More of the Larry King Show interview 8/19
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 is really well done. Now, 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.
KING: You mentioned Rick Warren. What part should religion play in our political life?
MAHER: Well, if you ask me, none, or in any part of life, but you know, look who you're talking to, the guy who made "Religulous." But certainly in political life it's 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 is a 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 -- helping people.
Because one thing I don't like about religion is, 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.
KING: But Rick is different?
MAHER: He's better. He's an improvement. But when he says, as I heard him say before the event, "I'm going to ask the tough questions." What would those questions be? How tightly do you close your eyes when you insist on believing something that your mind must be telling you can't be true? OK.
But here's a good example of why it shouldn't infect our public policy. The big question that got all the play in the news snippets was asking what should we do about evil? Evil...
So Obama gives a very nuanced answer, and again this is why I do like this guy. He sort of can't win for -- I mean, he's damned if he does and he's damned if he doesn't. He gives a nuanced answer, which I like, and he loses the crowd.
He said, "Yes, we should be aware of evil, but we should be humble about evil." And what he was trying to say, I think, was -- you know what? It's easy to sit back in America and say, "Well, we're the good people. That's common knowledge. Evil is always over there and never here."
He was saying -- you know what? We have a lot of evil right here. Look at the prison system. Look at the justice system. Look how we treat immigrants. We torture people now in America. There's, you know, rampant sexual harassment of women in the military. There's a lot of evil that we're doing. OK. This didn't go over very well.
Then McCain is asked. What do we do about evil? Two words. Defeat it. Now, of course, to the people in that audience, this goes over great because when they hear evil, they think of something very tangible: the devil. They're not kidding. They believe in this comic-book figure called the devil who's going to poke your ass in hell if you're bad. Heaven, you get air conditioning. OK.
So, you know, you have to take this into account. These are voters. These are people who think evil is the devil. We can defeat it by the end of my first term. We will defeat evil.
How are you going to have a country, supposed to be a super power, in this world making the right decisions if this is the kind of thinking that goes into it? It's like trying to write a song when half the keys on the piano are out of tune.
[film clip of "Religulous"...Maher asks Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor (D) about evolution]
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 believe in a talking snake.
PRYOR: You don't have to pass an IQ test to be in the Senate, though.
[On locations where he filmed "Religulous"]
MAHER: [...] in Holy Land, an amusement park in Florida, in Orlando.
KING: Like Disneyland?... What do they do in Holy Land?
MAHER: Well, they -- well, they have Jesus. They re-enact -- we show it in the movie -- they re-enact where he was carrying the cross and he was beaten by the centurions and then they, you know, crucify him.
KING: They show you all that?
MAHER: Yes, I mean, this is what they believe, and having been to the real Via De La Rosa in Jerusalem and then this re-enactment in America, I was confounded as to which I thought was more commercially crass. It was really a tossup.
MAHER: Ever been to Via De La Rosa in Jerusalem? It's really the Via De La Rosa mall. You know, it's very commercialized, not that that's the worst part of the whole religious problem.
KING: In this film you take a tour. You go to the Mormon Church. You go to the Vatican. Did anything alter your thinking? Did anything impress you?
MAHER: I was impressed with how hard it is to make a movie, and it altered my thinking about ever wanting to make another one. You know, you just have to get up early in the morning and put on makeup. You know, it's endless, all day.
KING: A great director.
MAHER: Larry Charles was the right man.
KING: Who directed the...
MAHER: Yes, "Borat." And I needed someone who understood comedy, because we're making a comedy. We're trying to -- well, we're mostly trying to make people laugh, but I also would like to arouse the somewhat, like, 16 percent of people who I call rationalists. They would call them atheists or agnostics in America. It sounds like it's a small minority, but 16 percent is actually bigger than blacks or Jews or homosexuals or NRA members, or teachers union, or Hispanics. If those people stood up and made themselves heard...but they never do.
KING: Do you think it might be more? Do you think there are people who just don't admit it?
MAHER: Absolutely. You know what they are? They're a lot of people like me, like I was. We make a point in the movie to show that my evolution from where I was, toward where I am now, was gradual. ... I definitely didn't believe in the Jesus story after we quit the Catholic church.
But I did have an idea of some imaginary man who lived in my head who got mad at me if I was bad and who I had to bargain with if I was bad. And I was always being like, "Oh, please, God, get me out of this. Just get me out of this. I promise I will never do this again."
So, you know, it doesn't happen overnight. You come to it slowly.
(to be continued)