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. agathokles

    Aaron Rodgers (a REALLY good QB):
    "I feel like my stance and my desire has always been to follow a quote from St. Francis of Assisi, who said, 'Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.' So basically, I'm not an over-the-top, or an in-your-face kind of guy with my faith. I would rather people have questions about why I act the way I act, whether they view it as positive or not, and ask questions, and then given an opportunity at some point, then you can talk about your faith a little bit. I firmly believe, just personally, what works for me, and what I enjoy doing is letting my actions speak about the kind of character that I want to have, and following that quote from St. Francis."

    December 30, 2011 at 12:34 am |
  2. Rapp

    Bill Maher? Again? Yawn.

    December 30, 2011 at 12:31 am |
  3. splitting migraine

    I wonder if the boycott of HBO over Maher's comment will be as effective as the breastfeeding mother "sit in" at Target stores all over the country because a store associate asked a woman to move to a more private area of the store to expose herself while breastfeeding her child..... It's really sad when there's nothing better to write about than crap like this. I'm a Maher fan, an Agnostic, and a grown adult that knows when people are shooting their mouths off to get attention. The fantastic aspect of this story? Maher is virtually ensured to have his contract picked up by HBO for even longer because controversy breeds ratings! So thank you very much to all you brain dead morons who aren't grown up enough to let a joke be what it is. I'm looking forward to many more seasons of Real Time, but only because I AM mature enough to laugh at jokes and not let television personalities influence my beliefs.

    December 30, 2011 at 12:31 am |
    • Elena

      A joke? IT was not even funny. What about it makes it funny?

      December 30, 2011 at 12:35 am |
    • Me

      Love it, well said, and good night. 🙂

      December 30, 2011 at 12:37 am |
  4. Elena

    How sad that some might find any thing funny about jokes that include someone's faith much less someone having cancer and making fun of it. When my mother died of cancer there was no joke you could make that I would consider funny. These people would be better served knowing they are contributing to the world in some way rather than destroying it with their mouths.

    "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."

    December 30, 2011 at 12:31 am |
    • Chris Long

      But it isn't funny why you comedians do that. How is it that you guys don't see that. All the great jokes have passed. It's really over for you all. If I want comedy, the best movies are the ones 5 to 50 years old. The new crap..... Is brainless. They brought bevis and butthead back for crying out loud...? You guys suck. Now go get a real job.

      December 30, 2011 at 12:42 am |
    • Clint

      How sad you won't wake up before you die. So many of you just trodding along, beleiving anything a preacher tells you, and acting all hlier than thou becaue a comeidian and atheist isn't "contributing to the world" the way you think he should.

      Sad indeed.

      December 30, 2011 at 12:45 am |
  5. Peppermint Patty

    "But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you." Matthew 6:6

    December 30, 2011 at 12:28 am |
    • miscreantsall


      December 30, 2011 at 12:54 am |
  6. Dennis

    "It was insulting Tim Tebow, not Jesus Christ, that drew the ire of a nation," so the article read. No, it drew the ire of people on Twitter who follow Bill Maher. I'm sure there are plenty of football fans following Maher, but I don't see any reason why a true-believing Christian would be interested in anything coming from that less-than-entertaining atheistic commentator.

    December 30, 2011 at 12:28 am |
    • Elena


      December 30, 2011 at 12:32 am |
    • Poopy pants

      Amen she says. Good one

      December 30, 2011 at 12:34 am |
  7. Sean

    CNN please stop restricting my freedom of speech! I always abide by your rules!

    December 30, 2011 at 12:28 am |
  8. Bucky

    A lot of fuss over a below average QB who won't be in the league in 3 years, at least not behind center. Sorry people but Tebow doesn't have to thank the lord every time he gets on TV. Religion should be private. I bet 90% of you saying he is just displaying is faith wouldn't feel the same way if he was Muslim. If he started every interview with "Praise Allah" I don't think he would be looked upon so well.

    December 30, 2011 at 12:28 am |
    • TexInd

      Anen! Tebow is an entertainer like Dion Sanders was. No real football fans think he is anything more than a Vick!

      December 30, 2011 at 12:32 am |
    • llɐq ʎʞɔnq

      Hey bro. Well said.

      December 30, 2011 at 12:33 am |
    • miscreantsall


      December 30, 2011 at 12:55 am |
  9. Bored with Maher

    The problem isn't that the tweet is in some way insulting to Tebow, his fans, or God. Its that its just so predictable, boring and not really funny. Maher used to be quite funny, and his satire was generally more interesting when it he didn't take everything so personally. He now reminds me of the kid in the class who was funny last year, and then some new kid came in who was funnier and he just desperately tries to grab attention and past glory...... SNL, The Daily Show and almost everyone else has done a much better job at humor on this topic, which is rapidly reaching its sell by date.

    December 30, 2011 at 12:27 am |
  10. Kyle

    The game was not against the Lions. That said, God is also a Lions fan lately.

    December 30, 2011 at 12:27 am |
  11. August Washington

    I don't like Tim Tebow because he doesn't have enough talent to play QB in the NFL. It's obvious watching him play, but because he is a white christian he is so well loved and bad throws just don't matter. I live in the Denver market and watch his performance. I can't help but wonder how many over thrown balls, or wide open receivers he has to miss 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. I thank God for Tim Tebow. His starting job proves that racism is alive and well in the NFL and America. God bless Cam Newton.

    December 30, 2011 at 12:27 am |
    • Elena

      And yet he is playing in the NBA earning a nice hefty salary.

