Bill Maher’s God Comments at the Oscar February 22, 2009

Bill Maher’s God Comments at the Oscar

As Bill Maher introduced the Oscar for Best Documentary, he said the following:

“I know it’s a touchy subject, but someday we will all have to confront the notion that our silly gods cost the world too greatly.”

He said this after mentioning his own film Religulous wasn’t nominated for the award he was presenting.

I hope that quotation is accurate — I’m quoting from memory. I’ll get a clip up here when I find one.

I thought it was funny, for what it’s worth.

That said, what were your thoughts when you heard it? Was it appropriate? Was it unnecessary? Was it the only part of the Oscars you even remembered?

Hell, I’m watching the rest of the show as we speak, and I’m forgetting it as it happens. And I’m brown.

(Ooh… except for the “say-yes-to-gay-marriage” acceptance speeches. Those are pretty nifty.)

"The way republican politics are going these days, that means the winner is worse than ..."

It’s Moving Day for the Friendly ..."
"It would have been more convincing if he used then rather than than."

It’s Moving Day for the Friendly ..."

Browse Our Archives

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • I thought it was belaboured and trite.

  • Chris

    I couldn’t believe he made the Oscars into his personal agenda like that. His film wasn’t nominated because of it’s controversy, but because it sucked.
    Very petty of him.

  • misterjustin

    I’ll have to second Paul on this one. It also came across as a touch bitter in my opinion.

    “Oh, I’m introducing documentaries but mine, which is about how religion is all fake, wasn’t nominated.”

    Maybe he was trying to be funny… but it didn’t work for me. I have to admit that I’m also a bit tired of celebrities using the Academy Awards as an opportunity to jump on the proverbial soapbox.

  • P

    You’re Brown? Goddammit. And I thought this was a ‘safe’ blog.

    OH well, so long as I clear my memory, cache, and cookies when I lieave.

    I didn’t see the quote, but good for him. The atheist voice is too quiet in America. We’re too afraid ( I speak generally) of the dissent of the majority. Let’s break some balls, shit.

    Cheers, FA!


  • The man was given a podium, and by god (sorry), he used it! The delivery was a bit awkward, but it didn’t bother me too much. Lots of presenters mentioned their own films that hadn’t been nominated, including Hugh Jackman. All part of Oscar-fun.

    That being said, Sean Penn’s acceptance speech was definitely a lot more memorable to me than Bill Maher’s god reference.

  • Jeff Satterley

    I think it would have been better if it wasn’t right after him pouting about not being nominated. If you’re going to complain about not getting a nomination, you better be really funny, and you definitely can’t go right to such a serious subject.

    Of course, I’ve never thrilled about Bill Maher being on “my side” of the religion debate, for a number of reasons. For instance, his positions on immunization and pharmaceuticals are filled with woo (he believes autism is caused by vaccination, that polio was not cured because of the vaccines, but because of better sanitation, and that “Big Pharma” is generally trying to control the lives of everyone is the US).

    I don’t expect to agree with every atheist on every issue, but I’m less interested in a person’s specific belief in God, and more interested in their ability to consider evidence logically, rather than falling for unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, as Maher does repeatedly.

    [EDIT] And I agree with you Milena: Sean Penn’s comments was excellent, very eloquent and thought provoking.

  • charfles

    What Jeff said. Bill should use every venue to promote atheism but his anti-vax woo views are a bit disappointing. The point is critical thinking in general, not just in religion.

    I don’t watch the oscars though (or tv in general) but it’s nice to hear these things coming out of it. Especially the prop8 related comments.

  • My only concern was that it came right after the Heath Ledger win: people can jump all over this to cry “mean, heartless atheist” for choosing a somber moment.

    But honestly, who schedules Bill Maher right after the award that everyone knew was going to be the sad one?

  • I think it was inappropriate. Leave religion, or the lack thereof, out of it.

  • Anonymous

    Jeff, you’ll be happy to know that Maher isn’t even an atheist. He’s listed as “ambiguous” (though not anatomically) on the Celeb. Atheists list, and the section on him makes clear why. He specifically disavows being an atheist, over and over again:

  • Crystal

    Why are you not all friendly?

