... and I was both impressed and disappointed.
Impressed, because Bill Maher was able to give credit to Rick Warren for being a serious Christian. Maher said he appreciated that Warren was so earnest in his personal journey to be Christ-like, that Warren felt poverty and global warming were serious issues.
Impressed, because Maher will say something so blithely stupid*, piss you off, and then chum up a silly smile and make you forgot he ever offended you at all.
Impressed, because Maher brings North Americans to attention about the problem of Islamism in Europe and secularism's inability to confront it.
Disappointed, because Maher brings North Americans to attention about the problem of Islamism in Europe and secularism's inability to confront it, and then says only secularism can confront it.
Disappointed, because Maher spent a lot of time explaining his self-described fact based, rationalist atheism, and then threw the rationalism out the window when it suited him. In response to Francis Collin's claim that the Gospels are eye-witness accounts, Maher countered that they couldn't be because the earliest written copies didn't appear until several decades after Christ's death. Maher, an educated man I assume, should be aware of the historical veracity of the Gospels and the Jewish oral tradition - two things which make Collins look like the one going by academic consensus, and Maher look like the coo-koo making up stuff.
Disappointed, because Maher speaks highly of Europe's secularism, but doesn't (or chooses not to) realise that secularism is itself a Christian - specifically Catholic - political concept. He lauds Europe's atheism, but fails to see its philosophical and practical limitations.
Disappointed, because Maher makes a point of saying that Europe hasn't collapsed because of atheism and atheistic secularism. Maher must have heard something about World War Two, where the Nazis - who were atheists - killed off over ten million people. And he must have learned about Communism, which is of course atheistic, and has lead to the killing of tens of millions of people since 1917.
Maher would make a lot more sense if he simply sought out irrationalism regardless of whether or not it comes cloaked in religious terms or cloaked in irreligious terms. Atheistic regimes of the last 90 years alone have been more murderous, more anti-science, and more authoritarian than any religious regime so far in history. Yet this intellectual, social and political history is completely ignored or quietly dismissed as aberrations. Maher wants to convince people to join his cause, and like Coke and Pepsi, he just might find new customers in the post-Christian circles of North America and Europe. But to create an honest and serious critique of 'organized religion', he needs to do a lot more than just repeat the talking points of the New Atheist movement and engage the history of anti-religion and atheism.
::postscript:: Maher's co-interviewee, co-producer of Religulous Larry Charles, didn't fare as well. He isn't blessed with the same charisma, or better yet, puppy-dog charm, that lets Maher get away with saying offensive and stupid things.* Charles looked like the type of guy you wouldn't want your children standing near in a Starbucks, and surprise, his answers were equally suspicious and repellent. His was a sidekick effort to Maher's, and the less time he spent talking, the more credible the premise and argument of Religulous remained.
*Maher says that he doesn't believe in vaccinations. Yes, he says that he doesn't believe in vaccinations. So, if we really listened to this herald of rationalism, we'd be much more enlightened toward atheism, but mostly dead or sick as a result.