Friday night on HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” host Bill Maher said the he thinks newly-appointed Pope Francis and some other Catholic Church leaders may be secret atheists. Maher and a panel made up of Center for American Progress’ President Neera Tanden, actress Brit Marling, “HuffPost Live” producer James Poulos and playwright Paul Rudnick discussed the decline in religious belief around the world and the strange view some Christians have of God and God’s will.
Maher began by pointing out that when people want to ask if something is self-evident or obvious, they say, “Is the Pope Catholic?”
“Well,” said Maher, “I think he might not be.”
Last week Pope Francis called upon believers to be accepting and tolerant of atheists and to acknowledge that people who do not identify as people of faith are still able to do good in the world.
“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!” said Francis on Vatican Radio.
“I remember when I was making Religulous,” Maher said, “we talked to a lot of priests, and we found out that a lot of priests really aren’t believers.”
He went on to say that many of the nominally faithful clergy keep doing what they were doing because they want to help people and the church can be a means of accomplishing that.
“They know they can’t tell the masses that it’s all a crock, but they themselves don’t believe it,” he said.
Tanden said that, “as a progressive,” she favors the new Pope because of his outspoken stance against austerity programs in Europe.
“He’s criticized driving all these people into unemployment,” she said, “and all the cuts that people are really suffering from. He’s made arguments about corporate profits versus poverty, that we should care more about how people are suffering and care less about how banks are doing.”
“They’re going to poison him,” opined Maher.
Maher played the now-infamous clip of CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asking an Oklahoma tornado survivor if she thanks the Lord for her safety, to which the woman replied she was an atheist.
“What did you think of that?” Maher asked the panel.
“You don’t have to be an atheist to think that God cares less about your property and maybe more about your soul,” Poulos said. “You don’t have to thank the Lord that your house is still standing. I don’t think that’s what religion’s all about.”
Rudnick asked what you’re supposed to say to your neighbor whose house is destroyed.
“That’s the thing,” Maher said. “It’s always so completely arbitrary.”
Watch the video, embedded below via Mediaite: