Bill Maher is the hard-hitting opinionated host of the HBO political Talk Show ‘Real Time With Bill Maher’. He pulls no punches and does not suffer fools with his interview style on topics such as religion and political correctness.
Bill Maher was raised Catholic per his father’s influence. He now recognizes his heritage as half-Jewish after coming to know about his Jewish heritage on his mother’s side when he was a teenager.
According to the political satirist, it was not that his mother was hiding his Jewish heritage from him, “it just did not come up in conversation.”
William Maher was born in New York City on January 20, 1956. His father, William Jr. was of Irish-American heritage, while his mother, Julie’s roots were of Hungarian Jewish extraction.
Bill’s paternal grandparents were also born in New Jersey and were of Irish background. His maternal grandparents were both born in New York but their families had emigrated from Russia, Poland, and Hungary; hence their Jewish roots.
Bill grew up attending Catholic church services with his father and sister. His mother never joined them, most probably because she was Jewish and would be expected to go to synagogue instead.
He continued to attend church with his father until Bill Jr. grew uncomfortable with the Catholic church’s stance on birth control and they stopped going when Bill was 14.
Bill has said of attending church that his mother no doubt thought it was a good thing for her children to gain structure and discipline. He, however, had a radically different experience.
In an earlier interview with CNN, Bill reportedly shared that he was “frightened about everything that was going on” in the Catholic church, referring to the mounting allegations about priests’ molestation of children.
As a consequence, Bill’s experience with church was more one of “pain and heartache.”
He felt great relief when they stopped going to church, saying in an interview with The Jewish Telegraph he thought, “great, I can stop being a Catholic.”
His early experience and fear while associated with the church are what gradually drew Bill Maher to his agnostic/atheist beliefs.
Although Bill’s early life was influenced by his father’s Catholic faith, they were always surrounded by Jewish people, according to Bill.
Most of his friends were Jewish and his parents’ best friends, who were also their next-door neighbors were also Jewish.
He was not raised Jewish and only found out about his Jewish heritage when he was 12 years old.
He had thought nothing of his mother not attending church with the family when he was growing up, saying of the experience, “when something is habitual to children, they don’t mention it.”
Religious (Political) Beliefs
Bill Maher most closely describes his affiliation with religion as agnostic, which means the political commentator and talk show host neither confirms nor denies a belief in God.
He said as much in his 2008 documentary ‘Religulous’, in which he explores different organized religion and their influence on modern society. He also addresses his mother’s Jewish faith in the film.
The fact that Bill states that he is not religious means that he probably does not celebrate any traditional Jewish holidays or observes any Catholic practices.
He has hosted several debates on the topic of religion on his show ‘Real Time With Bill Maher’. In one, he was challenged on his position of seeming to support the rise of atheism in America.
Bill stood his ground and responded to the panel of religious pundits outlining how closely Christianity was affiliated with hate groups such as the KKK.
Bill Maher has also spoken openly about his stance on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to Bill, he is firmly on the side of the Israelis on this subject.
He also discredited the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, calling it a “… purity test.”