In any case, Maher said some utterly absurd things. Like, for instance, that America is divided between those of us who want a "progressive, European style country" and those of us who are "rednecks." Plain and simple. In Maher's world, like in the worlds of Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, the world is black or the world is white. We are right or we are wrong.
Nuance is for rednecks and girly men only.
To Stewart's credit he appeared somewhat taken aback by this, and offered up a flimsy example of his own childhood. Maher responded with more blatant snobbery. It's all in the videos below.
They had him on to discuss Religulous, Maher's new documentary, which focuses on slamming religion and religious people. I'm an atheist, so I guess I should feel immune but I don't. I don't agree with militant or fundamentalist anything. I despise Sarah Palin's brand of Christianism, but I also feel that to preach a dogmatic atheism is doing the cause of atheism a disservice.
Don't get me wrong. In my mind, religion (despite its historical importance and so forth) is basically BS. There may be a God, but even so, organizing such speculation into a larger tribe seems kind of silly, or perhaps dangerous. The organization of religion should come under fire. But religious people have every right to believe what they do, just as atheists, Deists, and agnostics have every right not to (depending on how you look at it).
Essentially, I don't believe it is religion holding us back, but fundamentalism, and so when atheists start speaking dogmatically I worry that the same pitfalls await them. There is much of value in the writings of Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris and the rest of those atheist writers. Ann Althouse has a good post on "contempt" up at her blog, which goes into more detail on the subject of atheism.
In any case, why can't a comedian or a polemicist deal in contempt?I suppose contempt is an acceptable form of critique. George Carlin was certainly funny in his attacks on religion. Funny is good. Funny contempt is good. Thoughtful, thought-provoking contempt is good (i.e. Hitchens). But contempt that tries to be funny and fails? That's bad.
It's not the only approach, but it's an approach. (And I don't think "contempt" is at all the right word for Dawkins, whose "God Delusion" I've read. It fits Hitchens -- and I've read "God Is Not Great." I haven't read the Harris book, but I don't think it's contemptuous.)
So is this my complaint? Maher is an idiot because his liberal snobbery doesn't hit the mark--despite his trying to be funny, he just comes across as arrogant. For all his talk of progressivism he instead sounds hollow, prejudiced, and full of shit. If he were actually funny, or actually interesting maybe the rest could be forgiven.
As it stands, well, even my pretty liberal wife said she couldn't stand him.