Bill Maher’s Personal Relationship with God

I’ve never met Bill Maher, so I don’t know what kind of guy he is.  He does say plenty of things that irritate me, and lots of people, but he also says some pretty funny things that make me laugh. On par I’d say he’s probably a good guy with some strong opinions about some things I don’t share.  He hates religion, though, saying religion is a bureaucracy between God and man he doesn’t need.  I’m on his team for that one.  He calls himself an apatheist, saying he doesn’t know what happens when we die and he doesn’t care.  I can’t hang with him there.  Last week he got on a jag about the upcoming movie Noah and said something very interesting about God:

“It’s about a psychotic mass murderer who gets away with it, and his name is God”

He also said that God “drowns babies.”  Now if you can get past the bravado and sarcasm and hear the basic question Maher is asking, it isn’t so easy to answer.  He wants to know how a good God not only allows suffering and pain, but how a good God inflicts suffering and pain.  Maher is not saying there is no God.  He repeatedly says he doesn’t have the answer to that question and is open to there being a God or gods, but that thehqdefault-37-460x260 God of the Old Testament, which is the same God Christians claim as their God, is not a good God.  Maher is saying he doesn’t like the Christian God and he presents his reasoning for not liking Him:  God is a mass murdering baby killer who wipes out everyone because He doesn’t like what a few of us are doing.  Bill Maher’s personal relationship with God (at least the Christian God) is enmity.  He doesn’t want to be friends with this God.

It makes sense to me.  If I thought the Christian God was a crazed baby killer who might go off on me at any moment and kill my family or my whole country because I wasn’t acting the way he wants me to act, I wouldn’t want to be his friend either.  Who needs friends like that?  But I am friends with the Christian God, so I have to take Maher’s accusations seriously and not just be irritated because he said “bad things” about my friend.  Christianity is not for lazy people or squeamish people.  It takes effort to be in a relationship with real people.  They do weird things.  They embarrass us.  Some times they need to be defended against false accusations.  Some times we need to hear an outside opinion of our loved ones because we are too close to see their flaws.

The problem with Bill Maher’s opinion about God is this:  we have no concept of a bad God.  The name “God” is itself derived from the word “good.”  God is simply good writ large.  The highest GOOD we can imagine is God.  When Maher calls God a psychotic murderer, he calls him “not God” = or = he says this God can’t be real; this God doesn’t exist.  So Maher contradicts himself when he says he doesn’t know or care if God or gods are out there and how he might or might not relate to them.  He very much does care about at least one God; the God of the Christians and the Jews, and he definitely doesn’t want to have a relationship with him.  But what about any other God?  How would Bill ever find a God he could agree with?  If the standard he sets for an acceptable level of God-ness is only what Bill Maher calls God or what Bill Maher can understand about God’s actions, how would he ever know he had a real God at all?  That would mean that Bill himself is perfect and judges perfectly any and all actions of the divine being.  It would mean in fact that Bill Maher would have to be that god.  And that is precisely what anyone in his position does have – a god of their own manufacture.  A God who never contradicts us or confounds us, but only agrees with us and acts in the exact way we think they should act is indistinguishable from our self.  A god like that is not worth much when we need help or advice.

I said that relationships with real people are hard, and they are.  The Christian God is a real person.  He does things that embarrass me.  He does things I don’t understand.  He does things that make no sense to me that I wish he didn’t do.  The problem for me is different though.  My problem is that knowing the extent of God’s goodness; his perfect love and wisdom, I can’t lay any fault at his feet for these things.  He is good and he doesn’t do bad things.  He is wise and he doesn’t make mistakes.  The lack of understanding is with me.  The misperception is mine.  This is not because I’m inferior or stupid or unimportant to God.  Its because if I’m going to have a God at all I’m going to have to have a God who is great enough to do things I can’t understand.  The Christian God doesn’t leave me without information, however.  The Christian God gives me plenty of confidence in his essential goodness.  He dies on a cross for me.  He enters into our suffering.  He is touched by my frailty.  In other words the Christian God gives me an overwhelming reason to trust that a God who would go to such lengths to have a real relationship with us would not randomly kill babies.  He is not psychotic.  He is not a mass murderer.  The cross contradicts me when I am angry at him for not acting in a way I find appropriate.  He did not withhold Christ from us; why should I believe he would withhold any good thing when he gave the highest thing so freely?  I don’t know why my God does what he does.  I don’t know why he chose the cross either, but I am sure my God cares and cared about every person ever born more than me or Bill Maher ever did.  And so I trust him.  He is my friend.

