Almost 70 ago, Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter wrote:
Marxism is a religion. To the believer it presents, first, a system of ultimate ends that embody the meaning of life and are absolute standards by which to judge events and actions; and, secondly, a guide to those ends which implies a plan of salvation and the indication of the evil from which mankind, or a chosen section of mankind, is to be saved. We may specify still further: Marxist socialism also belongs to that subgroup which promises paradise on this side of the grave. I believe the formulation of these characteristics by an hierologist would give opportunities for classification and comment which might possibly lead much deeper into the sociological essence of Marxism than anything a mere economist can say.
I doubt very much that Bill Maher knows who Schumpeter is, or if he does, would approve of his classical liberal mindset, but in attempting to steal a base and wriggle out of a losing debate with conservative pundit S.E. Cupp, Maher stumbles upon the same concept:
Cupp: “Religion doesn’t kill people…people kill people.”
Booker: “We’ve been known to start wars over everything from natural resources to land, to religion—“
Cupp: “Colonialism, tribalism.”
Booker: “—we start wars.”
Maher: “The justification for most of that is religion.”
Cupp: “No it’s not.”
Maher: “Of course it is…What gets normal people to think it’s okay to kill other people is religion…very little else….”
Cupp: “Or colonialism, or land power grabs, or nativism…”
Maher: “Mostly religion. Ethnic cleansing, honor rape…”
Cupp: “Hitler, Pol Pot Mao, Stalin, not in the name of religion.“
Maher: “Were state religions. [Puzzled looks from panel] Of course they were.”
Cupp: “Communism is a state religion?”
Maher: “Absolutely. You never heard that?”
Cupp: “I think we’re talking about different things.”
Maher: “We’re not. We’re just talking different labels.”
Bzzzz! Time-out, Bill. I thought religion, as you have so condescendingly referred to it in the past, is a deluded belief in a “magical man” who makes things happen? But suddenly when cornered with the historical record that refutes your indictment of religion as the chief culprit in most wars and instead places the blame on some decidedly baser human expressions be they communism, Nazism, nationalism, conquest, raw materials, etc. you suddenly switch gears to re-categorize such a secular socio-economic concept as communism as religion, too?
Really Bill? Really?
So to be clear Maher considers Sino and Soviet communism—ideologies which seek to replace God with The State—to be their own religions? Gee, wouldn’t even a casual observer conclude that their codified atheism as the very antithesis of religion? His is a conveniently elastic definition of the word to say the least. By Maher’s logic then secular humanism, of which he is an outspoken devotee, is a religion as well because it exalts man. Man as god. Is capitalism then a “religion” because it exults profit? Money as god? Heck, in Maher’s little mind, are not the fans at Yankee Stadium in reality a congregation in a temple worshiping Jeter and A-Rod?
You get the gist. Still so unaccustomed to cross-examination by the learned, the satirist offers up to Cupp a line of argument to back up his ad hoc thesis of which Clarence Darrow would have been proud: “You never heard that?” Well said, sir. Well said indeed.
So here we can see that, when called out once again on one of his ready-shoot-aim inanities our cock-sure pontificator simply dodges and weaves in a pathetic attempt to wriggle out of a fundamentally inaccurate statement by re-defining “religion” on the spot.
Don’t worry Bill — stealing a rhetorical base isn’t a mortal sin; though producing 20 years of bad TV just might be. Although that’s purgatory for the viewers; not the producer.