Politics as religion: Bill Maher’s latest bit

Reader Timothy called my attention to Bill Maher’s latest monologue, delivered on the tenth anniversary of Maher’s movie “Religulous”.  His bit about Kim Jong-il not needing to defecate, and the offhand comment about it, are precious. So is Maher’s take on “Trump’s Ten Commandments.”

In fact, it’s all great, and I realized that as well as having congenial views about The Donald and religion, Maher also has impeccable comic timing.


  1. Ken Kukec
    Posted September 30, 2018 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    Maher at his most caustic and coruscating.

    Trump is beyond satire and irony. But he’s been a boon for stand-up and parody and farce.

  2. Posted September 30, 2018 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    Sadly, Maher falls for the Christian propaganda that Nazi Germany was atheistic and had “got rid of God”. That’s just not true, their whole ideology was steeped in the Christian religion, and they marched into battle with “Gott Mit Uns” on their belts.

    Communist regimes, fair enough, but atheists should be careful not to parrot such an assessment of Nazi Germany just because the Christians do.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted September 30, 2018 at 12:15 pm | Permalink


      His point still stands though, after I crossed that one out.

    • Geoff Toscano
      Posted September 30, 2018 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      Nazi Germany, like Stalin’s Russia, didn’t get rid of religion, they replaced it with a state religion, in which God was removed because they disliked the competition.

      • Posted September 30, 2018 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

        But Nazi Germany did not remove God! They simply didn’t! The Nazis regarded themselves as God-fearing Christians.

        Here — as just one example — is part of the oaths (question and answers) required to join the SS, as prescribed by Himmler:

        “What is your oath ?” – “I vow to you, Adolf Hitler, as Führer and chancellor of the German Reich loyalty and bravery. I vow to you and to the leaders that you set for me, absolute allegiance until death. So help me God !”

        “So you believe in a God ?” – “Yes, I believe in a Lord God.”

        “What do you think about a man who does not believe in a God?” – “I think he is overbearing, megalomaniac and foolish; he is not one of us.”

        plenty more quotes here in a compilation I put together a while back.

        • David Coxill
          Posted September 30, 2018 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

          Don’t think they were christians ,they might have believed in god ,just not the JC kind,or hid dad !?

          • Posted September 30, 2018 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

            The vast majority of Nazi party members would have regarded themselves as Christian. They even formed their own Christian movement, the Deutsche Christen.

            Self-labeling by SS guards at Auschwitz had 43% regarding themselves as Catholic, 37% as Protestant, and 20% as Deutsche Christen.

            In Germany as a whole, a 1939 census had 94% of Germans self-describing as Christian.

            • ploubere
              Posted September 30, 2018 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

              Exactly. They believed that the Christian god had made the white race superior to the others, and it was their religious duty to purify humanity. This belief had its roots in Jesuit teachings from the 19th century.

            • Posted October 1, 2018 at 10:22 am | Permalink

              Yep… Germans didn’t suddenly become atheists overnight in 1933 and remain so until 1945 whereupon they suddenly switched back. And leaving the church in Germany means filling out a form and officially leaving it. (Any babies who foolishly allow themselves to be baptised don’t realize that they have thereby signed themselves up to pay the church tax as soon as they turn 18.)

              Also, the Nazis closed down the Free Thinkers Society and executed its chairman (Max von Sievers).

    • Posted September 30, 2018 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      He shouldn’t have slipped up on that, but I guess he can be forgiven.

      I took this photo of a church in Berlin, which shows a statue of St Bernard giving the Hitler Salute.


      It was put up in 1936 and is still there. I assume that people simply haven’t registered exactly what it is. (I live in Berlin long enough to know there are an abundance of such historical oddities hiding in plain sight!)

      • XCellKen
        Posted September 30, 2018 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

        St Bernard giving the Hitler salute? is that like that pug dog from Scotland that did the same thing ?

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted October 1, 2018 at 12:32 am | Permalink

        Is that a Hitler salute? Looks more like Saturday Night Fever to me.


      • Posted October 1, 2018 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

        Related: There is a church in Montreal in a traditionally Italian area which has stain glass windows depicting the usual biblical characters – and Mussolini.

        Apparently it is still up because of the need to admit they screwed up – or so they told my parents when they went on a cultural tour in the area.

    • Posted September 30, 2018 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      I think he just didn’t tell the whole story and i’ve read your blog on the subject, i’ve bookmarked for a reference. It is quite a mammoth piece and not an easy read.
      I think he went around and skirted Nazism and religion IMO because it’s not funny and NO joke milage (or kilometre) can come from it. If you get my drift.
      He did a good job on Trump and the Ills.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted September 30, 2018 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

      Nonetheless, Nazis had a weird re-interpretation of Christianity, known sometimes as “Positive Christianity” which synthesized elements of Christianity with white nationalist race theory. It’s flag was a swastika overlaid on a cross. They believed Jesus to be a non-Jewish Aryan as part of their creed, and for all the worst possible reasons rejected the Old Testament.


