Filmmaker and activist Michael Moore told "Real Time" show host Bill Maher that the United States is in the "dark ages" because of the Christian Right, comparing Christian extremism with Islamic extremism. In the same show, skeptic Richard Dawkins said he is sure President Obama is an atheist.
The panel, comprising of Moore, Britain's Dawkins, CIA operative Valerie Plame and Baptist minister and civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton, discussed how radical Islam has affected science and culture on Maher's show Friday night.
"Liberals somehow feel worried that they're going to be called racist if they criticize people of the Muslim faith, which is stupid," Maher said, directing the discussion.
Moore, a Catholic, however, suggested that the United States needed to be "casting out the log in our own eye," saying some Christians had also caused damage to the nation.
"You've talked about this for years," Moore told Maher, referring to anti-Islamism. "Since 1980, the policies in this country have been driven by the Christian right. They took over and they turned this country into the dark ages and we're so far behind now with science, education, health care, everything."
Moore, who was once described by The Associated Press as being known for his "fiery left-wing populism," also told the host, "There are Christians out there tonight who wanna kill you and me." Maher responded, "But they don't." That's because they can't," Plame added.
"Do they have a farm system? Do they have websites? Show me the country that has the Christian fundamentalist training camp where they're on the monkey bars," Maher said. "Remember in the 90s when Rudy Giuliani was mayor and they had that Piss Christ art exhibit in Brooklyn? And Rudy Giuliani was, I mean, he was pissed. Christ, was he pissed. But, it didn't jump to 'and, we're going to kill you.' You see?"
This is not just the same, Maher said, of the comparison between Christian and Islamic extremism. "Look, I'm no f****** Catholic or a Christian, but one is herpes and one is cancer."
Moore then sought to explain why the U.S. is a target of Islamic extremists. "We overthrew the elected president of Iran in 1953, installed a dictator, then we supported Saddam Hussein, we've supported the dictator there, on and on and on and on."
Sharpton's view was that all religions have "zealots," and you can't blame Islam for the distorted views of some of its adherents.
During the discussion, Maher also asked Dawkins, a prominent atheist professor, what he thinks of the host's claim that Pope Francis is an atheist. "I'm sure Obama is an atheist, I'm sure Kennedy was an atheist, but I doubt if Pope Frank is." Dawkins replied, adding that the new Pope being "nice" could be "dangerous" because of the he belongs to the same religious system as his predecessors.
Sharpton didn't agree. "I think he [the pope] makes it harder for atheists to dismiss religious people as being people that are so in the past and limited and don't think," he said.