Bill Maher takes on Tim Tebow and feels the wrath
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.

Wow, Jesus just f***** #TimTebow bad! And on Xmas Eve! Somewhere in hell Satan is tebowing, saying to Hitler "Hey, Buffalo's killing them"

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.

Happy birthday to JC – but don't forget the other "gods" who have the same bday/bio: Horus,Mithra, Krishna, Osiris, Dionysus..makes u think!

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:

All u J-freaks having a cow re my Tebow tweets pls go back to the much longer piece we did on 11/4 Real Time and have a proper heart attack

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.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Belief • Christianity

soundoff (2,202 Responses)
  1. Joe citizen abroad

    I am no fan of Bill Maher. But he is absolutely right in calling out public figures who wear their "faith" on their sleeve. I don't care if you're a football player or a president, if you make a point of reminding me how holy you are every time I see you, you're not holy. You're either vain, simple-minded, or a manipulator. None of those is a worthy role model for anyone. I guarantee there would be no such public adulation for a muslim NFL player who pulled out a prayer rug and bowed to Mecca on the sidelines. But THAT would certainly take more courage.

    January 1, 2012 at 11:40 am |
    • That Would Be Great!

      I would LOVE to see that! Muslim player kowtows towards Mecca after a big play. The head of every Christian Head would EXPLODE! Or how about an atheist player who invents a "No God" gesture that he uses after a good play – that would just burn all the religious nutters who think Tebow is great.

      Because what is okay for Christians is not okay for everyone else. It's this hypocrisy/double standards thing they embrace.

      January 1, 2012 at 12:16 pm |
  2. Mcdanel

    Matthew 6.5-6 And, when you pray, do not be as the hypocrites, since they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the plaza corners, so that they might be apparent to men. Amen, I say to you, they fully have their wage. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your chamber and, after closing the door, pray to your father who is in secret, and your father who sees in secret will reward you.

    January 1, 2012 at 8:59 am |
    • Casie

      What do you say about Daniel praying in open defiance to his ruler's law? I don't think you know real meaning of that Bible verse you quoted?

      January 1, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • Andy


      January 1, 2012 at 11:01 am |
    • TR6

      @Casie:”What do you say about Daniel praying in open defiance to his ruler's law? I don't think you know real meaning of that Bible verse you quoted?”

      Typical hypocritical, two faced Christian can’t accept what the bible says when they don’t agree with it.

      What part of “But you, when you pray, go into your chamber and, after closing the door, pray to your father who is in secret” don’t you understand?

      January 1, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • Smitty

      Wow...look at all the comments. Some good...some bad...some on the subject..some just to show ignorance. Amazing! Yes, I'm of the Christian faith. That being said, I try to treat everyone equally. The Christian Bible also states that all Christians should give thanks to our Lord Jesus Christ for the good things that we receive. I've seen several NFL players go down on one knee and give thanks after scoring a TD. Why get on Tebow's case for it? Jealously? Maybe...but that's their problem. Maher is doing his job,sure, and for the MONEY. All Tebow is doing is giving thanks to the Lord for success. What is wrong with that? I do hope that Atheists have someone to thank for their success...themselves or Medaline O'Hara? Doesn't really matter because we all will find Truth when we leave this world. I'm confident in my belief...are you? Leave the man [Tim Tebow] alone to make his way. He seems to be doing a pretty good job of it. Have you made your way? Have a good one and God bless!

      January 3, 2012 at 11:32 am |
  3. Sunny 62

    What would you expect from Maher, a man who holds nothing sacred!.....and is on the fast track to "hell" if he does not change his ways.....But even Jesus can save him, if he repents and believes!!!!!.......God can change the hearts of the vilest people!!!!

    January 1, 2012 at 8:36 am |
    • Adam

      NOTHING sacred? Your a fool.

      January 1, 2012 at 12:05 pm |
  4. Mercyme

    If the best you Tebow critics can do is try to kick the guy kneeling - what does that say about you? Go Tebow!!!! Will pray for those that do not understand.

