Religion in terms of its connections to politics and the first amendment will always be a highly debated topic. Comedian Bill Maher though has been pushing the limits in terms of freedom of speech ever since his film on religion Religulous, which turned heads upon its release and is still considered to be hated among most Christians. This weekend, Darren Aronofsky’s Noah is released to theaters, and as a result, the political comedian Maher spoke his opinion of the hypocrisy of Christianity, which was met with some heavy controversy that has him under fire once again.
Maher’s recent controversy came to light over the last couple of weeks when the political jokester believed if God existed that he would be categorized as a mass murderer of psychotic proportions. His reasoning? He believes using the power to flood the earth to eradicate all sinners as noted in the Book of Genesis backs up his argument.
Of course, many Christians were appalled at Maher’s ideology of what God is under their belief system, particularly Canadian evangelist Tristan Emmanuel who wrote a column Friday condemning Maher’s controversial words.
In his column, Emmanuel believes that Maher took his freedom of speech too far; as a result, the evangelist urged Christians to not “turn the other cheek” as it came to Bill Maher. Furthering his point, Emmanuel came to the conclusion that Maher along with other non-believers share a common ground with the devil himself by quoting the Psalms 14 passage.
This is where the Canadian was contradictory in his response to Maher. He denounced Maher for his disbelief in his religious affiliation. In the laws of America, all citizens are granted freedom to state their opinion without endangering any person or persons.
However, by urging Christians of all denominations to “turn the other cheek” it can be interpreted in several ways. Of course to “turn the other cheek” means to ignore and to not attack one who has done harm. In this scenario, Emmanuel is stating that Maher has done harm to him and other Christians. Whether he means simply to insult Maher or commit action to him is open to interpretation.
One of the most prominent ideals in Christianity is that of “turning the other cheek.” As a result of Bill Maher and his comments, despite being under the rules of freedom of speech, Emmanuel not performing this duty goes against his religion, which in turn is what makes the man a hypocrite.
Secondly, as hard as it is for Christians to take Maher’s words, he did not harm them. In fact, he didn’t endanger them even. The only thing the comedian did was state that their God wasn’t the ultimate symbol of peace as Christians believe as shown more specifically in the flood or in the recent film Noah.
Recourse is expected in this scenario. Religious debates is one of the most tense to take place throughout history. However, as controversial as what Maher said in his speech, he is being unfairly demonized, literally, when in actuality he had a disagreement in viewpoint, i.e. God’s characteristics.
Emmanuel continued in his column by stating that centuries ago, Maher would have received stiff penalties for his slanderous remarks.
This of course brings up another level of hypocrisy. There are no punishments for freedom of speech, yet the evangelist believes Maher should be punished for his words.
Additionally, Maher wasn’t being slanderous. According to the definition, slander is statement that is false in nature and defames the target in a lie. In this situation, the target is God. In actuality no one can prove or deny His existence. As a result, what Maher said did not hurt Emmanuel or any other Christian directly; he merely disagreed with a concept as illustrated in the Bible. Lastly, in terms of proving Maher of stating falsehood, it cannot be proven. The only way to do so is if Emmanuel would be able to physically prove God’s existence, which in turn is an impossibility.
In this religious debate, both parties have equal rights. Maher has every right to state his opinion of God not existing or being an evil spirit. On the other hand, Emmanuel has every right to denounce Maher for his proposed beliefs. What Emmanuel wants but can’t do is for Maher to be punished whether people agree or disagree with him.
He may be one of the more controversial comedians today, but the controversy surrounding his statements is just that, controversial. Bill Maher is like any other US citizen and has the freedom to say whatever he wants in his speech — even when it comes to that of religion. It may upset the supposed 80% of the nation that is Christian, but at the end of the day his opinion won’t affect anyone directly. At the same time, Tristan Emmanuel is going to believe what he believes, and no one, not even a publicized figure such as Maher will be able to change that.
Opinion by Simon Mounsey