Bill Maher on Koran Burning and the Mosque September 17, 2010

Bill Maher on Koran Burning and the Mosque

Bill Maher, who just received a star on the Walk of Fame, had great segments on The Tonight Show and Larry King Live this week. He spoke about Koran burning, the (close to) Ground Zero Mosque (and community Center), and religion in general:

The new season of Real Time with Bill Maher starts up Friday. I curse Comcast for not giving me free HBO.

On a side note, Maher was asked why he’s never won an Emmy for his show. His response:

“A panel of like 10 people watches one tape. If half of those people are religious, that probably eliminates me right there. A lot of people wouldn’t vote for such an outspoken atheist, someone who made ‘Religulous.'”

His show deserves an award.

The movie? Meh. I wasn’t that impressed by it.

Still, despite his nutty view on vaccines, I’m glad we have Maher on our side as a spokesperson for atheism.

(via The Invisible Pink Unicorn)

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  • Hitch

    He’s going to get a lot of flak for the last comment in the Larry King interview, but he’s rather solid throughout regardless.

  • I loved the movie. Although the ending was a little overplayed, I think it’s a message that needed to be said.

    I’ll tell you what I wasn’t a fan of, though. His recent comedy special “But, I’m Not Wrong.” There was more cheering than laughing, so I’m not sure if it was rant or a comedy special. I agreed with lots of what he said, but he just wasn’t being comedic most of the time.

    Can’t wait for his new season. I just hope he doesn’t keep trying to advocate against getting vaccinated. That interview with Bill Frist was awful, and did nothing but hurt society’s view of Atheists.

  • Christina M.

    Hemant, you can get his shows via podcast for free right after they air.

  • You can also download the show at EZTV.IT after it airs. That’s how I always get it.

  • Hemant, you can get his shows via podcast for free right after they air.

    Christina — I download the podcasts, but they always come out Tuesday-ish, which is days after the all news is still really relevant. I wish they could come out the next day! It’s like they *want* me to download it from some torrent site.

  • Justin

    Does anyone know of a better way than iTunes to get the eisodes?

  • L.Long

    I am a fan but I also recognize that in some ways he is off center. He may not be wrong but other than me I don’t know anyone who is right about everything.

  • Tony

    I don’t like him particularly. He’s an atheist but he isn’t a scpetic. It’s as though he came across his position on god because of bitterness with religion as opposed to because of intellectual reasoning, hence his commitment to absolute (and sometimes dangerous) absurdity like his anti vaccine crap.

  • Chris

    That piece wasn’t anti-vaccine — it was pro-skepticism on what your doctor tells you. He’s saying do your research before injecting something into your bloodstream. Go ask the people who developed severe complications from get the H1N1 vaccine if they wished they done a little research first.

  • Couple of things:

    1. @Chris: Don’t kid yourself. He’s using the “I”m just asking questions” smokescreen that creationists, truthers, and moon hoaxers do. Orac has a good write-up here. Also don’t forget Shermer’s smackdown delivered at the HuffPo, of all places.

    Maher is for the most part anti-vaccine. He supports use of the HPV vax, but only because the fundies think it encourages schoolgirls to have wanton sex.

    2. Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t King’s recent interview the first time Maher has called himself an atheist? Wikipedia has a few references of him denying he ever was one.

  • ff42

    Shouldn’t one be as skeptical about the claims of the vaccine makers (and pushers) as one is about the claims of the god makers (and pushers)?

  • AxeGrrl

    Wait, so Maher has changed his mind about being an atheist? These are all quotes by Maher made over the last few years (that mattand referred to above):

    “I’m not an atheist. There’s a really big difference between an atheist and someone who just doesn’t believe in religion. Religion to me is a bureaucracy between man and God that I don’t need. But I’m not an atheist, no. I believe there’s some force. If you want to call it God…”

    “I’m not an atheist, though, because the belief that there is no God only mirrors the certitude of religion”

    “I’m not convinced that God exists. But I do allow the possibility. I’m not an atheist. I’m open.”


    And that last quote is from this year!

    You’re one confusing (and apparently confused) boy, Bill Maher. But if you’ve finally figured out that atheism doesn’t inherently involve certainty, then great. It’s about time 🙂

  • LS

    I’ve read the piece linked to regarding vaccinations, and I don’t necessarily disagree with it.

    That’s not to say I agree, either. I’m merely uneducated on the issue, and what Maher wrote there seems both reasonable, and skeptical, to me. Personally, I haven’t gotten a vaccination since I was a child. I’ve also never had the flu. Maybe I’m wrong to think this way, but fooling my body into thinking I’ve had the flu in order to avoid getting the flu, when I’ve never had it before, seems like a bad decision to me.

    Of course, I’m in favor of most vaccinations. Particularly against dangerous diseases. However, when there is no (or minimal) danger, I prefer to experience an illness myself and gain the immunity naturally. Not out of any glorification of “natural” methods (I actually scorn them rather viciously) but because I don’t like to avoid all of life’s suffering. Call it a remnant of my Catholic upbringing, but I’m comfortable with it.

    Also, in regards to Maher’s flip-flopping position on whether he’s a theist or an agnostic or an atheist, to malign him for that is ridiculous.

    Christians often make the argument that science is wrong because it changes. We, as skeptics, argue that it changes because we improve our understanding of the natural world.

    Then we turn around and malign someone for having the sheer gall to change their position on metaphysics? Even though his changes have been generally towards atheism. That’s just hypocrisy.

  • AxeGrrl

    LS wrote:

    in regards to Maher’s flip-flopping position on whether he’s a theist or an agnostic or an atheist, to malign him for that is ridiculous

    Hence my “great. It’s about time” postscript remark.

