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.
As a general point about something that constantly comes up on topics such as this: the first amendment that guarantees freedom of religion, speech and assembly is related solely to Congress not making laws that prohibit these rights. It has nothing, nothing whatsoever, to do with what citizens say to each other. Nor does it mean that you can say whatever you want without any consequences. If you go on an expletive-laden rant towards your boss, you're going to get fired. So, no, mocking someone if you consider them to be silly does not mean that you aren't respecting "freedom of speech." Congress passing a law that bans Twitter? Now that would be more like it.
Can I get an Amen? Or whatever. I agree, and so sick of seeing people (that NPR guy, Palin, Hank Williams, etc) saying stupid things and then act like the 1st amendment protects them from us calling them out on their stupidity, of from being fired.
Funny thing about Atheists is that they require as much faith to believe in nothing as Christians require to believe in something. They've never been de@d (making an assumption here) so it's a belief system, plain and simple.
I love it when they get really, really vocal about believing in nothing. That's the best... It's so illogical. If nothing happens when you d1e, and the switch just goes off, and there's no point to any of it - why get so bent out of shape about anything. Go party or something. Why waste time trying to convince others that nothing will happen? Seriously, if you're right...WHO CARES!?!?
You really have no clue what you are talking about, do you? This particular comment has been made and debunked on just about every article.
my words exactly...well said.
I tried to ask Jesus about the afterlife, but for some strange reason, despite being the son of God, he never wrote anything for us to live by. But you are right Woodrow, I do not care what happens after death, and perfectly content with you believe in whatever invisible man you want to. I just hope the Broncos beat the Chiefs on Sunday. Even atheists like Tebow, and I'm proof of it.
@tallulah13 – did you hit 'post' too soon, or did your comment pass as a complete thought for you?
I'll repeat just one line from my post. Have the person reading these comments to you speak slower so it sinks in.
"Seriously, if you're right...WHO CARES!?!?"
In a galaxie of 100 billion stars,and a universe of 100 billion galaxies, it seems farfetched that god would single out a quarterback to carry his message. I'm in the same camp as Maher.
"Dodd said fans likely felt defensive towards Tebow"
Ok fans...its called reality. This ain't your kid
The only good thing about Twitter is the way it outs so many egotistical idiots. It's almost like a truth serum.
I'm not a fan of Twitter, but I am a fan of Maher.
As far as I'm concerned, anytime you make a personal statement on the field, you are grandstanding. It has no place in a team sport. Tebow can thank his god all he wants off the field. On the field, it's an act of selfishness.
@kingnpriest Have you even watched Maher's show? Every week he has guests with opposing views... but thanks for shooting your mouth off for no good reason. It's always entertaining. The real fools are you guys who still haven't outgrown Santa Claus.
I find it hillarious that people are more upset about the Tebow joke than the Jesus joke.
I'm most offended by the "person" who tweeted that filth.
Bill Maher is a st¡tch! He's very much the heir to Lenny Bruce and George Carlin, 2 other guys who knew BS when they saw it and weren't afraid to call it that in the most explicit language their audiences could understand without resorting to Russian or Middle English.
Q: Is nothing sacred?
Note to CNN...it wasn't the Lions that beat them bad on Christmas Eve, it was Buffalo. Detroit blew them out back in October.
great reporting Eric, Except Denver didn't play Detroit on Christmas Eve. If your very first sentence is a complete fabrication how can we take any part of your story seriously. In my opion this article is as much of a joke as Tebow is.
Broncos were playing Buffalo on Xmas eve, not Detroit.
It's a sad reflection of our American culture that there's enough of us here to support people like Maher making good money off of bashing religion and religious people. For once we have a good role model in professional sports and people like Maher are just looking for ways to bring him down.
So what exactly is so virtuous about praising god instead of your defense?