    January 1, 2012 at 7:47 am |
    • Adam

      Praying is the least anyone can do. Literally the LEAST.

      January 1, 2012 at 12:06 pm |
  5. Mercyme

    It's refreshing to see a person kneel in humility for the Lord; therefore taking a strong stand against persecution due to faith! If the best you Tebow critics can do is try to kick the guy kneeling - what does that say about you? Go Tebow!!!! Will pray for those that do not understand.

    January 1, 2012 at 7:46 am |
    • TR6

      “It's refreshing to see a person kneel in humility for the Lord;”

      Typical aragonite, hypocritical Christian, It is not possible to “kneel in humility” in front of hundreds of thousands of people (in person and on TV). This is the very opposite of humility; but, very christian

      January 1, 2012 at 1:36 pm |
  6. Mark Taylor

    The arrogance on both sides of the Atheist vs Religion is sicking: From Freeman Dyson (look him up on Wiki) – One of the greatest Physicists of the 20th and 21st Centuries:

    Science and religion are two windows that people look through, trying to understand the big universe outside, trying to understand why we are here. The two windows give different views, but they look out at the same universe. Both views are one-sided, neither is complete. Both leave out essential features of the real world. And both are worthy of respect. Trouble arises when either science or religion claims universal jurisdiction, when either religious or scientific dogma claims to be infallible. Religious creationists and scientific materialists are equally dogmatic and insensitive. By their arrogance they bring both science and religion into disrepute. The media exaggerate their numbers and importance. The media rarely mention the fact that the great majority of religious people belong to moderate denominations that treat science with respect, or the fact that the great majority of scientists treat religion with respect so long as religion does not claim jurisdiction over scientific questions.

    January 1, 2012 at 7:46 am |
    • Adam

      I thought the greatest was either Feynman or Einstein.

      January 1, 2012 at 12:07 pm |
  7. joe

    It doesn't matterwhat Maher says. All that matters is that Tebow follows the word of God, and that he honors his contract, and plays as hard as he can.

    January 1, 2012 at 7:09 am |
  8. L

    All the hate on these comments are sad even by people who say their christian yet are up here cursing up a storm and are judging people, you're not God so who are you to judge? we are all sinners in the eyes of God. And to people who talk about religion this or religion being a Christian is not about following a religion is about following Jesus Christ. Huge misconception by many people who talk about religion, religion is man made God never intended for us to follow religious guidelines, but to instead establish a personal relationship with Him. So before anybody speaks whether you are atheist, jew, christian, muslim, etc. please speak know of what you know it is not good to speak out of ignorance. And if someone wants to be atheist let them be atheists, the only thing that God asks of us is to speak to people out of love, being kind and not attacking them, not by forcing it down their throats. And to anybody who knows how the world came into existence please tell me because i would like to know?

    January 1, 2012 at 6:40 am |
  9. Bill C.

    Maher has the mouth of an athiest, but the nose of a Jew. His heritage will come back to haunt him, if not in this lifetime, then the next. His jokes are very offensive to me, but I'll pray for him anyway. Tebowing for Maher...ironic?

    January 1, 2012 at 4:42 am |
    • joe


      January 1, 2012 at 7:10 am |
    • TruthPrevails

      "His jokes are very offensive to me, but I'll pray for him anyway."

      His jokes are only offensive to you because they speak of reality and don't match with what you see to fit your little world view. I'm sure he would not want your prayers because as with most Atheists, he does not believe prayer works. However if it makes you feel better, go for it. (prayer is a feel good measure for the person praying and does absolutely nothing for the person being prayed for) You waste valuable time and energy praying. Instead of praying, try using the hands you have to do something useful in this world.

      January 1, 2012 at 7:58 am |

      Very well put, TruthPrevails

      January 1, 2012 at 12:30 pm |
  10. Robbie

    Okay, I really like Bill, because he makes us all think,.....but Tim Telow, he makes us all think too. I believe that he is a genuine believer, and Bill is a genuie nonbeliever.....both I can identify with at certain times. Like them both a lot and not necessarily in opposition to each other. I want to think that I am responsible for my life, but that I can make a difference by believing in myself and maybe a God that likes me too.!!!!!

    January 1, 2012 at 3:51 am |
    • Casie

      The problem I have with Maher is not that he is an atheist (sad as that truly is) but it's that he is a vile atheist. Anyone who takes pleasure in being vile and enjoys hurling hurtful and insulting remarks to his fellow human beings is someone who is extremely low in the gutter indeed. Maher gives a very bad image to atheism, making atheists appear as people with no decency, or love in their hearts and certainly not on their lips, ready at the drop of a hat to spew anything but words filled with love. I hope that all atheists are not like Bill Maher.

      January 1, 2012 at 10:32 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      How do you feel about Don Rickles, dear?

      January 1, 2012 at 12:28 pm |
    • TR6

      Casie:” Anyone who … enjoys hurling hurtful and insulting remarks to his fellow human beings is someone who is extremely low in the gutter indeed. “

      Reminds me of any number of televangelists, mega church pastors and GOP candidates in particular and Christians in general

      January 1, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
  11. Greg Powell

    May you and I both have our best year ever of abiding in Jesus, being filled by the Holy Spirit, and resting in Abba's arms. May we love with God's love and patience, battle with God's power and courage, and walk in His ways and will. Since His desire is that every single human on earth be saved and come to a full knowledge of the truth, may we pray and work to that end, trusting in His power, crying out for His grace and mercy. May we be more conformed to His moral likeness and less conformed to the world system than ever. May we bring more pleasure to God, more cause for celebration to the holy angels, and more frustration to the demons than ever. May this be our best year ever because God got so much glory from our broken, humbled, devoted, obedient lives; and because so many hurting, screwed up, sinful image-bearers experienced unmerited, non-judgmental, affectionate, and sacrificially practical love when they let us into their lives; and because we were more zealously focused than ever on the expansion of the Kingdom of Jesus, one heart at a time... starting with our own.

    January 1, 2012 at 3:40 am |
    • joe

      That was great.

      January 1, 2012 at 7:12 am |
    • Jimmy

      It's his (God's) desire that everyone be saved, but no Christian actually imagines that everyone actually will, right? So is that a case for Christian's lack of faith, or God's inability to fulfill his desires?

      "May we be more conformed to His moral likeness and less conformed to the world system than ever."
      The morality that God allotted for himself included genocide. Surely you don't mean that we should be like God in this?

      "May we bring more pleasure to God,"
      Are you saying that God needs us in order to be happy? That would seem to indicate that he was incomplete, unhappy, and definitely less than perfect before he supposedly created us, right? Kinda like a childless women in her 40s who suddenly wants a child to complete her life. Or are we more like God's pets? Like lapdogs?

      Just curious as to how you understand what you said.

      January 1, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
  12. Mark from Middle River

    >>>"So we are at an impasse. Your faith in God allows you to believe in prayer and miracles, nay requires you believe. It's in your doctrine. "

    Steve. I do not consider it an impasse. I like to think of it as a respectable understanding or disagreement. I do not come here to try to convert Atheist ...cough TomTom..cough..Atheists.... I do come here to see in the storm of the extremes on both sides, how many folks can come to a point were it is cool that others believe differently. To hold on to their views while at the same time allowing others to believe differently.

    TomTom, as you can see is more about insulting those of Faith than saying that he just is not a believer. To him, that is TomTom's form of Atheism and that is an impasse because it is as far as TomTom can go. Steve, you gave reasoning into your views and did it without the insults. That is not an impasse, that is open respectful dialogue. I can and enjoyed reading and getting deeper into your post where as TomTom was ...well a bit Bill Maher while you were more Hitchens 🙂

    For that, I gotta respect you Steve..... yah' ain't right though.. but, I can respect you dude.

    January 1, 2012 at 2:17 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Boo hoo hoo. Marky doesn't like me. Wahhhh! Whatever WILL I do??? Woe is me.