    When someone gets an award that honors “an outstanding atheist” and says elsewhere “i’m not an atheist“, you think it’s “maligning” to merely point out the hypocrisy and/or ignorance there?

    Apparently Maher learned that he was ignorant about the term ‘atheist’ somewhere along the line and rectified his position…….this is a good thing.

  • Chris

    @mattand:I read Shermer’s letter (I guess I don’t know the definition of smackdown). I noticed the concession “Vaccinations are not 100% effective, nor are they risk free.” And this is my problem (likely Maher’s as well): nobody tells you the actual numbers or risks! Does my doctor even know them before he/she “decides” to recommend I get the flu-shot?

    The fact that real numbers are not even close to %100 percent makes the case for serious cost-benefit analysis. From wikipedia: “The group most vulnerable to flu, the elderly, is also the least affected by the vaccine, with an average efficacy rate ranging from 40-50% at age 65, and 15-30% past age 70.”

    From the medical community and government’s point of view it’s a no-brianer. The benefits largely outweigh the costs for the “average person” — and that’s what we all are to them. But suppose you are 70 years old and don’t leave your apartment all winter. Should you go stand in line for 6 hours in the cold with a bunch of likely sick people to your %15 percent chance at immunity?

  • @Chris:

    The problem with Maher’s skepticism about vaccines is that he’s still “just asking questions” long after the evidence is in that they safe for a major section of society.

    Here’s the CDC’s numbers regarding seasonal flu shot risk. If your doctor can’t or won’t supply you info regarding flu shots, you should go see another doctor.

    Honestly, it sounds like you’re making the argument that since vaccines are 100% safe for everyone, they shouldn’t be used. That’s a standard anti-vax argument that doesn’t take into account herd immunity.

    Regarding the cooped-up 70 year old: is this person hypothetical? If they can, why wouldn’t they a doctor? Is this someone you know?

    I’m not saying don’t be skeptical. However, like evolution, the science is on this one.

  • Maher once again has reasoned thinking. Stating what he himself is against, yet also proclaiming the right for others to be against something.

  • @AxeGrrl:

    You’re right on the money. Maher has been painting atheism as the flip side of religion for a while. He seemed to be equating atheism with “absolute certainty of no god/afterlife/Valhalla/etc.”

    IIRC even people like James Randi and Dawkins allow for the possibility of some sort of god. However, they want solid, testable evidence. Which, shockingly enough, is pretty tough to come by.

    If he’s calling himself an atheist now, hopefully he’s got a better understanding of the word.

  • mattand

    Ugh. I can’t write to save my life apparently. My response to Chris should read like this:

    “Honestly, it sounds like you’re making the argument that since vaccines aren’t 100% safe for everyone, they shouldn’t be used.”

    “If they can, why wouldn’t they see a doctor?”

    Do as I say, not as I do: proofread your work.

  • Chris

    @mattland: just because someone is not willing to blindly swallow the pill their doctor gave doesn’t make them anti-science. I’m not sure what process in your brain forced you to (illogically) deduce that I am anti-vax because I question whether it is in my best interest to receive the flu shot.

    The CDC website is clearly trying to provoke an emotional response from its readers. And why not? AGAIN, from their perspective herd immunity is a nicer outlook than billions of dollars in health care expenses. They only see the hypothetical “average person”. You and I are not “average”.

    Perhaps before you get the flu shot, consider this: 2117 people died from 2009 H1N1 (0.679 per hundred thousand people in the US) while 868 developed “severe complications” from the shot (0.683 per hundred thousand people who got the shot). Moreover, these risks are fundamentally different. If I choose to get the shot, the latter is UNAVOIDABLE. The former, and contracting the flu in general, is largely avoidable (depending on the level of person freedom you enjoy) For example, I work at home and can choose to interact with 0 people if I wish. If you happen to be a health care worker, you are on the opposite end of the spectrum and are more exposed to the risk of getting the flu. The point is, the pros and cons are different for every person.

  • Frameshift

    I wish he would figure out that his decrying of the Bronze-age storytellers talking about what killed people before they understood germs or where the sun goes at night are analogous to his completely superstitious views on vaccination and his germ-theory denialism.

    It’s the same f-ing thing, Bill. Get over it and stop sucking up to McCarthy.

    In Reason,

  • @Chris: I never said you were anti-vax. However, you keep making these “be skeptical of shots” arguments that those groups make. The current evidence proves them wrong. And the CDC site is playing on emotions? You’re reading way too much into that.

    You’re right; the pros and cons are different for everyone. That’s why you should talk to your doctor first. Have you done this?

    As for you and me not being “average”: based on what? I work at home, too, but I still have to go to the store, drop in on clients, and visit relatives. You have to be Howard Hughes to avoid any contact with potential flu vectors.

    I’m sorry those people you cited died due to vax complications. Comparing those numbers to the most recent car crash data, one is still more likely to die in an auto accident than from the flu vax. Again, talk to your physician first.

    If you don’t want to get any flu shots, then don’t do it. No one’s forcing you to. But unless one has a solid medical reason, there’s little reason not to.

  • I don’t expect people on our side to be right about everything. We all have our little blind spots. But I do expect them not to be misogynists.

    I once made a real event of watching his show, delighting in his wit and irreligiosity. But a sinking sensation gradually overtook me… you know, it’s a bit difficult to delight in someone who you know has contempt for you because you’re a woman.

    I know, I know, we’re only supposed to get angry when evangelicals reveal their bigotry.

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