December 29th, 2011
05:48 PM ET
Bill Maher takes on Tim Tebow and feels the wrath
By Eric Marrapodi, CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor
(CNN)– On Christmas Eve the Denver Broncos were getting destroyed by the Buffalo Bills* on the football field and comedian, liberal commentator, and religious provocateur Bill Maher couldn't help but tweet about it.
People quickly responded to Maher on Twitter and called him (in summary) a hell bound atheist piece of trash. Maher's social media jab was picked up by the media too and landed in newspapers, websites and TVs everywhere. Pundits and twitter users called for a boycott of Maher's HBO show Real Time, and threatened to cancel their HBO subscriptions.
The timing could not have been better for Maher. The new season of his show begins next month and the week between Christmas and New Years is a veritable wasteland for actual news. In a world where no publicity is bad publicity, Maher scored big.
Maher has long skewered people of all faiths as part of his act. In 2008, Maher starred in "Religulous" a documentary that poked fun at any and all religions.
For all the fury aimed at Maher for the Tebow crack, the long time atheist received comparatively little heat for his Twitter dig at Jesus the next day on Christmas.
It was insulting Tim Tebow, not Jesus Christ, that drew the ire of a nation.
"[Tebow's] public image is built on goodness and virtue," Patton Dodd said. Dodd is the author of "The Tebow Mystique: The Faith and Fans of Football's Most Polarizing Player" and the managing editor of Patheos.com. "His particular expression of Christianity, or Christian witness, is built on acts of kindness to the poor and needy and to strangers. It's not just taking a knee on the field and thanking Jesus after the games. I think a lot of his fans know that."
Dodd said fans likely felt defensive towards Tebow, but acknowledged an athlete so public about their faith could not viewed as untouchable.
"I think the difference here is what Maher said was particularly crass and crude and I think it's seen as aimed more ... at Tebow's fan base than Tebow," he said.
For those who said Maher crossed an unspoken line with the tweet, comedian Pete Dominick said no way. "Our job is to push the envelope. There is no line for us. We don't have a line. You can make a joke about my kids getting cancer as long as it's funny. It has to be funny. That's the only rule, that it's funny. We're supposed to be controversial we're supposed to be provocative, that's what our job entails."
"He's begging to be made fun of," Dominick said.
Dominick, who is also the host of Stand Up! with Pete Dominick on the POTUS Chanel on SirusXM, said Tebow's outspokeness about his faith makes him a prime target for comedians. "He goes out on TV and talks about his faith, he puts it on his eye black. We're going to choose to make fun of it. Always."
"I think it's the wrong thing to get upset about. It's a tweet. It's a predictable tweet from a guy who says these kinds of things and who has an audience who love him for those kinds of things," Dodd said.
For his part Tebow has not commented on Maher's tweet, keeping true to his formula of not engaging critics. Dodd said part of what makes Tebow such a great athlete is his ability to block out the noise and focus on the game of football. Requests for comment from Maher were not responded to by his publicist but Maher tweeted on Wednesday night:
There Maher goes after Tebow in far more than in the 140 characters Twitter allows per post.
If Tebow and his Bronco teammates can win on Sunday they will make the playoffs.
*An earlier version of this story incorrectly had the Detroit Lions as the Broncos opponent. We regret the error and apologize to Bills fans everywhere. They have suffered enough this season.
About this blog
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.
Tebow doesn't impose his beliefs. What do you call using uniforms and television to proselytize? He flaunts his faith (and his supposed salvation) every time he walks in front of a camera.
@Omar P - before you type another word, look up the definition of "impose" as you clearly have no clue what it means. Come back when it sinks in.
So Omar exactly how is he to behave in front of the camera if Christ is central to who he is? He just needs to keep it behind closed doors at Church right? He doesn't "flaunt" his faith...that would be to exhibit a behavior that intentionally provokes envy...you think he is intentionally acting this way to gain attention to say "look at me I'm so righteous!"? Get a grip.
Why doesn't he just say a quick prayer of thanks? Why does he have to pose for the cameras? I don't respect grandstanding players.
Why do you all christian hypocrites care? Just enjoy your journey to heaven knowing that Maher and all like him (myself included) are going to hell!
Lions? Really? Wrong game. And good for Tebow for living out his faith. He doesn't impose it on anyone, yet people say the nastiest things to him. It's a shame.
Maher isn't always right, and he isn't always funny, but this is the kind of commentary that the world desperately needs. Maher wouldn't give two cents about Christianity if it actually promoted the teachings of Jesus.
@Omar P - enlighten us. What are the teachings of Jesus that Bill would support?
The nice thing about talking to an Atheist -– you can tell them to go to hell and mean it!
In the age of Space exploration and there are still people believing in Hell and Heaven which were invented by a group of people who thought the earth was flat and had pillars to hold it. That by itselft is a miracle! Please read the Bible from cover to cover first before arguing back. Thanks.
@freethinker - I have. Your turn.
We do believe that you mean it. We just don't believe that there's a hell to go to. After all, there isn't a shred of evidence to support the existence of hell. Or heaven. Or satan. Or god.
But there is good news: We have ample evidence that you hate people who don't believe what you do enough to hope that they suffer for all eternity. Wow. You are just a peach!
@tallulah13 – yeah, but fortunately for you God doesn't take my advice. Free will, you see. So, while I may be an vindictive ass, He offered up redemption. Good thing I'm not in charge.....
