Maher Calls Christianity the Ultimate Hustle on Larry King Live

It's no secret that Bill Maher, the host of the HBO show Real Time with Bill Maher, loathes religion. He came under fire earlier this year for slandering Pope Benedict XVI.

On Tuesday night, CNN's Larry King gave Maher another chance to smack Christianity, which Maher called “detrimental” and “the ultimate hustle.”

Maher was on Larry King Live  to promote his latest vehicle, the film Religulous, which   is due to open October 3. Religulous, which reportedly takes aim at all religions, was supposed to be released around Easter of this year.  It had been called a documentary previously but Maher is now selling it as a comedy.  Larry King opened his interview with Maher by praising the movie but noted that it will offend people.

KING: OK. It's no secret that you deal with religion a lot. And you have a new movie coming called Religulous. I saw that movie. It's  really well done. Now, it will offend -- I think it will offend the deeply religious people. Those on the border -- certainly, agnostics are going to love it. Atheists are going to love it. But there's a lot of open religious people who would just appreciate it as a very funny movie.

MAHER: Right. You don't have to agree with it, I think, to laugh.

Maher loves to laugh at religion and religious believers, especially Christians.  In his one-hour interview with King, in which he talked about politics and religion, he commented repeatedly on the recent presidential forum hosted by evangelical pastor Rick Warren on August 16..

MAHER:  … certainly in political life (religion has) had a terribly detrimental effect. I mean, did you see the Rick Warren thing?

KING: Sure. And we had him on last night.

MAHER: Yes, right. And by the way, let me just preface this by saying I'm asking people for perspective. I have it also.  Rick Warren, big improvement over Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. If we have to have a pope of the super Christ-ies, I'd rather it be him. He's got good ideas about actually, you know -- actually helping people. Because you know, one thing I don't like about religion is that, you know, ask any of the truly devout. It's not mainly about doing the right thing or being ethical. It's mainly about salvation. It's mainly about getting your butt saved when you die. And that's why I think they're less moral than ethicists.

When the interview turned specifically to the film, Maher admitted that he wanted to arouse atheists and agnostics so they would stand up and make themselves heard, presumably in the upcoming election.  Maher stated that 16 percent of the population are “rationalists” who outnumber blacks, Jews, homosexuals and NRA members. 

While Maher said Religulous took aim at all faiths, Christians took it on the chin during King's show, which played two clips from the movie.  The first was an interview with Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor (D) on the topic of evolution.  The editing makes Pryor look foolish.

MAHER: Do you believe in evolution?

PRYOR: You know, my -- first, I don't know. Clearly, the scientific community is a little divided on some the specifics of that, and I understand that.

MAHER: I don't think they are.

PRYOR: No, well, I...

MAHER: I think they pretty much agree.

PRYOR: I don't know how it all happened. I mean, I'm certainly willing to...

MAHER: Could it possibly have been Adam and Eve 5,000 years ago with a talking snake in the garden? Could it?

PRYOR: Well, it could have possibly been that.

MAHER: Come on. This is my problem, because I'm trying -- I mean, you're a senator. You are one of the very few people who are really running this country. It worries me that people are running my country who think, who believe in a talking snake.

PRYOR: You don't have to pass an IQ test to be in the Senate, though. [Video cuts to Maher then cuts to Pryor whose smile disappears as he stares at Maher.]

The second clip was from Maher's trip to Holy Land, a Bible-themed amusement park in Orlando, Florida.  The clip opens with a scene of an actor dressed as Jesus dancing on a stage.  Maher then interviews the actor.

ACTOR: How you doing, Bill? God bless you.


ACTOR: Seen you around.

MAHER: Having no other gods before you, that's not moral. There's nothing moral about that. It's just -- it's just something a jealous god would do.

ACTOR: It does say that our God is a jealous God.

MAHER: But your god is jealous? That seems so un-godlike that God would have such a petty human emotion.

ACTOR: He's also...

MAHER: I know people who have gotten over jealousy, let alone God.

ACTOR: There's two sides of the coin. He's a just God, and he's also a merciful God.

MAHER: The first five books are about wiping out people.

ACTOR: That's what He chose to do. His ways are higher than ours, Bill.

MAHER: Maybe our thinking should be higher.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a good point.

Who knows if the actor portraying Jesus realized he'd been set up?  After the clip ended, an incredulous Larry King asked Maher to describe Holy Land.  Maher used the term “crass commercialization.”

Maher channeled his own inner “talking snake” when he closed the interview with an astounding bit of forked-tongue doublespeak.

So we're not trying to point fingers in this movie. I think we do it -- we're laughing all the way through it. I think we're winking and having a good time, and we're not trying to be judgmental. But at some point, you know, mankind is going to have to shed this skin if he's going to move forward. I do have a serious intellectual problem with it.  And on another level it just ticks me off. It's just the ultimate hustle. It's just "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain." You know, why can't they, I always ask -- I asked Jesus at Holy Land, "Why can't God just defeat the devil and get rid of evil?"  You know, and it's the same reason the comic-book character can't get rid of his nemesis. Then there's no story. If God gets rid of the devil -- and he could, he's all powerful -- well, then there's no fear. There's no reason to come to church. There's no reason to pass the plate. We're all out of a job. You know, it's got to go on.

Yeah. Not judgmental at all. 

King urged his viewers to see the movie when it opens this fall.

Kristen Fyfe is senior writer at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.