  • I was looking for a “suck it jesus” moment. The way I see it, if you can thank god in your acceptance speech, you can speak to the lack of a god on the same level. I was totally anticipating it.

    Now, I haven’t seen any of the other documentaries this year, but was Religulous not in the same class?

  • Todd

    Bill Maher, a germ theory denialist, telling people that their beliefs are harmful. That is funny.

  • joanna

    I was disappointed in the way Mayer presented himself…he did a similar thing during a George Carlin tribute I viewed on PBS a few weeks back. Mayer can be funny and insightful. But he wasn’t either of those things.

    I usually enjoy his comic jabs but, for the Oscar presentation, he really didn’t need to selfishly mention his OWN work. Came across as self-promotion. And it wasn’t funny…that may be his dry sense of humor but it just didn’t fit the venue.

  • Vincent

    I’m all for actors using the Oscars to promote whatever they want. Makes it far more interesting than just Thanks Mom! et al.

    That said, I don’t watch the Oscars. They didn’t even have a comedian host this time.

    From what you say about this particular speech it sounds like Mahar was saying “our little god beliefs cost us too much – they cost me an Oscar dammit”

  • Milena said it best. I like Maher a lot, but he seemed a bit awkward in his delivery of that line, almost as if he was hesitant in saying anything at all.

  • Jeff Satterley

    Jeff, you’ll be happy to know that Maher isn’t even an atheist. He’s listed as “ambiguous” (though not anatomically) on the Celeb. Atheists list, and the section on him makes clear why. He specifically disavows being an atheist, over and over again:

    That’s actually another thing I don’t like about Maher, he is constantly misrepresenting atheism as the mirror image of theism: certainty in the non-existence of a god. I don’t particularly care what he believes, but educate yourself on the meaning of the term before you bash it.

  • AxeGrrl

    Milena said:

    Sean Penn’s acceptance speech was definitely a lot more memorable to me than Bill Maher’s god reference.

    I completely agree:) Penn’s speech literally brought tears (and i’m someone who _hates_ overwrought Oscar speeches) But he articulated the inherent (and baseless) injustice(s) that gay people endure………and he did it so simply and eloquently. No melodrama or tears, just simple truth.

    the highlight of the evening, imo.

    I made a date to watch the Oscars with an Aussie friend, and, as such, I had to wait 7-8hrs after the live broadcast ~ in the interim, I saw some reference to ‘what Bill Maher said’, so I was expecting something really juicy…….

    when I finally saw/heard his comment, I was like ‘that’s it?’

    i’m not even sure why his comment is garnering _any_attention at all.

  • Let’s face it, Maher is an intellectual lightweight who occasionally says something profoundly funny. I’m not entirely sure that he should be the guy out front promoting the atheist point of view. But who else are you going to put out there? Hitchens?

  • Gribble The Munchkin

    I’m not a big fan of Mahers. I appreciate him going after the crazies and he is often very funny, but his value lies in being an attack dog, not in being an intellectual heavyweight.

    While i enjoyed watching religious crazies speak nonsense in Religulous, i thought the movie was little more than a soap box for Maher to rant from. Even when he did have interesting guests on to speak to, he largely spoke over them and we learn nothing except what Maher himself believes.

    I didn’t even know about his other views, re: vaccination, polio, etc. Not encouraging.

  • Norm

    I liked it…and anytime he can make people aware that today’s religion are dangerous, I’m behind him 100%.

  • Tom McCormick

    Bill Maher is a career hack. His attempt to plug his deadbeat of a movie was pathetic. Just curious, how much money did his movie make? How much did “Passion of the Christ” make? And has Bill stopped accepting payment for his “talents”? If he is a committed Atheist, wouldn’t accepting anything that said “In God We Trust” on it be contrary to his non beliefs? Your TV ratings continue to tank, your movie bombed and your book sales were a dud. Are you starting to get the picture, Bill?

  • Bill Reed

    I wedded this to another favorite quote (from Gore Vidal)for one great big, gigantic watchcry: “No world elsewhere, alas this is the one to change; our silly gods cost the world too greatly.”

