On Late Night with Conan O’Brien last week, Bill Maher was discussing the results of the Iowa caucus and specifically the religious beliefs of some of the candidates. His crabassery was typically longer on style than substance, and then he dropped this bon mot on how it’s impossible to reconcile faith with science:
“You can’t be a rational person six days of the week…and on one day of the week go into a building and think you’re drinking the blood of a 2000 year old space god. That doesn’t make you a person of faith, that makes you a schizophrenic.”
…and then went on to imply that all people of faith take the Bible as the absolute, literal truth. Check out the full clip here before it gets pulled from YouTube.
Let’s leave aside Maher’s questionable theology and his confusion over mental health terms or we’ll be here all day. But let’s also acknowledge that there are some people out there who do, in fact, base their knowledge of science on what it says in the Bible. They’re admittedly parts of the whole of the faithful.
Now, with this in mind, since I don’t confuse Bill Maher with his fellow cast members from Cannibal Women in The Avocado Jungle of Death, I’d appreciate it if he’d do me and mine the same courtesy and not lump all people of faith together.
In some respects, I can’t blame Maher for saying such dunderheaded things. It’s pretty clear that he doesn’t know any people of faith personally (or at least none that he respects) so he’s likely just assuming that we’re all from the same mold as dipshits like William Donohue or Pat Robertson.
Those of us who practice a quiet, private faith do ourselves a disservice in some respects. We don’t talk about how we’re as certain of the existence of Christ as we are in the existence of homo habilis (even though we got way better grades in religion than biology) because we’re so worried at being lumped in with the Donahues and Robertsons of the world, that we fail to offer any alternative view like how we’ve had lunch with priests often, but still find these jokes to be hysterical. In failing to do so, we allow the Donahues and Robertsons to be the public face of the faithful.
But the faith these men practice does not resemble mine, nor does it resemble the faith of the thoughtful, welcoming, social activist parishoners I worship with each Sunday (OK, every other Sunday sometimes): the (openly, for what it’s worth) gay priest who leads our service; the people who – when a family from Florida first visited our church on a morning off from staying with their son in his hospital room after he had been hit by a car while riding his bike – held hands with strangers and offered them prayers and counsel; the people who feed the homeless or created an anti-racism ministry or etc. etc. etc.
None of these people cracks a Bible before they make a decision about how to lead their lives, nor do they grab a concordance for help in answering questions about DNA or evolution. That’s because it’s not a rulebook for them, it’s a guide they use to have an ongoing discussion on how to challenge themselves to live a life based on love, justice and truth.
Now, I’ll admit my viewpoint is largely informed by my membership in an Episcopalian church that strives to make its liturgy accepting, inclusive and affirming. But that’s exactly the point.
In short, since they’re not the ones you see on television or read about in newspapers, it’s easier for Bill Maher to get you to believe that these people do not exist. But I have a feeling he’s not seeking them out either. Perhaps because it’s easier for him to maintain his own way of life when he has nothing to challenge it. It would probably result in too much cognitive dissonance and wouldn’t allow him to build a career on hackneyed, cliched generalities. Of course, I’m sure Maher wouldn’t be the type to do something he accuses others of. That would be schizophrenic or something.
Then again, maybe I’m wrong. After all, this is supposed to be the day that people like me are too busy drinking the blood of extraterrestrial immortals to have time for rational thought.
But unless people like me start speaking up, it’s too easy for others to assume there are those who do it for me.