Monday, October 1, 2007

Banned Books Week

It's Banned Books Week -- celebrate your right to read.

This year marks the 26th anniversary of the annual American Library Association event that reminds Americans not to take this precious democratic freedom for granted. Banned Books Week "celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them." After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where these two essential conditions are met.

Calling all "Rationalists"

I'm quite fond of Bill Maher. While it is easy to generalize and deem him a liberal on all subjects, he frequently surprises me. His views span the political continuum, and I enjoy being occasionally startled by his opinion. He is stunningly intelligent and well-informed, which of course makes for good discourse -- and good tv.

But most of the time, I find Mr. Maher in my comfort zone on the left. The following excerpt is from the close of a recent show. I thought it was so spot on, I wanted to share:

Just because the Constitution doesn’t have a religious test for office, doesn’t mean I can’t. This past Monday was Constitution Day in the U.S. And while I was going over the Constitution with my two adopted kids—[laughter]—Zack Ono and Mogadishu—[laughter]—I’m home schooling them—[laughter]—I was struck again by Article 6, Section 3. It says, “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office.” And I agree. No one should ever be disqualified for their religion. Even the funny ones. [laughter] Like all of them. [applause] [cheers]

But, the problem is that there is a religious test in this country. According to a recent poll, seven in ten say it’s important to have a president with strong religious beliefs. The other three couldn’t take the poll because it was Friday night and Yahweh wouldn’t let them answer the phone. [laughter]

But, fair is fair. So, for myself and the other 15-20% of American who the majority call “non-believers,” but who I call “rationalists,” [applause] here is our religious test for office: if you believe in Judgment Day, I have to seriously question your judgment. [laughter]

If you believe you’re in a long-term relationship with an all-powerful space-daddy—[laughter]—who will, after you die, party with your ghost forever—[laughter]—you can’t have my vote, even for Miss Hawaiian Tropic. [laughter] [applause]

I can’t trust you at the levers of government because there’s an electrical fire going on in your head. [laughter]

Maybe a president who didn’t believe our soldiers were going to Heaven might be a little less willing to get them killed. [applause] [cheers]

Candidate Mitt Romney, a Mormon, believes in spiritually-blessed underwear that can protect him. [laughter] He seemed like a nice man, and so do his sons, Wally and the Beav. [laughter] But, I’m sorry, their religion is bat-shit. [laughter] It’s like Scientology without the celebrities. [laughter] [applause] And he has every right to run for president while believing in magic underwear, and believing that Jesus survived his own death and will return during an Osmonds’ concert in Branson. [laughter] And I have every right to take that into consideration in the voting booth.

And at the end of the day, is magic underwear really that much crazier than giant arks or virgin births or talking bushes? You’re either a rationalist or you’re not. And the good news is, a recent poll found 20% of adults under 30 say they are rationalists and have figured out that Santa Claus and Jesus are really the same guy. [laughter] [applause]

Now, 20% is hardly a majority, but it’s a bigger minority than blacks, Jews, homosexuals, NRA members, teachers or seniors. And it’s certainly enough to stop being shy about expressing the opinion that WE’RE NOT THE CRAZY ONES! [applause] [cheers]

Just because the vote is 4-to-1, it doesn’t mean the minority is wrong. People who were against this war from the start were a minority. The majority used to believe the world was flat. But if you believe that today, you’d either be packed off to Bellevue or asked to co-host “The View.” [laughter] [applause] [cheers]