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The Religious Aren’t Crazy – Apparently it’s the Atheists

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.

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  1. I noticed you called this film a "documentary". My understanding, sight unseen, was this was undocumented commentary. But I digress. 

    Maher, regrettably, plays to the worst of my personal inclinations and the darker sides of my sense of humor. That said, I'm sure I'll watch this film… then rush to the altar.

    Hopefully I don't know anyone in this film (cough cough Borat)


  2. This fits in exactly with a book I am currently reading called "Total Truth" by Nancy Pearcey.  It's a great book if you have the time.  In it she exposes much of scientific claims of truth and fact as being no more than a belief founded in philosophical naturalism.  In other words, even those in our culture that maintain that they are the keepers of fact (physical reality) are really driven by and live by beliefs.  Everybody has a religion, it just differs in what it looks like.

  3. Bill who?  OK, I'll concede that my viewing habits go more toward escapism, so I tend to spend most of my viewing time on the SciFi channel. 

    Bill Maher doesn't impress me and I thought the movie was a comedy in any event. 

    As far as the "worldy" getting the facts screwed up, I'm used to that. 

    Let us hope that it causes people to think.

  4. I've paid attention to Bill Mayer a little bit throughout the years, and I've noticed that once in a while he offers some refreshing and original insights about our world and ourselves.  But, at the same time, I can't stand the man.  He once said on Larry King that he could never accept the notion of a God because with all that humanity has gotten wrong how can they be certain and right on that one issue.  But, then if we flip it around, I sure wish King would have asked him how he was so sure that he was right, because he is, after all, just as human as the rest of us.  Bill Mayer is one of those people who has a unique ability to instigate beyond his realm of expertise.  If any person who really knew what they were talking about debated with the man he would be shown as a phony, but for some reason, no one does.  Why?  Because Mayer would never do it.  He thinks he's above it all.  It's almost sad. 

  5. I have to counter some of the opinions expressed with my own. A: Maher's a comic, and an entertainer, with an opinion of his own, which he has a right to express. And if you watch the Larry King interview and set aside your stones for a moment, you will see that there's a comical edge but a sincere belief and point being made. It's all of our duties to honor and respect his right to do so. It's also our duty to weight his comments against our own beliefs. IF we never did so, and never equal time to the challenges laid out by people that don't hold our own views, we'll never grow, learn, or understand anything beyond what we already know. Part of having faith includes being open to walk a mile in another's shoes in order to understand him. So not agreeing with a non-believer's point of view does not mean you should not hear him out. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jqo1a1CTf8w

  6. I agree with alot of what everyone says here.

     I actually went to go see the film last weekend and I have to say that every Christian should watch it.  I thought it was so fascinating while Maher was trying to sell Doubt the truth of Jesus Christ was spoken in the film.  From Maher himself when he genuinely thanked some Truckers for talking to him and, "Being Christ like and not Christian" to when he was at the Vatican a Catholic priest told him that Jesus would be living in the Barracks with the poor people helping them when Maher asked if Jesus would be living in the Vatican like the Pope.  The most important lesson learned of his film was that if your going to believe in something, you have to know why you believe in it.  It's kinda like the article that Phil had about why religious people on TV don't get it.  We can be our own worst enemy and when people like Bill Maher is struggling and searching for his own spiriuality its people like us that he uses as an excuse to say hogwash.  

     After watching it I thought that Bill Maher is just using his Atheistic philosophy as a front to deal with a bigger issue that only he and God know about. 

  7. I agree with Bill Maher's statement that "religion must die for man to live"! I think that is what Jesus was trying to communicate to the religious people of his day. may bill maher is that wrong after all. he may be anti christian but maybe because too many christians are religious and not truly living. Jesus came to give us life not religion.



  8. Great article, but I wanted to mention that a growing number of Christians do not let their kids get vaccinations because of the side effects.   

  9. I am a pastor and I went to see this movie with some other pastors from our church. It is a tough movie to watch for sure. To be fair, Maher does present some questions and articulates the doubts that many people have when it comes to religion. And that is good for any believer in Christ to hear and wrestle with.

    I appreciate this post because it gives something that Maher mysteriously left out of his movie: context. Just like people cut and paste the Bible to make it say whatever it is they want, his movie makes his points by cutting and pasting from the extreme and the crazy in religion today. Thank God (literally) that isn't the whole story.

  10. Poor Bill Maher. He clearly needs our prayers, sincerely.

    He's had an ax to grind for years and looking at the box office numbers not many people are interested in his message.

    I heard his interview on NPR's "Fresh Air." He comes from a family that didn't give him a strong faith foundation.

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