Bill Maher (HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher) has produced a new documentary called “Religulous,” directed by Larry Charles (Borat), the purpose of which is to show that people of faith are pretty wacky. The only problem is the coincidental release of a comprehensive new study by Baylor University called “What Americans Believe.” Movie stars like Maher, Matt Damon, the cast of Saturday Night Live, as well as famous atheists like Richard Dawkins continue to make fun of the “weird” beliefs of Christians and other religious types, and are all convinced that a decline in religious belief would make a far smarter and more civilized world.
But as the Baylor study confirms, the opposite is actually true. According to the study, traditional Christianity actually decreases the belief in everything from the occult, to palm readers, to astrology. It also shows that evangelical Christians are the least likely to believe in superstition, the paranormal, or pseudoscience.
The Gallup Organization, working with the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion did the major survey which revealed some pretty fascinating – and surprising (to non-believers) information. For instance, 31% of people who never worship believe in the paranormal and the occult, compared with only 8% of those who attended church at least once a week.
Oddly enough, while religious faith is a guard from wacky beliefs, higher education isn’t. Two years ago, the magazine “Skeptical Inquirer” reported that 25% of college freshman believe in witches, ghosts, psychic healing, and clairvoyance. The number climbs to 31% of college seniors, and 34% of graduate students.
So it’s ironic that Bill Maher believes that “The plain fact is that religion must die for man to live.” Especially when The Wall Street Journal reports that Maher told talk show host David Letterman – a quintuple bypass survivor – to stop taking the pills his doctor had prescribed because Maher doesn’t accept Western medicine. On his HBO show in 2005, Maher said he doesn’t believe in vaccination, and thinks Louis Pasteur’s germ theory is flawed. He told CNN’s Larry King that he doesn’t take aspirin because he thinks it’s lethal and doesn’t believe the Salk vaccine eradicated polio.
It shouldn’t really be a surprise. Martin Gardner’s 1983 book “The Whys of a Philosophical Scrivener,” cited the decline of religious belief among the better educated for the rise in pseudoscience, the occult, and superstition.
The facts are clear. Atheists are more likely to believe in Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster. So it would be nice if before slamming people of faith, they got their facts straight.