By Phillip Swarts-The Washington Times
Well-known atheist Bill Maher clashed with the chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, Ralph Reed, on his show Friday while discussing whether the Bible is the literal word of God.
“Faith: the purposeful suspension of critical thinking,” The HBO Real Time host said, giving his definition of the word.
He grilled Mr. Reed on several passages he said showed harmful behavior if followed to the letter, including passages about women having pre-marital sex needing to be stoned.
Mr. Reed pointed to Jesus’ teachings that all people are sinful, and the well-known quote “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” But Mr. Maher questioned why Jesus needed to change Old Testament teachings.
“If the Bible’s a perfect book written by a perfect guy why is this part in there?” he said. “Why did Jesus need to come along to correct his Dad?”
“When you’ve convinced yourself that there is this place you’re gonna go — for which there is absolutely no evidence, it is just something people pulled right out of their ass Ralph — I’m sure it is easier to lay your head on the pillow,” Mr. Maher said.
Mr. Reed said the TV host was being very selective in what parts of the Bible he was talking about. He pointed to Old Testament dietary laws being changed in the New Testament as one example of God renewing his covenant with his people.
“You’re not going to get to heaven by observing do’s and don’ts and rules,” Mr. Reed said. “You’re going to get to heaven by a personal relationship with God through his Son.”
Mr. Reed has written a new book, “Awakening,” which argues that many of America’s problems are caused by a lack of faith.
“You don’t have to have faith to be a good person,” he said. “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.”
“You can do those things without believing in magic,” Mr. Maher retorted.
Mr. Reed pointed to the increasing debt and rising number of children born out of wedlock as problems facing the nation.
“All I’m saying is that there are some things we have to get back in order,” he said. “I don’t think you can do it by electing another politician I don’t think you can do it by passing another law. I think you need a moral and a cultural and a spiritual renewal.”
Mr. Maher commented that he did admire Mr. Reed’s courage in being willing to come debate the Bible with an atheist on TV.