

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida wanted us to know that he is blessed by God. He said blessed about a dozen times in the space of 30 seconds like he had a verbal tic. It’s pretty clear that Rubio wants us to think that he is so God-blessed that he should be president.

Marco Rubio said: “I think God has blessed us. He has blessed the Republican Party with some very good candidates. And I believe God has blessed our country. This country has been extraordinarily blessed. And we have honored that blessing. And that's why God has continued to bless us.”

Dr. Ben Carson was the next candidate to answer the question, Ms. Kelly threw in a secondary question about race relations. That’s right, the only person asked to speak about race was the only black guy on the stage. Carson loves to talk about God, but the race question clearly annoyed him, so much so that he even quoted Obama’s famous 2004 speech at the Democratic national convention.

Dr. Ben Carson said: I'm a neurosurgeon... when I take someone to the operating room, I'm actually operating on the thing that makes them who they are. The skin doesn't make them who they are. The hair doesn't make them who they are. …our strength as a nation comes in our unity. We are the United States of America, not the divided states.

After that, the debate moved to closing statements. The remaining five candidates were did not get a chance to tell us how blessed they are, and how much scripture they read, and how well they know what God’s will is.  

Four of the other candidates--Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, and Jeb Bush—would probably have given us more of the same so perhaps we were mercifully spared more of this religious drivel.. However, I really wanted to hear what Donald Trump had to say.

Donald Trump is not a particularly religious person; maybe the only one on that stage not dripping religious clichés. I really would have liked to see how he would have answered the question. Would have stayed true to his political incorrectness or would he have bowed to the pressure to sound pious.

On his Friday night show, Bill Maher on Real Time with Bill Maher (#259, aired on August 7, 2015) said that he timed his return so as to be able to comment on the Republican debates. He asked the audience, “Did you ever take ecstasy? He followed up with, “This was the opposite of that. It was a tsunami of stupid.” “It was like a Comedy Central roast of the Constitution.”

Maher asked the panel if they thought it was appropriate for the moderators to ask the candidates about what God was telling them to do. Lt. Governor Gavin Newsome CA, D) said it was a “cringe-worthy” moment.

The conversation veered away from the debate into a discussion of atheism. Maher said that atheists and agnostics are the same thing. I’m glad he said that because that is what I have been saying and getting a lot of pushback from some in the non-believer community who prefer to split semantic hairs. He pointed out that 38 million people in the U.S. are “Nones”, the second largest group surpassed only by evangelical Christians.

[Maher was referring to the 2014 Pew Poll. I wrote about it in Polls Show Christianity Declining, Nones Rising ]

Mary Matalin, Republican operative, would have been right at home on that debate stage. Earlier she hissed at Maher imitating a snake, and said, "I have never seen someone work so hard to deny the existence of something." She was referring to what Maher called her "imaginary friend." Now she again showed her ignorance by saying “Atheism is a belief.” Maher explained, “No it’s not. It’s an absence of belief. Saying atheism is a belief is like saying abstinence is a sex position.”

Matalin responded by shouting, “But it is! It is! It is!” [Maybe abstinence is her favorite sex position—she was very insistent-- and maybe that is why both she and her husband, James Carville, always seem so emotionally anorexic.]

Maher said that Dana Perino, former press secretary to President George W. Bush, once said “If they [atheists] don’t like it, they don’t have to live here.” Matalin tried to deny that Perino said it, but when forced to back down, she sanctimoniously replied, “I believe in tolerance—it is the essence of my faith.”

Maher pointed out that the debate had time for questions about religion but no time for the really important issues like global warming and other real problems. He said that the candidates apparently think ISIS and Iran are the same thing, when in fact they are bitter enemies.  

Steve Schmidt (former Republican campaign manager for McCain Palin), said, “They [the moderators] should have asked if they knew the difference between Shia, Sunni, and a kangaroo.” This gave Maher the opportunity to say, “Once again you say these people are utter idiots and they are my people.” [It appears that Schmidt sometimes forgets what team he plays for and gets as exasperated with the tsunami of stupidity as the rest of us.]

I like to think that if God existed he’d be on the side of intelligence and not stupidity. Or maybe to paraphrase a common saying, “God must love stupid people, he made so many of them.”  

I hope, going forward, we can at least try to keep God out of politics. [Ha! Fat chance!]

An excellent book about religion and politics is The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. Author Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist who doesn’t take sides as to who is right or wrong, shows why liberals, conservatives, and libertarians have such different intuitions about right and wrong. (Click the link to see this book and many others on the topic of religion and politics.)

See the full review and recap of Real Time with Bill Maher episode 359, 8/7/2015: Tsunami of Stupid

In the December 15 debate, Carly Fiorina one-upped all the Republican candidates with her big Christian cross necklace. I bet the male candidates were furious. 

Bill Maher’s Guests:  August 7, 2015
Michael Mann: Professor of Meteorology at Penn State University, co-founder of, co-author of Dire Predictions: Understanding Climate Change

Caitlin Flanagan: Journalist, national correspondent for The Atlantic, former staff writer for The New Yorker The September issue of The Atlantic will feature Flanagan’s new article, “That’s Not Funny: Today’s College Students Can’t Seem to Take a Joke.” She is also the author of To Hell with All That: Loving and Loathing Our Inner Housewife and Girl Land

Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom (D-CA): Former Mayor of San Francisco, candidate for the Democratic nomination for Governor in 2018. He is the author of Citizenville: How to Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government

Mary Matalin: Political analyst, television and radio host, former Assistant to President George W. Bush, and Counselor to Vice President Dick Cheney. She is author of several books--the most recent is Love & War: Twenty Years, Three Presidents, Two Daughters and One Louisiana Home (with James Carville)
Steve Schmidt: MSNBC analyst, Vice Chair of Public Affairs at Edelman Public Relations, former Senior Advisor to the McCain-Palin presidential campaign