This last week’s Real Time with Bill Maher was really good. You never know with that show — it’s either really well done, or just boring/painful to watch. This week’s panel was Muslim author Reza Aslan, actor Jason Alexander, and my old Congressman from GA, Jack Kingston. Good discussion all around — well worth watching.
I liked this particular exchange between Maher and Aslan, referencing religious perspectives on torturing:
Bill Maher: And I think this is interesting. There was a Pew study of different religions: 31% of Protestants and only 26% of Catholics said it was never okay to torture. That seems like a very small percentage of Catholics – 26% — to say, you know – Jesus was tortured – to say it was never okay. Forty-one percent of secular people – atheists or agnostic – said it was never okay to torture. And I – I bring this up because, reading your book, I was struck by how liberal and tolerant Muhammad was. I didn’t really know that.
And I think there’s something Christianity and Islam have in common, which is that neither one of them follow their leaders. [applause]
Reza Aslan [author of the book No god but God]: Well, no, this is true – this is true not just of Islam or Christianity, it’s true to religion. You know, we have this idea, somehow, that prophets invent religions, that Jesus invented Christianity, or that Muhammad invented Islam. Nothing could be further from the truth.
What prophets do is they take the social and cultural and economic and political milieu in which they live, and they reshape it. They recast it. They don’t talk about the future. They talk about the present.
It’s the prophet-followers who then take those words—
MAHER: [overlapping] and screw it up.
ASLAN: [overlapping]—take those deeds, and turn it into what we call a religion. And it’s often the case that it has far more to do with their own ideas, their own biases, than it does with what the prophet said or did.