      Get over it, Mark. You don't like having your foibles and hypocrisy pointed out to you.

      January 1, 2012 at 11:37 am |
  13. Mercyme

    Whether you choose to believe or not; one day every knee will bow. Hope some of you folks get a little practice in before your big day arrives. It is NEVER funny to bring Hitler into a joke! It dishonors all of the men, women and children who were his victims. Bill M. spewed hate, plain and simple. Satan tebowed? Doesn't that mean he went on bended knee (subservient) to Christ? Jokes on Bill.

    January 1, 2012 at 1:54 am |
    • Jimmy

      Speaking of Hitler, I doubt that Bill could joke about National Socialists if he was around in Germany back then either. Only places where free speech is really regarded as a right allow satire and America, sadly, is not really one of them.

      January 1, 2012 at 1:56 pm |
  14. Vicki

    All I know if this player is a real true Christian he should do all he can for those less fortunate and be kind and good. If not that is when I would judge him harshly for his public prayer that can be seen as a show.

    January 1, 2012 at 1:36 am |
    • Mark from Middle River

      >>>"If not that is when I would judge him harshly"

      Ouch Vicki ... Matthew 7:1-2

      January 1, 2012 at 2:20 am |
    • Jimmy

      Read Matthew 6:5-8 again. Does it really matter if the guy hands out a few bucks to charity while making a show of praying out loud? Even the Pharisees gave to charity. What Jesus disliked was the show they made of it.

      Luke 20:45-21:4

      [45] While all the people were listening, Jesus said to his disciples, [46] "Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted in the marketplaces and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. [47] They devour widows' houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely."

      [21:1] As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. [2] He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. [3] "I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. [4] All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on."

      January 1, 2012 at 2:56 am |
  15. G Michael Leonard

    A boycott on Twitter? Largely ineffective. To have a boycott requires people who live in the real world.

    January 1, 2012 at 1:23 am |
    • joe

      Sorry...none of those left.

      January 1, 2012 at 7:15 am |
  16. Bill Brasky!!!!

    Go Broncos!

    January 1, 2012 at 1:13 am |
  17. deathtocomputers

    Way to go Maher! I despise the Broncos and Tebow! What pieces of crud! Your comments on Twitter were spot on! Thank God someone had the nerve to finally say it! You've got a pair of shinny brass balls Mr.Maher!

    January 1, 2012 at 1:01 am |
  18. deathtocomputers

    Thanks God for Bill Maher, he's got a pair of brass balls! I loathe the Broncos and Tebow! I believe Maher's Twitter was spot on!

    January 1, 2012 at 12:57 am |
  19. Be Real

    Stop comparing this to every other stupid thing anybody else ever said, it doesn't make what Maher said any better or worse. He is an entertainer to a select group of people and many of them didn't laugh. Taking anything bill says seriously makes you the joke.

    It wasn't that funny.

    January 1, 2012 at 12:36 am |
  20. dcfromtct

    Who even listens to Bill Maher? He's an idiot and proves it every time he opens his mouth. His short lived popularity ended in the late 90's. He's a Howard Stern wanna be – someone with no talent, no clue and just says stupid hateful tweets or interviews to get a reaction or to get on TV talk shows now that his comedy career is over.

    January 1, 2012 at 12:07 am |
    • tallulah13

      Bill Maher has a show on HBO. You are spewing nonsense from a position of ignorance.

      January 1, 2012 at 1:11 am |
    • Eric Roberts

      No Tallullah...that is from a position of self imposed stupidity...

      January 1, 2012 at 2:46 am |
    • Jimmy

      Without stupid, hateful things to say what would Fox commentators get paid for?

      January 1, 2012 at 2:58 am |
    • Dave A.

      Dc: Bill's humor is just over your head. That's all!

      January 1, 2012 at 3:15 am |
    • Adam

      So says you. Does not make it true.

      January 1, 2012 at 12:08 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Tell us all about your show, dear? What is it you do for a living?

      January 1, 2012 at 12:17 pm |
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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.