  • Theway146

    I am okay with Bill using the awards as a pulpit for his agenda. But, if I ever catch him again calling us Christians pushy or overly vocal about Jesus, he will be deemed by logic a hypocrite. He uses every opportunity to push his anti-God agenda on to the public, heck he even made a documentary!

  • Jodie

    I disliked in his comment what I disliked in his movie — too sour, not enough humor. It’s pretty bad when I’m his target audience and I walk away feeling more for the people he skewers.

  • RobL

    Maybe he was genuinely trying to be funny but it fell flat. His complaints about not being nominated sounded petty so the final meaningful comment sounded petty too. Sad because if he had let his ego go he could have done something funny with a serious meaningful ending. Instead he just came across as a jerk – and I’m usually a fan.

  • Plugging his movie was very poor form and for that it fell flat. I’m not a Bill Maher fan, I really don’t find him funny in general. He also proves that athiests too are prone to believing all manner of woo.

    The dig at scientology by Steve Martin and Tina Fey was much funnier. Of course I loved all the pro-gay marriage speeches and how many were wearing ribbons in support of gay marriage.

  • teammarty

    Joking/griping about not beint nominated is a time honored tradition. Bob Hope made a career out of it.

    There was one part where they were talking about some tech expert and the womwn (some actress) said something like “in computer graphics, he is God.” Mark, who was sitting next to me at a friends Oscar party, who I consider “Hyper Catholic” (he smuggled Bibles in to Cuba) but says his faith is “paper thin”, turned to me and said, “I bet we were both offended by that but for different reasons.” I admit, I did roll my eyes at the TV a bit.

  • rick

    It was lame, not to mention arrogant. “Our silly Gods.” What an a-hole. What was he doing there? His movie sucked.

  • lunarmagpie

    I liked Religious, and I like a lot of things Bill Maher has to say, but there are two things about him I will never understand:

    1. How he can proudly be on the board of PETA, one of the premier wacko organizations in the universe (e.g., “Save the Sea Kittens.”)

    2. How on earth he could ever have dated Anne Coulter, and can consider her a friend. (We are supposed to take his so-called “debate” with her in a couple of weeks seriously?)

    As for his comments at the Oscars, while I appreciate his right to make a point, it was a bit inappropriate in that setting. I’m sure his lack of filtering is one of the reasons he is rarely invited to be a presenter for this type of thing.

  • I thought it was silly. It was sort of out of nowhere.

  • Anonymous

    That’s actually another thing I don’t like about Maher, he is constantly misrepresenting atheism as the mirror image of theism: certainty in the non-existence of a god. I don’t particularly care what he believes, but educate yourself on the meaning of the term before you bash it.

    George Carlin did that on Larry King Live once, and he was clearly an atheist whether he used the term or not. I guess it’s a case of “Of course I don’t believe in God–but I’m no atheist!”

  • Gabriel

    I liked it. I suspected that something along those lines would be said and I am glad it was said. It was no worse than all of the actors who thank god for their statues. I fell asleep right after the Jerry Lewis part because I am working 60 hours a week right now and I am tired.

  • free thinker

    I am an experienced science teacher, a de facto atheist, and very well versed in the bible as I was raised in a fundamentalist religion. I know both sides of the god debate and have argued both sides.

    With that being said, and as a huge fan (and critic) of Bill Maher, I did not think his movie used the best arguments. Often when people haven’t had to argue for both sides, or haven’t seen both sides through a genuine perspective, they do not know how to present the information effectively.

    However, Bill Maher can say whatever he wants. And even though I wish Bill Maher would learn to argue better for the non-theist perspective, the non-theists need some attention. Because, who is speaking for us?

    The religious people rule our world and while they are all over the media with their strong and often hurtful opinions, they get a free pass constantly. They don’t have to provide any evidence whatsoever for their viewpoints because it is their “faith” and by definition they think they do not have to defend it.

    However, the religious perspective has used their religion to influence public opinion for centuries and even to pass laws in our country of “religious” freedom that cause people pain. If anyone disagrees with them, they are shuned, treated like they were being offensive, and made to feel immoral.

    Non-theists are second class citizens and in the smallest minority in the country. We need a spokesperson that can reach vast audiences.

