Saturday, February 27, 2010

Dear Bill Maher

I have always liked your commentary on world events. I have always considered your perspective on politics and the affairs of mankind insightful and cutting. But now I have to ask whether you have suffered some type of traumatic cognitive disorder.

Your recent comments regarding Buddhism seem to be uncharacteristically pedestrian and sophomoric. And I mean literally sophomoric. It is as if, like a 15-year-old high school student, you were asked to write a report on “What is Buddhism” and you cited a single source. I’m sure you have a crack research staff, but in this particular instance, they have let you down. And the fact that you accepted their research unfortunately portrays you as a rather shallow person, less than informed and easily duped into accepting knee-jerk definitions in much the same way as a Pat Roberson or a James Dobson.

Yes, your comments about Buddhism are that pathetic.

“(Buddhism) really is outdated in some ways — the ‘Life sucks, and then you die’ philosophy was useful when Buddha came up with it around 500 B.C., because back then life pretty much sucked, and then you died – but now we have medicine, and plenty of food, and iPhones, and James Cameron movies – our life isn’t all about suffering anymore. And when we do suffer, instead of accepting it we try to alleviate it.”

First of all, when you say that “when we do suffer, instead of accepting it we try to alleviate it,” reveals your ignorance of Buddhism. The Buddha did, indeed, teach that life sucks; but he also taught that there is something we can do about it so that when we do die, we die happy. And iPhones and James Cameron movies have nothing to do with that.

“Tiger said, ‘Buddhism teaches that a craving for things outside ourselves’) makes us unhappy, which confirms something I’ve long suspected about Eastern religions: they’re a crock, too…Craving for things outside ourselves is what makes life life — I don’t want to learn to not want, that’s what people in prison have to do. Buddhism teaches suffering is inevitable. The only thing that’s inevitable is that if you have fake boobs and hair extensions, Tiger Woods will try to fuck you.”

Oh you silly and deluded quasi-comedic political pundit. Since when is Tiger Woods, a golfer, a spokesman for Buddhists? Does that mean that Woody Harrelson is a legitimate spokesman for the First Amendment? Had your crack research team done some real research, instead of using Google to find everything the Dalai Lama has said (or Richard Gere), they might have stumbled upon the concept that defining our happiness on sources, events and phenomenon outside of ourselves is surely a disappointing proposition. Come on, be honest about this. You have fame and wealth. If you suddenly lost that, would you still be happy? If you would be, then you have found the true happiness that can only be found within yourself. But if you would be terribly bummed if suddenly you lost all your television and publishing contracts, were foreclosed upon and couldn’t afford any longer the entertainment diversions you are currently accustomed to, then I would say you are suffering from the same delusion as a crack addict.

“People are always debating, is Buddhism a religion or a philosophy: it’s a religion. You’re a religion if you do something as weird as when the Buddhist monks scrutinize two-year-olds to find the reincarnation of the dude who just died, and then choose one of the toddlers as the sacred Lama: ‘His poop is royal!’ Sorry, but thinking you can look at a babbling, barely-housebroken, uneducated being and say, ‘That’s our leader’ doesn’t make you enlightened. It makes you a Sarah Palin supporter.”

All I can say is wow. Again, you are so focused on Tibetan Buddhism, and not just Tibetan Buddhism, but a very small sect within the larger sphere of Tibetan Buddhism. Yes, there are some kooky practices among the various sects of Buddhism. But that is not Buddhism. The Buddha never taught that there would be a re-incarnated leader of any particular sect. In fact, the Buddha never taught there was re-incarnation. He taught about re-birth. And this simple discrepancy again points to your sorely lacking research assistants that you must surely have, as big a television personality as you are.

Bill, I hope that you will do a bit more re-search about Buddhism before you make such ignorant comments in the future. You know, you just might find that the Buddha taught that ignorance is at the root of all our trouble. And someday, you might be facing some personal troubles. There’s that thing we Buddhists pay attention to called kamma. You should look into that. And not from a New York Times article either.

I thank Kyle at The Reformed Buddhist for the quotes. I visited Maher's blog and read the entire "piece." Also, credit must go to Rod at The Worst Horse for being among the first (if not the first) to address Maher's comments.


  1. Sadly Bill Maher could never become a Buddhist, simply due to the fact that he would need to lose his identity, something his ego would never let happen. It's far easier for him to trash things he can't understand or relate to.

  2. I loved his work on "Religulous" but yea, he definitely misses the mark here on Buddhism. Great letter, let's hope he takes your advice.

  3. Excellent letter man, very concise. And thanks for the props Richard, but Rod at The Worst Horse was the one that first reported it. :)

  4. @Justin, I left a link back to this post last night on Maher's blog. We'll see what happens there.

    @Kyle, I will add another addendum with a link back to Rod at The Worst Horse.

  5. Richard,
    If you want to chat about Monk photos, email me...near my profile.
    Yours on this post is great.
    Was Once

  6. @Was Once, I can't take credit for that photo. The photographer was anonymous, so I am unable to give credit too. It is a very cool photo though, and I've been waiting for an opportunity to use it.

  7. Great post- I appreciate him much more when he sticks to what he knows, and that sadly is not Buddhism!

  8. @Magpie, hey thanks for stopping by! I used to watch him quite a bit when he was on cable, what was it? Was he on Comedy Central or HBO? I stopped watching when he went Network.