Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Not So Funny

Watching a recent episode of “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” on Comedy Central and expecting complete irreverence toward the current financial market crisis and those who are involved in “solving” the problem, I was a little taken aback by Jon’s guest, Bill Maher, whose new movie, “Religulous”, is about to hit theaters. From what little I can gather, the movie is akin to Michael Moore’s recent foray into the health care crisis in which a professional entertainer attempts to enlighten us on a particular topic. Michael Moore was attempting to inform and enlighten his audience on the health care industry; Bill Maher delves into religion in general.

I know nothing of either man’s credentials except that they each work as entertainers, but this is not to suggest that neither is capable of learning something on their respective paths of discovery. Religion is substantially trickier than health care, however, because one requires a measure of abstract faith while the other presupposes certain facts.

On “The Daily Show”, they shared a clip from Maher’s movie in which Maher stood on a street in London railing against Scientology, but his discussion on the TV show turned toward his perceived fallacies about Christianity, some of which I found interesting, most of which I found offensive and all of which was not so funny at all even though Maher seemed to be extremely pleased with his feeble attempts at humor. What is funny, however, is his seeming absolute intolerance of those whose faith carries them from day to day as he is of the ilk which demands tolerance.

Even funnier, Maher continually referred to Alaska governor and Republican VP pick Sarah Palin as his Christian lightening rod, suggesting that this Christian who might one day be a heartbeat away from the presidency is somehow unfit for such a job exclusively because of her willingness to live by her own faith while overlooking the public proclamation “his man” Barack Obama made recently, affirming his own faith in “Jesus Christ, who died for my sins”. Why is it that Palin’s Christian faith is a threat to the nation, but Obama’s faith is of no apparent consequence?

One cannot deny that religion in general has been at the core of many a violent conflict throughout history and that Christian “enforcement” has cost many innocents their very lives merely because they did not believe “correctly”. One also cannot deny that such extremism still exists today not only in the guise of Christianity but also of Islam. Religion can indeed be hazardous to one’s health, but faith is another matter altogether.

It is because faith cannot be pinned down or defined in absolute terms that Maher and other pseudo-intellectuals, who poke fun at those who choose to live by faith as “weak” or “gullible”, come across as ridiculous themselves just as Maher did on the TV episode in which he denied, in absolute terms, the tenets and the core of the Christian faith: “It just did not happen”, according to Mr. Maher. That he does not believe it is a given; that he can state in absolute terms that it “did not happen” is not so well established.

At the heart of the episode with Maher, however, was the division which continues to plague this nation. As liberals continue to blame President Bush for the very existence of such a nation divided, those such as Maher continue to feed the certain reality that we have, as a nation and irrespective of partisan preference, lost a willingness to at least respect those with whom we disagree. Just as the Inquisition demanded absolute allegiance to a particular way of thinking and believing, so does the contemporary political and religious environment in which we find ourselves ensnared. And the thumb screws are ever-tightening.

It will not be the financial crisis that will be the end of us as a civilized nation.

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