Way to go Bill, bout time somebody with a voice said something about this foolishness!!! lol
Hate is hate. Maher speaks hate.
Look in the mirror and beware. If there is a hell, I'm sure it has a special place for hypocrites.
Bill just engaged in some sports smack talkin'. Are we that ridiculously sensitive to anyone expressing anything in this country now? Jesus.
And don't align or think that ALL atheists are "liberal". Many, many are not, they have just as conservative views as religious wacko's.
This country, this world has gone politically correct bonkers.
Maher is losing and knows it and therefore has to throw stones. Truth will win.
What is he losing? what are you talking about, he made a joke?
Bill has a dedicated fan base, multiple Television shows, his own businesses, and a mere 100 character tweet from him is enough to light up the entire internet.
Yeah, he is soooooo losing. Imbecile.
@JG – A CNN chat forum with less than a thousand posts is "lighting up the internet?" Dang – we'd better call someone before the INTERNET CRASHES!
@Woodrow Hello, try reading the article before hopping down and commenting, eh?
"The timing could not have been better for Maher. The new season of his show begins next month and the week between Christmas and New Years is a veritable wasteland for actual news. In a world where no publicity is bad publicity, Maher scored big."
Or you could check out all the talk sites and see what's up. Imbecile.
@JG – what about anything that you wrote would be "lighting up the internet?" Seriously man – that ranks as one of the dumbest replies in the history of replies.
The Broncos were not playing the Detroit Lions on Christmas Eve. Detroit earned a playoff spot that day against the Chargers.
Maher is spot on.. These religious nuts always put their victories on "god" but never their defeats.. Hypocritical and ignorant..
When has Tebow said "God" gave them the victory? Your so typical, so quick to point your hate filled finger and then you spout off with something that hasn't occurred. Typical leftie...
Only thing worst than a nagging believer is a nagging non-believer
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maher is a jerk and may he rot in hell for his crap
hbo should fire this pos
how very christlike of you.
Bill Maher is one of the few American I know with brains AND guts. Too bad that in a country full of hill billys and religious extremists that will tend to get you in trouble. Come on up to Canada if you can handle the weather Bill, we'd love to have you and I'm sure you'd feel much more able to freely express your opinions.
Stay in canada and you are welcome to take this p.o.s. maher with you
What RB said, FU canuck
I certainly hope RB and UhYeaOkay don't consider themselves Christian after those comments!
This individual doesn't express his viewpoint just as a freedom of expression...he has a genuine contempt to anyone who's views don't line up with his and especially those of faith. This guy really has hate in his heart and doesn't not deserve to be "defended" because "this is America". I thought hatred and bigotry has no place in the the U.S. or Canada...guess I'm wrong since you seem to be welcoming him with open arms....pretty sad.
I agree. People are too sensative and hypocritical. I love Maher's take on alot of issues.
Rick, you do not know many Americans. How is being a cynic ever a good thing? Tear down anything decent and good. Has Maher ever contributed to an orphanage, the homeless or anyone is need? I would like to know.
@rick – you're just trying to get more people to pay into Canada's healthcare debacle...er...system.
No way man – these are our taxpayers and you can't have them... Obama would never allow them to leave.
Maher has skewered Muslims along with every other organized religion. Quit being victim Christians and start practicing the peace, love and kindness you claim to embrace. Actions speak louder than words. Going to church yet being a hateful person just doesn't cut it.
So don't go to church and you can hate like you do and its ok then?
You just failed miserably to describe a true Christian...
True Christians are 1% of the people that claim to be true Christians.
Rampage: and how did you get this percentage exactly? Please cite your source/link...
Maher is everything that is wrong in today's society. Plus, he is ugly and not even funny.
He's actually everything that's right with our society! He, like me loves the first amendment and our freedoms which accompany it. As for his looks, well now you've lost your arguement as you've just turned into a sixth grader. Oh, another item which will pi** you off, his concerts are always sold out and HBO just renewed him for another season. Feeling good about yourself yet skippy?
Can you imagine anybodys God actually giving a flying f*** about a mediocre, over-rated, over-paid, football player? Wouldn't you think that he has more important things to look after in our universe other than making this guy look good in the fourth quarter of all of his games. All of you humorless right-wing, teabagger types should realize that Bill Maher's tweets were only jokes! I'm sure that your lord and savior is much too busy to worry about Tebow because he's always looking after grammy, academy award, and golden globe winners.
So when you attack someone personally its OK because its just a "joke"? You no damn good a well that when it comes to poking fun at people, people of faith are not "just a joke" to him...this guy truly "hates" Christians, if you can't see it you're either delusional or you have no problem with hating others for their beliefs. Get real and stop making excuses for this individual.
What a life you must lead if you pray for football.
Bill Maher is the best, and hes right to be cynical about this. Tebow has gotten so much press because hes a blind christian and the fact is hes completing 48% (thats awful by the way). Its a shame there arent more people in TV and news who have the b@lls this guy does.
When he picks on Islam then he has balls, until then he's a simpleton
Jesus freaks might kill you...look at that guy in Norway. He was a Christian and sited that as part of the reason why he did what he did.
What are you talking about? Just go to youtube and type "Bill Maher attacks Islam."
Tebow does more than just announce his faith on tv, he walks the walk. People like you don't understand it because your to busy pointing out everyone else's flaws while ignoring your on blatant hypocrisy.
With rights comes responsibility an a thing called "manners"...something your mother didn't seem to instill as a priority in developing character and professionalism in your life...
Oh the "furry".