Is it impossible to like both? I love rooting for Tebow, not because of his faith, but because he is a good person, but a joke is a joke. He is rude and plenty of other choice four letter words (Maher that is) so that is nothing new. Taking religion too seriously always worries me.
Most seem to either not know or dismiss the knowledge of how there has been many people in the past as well as now who were leaders of the world, famous people, people who made a vast difference, who were people of faith. So, taking that into consideration, it can't be that bad....
Maher just is not funny. To refer to him as a comedian is simply a misnomer.
well, he very funny indeed, but you need a brain to grasp the jokes .. and anyway, he makes a lot more money than you do .. stop arguiing against success, just because is not yours
I like how Dodd already has written a book on this guy AND deemed him "football's most polarizing player". Um, I don't know...I'd say Vick was, or maybe Deon back in his day...Randy Moss...basically anyone who has played well for more than a couple years but had an objectionable persona or life outside sports (and this is the NFL) could line up ahead of this guy. People don't like Tebow because – like a young Vick – the media fell in love with him and overexposed him before he had a chance to develop. But you smooth that out by winning...time will tell. For right now, he's an average NFL QB who can run well. The Christianity thing is a red herring for bored journalists and true believers looking for another excuse to be offended.
I don't like Tim Tebow because he doesn't have enough talent to play QB in the NFL, but because he is a white christian he is so well loved. I live in the Denver market and watch his performance. I can't help but wonder how many over thrown balls he has to throw before getting benched. It's sad really, but so funny it's worth watching every Sunday. America has a new Elvis, whoops, I meant Jesus, but sadly it could be Eminem, or Rocky Marciano, it's all just the same.
The fearful nitwit has said in his heart, "There is a God."
The dude is simply proud of being a Christian and is not ashamed to celebrate his religion. It's funny how people are so offended by it even though it has ZERO affect on their life. They'd rather criticize than simply ignoring.
Proverbs 1:28-32 "Then they will call on me, but I will not answer; They will seek me diligently, but they will not find me. Because they hated knowledge And did not choose the fear of the Lord. They would have none of my counsel And despised my every rebuke. Therefore they shall eat the fruit of their own way, And be filled to the full with their own fancies. For the turning away of the simple will slay them. And the complacency of fools will destroy them;"
Just another line in a random book. Nothing special about the bible other than a collection of fictional stories.
Maher should use a filter sometimes.
I admire Tebow's virtues but he needs to understand that Jesus has nothing to do with him winning or losing a game, Maher is trying to point that out in a comedic way but the way he said it is just insulting to all christians.
It should be noted that Tim Tebow does not think that his God is making him win. He merely thanks his God for blessing him with the talents to be able to play at that level. Of course this author didn't realize that the Broncos were getting crushed by the Bills, as mentioned in Maher's tweet.
But Richard, is it appropriate to praise god during games, when you teammates are the ones who help you succeed on the field? I would have greater respect for Tebow if he wasn't grandstanding during games.
Tebow has acknowledged that very fact that Jesus is not determining the outcome of sporting events. Kamote, you need to seek the truth on a topic first before opining on it. 30 sec of google and a few min on youtube and you would see that is not what Tebow has ever said. Unfortunately you are getting your info exclusively from idiots like bill and CNN instead of going strait to the source..
Tallulah, I would assume it would be appropriate to praise God at most any time, except during a play of course. I wouldn't know for sure, being an atheist, but I see nothing wrong with a person praying when they have a moment to pray. During his interviews, he always talks about how well the defense played and the other players on the offense. It's not as if he ignores the team aspect of the game. He probably supports and thanks his team during the game, but does this by, you know talking to the dude, and not by kneeling and praying to them.
It's grandstanding, Richard. It is no different than a dance in the end zone. Why can't he pray silently? Is there a rule that he can't humbly thank his god instead of striking a pose when he knows the cameras are rolling?
Would you be this tolerant if an islamic player gave thanks to allah in the same manner? Would you still admire his piety?