      As much as Martin Luther hated Jews, he would have regarded as insane Adolf Hitler’s program for defrocking all Christian clergy with any Jewish ancestry of any kind. It was this action that led to the ad hoc denomination “The Confessing Church” formed to resist Hitler’s influence on the churches. Along with the White Rose it was one of the few outfits inside Nazi Germany to form any kind of successful resistance.

    • Caldwell
      Posted September 30, 2018 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

      “In fact, atheism was banned within the SS as Himmler believed it to be a form of egotism that placed the individual at the center of the universe, and thus constituted a rejection of the SS principle of valuing the collective over the individual.”

    • Posted September 30, 2018 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

      While many NS party members and sympathizers were christians, the Nazism had a complex and in many ways antagonistic relationship with christianity. Party rhetoric, rituals, and organizations were infused with a pseudo-paganism; ‘yule’ celebrations were promoted in lieu of overtly religious christmas. Many of the NS cadre were areligious or only nominally christian. To assert that “their whole ideology was steeped in christian religion” is unsupportable by facts.

      And please, not the “Gott mit Uns” belt buckles nonsense again! Those date to the 18th century Prussian Army.

      Unlike the Bolsheviks, the nazis did not ride into power on a sweeping revolution — they sneaked in with a narrow plurality and seized control via a constitutional loophole. They were never broadly popular and rightfully concerned about civil unrest & resistance, so could not directly challenge the power & influence of the church. But have no doubt, had the nazi regime endured, it would have eventually eradicated the christian churches and replaced them with a blend of mock paganism / fuehrer cult / party-as-religion.

      • Posted October 1, 2018 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

        Personally I’ve always said there some were Christian Nazis, and some Christian anti-Nazis. But Nazism as a movement is theistic (including the Prussian-like buckles); compare with, say, Maoism or Stalinism, which is not theistic, though of course they involve cults of personality which could shade off in that direction. Which is what Juche (the ideology of North Korea) is – I call it the “Confucian Stalinist theocracy”, where that’s a deliberate 3-way oxymoron.

    • Posted September 30, 2018 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

      Err, no. He explicitly does not fall for that propaganda. He claimed, with some justification, I think, that Nazi ideology was religious in nature.

      The Gott Mit Uns motto predates the army of the Third Reich by some decades, by the way. It’s a Prussian Military motto from the 19th century.

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted September 30, 2018 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

        I got that sense too – the religious nature of Nazism.

        However, there’s more to it – and this interesting discussion testifies to that. Learning some things, thanks all.

  3. Randall Schenck
    Posted September 30, 2018 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    New Rules is the best comedy around. The truth is sad but also funny.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted September 30, 2018 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      I know I love new rules. I loved how he said this one was for atheists only so his guest couldn’t cry out. 🙂

  4. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted September 30, 2018 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    I can hear it already: “he said atheism is a religion”.

    Me : … how do you make a strong argument out of “you don’t get the joke”?

    … overall, that short bit was crystal clear, simple, true. Sadly, it would take religion not to see it.

  5. Posted September 30, 2018 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

    Maher is worth paying attention to. A few weeks ago he had a segment where he was laughing at Republicans for aligning themselves with Russia — “Really??? Russia? Whose only exports are sports doping and car crash videos?” I don’t know why more Dems don’t pick up on that line of attack.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted September 30, 2018 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      Oh yes the car crash videos was spectacular. I loved that.

      • Posted September 30, 2018 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

        Nothing beats Saudi drifting, though.

  6. alexandra Moffat
    Posted September 30, 2018 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Every time they mix schools and religion or courts and religion or government and religion, we get to put Maher there as replacement.

  7. Mark R.
    Posted September 30, 2018 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    He also interviewed Steve Bannon on this show. Confronted him as should be by leftists. Bannon was full of bullshit, and that’s why he needs to be interviewed and scrutinized for said bs.

    • Mark R.
      Posted September 30, 2018 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      sorry for the imbed…

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted September 30, 2018 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

      I liked how Maher said to Bannon that he was also behind Sarah Palin so it’s clear he just finds empty moronic vessels to pour his ideas into.

