Last night I caught a snippet of HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher." I had never seen the show because I don't like Maher as an on screen journalist, if you could call him that, but while channel surfing I heard the word "religion." Being who I am, that sparked my curiosity so I kept the channel on. He was introducing Penn Jillette from the duo Penn and Teller. Penn and Teller are magicians and comedians and Jillette is an espoused atheist and libertarian. Maher was interviewing him to promote Jillette's new book "God, No." I don't know what makes Jillette an expert on religion, but he stated that he was in youth group as a teen and read the entire Bible and that anyone who really reads it will come to the conclusion that there is no God. "The best way to become an atheist is to read the Bible,"he said. He agreed with Maher that the Old Testament is full of some horrible things but Jillette added that the New Testament is just as horrifying and is anti-family saying that it basically states, "No matter how much you love your family, love Jesus more." He sees something terribly wrong with that. He also spoke of morality and stated that if you are doing what you are doing for a reward or because of fear of eternal punishment then it's not really moral living. He said we should live moral lives out of love and out of love alone.
The problem I see with Jillette's logic is in his reading of scripture. He is reading it on the surface only, without digging deeper and certainly without prayer. He did admit that to come to his conclusion he did not study the scriptures but read them almost like an historical text. I just can't abide by his assessment of what the scriptures are saying. Yes, Jesus is asking us to put Him first, but in doing so, we are not abandoning our families but loving them all the more. To put Jesus first is to follow His Way, to live a life striving for holiness in our relationships with God and with all humanity, especially our families.
With regard to morality I agree with Jillette that we should live moral lives out of love and out of love alone. But here we part company. We must strive to live morally out of love, but we are not perfect people and just as young children learn by giving positive and negative reinforcement, God encourages us to live good lives by offering us the heavenly reward and instilling a fear of eternity in hell. Hopefully as we grow and mature in our relationship with Christ, we will live good and holy lives out of Love of God alone. But there is nothing wrong with "the fear of God," as motivation to living a moral life as we progress toward perfection.
As I stated, I never watched Bill Maher before and I probably never will again. As a self admitted "former Catholic," he sees nothing wrong with bashing religion and a quick look on YouTube at past episodes show that he seems to enjoy it. As for Penn Jilliette, I could do without him and his partner as well. I never found them funny or entertaining, and I have a problem with show business personalities speaking as experts on religion and politics, especially when they take cheap shots at Christianity or any religion for that matter.
Christianity and Catholicism especially seem to be acceptable targets for ridicule these days, especially in the media. We also know that Christians are being persecuted and martyred in the Middle East, in Asia and other areas of the world, but this kind of persecution is more subtle. No one dies, no one is hurt, but we have a gradual eroding of faith especially among those who are vulnerable to believing most of what they see and hear in the medial. We seem to just sit back and let it happen. Perhaps it is time to fight back with prayer, fasting and speaking out when we see this kind of ridicule and spreading of lies about our faith. It is time to stand up for Christ.