HBO host Bill Maher has said that Josh Duggar asking Jesus for forgiveness over the incident where he molested five girls when he was a teenager is a "cop out" and not real forgiveness, with Maher arguing that forgiveness can only be asked from the victims.
Jill Dillard and Jessa Seewald have said that their brother has indeed asked each of them for forgiveness, however.
Maher wrote regarding the molestation scandal on his blog: "The idea that Jesus forgives your sins is a real cop-out, and dangerous."
He added: "Now, I don't know what kind of conversations Josh had with the people he molested. Maybe he personally and unreservedly apologized to all of them as he briefly mentioned in his Facebook post. But for the most part it was about Jesus."
The outspoken atheist then quoted a part of Duggar's Facebook post on the issue, where he wrote:
"I understood that if I continued down this wrong road that I would end up ruining my life. I sought forgiveness from those I had wronged and asked Christ to forgive me and come into my life. …In my life today, I am so very thankful for God's grace, mercy and redemption."
Maher noted that Duggar refers to his own life a number of times in his apology, and argued that "what Josh is basically saying is that molesting the girls was bad, but Jesus forgave him and then came into his life so, you know, happy ending."
The HBO host asserted that real forgiveness "happens between the person who did wrong and the person they wronged. There is no middle man. There is no pixie dust. The idea that you can simply pray on it and ask Jesus for forgiveness — which He never turns down, cause He's Jesus — is a total short cut, and not what forgiveness actually entails."
He continued: "If you've done something as awful as molest a bunch of girls, the only people you can ask for forgiveness from are the bunch of girls you molested. Jesus is just an easy and convenient way to exonerate yourself by receiving absolution from an imaginary man in your head."
Dillard and Seewald have said that their brother has indeed come to them to ask for forgiveness for his actions, and that they have forgiven him.
"We feel like our story is not being told," Dillard said in the wake of the scandal. "The victims are the only ones who can speak for themselves. Now it's already being warped into however they want to portray it."
She added that the incident "is something that's already dealt with."
"We've already moved on. It's not the truth. Everything is distorted," Dillard asserted.
Seewald said that although her brother's actions were "very wrong," she highlighted that he was young at the time.
"Josh was a boy, a young boy in puberty, and a little too curious about girls," she said.
The "19 Kids and Counting" parents, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, have also stood by their son during the scandal, and blamed InTouch magazine for sensationalizing and releasing the story.
Josh Duggar, who has resigned from his position at Family Research Council Action, has not spoken to the media about the scandal.
Maher has previously called the Duggar family "the biggest freaks in the world" for their decision to have 19 children.
The HBO host criticized last week the "selfish" idea of wanting to have so many children in light of the "population issue" the world is facing. He also slammed the family for their faith and for living off the teachings of a so-called "dusty old stupid book."