Monday, October 13, 2008

Bill Maher makes a living making judgments... and his judgment on religion is particularly harsh. On the link above, you can find him mocking with eqanimity televangelists, Mormons, a belief in heaven (although he describes a Neo-platonist version of heaven, complete with "dancing ghosts with a cosmic daddy) Overall, Maher adopts a snide, mocking tone of faith and people of faith that matches his publicly stated beliefs that intelligent religious people have a "neurological disorder." Nothing like demonizing your opponents...
But of all the things that can be said about Bill Maher, I would like to hone in on one comment he made while on the View...
MAHER: And this movie- one reason why it got such good reviews- and even religious people who watched it liked this movie is, we don’t judge. We don’t point fingers. We’re not making anybody feel bad. I’m just asking questions that nobody asks because this is the last taboo subject.
Maher invokes the Golden Rule of modern society "We don't judge. " Restated, "We don't point fingers..." Implication--religious people DO judge, religious people DO point fingers, therefore they are bad and we (the scientific rationalists) are good. But of course, isnt' that a judgment?
So do we agree with Mr. Maher, that the height of good is not to judge? Not to point the finger?
First, we have to say that Bill doesn't follow his own advice. "Religilous" the movie is nothing but a judgment against religious individuals that concludes that they are ridiculous and worthy of mockery. And admitedly, some of the individuals on the show are ridiculous (there I go making judgments) but if we're supposed to admire the work as "not finger pointing" I think we could agree it misses that mark...rather specifically pointing a "special finger" at all religious folks that were highlighted in the flick.
Second, I think we'd have to say that some form of judgment is required in life to thrive. Should I spend more than I earn? Should I buy a house that my income will not support? Should I package these risky securities into a nifty new investment, and parcel out to different banks so as to sever accountability from their original source? Well, in a world with no judgments, the answer is "YES" regardless of the consequences. But does one hear the chorus of "judge not..." from the media (or bill Maher for that matter) for the Wall Street types whose greed colored their JUDGMENT or consumers who took "low-doc" (Liars loans) mortgages without considering the consequences? NO. We expect are financiers to make better judgments than that, because poor judgments have dire consequences.
Incidentally, I agree with Maher that religion requires CAREFUL JUDGMENT. Jesus said this in no uncertain terms.
Some of the religious leaders Maher interviews are more fruitcakes than true spiritual fruit. They do not pass the test Jesus lays out for us...which is our FIRST JUDGMENT: (We'll call it the Maher test, in honor of our friend)
TEST #1 JUDGE So-called Spiritual Leaders to see if they are producing spiritual fruit.
Folks like Bill Maher have so much to jack their jaws about because we folks of faith do such a poor job of exercising our ability to make a reasonable decision on the credibility of so-called religious leaders based on the hard evidence of results. Maher's right and he's wrong...some religious leaders are ridiculous, but we DO need to make a judgment.
So tell me--what do you think?


DFV said...

I will be seeing Religulous on Wednesday, so I can't properly "judge" your "judgment" of the film.

"Nothing like demonizing your opponents" Isn't that what religion (esp. Christianity) has done for thousands of years? Even the word was poorly bastardized from the Greek (daemon - meaning a spirit, not necessarily a bad one). Christianity has given us "lepers" "outcasts" "heathens" "pagans" to fear and hate. In many ways, Christianity has always needed someone to "demonize". If they didn't, there would be a helluva lot more Native Americans around than there are now.

"...religious people DO judge, religious people DO point fingers, therefore they are bad and we (the scientific rationalists) are good. But of course, isn't that a judgment?" Yes, but it's not necessarily an incorrect one. No, scientific rationalists are not automatically good, but many Christians think they are automatically good: the most righteously arrogant phrase in the English language is "It's the Christian thing to do." This is always said as if Christians had the (only and) last word on goodness.

Your logic is a bit faulty about judgment, by the way, since there are several distinct definitions of judgment:

judgment (juj' ment) n. 1. An act or instance of judging 2. the ability to judge, make a decision, or form an opinion objectively or wisely,...5.the opinion formed.
judgmental...2. tending to make judgments, esp. moral judgments.

The judgment in order to survive is not actually the same as the judgment not to give money to a beggar because he "looks" like he might spend it on drugs later.

Most "righteous" judgments made by "men of God" are hideously hypocritical. Ted Haggard proved that.

"...we folks of faith do such a poor job of exercising our ability to make a reasonable decision on the credibility of so-called religious leaders based on the hard evidence of results."


Pat Robertson, Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland, Jimmy Swaggart, Jerry Falwell, T.D. Jakes, Joel Osteen, Franklin Graham, John Hagee, Rod Parsley, Arnold Conrad, Tony Perkins, James Dobson, Creflo Dollar, Jeremiah Wright, Billy Sunday, Paul and Jan Crouch, Rick Warren, Tim and Beverly LaHaye.

Elmer Gantry.

The poor. The uneducated. The vulnerable. The children. The elderly. The spiritually lazy. The CINOS (Christians in Name Only).

Elmer Fudd.

The problem with all those Elmer Fudds: remember, that Fudd's the one with the gun!

kiddrev said...

Great thoughts...thanks for the feedback. Have Christians demonized their opponents? Yes. Have others? Of course--it's a natural human tendency. We exagerate the differences between us and our opponents in order to feel superior. The Nazi's perfected it, Joseph McCarthy tried his hand at it, Stalin and the Soviets indulged on a mass scale. So the Christians don't have a corner on the market (and lepers were outcasts before the Christians hit the scene)

In my opinion, it's our hope that one group of people can surpass such parochial judgments that causes me and others to be so disappointed when Christians--who claim to be different--act just the same as others in self-justifying belittlement of others. And to be fair, it is not necessarily the Christians who bear the responsibility of persecution of Native Americans--that can most often be laid at the feet of good old fashioned greed (we're officially against that) and often (sadly not always) there were Christians who attempted more generous interaction with the continent's native population--e.g. Robert Boyle and the Indian School at my alma mater William and Mary)

And thank you for the comment on my logic...I am always in need of an outside viewpoint. (your counsel to humility 'many Christians think they are automatically good' is well taken and quite Biblical by the way) I would say that it is not faulty, only incomplete. This blog has as it's primary audience students, and this was intended only as the first installment on judgment.

To say that we must make some judgments to live (my point and your def. #2) is clearly true, but doesn't nearly address the whole point, does it? It's the nasty #5's that bother me (and apparently you) I am responding to what I perceive to be a chorus of voices that say to religious people "Judge not..." end of story. This was my attempt to suggest that even those voices would agree that we need judgments of the sort of #2, in order to build my case for judgments of the #5 variety.

The two definitions of the word require the same sort of mental work, do they not? The difference is in the object of the judgment. We hear often "you can't legislate morality" and "you shouldn't go around making moral judgments." I intend to address that in the future for my students.

But you appear to have already made your judgment (#5)I am just curious on what basis you have made it. A rather impressive list of folks you have just don't state why (apparently assuming the reason is obvious.) Humor me...

And as I remember it, Elmer Fudd wasn't all that dangerous with his gun anyway (usually blowing himself up) so perhaps you don't have much to worry about...