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HBO's "Real Time" host and comedian Bill Maher made Pope Francis his latest target by making the remark that the pontiff might be an atheist because of his recent statement that even atheists can be redeemed.
"I want to ask you and everybody else about something that happened last week that was important to me because I'm an atheist," Maher said on his show Friday. "But you know people always say when somebody says something obvious, 'Oh is the pope Catholic?' I think he might not be. I think the pope might be an atheist like I think Obama is."
Maher, who has attacked Catholicism and Christian athlete Tim Tebow, among others, was referring to an earlier statement made by the pope: "The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! 'Father, the atheists?' Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class. We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all."
Maher responded, "And I was like, I'm going to book my flight to heaven right now."
"And then of course – it's funny because just like politics, the hierarchy at the Vatican was like, 'What the f*** did this guy?' You could almost see them preparing the poison. Luckily we've got a spare pope. You know, one of the key things in this religion and most religions is monopoly only through us. Even hippie Jesus said that. Only through me. So this guy is saying everybody gets to heaven. So then they had to walk it back."
Following the pope's comments, Vatican spokesman the Rev. Thomas Rosica clarified that those who "truly know the Catholic Church cannot be saved if they refuse to enter her or remain in her."
Maher said the statement reminded him of "when I was making 'Religulous' and we talked to a lot of priests. And we found out that a lot of priests really aren't believers. They do it because – no, some of them do it for the sex. That's true, but some of them – there's a lot of good ones. And they do it because it's a way to help people and they know they can't tell the masses that it's all a crock. But they themselves don't believe it. And I think 'Pope Frank,' you know, what's his real name – his or Argentinian name? It's [Mario Bergoglio]. It sounds like a real expensive rare of shoes. And he's a sophisticated guy from that era. And I think he's – I'm telling you, I think the pope's an atheist."
"Religulous," a self-described "documentary," sought to criticize and mock religion through interviews with mostly those on the religious fringe.
In May 2011, Maher said Republicans should nominate Tebow for president because he is a devout Christian. "Since all Republican voters want in a candidate is a devout Christian …they should just go ahead and nominate Tim Tebow," he said. "Tim Tebow is so cuckoo for Christianity that he used to write Bible verses in the charcoal under his eyes. Creepy to some, but for redneck America, they couldn't love this guy more if he was sculpted out of bacon."
In March 2007, Maher made negative comments against the late Rev. Jerry Falwell as well as Catholicism.
"Death isn't always sad," he said. "This week the Rev. Jerry Falwell died and millions of Americans asked 'Why?' 'Why God? Why didn't You take Pat Robertson with him?' Now, I know that you're not supposed to speak ill of the dead but I think we can make an exception because speaking ill of the dead was kind of Jerry Falwell's hobby."
Maher has also remarked about religion, "And it's easy to start a religion! Watch as I do it for you. I had a vision last night! A vision! The Blessed Virgin Mary came to me – I don't know how she got past the guards – and she told me it's high time to take the high ground from the Seventh Day Adventists and give it to the 24-hour party people. And what happens in the confessional stays in the confessional."