      December 30, 2011 at 12:33 am |
    • Me

      And there you have it. Your last statement just solidified your next to last statement, or at least a part of it, "racism is alive".

      December 30, 2011 at 12:33 am |
    • tallulah13

      Wait a minute? NBA? I thought we were talking about football?

      December 30, 2011 at 12:34 am |
    • Clint

      We are atalking about football, but that's what happens when a religious nut gets involved in soemthing only because the word "jesus" was involved. Probably doesn't know the NBA from the NFL from the NHL......

      December 30, 2011 at 12:49 am |
  12. chasmass NYC

    First, I'm grateful that Tim Tebow is providing a positive role model of professional athletes. I'd rather have Tim than some drug dealers in other pro sports teams! Second, I wish he'd ease up on the public proselytizing; I think it's better if all religions keep their views to themselves. Third, Maher sometimes goes over the line - as all good comedians do - and he should watch it (but everyone should otherwise take a chill on this).

    December 30, 2011 at 12:27 am |
    • tallulah13

      I'm a Steve Yzerman fan myself. He was former Captain of the Detroit Red Wings. The thing about Stevie Y is that he led by example and never elevated himself above the team. I have no idea if he was religious or not. On the ice, he was a Red Wing. He sacrificed his personal numbers to make the team better. He was quiet and humble, he played hurt, and he was always gracious and thankful to his teammates, his coach, the fans and to his team's owner. I don't know if there has ever been a classier athlete than Steve Yzerman.

      You can have Tebow. As far as I can tell, he's a mediocre QB who poses on the field so that everyone can see that he is a christian. I'd like him better if he was a just Bronco on the field, and if he thanked his teammates instead of god.

      December 30, 2011 at 12:40 am |
  13. Tamara

    I think the T/J-freaks are getting a taste of their own medicine and they are finding that it doesn't taste so good. 🙂

    December 30, 2011 at 12:24 am |
  14. rick

    Being an atheist myself, I think Tim's an alright guy. I religiously watch Bill and you peeps oughta know he's all about shock value unlike the late great Hitchens, Dawkins & others. All comedians are. Carry on.

    December 30, 2011 at 12:24 am |
  15. Tomtom

    I watched Bill's show. He really likes to come off as an intellectual and a badass. He plays the tough guy now and then and throws someone out of the audience. He picks on people who go to church and pray. And he always can get some press and attention by saying something over the top and appeal to those who view irreverance as some kind of special virtue.
    It's mainly just Madonna and Lady Gaga shock value sort of stuff to sell another book or HBO subscription.

    December 30, 2011 at 12:24 am |
  16. thes33k3r

    Fully support Maher's comments. Religion is absolutely worthy of ridicule especially when you're an arrogant fool like Tebow who thinks (and publicly expresses) that a god would be concerned about his athletic event yet would ignore the millions of starving children around the world.....whose parents, by the way, are praying to their imagined god to please spare their dying child.

    December 30, 2011 at 12:23 am |
    • August Washington

      Well said.

      December 30, 2011 at 12:28 am |
    • chasmass NYC

      I sense no arrogance in Tim. And I highly doubt he ignores the real problems around the world. And, compared to me, anyway, he's doing more to help them.

      December 30, 2011 at 12:30 am |
  17. Ali Baba

    "the way he said it is just insulting to all Christians"

    Let's clear up a fantasy about religion that we have: no matter how religions try to pretend they can play nice and coexist with non-believers, anything short of saying "I believe your religion is 100% true and your God is real" IS insulting. How is it not insulting to say "your entire world view is founded on a fairytale by deceitful humans wanting to bend your freedom to their will? " If I deny Jesus or Mohammed were divine then – like it or not – we have a fundamental difference that says (according to your Book) I will go to hell forever. So are believers not normally insulted because they are overcome with pity at my fate? How kind of them to not be offended unless I explicitly say what everyone knows is being said when you profess an alternate faith (or none at all). That shows a lot of restraint on their part. Bless them.

    December 30, 2011 at 12:23 am |
  18. keith

    well then Tebow needs to quit subjecting the public to religion then. Sorry but you can't chastise Maher for speaking his mind yet saying its ok for Tebow to use the NFL to push religion upon the pubic.....sorry doesn't go one way

    December 30, 2011 at 12:23 am |
  19. Me

    I think one thing everyone is missing in this article is this, " 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. " If that is so, why are there no comedians making real jokes about Obama? Every other President has been the butt of every comedians jokes, but not him. Why? Me thinks Pete needs to rethink his statement.

    December 30, 2011 at 12:21 am |
    • tallulah13

      Maybe it's because Obama is low-key and dignified, unlike our last several presidents. There's really not a lot of material there, unless you start making race jokes - and one would hope that humanity has outgrown that sort of hatred.

      December 30, 2011 at 12:26 am |
  20. Captain Caustic

    So Tebow gets out there every game and does his thing in front of a huge audience on National television and nary a peep from anyone(and yes,whethe­r you care to believe it or not, it is offensive to many), but Maher sends out one little tweet skewering the practice and all Hell breaks loose.

    You Holy Rollers need to get over yourselves and grow a sense of humor.

    December 30, 2011 at 12:19 am |
    • Clint

      I agree. I bet any complaints that have been made have been blown off by the NFL any. I mean really, how often are any of the nonreligious groups or individuals taken seriously?

      I have spent 22 years in the US military and have been subjected to religius BS many times and complaining didn't do any good, some times actually making things worse. It took a complaint to my Governor to finally get something done, and by the time they respnded (about a ceremony I had to attend (saying I could skip it)) I was already attending it!

      December 30, 2011 at 12:56 am |
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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.