7 thoughts on “Bill Maher’s Personal Relationship with God

  1. While I will start off by saying that I am NOT a fan of Maher’s, I do think he hits on an issue that Christians need to wrestle with when reading stories such as the account of Noah. There are only a handful of people who survive the flood, while the rest of the people on earth die. It’s an issue that Christians must deal with when reading the Bible. Take the accounts in Joshua where the Israelites are ordered to kill all those people in Jordan. Here there lies another passage that might trouble some people. I think you have hit the answer though in saying that we can’t know why God does what God does. That’s what makes God God and humans human. We aren’t perfect, but God is. Holding him to our own standard of what’s good creates is pointless because our “goodness” is pretty lame when compared to the goodness of God.

  2. This is a better place than twitter to respond to this… Is it out of the realm of possibility that our bible, while being a bearer if Truth, is not completely…accurate…or maybe even it has taken over other culture’s traditions and reworded them to fit it’s writers’ narrative…when it comes to the details of our distant past? Is it possible that we hold it up as a complete truth, when it never states that of itself? Is it good for correction and all that stuff Paul said? Of course. But, I can see how Bill Maher might be put off by God commanding people to kill women and children and whatnot. I’m uncomfortable saying that my good God would do that. So, I guess I’m asking…what if He didn’t? What if He was used as justification for it? Since, ya know, that never happens nowadays or anything…is that possible?

    • When the Scriptures present us with a text that sounds “off” we have several choices. We can reject it. But if we start rejecting bits of Scripture we don’t like it undermines our confidence in the bits we do like. Are we now accepting that Jesus rose from the dead because it makes us feel good about our own chances after we die? or because it is true? If we agree that the Scriptures are true we can approach the bit we don’t like in other ways. We may not be reading it right. It may not say what we think it says. We need to read it carefully and not just emotionally or casually. Then we have to look at the context of the bit we don’t like. Do we understand it in light of the time and place it was written? How does this impact the way we should take it? Finally we can get those first two right and still not like what it says. In this case we are left to struggle with the Scriptures and still trust that God is who he says he is in the entirety of the Bible. Is the gospel a true representation of God? If yes then I can read other parts of the Scripture and be deeply disturbed by them without calling God a mass murdering psychotic nut job.

      Not that it matters, or makes this more palatable to you, but I’ve come to the conclusion that these cases where God calls for entire groups of people to be annihilated in judgment may represent him loving these people. This is very counterintuitive, but letting sinners continue to in sin is the least loving thing we can do for them – sin is destructive to our person in every way. What if God brings the sins of these people to an end and then offers them salvation? We see that Jesus preached to those in “prison” – perhaps hell (1 Peter 3). But there is also the intriguing verse that says God left previous sins unpunished until Christ (Rom 3:25). What if all those he ordered destroyed he gave the opportunity to enter heaven? What is the momentary terror of dying compared to the eternal joy of paradise? We do not know and the Scriptures do not say those lost to the flood were condemned to hell, it says they were wicked and God could not tolerate their wickedness any more. Why? Because it offended him? Because it made him uncomfortable? This is a low view of God. God has no need and nothing extracts a response from him. When he acts he never does it out of self serving motives, but out of love. The Christian God is love. There is no other claim like that in all of religion. It means that at the end of any God action the result will be the most loving outcome for anyone involved.

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