First Jimmy Carter, now Bill Maher

“If I decide to be an idiot, then I’ll be an idiot on my own accord” – Johannes Sebastian Bach

A few posts back, I noted that Jimmy Carter had made some comments in regards to the Egyptian crisis with which I didn’t utterly disagree. This, was in and of itself disconcerting. To agree, even tangentially, with Jimmy Carter is to find oneself on very poor footing. Few people are more frequently or more spectacularly wrong.

Today I find myself agreeing with another character – one with whom I would not have presumed to find much agreement. This time it’s Bill Maher, the progressive, secular humanist, one-time comedian, host of HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher. Now though, the agreement is far more tolerable.

The subject of our agreement is conjecture about president Obama’s religious convictions. A while back we noted that quite a few Americans believe Obama to be a Muslim in Barack the Manchurian Muslim?. The story was about a Time poll indicating 47% believe Obama to be a Christian, 24% believe he’s a Muslim, 24% did not answer, and 5% said he’s neither Christian nor Muslim. Bill Maher and I find ourselves in the 5% minority (video of Maher’s comments here).

I say the agreement is more tolerable this time for a number of reasons. While I hold Jimmy Carter to be clueless, I would not say the same of Bill Maher. I actually think he’s a bright guy, one with whom I disagree on fundamental questions of life, and policy, and freedom, and even our reason for existence. Still, we at least disagree on fundamentals, not logic. Maher is an honest secular humanist (just as is president Obama if Maher and I are to be believed). He begins from this starting point and reasons fairly well to his conclusions – at least well enough to be passable. (Carter, on the other hand, presumes to start from a basis of Christian beliefs, and then reasons so utterly poorly as to end up defending dictators and tyrants at the expense of the downtrodden … it’s madness.)

There is a little bit of a “takes one to know one” feel to his commentary.

When I look at president Obama and am asked the question “what do you think his religious convictions are?” I can start easily from my most firm basis of understanding and move rather quickly to other religious traditions that I have some contact with, though they are not my own. Is he a Christian? Not like any Christian I’ve ever known. He has views about the sanctity of human life that are utterly inconsistent with my understanding of Christian convictions (even voting against infant born-alive protections as an Illinois state senator). He acts not as one who would defend the weak but as one who would profit any corporatist lobby that helped line his pockets and campaign coffers. No, I don’t think for one second that He is a Christian, or that he acts from a firm grasp of Christian values.

So then, do I think him a Muslim? No, not at all. He would have had to have been under cover and planning a presidential bid for decades. Doubtful.

No, I think he’s a secular humanist. So does Bill Maher. In fact, I suspect that Maher’s answer was as natural and honest as they come.

“Do you, nomasir, believe Obama’s a Christian?” – “no, he’s not one of us. [I can conjecture as to what I think he is, but I sincerely doubt that he’s in our number.]”

“Do you, Bill Maher, believe Obama’s a secular humanist?” – “yes, he’s one of us.”

Now, as far as politics is concerned it’s of little consequence to me. I’m unlikely to vote for or against someone based on their religious convictions – but based on their policy preferences and consistent historical support of said policies. My dislike of Obama’s presidency is related to his policies, not his religion by any stretch. I honestly care not.

In fact, I say it’s better for a progressive, socialist, statist like Barack Obama to be a secular humanist; openly and honestly. Far worse to disguise as something you’re not because of the political environment. But, this is America, and the political environment is always a consideration.

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