An Open Letter to Bill Maher

Dear Bill:

From the years when you hosted a show on network TV, I’ve respected your commentary and insight. You’ve provided clear, objective critique of political issues and maintained a good sense of humor in the process. Your positions are generally well informed and demonstrate critical thought.

Given that your opinions are typically cogent and educated, I find it disheartening and frustrating that your position on religion is ignorant and uneducated. You convey the same judgementalism of which you accuse religious fundamentalists.

In your May 14 broadcast, you once again made false claims about religion. You stated that people who hold a religious faith are “deluded” while claiming that nothing comes of prayer or religious belief. Clearly, you have not reviewed the evidence.

Over the last ten years, there have been numerous studies on prayer and meditation. To summarize some of the findings of this research, there is solid evidence to support practices of prayer, meditation, and belief as positive for individuals.

1. People who are ill have significantly better health outcomes when others pray for them, whether they know the people praying for them or not. In fact, a hospitalize individual doesn’t even need to have awareness that others are praying for them.

2. Meditation practices slow the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, improve outcome in the treatment of depression, and aid in resolving Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. These are just some of the mental disorders positively impacted by meditation. Maintaining a meditation practice results in the growth of brain cells and improves neurological functioning.

3. As S. E. Cupp, a member of your panel on May 14 noted, belief results in people being more optimistic. It adds positive value to life.

In sum, the practices of religion including belief, prayer, and meditation enhance the quality of life of people in terms of physical, mental, and emotional health. That’s not merely my opinion. These claims are based on repeated scientific research.

Has religion been abused and misused? Yes. Have many unscrupulous leaders over the centuries attempted to equate religion with magical thinking? Yes. Have people used religion to support prejudice, nationalism, sexism, homophobia and all other kinds of social hatred? Yes. But I maintain that the problem is not with belief in itself. Drawing such a conclusion is like saying that food borne illness wouldn’t result in disease if a person stopped eating.

Time and again, when people express a positively developed and integrated understanding of faith, as did Mayor Cory Booker, you dismiss them and insist that they are deluded. In this matter, you are the one demonstrating delusion. It seems that scientific evidence, which you normally value, is deemed irrelevant to you on this matter. Isn’t that what creationists do?

It is my fondest hope that instead on demonstrating ignorance on this issue that you would consider current scholarship on the effects of faith and spiritual practice. As you demonstrate critical thought on issues related to politics, use the same critical thought to examine the evidence of the impact of belief on the lives of individuals.


Dr. Lou Kavar

© 2010, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.

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One Response to An Open Letter to Bill Maher

  1. Nice blog you got and thanks for adding me on twitter.

    After reading this I was wondering if you have happened to come across the practice of EFT as of yet?

    I learned it first from Dr. Joe Vitale then I was exposed to it by Kevin Trudeau.. Really neat!

    Anyway please in contact great blog you have forming!

    -Simranjeet Singh / Nathan Scheer

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