Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ridiculous

I've been a fan of Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect and Real Time shows for years now. But in recent times his rather virulent attacks on religion and particularly people of faith, have been making me feel uncomfortable enough to reduce my viewership. It's not that I can't take opinions that differ from mine: one of my dearest friends is an avowed atheist with whom I share a reciprocal respect on many matters including religious faith. I don't try to change his convictions and he doesn't feel the need to chastise for me believing in what Maher gleefully calls a "fairy tale". And if my friend who has paid dues towards our friendship does not subject me to this, why should I take it from Maher?

I don't review movies I haven't seen but in this case it's not a surprise to anyone who's seen his show that Bill Maher's Religulous is far from an open-minded, investigative probe into the minds of religious people in this country and abroad, no mater how much he tries to sell it as such. On a film blog which had not given the film a positive review, a reader defended Maher's impetus for making the movie, stating:

"I’m cheering for the guy who is sick and tired of having religion shoved down his throat..."

You know, I'd like to inquire as to how this is accomplished? Is Maher harassed daily by zealots who want to convert him? Does HBO make him have a benediction performed before every show? Is he denied access to goods or services because of his atheism? (Yes, he is an atheist; if he truly had doubts about the existence of a deity--as Maher likes to say he does, in an effort to appear somewhat even-handed--he'd state his position without the certainty he clearly flaunts about his convictions. Or which, ironically, he decries in those religious folks he routinely ridicules.)

Listen, Maher had every right to make this film and have as many people who agree with him on this matter watch it. Fine by me. To each his own. But let's be clear here: when it comes to religious matters and people of faith, he is a disingenuous, condescending bigot with no true desire to find out what makes religious people tick, just a hearty need to mock them mercilessly and flaunt his self-assumed superiority.

As a tolerant, open-minded, left-leaning, centrist Democrat, staunchly in favor of the separation of church and state; who believes in evolution and thinks the tale of Genesis as a simplified, poetic version of it; a Catholic who sees the Pope not as the representative of Jesus Christ on Earth but as the head of the Church, I am the one who is sick and tired of being lumped in with the Falwells, Hagees, Robertsons and their ilk, because of my personal and mostly private religious beliefs. Are you implying that deep down there is no difference between myself and the religious fanatics that blindly oppress, maim and kill in the name of religion? How-fucking-dare you?! Enough already! I'm not going to remain silent about it anymore, whether it's Bill Maher or that chick sitting next to me at the bar and loudly mocking what I believe. It's bullshit and I'm fed up.

God bless you all.

2 comments:

  1. Hello, all. I'm the guy being quoted in this post. As is typically the case, I wrote much more than that quote and it would likewise make much more sense to read it within context but I'll leave that up to you, the reader.

    As I said in my reply to you on that movie blog, Kiko, your belief is an enabler. I HIGHLY doubt the number of Atheists you have to deal with amounts to the number of believers a person like me has to deal with almost on a DAILY basis. To you, an Atheist attacking a believer is bullying. To an Atheist or Agnostic (I am Agnostic), even so much as the mention of God by our president is enough to make me sick and tired of religion.

    You want to know how religion is shoved down the throat of someone like myself or Bill Maher? Turn on the TV and watch a candidate speak. Oh, and don't forget the God commercials! Open up your wallet and read your currency. Recite the pledge of allegience. Drive around your town read the clever little sayings on the signs of your local churches. Count how many times you hear someone mention God or say, "God bless you!" over the course of any given day or week. The list goes on and on and on and on and on and on and on.

    Now tell me, how often do YOU run into atheist or anti-religious opinion without seeking it out yourself? You haven't even SEEN Religulous yet and you've got it made up that Bill Maher has no purpose other than to feed a superiority complex and pick on the faithful! If you honestly see it that way, then you're no less fanatical than the people you don't want to be lumped in with. If you're already taking THIS MUCH offense to a movie you haven't seen and feel you don't need to, then perhaps you really are one of the people who needs to examine their faith.

    Why not just pray to your God about this, Kiko? I'm sure he'll make it all better and keep the big bad .01% of Atheists and Agnostics you'll ever run across in your LIFETIME from offending poor little old you, yeah? ONE man, Bill Maher, is already impacting people of faith THIS MUCH and his movie hasn't even come out yet, sans a few private and early viewings! It just goes to show you how truly fragile your faith really is.

    Let me clarify the difference for you between Atheism and Agnosticism, because I affiliate with the latter. While I do not believe in a God, I don't find it to be outside of the realm of reason for there to possibly be some higher power... and if there is, that higher power IS NOT the God of any religion currently on this earth. If you fail to realize the destructive patterns of organized religion, then I realize COMPLETELY why you claim your faith is so private. I mean, after all, if you make it public, you have a LOT more explaining to do and MANY more issues to tackle to support your belief. God forbid you take the full plunge with your faith and make it a public affair!

    Trust me, I've been there, done that. I was raised Southern Baptist. I believed for 18 years... pretty much up until I decided it was time to take a chance and actually think for myself. Quite amazing how many people are readily willing to tell you you're going to hell when you're on the other side of the fence.

    So, what will it be, Kiko? You being pissed off because someone implies your belief is a fairy tale, or me being pissed off because someone who is no better than me readily tells me to my face that I am going to suffer for eternity when I die, and chances are, anyone within earshot believes the exact same thing? Clearly, those like me need this movie much more than you do, so you go be all butthurt by Bill Maher implying that your faith amounts to nothing more than a fairy tale and I'll go laugh my ass off on October 3rd while simultaneously finding it to be a shame that I'm actually a little happy that people like you are so offended. Once again, if you don't want to be lumped in with the fanaticals, then quit saying shit like, "God bless you all" under the guise of private faith!

    Honestly, I view Atheists and people of faith the same way. To imply that one knows for a fact that there is or isn't a God is... absolutely ridiculous. Having said that, religion is doing a hell of a lot more harm to this world than Atheism ever has. Sure, you may think religion does some good for the world, but it all boils down to humans making the choice to either do good deeds or sit on their asses. You don't need a church or denomination to attribute the good deeds of man to.

    -Stephen

    PS - Aside from our blatantly obvious differences in religious/spiritual beliefs, we're just about right on par with one another's views of politics. Regardless of how pissed off at me you might be after having read the aforementioned, I'll be keeping up with what you have to say politically.

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  2. First of all, thanks for reading. Despite the motherlode of baseless assumptions and accusations you make, I will respond to them but attempt to make it brief. (Alas, I will fail in the brevity dept.)

    - I live in a New York neighborhood so left-leaning it is jokingly referred to as “The People’s Republic of…” I socialize almost exclusively in the area and in my decade-plus here I’ve become well known and made many, many friends and acquaintances. Egged on by your statements, I was trying to think of at least 3 people of faith among them. I could only come up with 2. And that’s counting myself. So you see, I’m SURROUNDED by atheists, agnostics, etc. including some that I’m quite close to. Didn’t see that one coming, huh?

    - Regarding Bill Maher, as I said in the OP, “when it comes to religious matters and people of faith, he is a disingenuous, condescending bigot”. Based on Maher's numerous rants on the subject, Andrew Sullivan seems to agree with me and rightfully called him on it during a recent Real Time. I made it clear that I hadn’t seen his movie and was not reviewing it, just referring to what it’s about. And that based on his rants in the past, I speculated that the film “is far from an open-minded, investigative probe into the minds of religious people in this country and abroad, no mater how much he tries to sell it as such” but just another opportunity to “mock them mercilessly and flaunt his self-assumed superiority.” Or is not like that?

    - So, you have a problem with candidates that profess faith; sayings on our currency; the pledge of allegiance; et al? Then do something CONSTRUCTIVE about it. Organize like-minded people and make your voice heard and fight for it. Go after the Pat Robertsons of the world who, unlike myself, have the power AND desire to bash you over the head with their beliefs. But no, I guess it’s much easier to write an 800-word rant and go after someone who shares your political views than face the real enemy.

    - Let me see if I understand your point: my convictions are weak if I’m offended by someone mocking and ridiculing them? But one’s faith is solid if perhaps one is to shrug off these offenses and scamper away? Dude, WTF are you smoking? And why don’t you apply that rationale to your own views: in other words, your agnosticism must not be firm if religious musings offend you, right? I’ll tell you why you won’t apply it: because it’s nonsense. Jeez…

    - My faith is private because I have no desire to bash people over the head with it. Period. This is the first time—and very likely the last—I write about it in a public forum. That doesn’t mean I’m not willing to defend it. I’m not some parroting dolt, OK? And frankly, why I’m even discussing this with someone who doesn’t know me as a person and as such has no true basis to opine on my views and deeds is even beyond me, but then again, I wrote the original post, so…

    - Finally, if you think that a progressive-voting believer in church-state separation, who chooses who to associate with based on deeds and quality of character regardless of color, creed, religious beliefs or lack thereof, is comparable to those who in the name of religion kill and maim, oppress women, persecute gays, etc etc etc then who’s the fanatic here, sir?

    And that’s the issue right there: you are willing to blindly mock and ridicule the beliefs of those that differ from yours. I choose not to. You see, I DON’T CARE what you do or do not believe as long as YOU don’t shove it down my throat. In return, expect the same treatment. I suggest you channel your energy in combating a worthy and real target: the Jerry Falwells of the world, those who REALLY CARE what you do or do not believe in, and who will try to not only shove down your throat their beliefs, but also turn this country upside down in the process. Or you can continue to mock, ridicule and smear potential allies like me. Tough choice, huh?

    Oh, and despite what you may seem to think, people of faith are not one huge monolith. Sorry, bub: that ain’t the case. It’s a lot more nuanced than that. But you wouldn’t care, anyway.

    Cheers.

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