Bill Maher Is Wrong About Religion

I love Bill Maher but he remains stubborn and wrong about religion

Bill Maher is Wrong About Religion

I watch Bill Maher religiously and not just because he is on Friday nights. It is a good thing that it is on auto record because with enough kiddush wine I do not always make it through the whole show. I often complete watching him after Havdalah. I like his politics, his humor, his irreverence, and the fact that even when he rejects a position, he is open to trying to understand it. All opinions that is to say, except religion. There is no accepting religion for him, it is to him “all fairy tales”.

Last week he was shocked to learn that one of his guests, Adam Kinzinger, a Christian republican who voted to impeach Donald Trump and whose family accused him of joining the Devil’s army, believed in the Devil. Maher does not understand how modern, educated people could believe in stories and fairy tales that were told 2000 years ago in the Middle East.

Maher is modern, educated and respects American democracy and the greatness of our country, and he acknowledges that we are all beholding to the founding fathers for the wisdom of their creation. (Google, “ Bill Maher Educates the Tea Party on the Founding Fathers” )

Surely to Bill Maher their writings are not fairy tales, but is that true of all Americans? What if the events of the18th century were being recorded by authors from the 18th century BCE? It might go something like this.

A group of incredibly special people gifted with great wisdom and insight assembled in the Poconos Mountains outside Philadelphia to write a document that would be the genesis of a country they were creating. They introduced concepts that were radical and if not entirely new, they were revolutionary for the time.

These ideas included “All men were created equal. People had Inalienable Rights including Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness.”

No country in the world observed these principles including the very country they were creating, but inconsistency is not a problem in a fairy tale.

Later they added another document called the Constitution. It was a law code, a series of rules on how to govern. If I were explaining this to an Israeli in Hebrew, I would call this document, “Mishpatim” (see Exodus, 21). These two documents and the amendments that would be added later, would guide and sustain this new country. But using the Bill Maher filter, how can we take it seriously? It is all fairy tales.

What superior intelligence would write a guide that would allow for slavery to exist? What great intellect would tell us that all men are created equal and then say that separate but equal (they never are) schools are permitted? Only an ancient fairy tale would prohibit abortion, prosecute homosexuality, and incarcerate adulterers. Such outrageous ideas only prove how the documents are merely fairy tales told long ago by much more simple people and cannot be taken seriously.

Yet these “fairy tales” are the central documents that guide the running of this country. Everyone learns them in school or used to when we taught civics. Perhaps today if they are taught in school the course should be labelled, Fairy Tales 101.

Just like devotees of the Bible, Bill Maher’s original fairy tale that is taught in Theological schools by professors of Bible, the study of the Constitution is a major subject in a special “secular seminary” called Law School where there are mandatory classes for all students in Conn Law. Some of the professors become specialists in the Constitution and spend all their career studying, teaching, writing scholarly articles or arguing cases in court, on this one document.

There are Constitutional experts who are “Orthodox” and believe the document is sacrosanct and must be interpreted by what is in it. If the document does not talk about something you cannot infer that the Constitution permits it.

Other experts are “Liberal” and argue that even though it is a written and finite document, it is a living document with an oral tradition, that is open to interpretation based on logic, precedent and changes in society. This is what allows it to be relevant in all times.

There are people who argue that these documents should not be our guiding principles. They argue that it is an old flawed human document, and they see no reason to be held accountable to it. They are modern, intelligent adults who can choose for themselves and do not need “old fairy tales” to guide them. They relate to the constitution as Bill Maher does to the bible. But here is the rub! Regardless of the origin we cannot live without a guiding document that we believe in.

Let us apply these two different philosophies to something as ubiquitous as driving on the highway. There are two worlds. The first world says that we have laws that guide us and serve the overwhelming common good even if it limits personal autonomy and its origin is old and antiquated.

The other world says that adults are old enough, wise enough and mature enough to drive safely without others having to impose rules. Therefore, there is no need for speed limits, since people can make the appropriate choices based on the road conditions at that moment. They also do not need to comply with only driving on the right side of the road. If they see someone coming towards them on their side of the road they will simply move to the other side. Imagine two such people going 90mph, suddenly finding themselves barreling in on each other and the other lane is full. Then what?

Only in a world guided by the “fairy tale” would drivers be safe.

In one world people give up some autonomy because they BELIEVE in the wisdom of the rules regardless of their origin and they drive safer and with more predictability on the road. The other side makes fun of the origin story and the need for restrictions and trusts in the common sense of others.

Which world do you want to live in?

I am not implying that the Bible and the Jewish religion that derived from it is based on fairy tales. I do believe that the Bible represents the will and guidance of God but was told through people to people of a certain time and a certain place. It remains a relevant document because it is a living document created in a specific temporal period and told in a style relevant to the listeners of that day, but rooted in Divine Truth, and flexible enough to guide us through all time. It has worked and will continue to work because we believe in it, just like the documents that guide this country work, because they are flexible and because we as citizens believe in them. Fairy tale is a description of literary style, not a critique of importance and truth.

Wishing you all a joyous Purim.

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