Ralph Reed Defends Religion Against Maher's Aggressive Atheism On HBO's 'Real Time'

On the June 3 edition of Real Time with Bill Maher, author Ralph Reed of the Faith and Freedom Coalition held his own against the aggressively atheist HBO host. While most guests either cannot get a word in edgewise or are so baffled by Maher’s illogical liberalism they are unable to reply his radical rhetoric, Reed was able to make an argument for the importance of traditional family units and religious faith despite the belligerent anti-religion activist.

Reed argued that 40 percent of the children born this year would be born out of wedlock, which social scientists agree would make them “likely to drop out of high school, more likely to be chemically dependent, they’re more likely to end up in the criminal justice system.” When Maher replied that parents don’t need to be married to complete the family unit, Reed stated that  “they're more likely to be there if they've made a lifelong commitment.” [See video below. Click here for MP3 audio]

After the HBO host insulted 82 percent of Americans who consider themselves religious by defining faith as “the purposeful suspension of critical thinking,” he asked Reed why it was important. Beyond providing a “moral compass” and “sense of purpose,” Reed explained how, although there are good people who do not have faith, “in the overwhelming number of cases, it is something that leads to social behaviors that are more committed to other people.”

Maher was outraged at this statement, and blamed “most wars, the Crusades, burning witches at the stake, 9/11...” on religion. Reed retorted that a large number of charities are run by religious institutions, such as homeless shelters, “ninety percent of which are connected with a house of worship.” Maher, ever tactful, replied, “of course, but you can do those things without believing in magic, you know? And people do.”

Yes, they do Bill. Apparently, however, not enough for you to find a statistic on them.

See transcript below

6/6/2014
Real Time With Bill Maher
10 p.m. Eastern
3 minutes and 42 seconds

BILL MAHER: But first up, he is the former executive director of the Christian coalition, my old job, and the current chairman of the of the Faith and Freedom Coalition whose new book is Awakening: How America Can Turn From Economic and Moral Destruction Back to Greatness Ralph Reed everybody! Ralph Reed. Hey Ralph, how are you, sir? Thank you for coming on. You say America needs to go back to greatness. What are you saying, America is shitty now?

RALPH REED: Um, no, that's not really my message.

MAHER: Sounds like America’s bad now?

REED: No, I think we can do better. When you have a $17 trillion national debt, when you have $65 trillion in unfunded entitlement obligations- Social Security, Medicare etc. When you got 40 percent of the children, Bill, who will be born in America the year will be born out of wedlock and we know the consequences of that for those kids. All I'm saying is that there are some things we have to get back in order. I don't think you can do it by electing another politician, I don’t think you can do it by passing a law. I think you need a moral, and a cultural, and a spiritual renewal.

MAHER: I think higher numbers of kids are born out of wedlock in Europe and they don't seem to be going to hell in a handcart. But, we’ll leave that aside.

REED: Well, in America, the social science is very clear, that they're more likely to drop out of high school, more likely to be chemically dependent, they’re more likely to end up in the criminal justice system.

MAHER: Marriage isn't the key thing. People don't have to be married. They have to be there.

REED: That's true. That’s true

MAHER: Doesn’t matter if you get married.

REED: But Bill, they're more likely to be there if they've made a lifelong commitment. G.K. Chesterton called the mother, the father, and the child the Trinity of truisms. It’s an eternal truth that, that unit has been the most successful department of health, education, and welfare ever conceived. There's no check out of Washington or Sacramento that can replace it, there’s no government program that can replace it and we need to rebuild that unit.

MAHER: I think Chesterton was a Fag.

REED: So?

MAHER: Exactly, So? No, ok. I want to thank you for being here because a lot of people who are people of faith don't want to, you know, even be seen with me because I am the opposite of a person with faith. So I appreciate your courage and  I want to ask you right off the bat -- faith, the purposeful suspension of critical thinking. I'm just defining it. I haven't said anything controversial yet. My question is why is faith a good thing? Why is that a good thing?

REED: Well, speaking for myself, faith gives me a sense of purpose. It gives me a moral compass. It’s a relationship. It's not a set of rules. I understand that some people look at it and say well, you're not really thinking for yourself. That's not really true. I do think critically. I study things but I believe my destiny is resolved and when you feel that your eternal destiny is resolved you have a peace and a comfort and a freedom and a liberty to do the right thing and not care what other people think.

MAHER: I'll give you comfort. I'll give you that one. Because when you've convinced yourself that there is this place you're going to go for which there is absolutely no evidence–it is something people pulled right out of their ass -- I'm sure it is easier at night to lay your head on the pillow and think oh, this is good. Because if I die in my sleep it's only going to get better.

REED: Well, but it’s also, it's also the fact, Bill that it leads to-- you don't have to have faith to be a good person.

MAHER: Thank you.

REED: There are plenty of people who are good, decent people who don't have that. But the fact is that in the overwhelming number of cases, it is something that leads to social behaviors that are more committed to other people–

MAHER: Well that, well that is, you that is, that’s not true, it’s quite the opposite.

REED: You look at Robert Putnam’s book Bowling Alone and he points out that half of all the social capital in America, volunteerism, commitment to Boy Scout troops, Little League, all comes out of the church.

MAHER: I could list so many things that are bad that religion has been responsible for. Most wars, the Crusades, burning witches at the stake, 9/11,  I could go on.

REED: Homeless shelters. Ninety percent of which are connected with a house of worship. Many charities.

MAHER: Of course, but you can do those things without believing in magic, you know? And people do.
 

Laura Flint
Laura Flint is a 2014 summer intern for the MRC's News Analysis Division.