      • Historian
        Posted September 30, 2018 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

        Bannon keeps saying that Trump is “smart.” Regrettably, in one sense, this is true. Through a combination of intimidation, bullying, and non-stop lying, he has managed often to get his way. In other words, he is the ultimate con man and demagogue. He doesn’t need to utter the basics of English syntax to accomplish this. When he started his presidential campaign in 2015, too many people viewed him as nothing more than a clown who would quickly drop out of the race. This was a big mistake. Perhaps unknown to even Trump himself, his message of simplistic right-wing populism appealed to the Republican base. As they say, the rest is history. Since the election, much has been learned about Trump’s style and the power of his message in certain quarters. The question for the 2020 campaign is whether the Democrats and whomever their candidate is will be able to effectively rebut his message.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted September 30, 2018 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

          Yes I think it was David Frum who actually called this idea that he wasn’t a clown even though that’s how we saw him. He pointed out that Europeans didn’t see him as a clown but as a real threat because they had gone through fascism and then recently the populism so they recognized the real danger. We here in the new world hadn’t experienced this sort of thing before.

          I think Bannon wants us to believe Trump is smart but if you read Fear, it’s immediately obvious that Trump will just do anything it takes to win and he’s completely malleable. This is typical of sociopaths who have no empathy and a very fluid identity which means absolutely no shame in doing whatever it takes, within the boundaries of not getting caught or damaging themselves, to play the game well enough to win.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted September 30, 2018 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

          It would be a mistake to think Trump is completely lacking in intellectual ability. He has a low cunning, especially when it comes to separating marks from their money and bending weaker men to his will. He also has an animal instinct for sussing out where the clout and leverage lie in any power structure.

          In addition, he has communication skills, vulgar though they may be. He has a knack for branding, for getting free media, and for keeping the news cycle in a constant state of flux. He also knows how to command a room’s attention, how to dominate an interview by never leaving any dead air for another to speak, and how to sense the mood of an audience, the better to feed it red meat.

  8. nwalsh
    Posted September 30, 2018 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    “No shit” Love it.

  9. Martin X
    Posted September 30, 2018 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Rather than characterizing Communism and Naziism as religion, I’d say it’s more accurate to cast Communism, Naziism, and religion all as ideologies, and ideologies are pernicious.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted September 30, 2018 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

      Ideologies can be pernicious; ideologies need not necessarily be pernicious. Hell, pragmatism is an ideology; incrementalism and latitudinarianism are ideologies. They aren’t perforce pernicious.

  10. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted September 30, 2018 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    The best part of Religulous was the roughly 10 minute section Bill Maher did on the dangers of apocalyptic thinking.

    No matter how convinced anyone in public office is of the immanent 2nd coming of Jesus, the default fallback assumption of ALL public policy is that it is not immanent and we are here for the long haul. (Reagan’s Secretary of the Interior, James Watt, was notorious for not thinking conservation important for this reason.)

    Christians per se often make fine mayors (Andrew Young), Senators (Kirsten Gillibrand), and even US presidents (Jimmy Carter), but both apocalypticists (Michele Bachman) and advocates of theocracy (Mike Pence) should really not be in public office.

    That section of Maher’s film does well in showing why.

    While the medieval Roman Catholic church discouraged non-clergy from reading the Bible generally, the Greek Orthodox church was fine with this, but discouraged the laity from looking at the Book of Revelation.

  11. Diane G
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 12:27 am | Permalink


  12. Posted October 1, 2018 at 1:45 am | Permalink

    It was one of his best shows! The panel he assembled was outstanding! And having the reserve he tried t demonstrate, with having to put up with Steve Bannon was incredible! Great Show! 😛

  13. Posted October 1, 2018 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on jtveg's Blog.

  14. Posted October 1, 2018 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    Absolutely hilarious. 😂

  15. AsT
    Posted October 1, 2018 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    As much as I appreciate Maher, I still find it unsettling and unfortunate that he’s an anti-vaxxer. It’s like if Sofía Vergara had rotting teeth and bad breath. On the one hand, great, but on the other hand, wtf.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted October 1, 2018 at 8:22 am | Permalink

      My hypothesis is he is saving this – knowingly or not – for a big effect the day he says “you know what? The evidence speaks louder than me. The risks of vaccines outweigh the benefits, on the order of getting eaten by a shark and struck by lightning.”

  16. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted October 3, 2018 at 7:12 am | Permalink

    Quick note about the Nazi/Hitler part:
    All paraphrased, I can’t get a transcript in the moment:
    Maher said something like : when other people ask me …
    Then says Hitler wanted to remove competition

    This effectively steps over the trope raised here, and also points out the power-hungry efforts of the Nazis.

  17. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted October 25, 2018 at 4:44 pm | Permalink

    Trump also frequently laments how unfair his opponents are to him personally. This is also consistent with Maher’s point, as Jesus was also God and persecuted.

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