The Internet is buzzing about the latest rant against God from Bill Maher. Set off by the upcoming movie Noah, Maher calls God a ”psychotic mass murderer” who “drowns babies” and has “anger management issues” worse than Russell Crowe’s. Many Christians are shocked, offended, and even enraged by what he said, and everyone seems to be talking about it, so I thought I would offer my two cents as well.
Thought #1: Bill Maher is an atheist. What else would we Christians expect from an atheist? Atheists don’t believe what we believe. They mock what we hold sacred. They will blaspheme a God who, to their way of thinking, does not exist. We can’t possibly hold the expectation that they should treat us and our beliefs with respect.
Thought #2: Bill Maher is an entertainer. An entertainer’s job is to attract and hold people’s attention. That may seem narcissistic, but it is the nature of the beast. Entertainers must continually draw attention or they become irrelevant. Maher’s remarks are designed to get a rise out of believers: the more he can offend Christians (and occasionally those of other faiths too, though not with the same level of venom), the more attention he receives. His provocative and sometimes offensive use of rhetoric is not much different than what Miley Cyrus does with a foam finger or a wrecking ball. When entertainers offend, usually it’s best to just ignore them.
Thought #3: An infinite God does not need to be defended against the rhetoric of a finite man. Often, a first reaction to anti-faith rhetoric is to try to build strong arguments to put doubters like Maher in their place. But if atheists mock our foundational beliefs, they will also mock our retorts. With rare exceptions, very few people have ever been argued into God’s kingdom. Most people’s hearts are changed by love, not logic. Christians should respond to anti-faith attacks not with words of anger but with acts of grace: feeding the poor, helping the sick, praying silently that God will reveal his truth and goodness to Maher and others who don’t believe.
Thought #4: Christianity has survived, and will survive, much worse persecutions than this. In the grand scheme of things, all Maher is doing is hurting some feelings. That’s nothing compared to the brutal persecutions of Christians in ancient Rome, or in present-day China, Egypt, and Syria. Jesus said that his followers would face persecution and even death. A verbal attack like Maher’s is barely a blip in the story of our faith.
Eventually, Maher’s words will fade into a footnote on Wikipedia, if that. But the church will still be the church – flawed and imperfect. We Christians will still be the broken vessels God uses to spread his love. And that is our primary business.