    And Bill Maher isn’t perfect, but he is getting the conversation started and that is what needs to happen.

  • Andy

    I don’t understand his reasoning. This guy seems to think that people, without religion, would be all peaceful and tolerant. I’ve known plenty of people who couldn’t care less about God who are still down right evil. Maher himself is petty and spiteful, not showing an ounce of tolerance to anyone he disagrees with. And as for his stance that homosexuality wouldn’t be an issue if it wasn’t in the bible, most straight people find it repulsive. That wouldn’t change, bible or not. Add a garden variety bully and you end up with the same outcome.

  • SASnSA

    I would like the words atheist, rationalist, non-believer, etc. used in a rational manner in the most public of displays as often as possible. I want the general public to hear from/about atheists until they’ve become so acclimatized to our existence among them that they no longer scream bloody murder when we display ads. Only then will people really start listening to us and treating us equally.

    The religious right has been trying to keep us in a dark room, out of sight of their children who might otherwise think it’s all right not to believe, for a long time. I’m glad to hear the confirmation that we have every right to exist, and I want others to know they have every right to question their religion.

  • Marsha

    We just saw “Religilous” this week. I didn’t think it was all that good, it was ok. I think Bill is a sexist, misogynistic person who isn’t all that funny when talking about religion or women. Making fun of people’s faith isn’t a good way to win them over or make them think. It only makes then mad.

  • anonymous

    I was glad to hear it because I’m so sick of hearing people thank “jesus” when they win an award or a ballgame. If some people are gonna spread religion everytime they get in front of a microphone, and the public finds this acceptable, then don’t be surprised to start hearing more people who are non-religous make occasional comments from the other viewpoint.

  • maria

    I think it was inappropriate. Leave religion, or the lack thereof, out of it.


  • I saw his movie, and it was awful. It was like his show, where he comes to a debate with his mind made up, and refuses to listen to anyone else. A documentary rarely succeeds when it considers its viewpoint to be the only valid one. Michael Moore is the only exception that comes to mind, but I think he succeeds because he expresses true empathy and down-to-earthness with nearly everyone he interviews. Bill Maher is just a smug jerk who “knows” that he’s right and doesn’t need to listen to conflicting points of view. His movie wasn’t nominated because it was bad, and I don’t know why the Academy chose him to present if his track record shows him to be a prick.

  • A new kind of prophet

    I was very pleased by his remarks. He should have been nominated, because the film was a huge success as far as numbers go. The reason it wasn’t nominated is fairly obvious–it is very controversial. However, the only reason it is so controversial is because not enough people are brave enough to challenge their own faith, thereby, rendering them incapable of accepting that their faith is just as ridiculous as all others. Religion has always been at the tip of the battle sword and it still is today. Ignorance is not bliss, and religion maintains ignorance quite well. There can be peace and prosperity, but it won’t happen as long as everyone has their superstitions that allow them to discriminate against and despise others who are not like them. People who find religion for peaceful reasons are good people, but they fail to see the grand effect that religion has had and continues to have on this world. Also, if these people would just apply the simple logic that they use throughout their daily lives toward their religious beliefs, they will easily realize that they should have given up this belief when they stopped believing in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Religion worked well during a time when the Earth was flat and the Sun revolved around us, and we didn’t have explanations for things. However, this is no longer the case. This is becoming the era of science and truth, which is okay, because that just means that we no longer willing to accept that we do not know. I was once a devout Christian until I decided to start thinking for myself; now I consider myself to be a free-thinker.

  • Wendy

    I thought it was unnecessary and it made me feel uncomfortable for him, but at the same time I was glad he said it. Atheists need to continue to speak out more often!

  • JD

    Hi. Bill Maher documentary is the best documentary of the year. Everything is right, sound, editing, script. Should be nominated and win. But was about religion, and most people are living that fantasy so they feel that was bad to nominated it.
    But is right that stars name their god all the time participating in the viral marketing that preserve religion fantasy alive.

  • xexkxex

    WAIT…..since when the FnCK do sane people watch/listen/pay attention to the oscars!?!?!


error: Content is protected !!