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CNN LARRY KING LIVE

Bill Maher Takes Aim at Politics, Religion

Aired August 19, 2008 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
LARRY KING, HOST (voice-over): Tonight Bill Maher mouths off on politics...

BILL MAHER, HOST, HBO'S "REAL TIME WITH BILL MAHER": Politically incorrect. You think maybe?

KING: ... the presidency...

MAHER: It's going to be a good show.

KING: ... practically everything else.

MAHER: It worries me that people are running my country who think, who believe in a talking snake.

KING: He's taking aim at religion, too. Is nothing sacred?

MAHER: I'm talking to America. You know what I'm talking about.

KING: Get ready for outrage and outcry. It's all fair game for the outspoken Bill Maher.

MAHER: Speak louder!

KING: Right now, on LARRY KING LIVE.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: He returns to "Real Time with Bill Maher" on HBO. The new episodes start Friday, August 29, Labor Day weekend. He'll be appearing at Humphrey's in San Diego this Sunday. His documentary, "Religulous," opens in theaters this fall. I got a chance to see it. It's going to be wild. And we'll talk about that a little later.

Thanks for coming, Bill. Always good to see you. One of my favorite guests.

MAHER: Thank you. I hate that word, "documentary." It sounds like they have to put on their thinking caps.

KING: What would you call it?

MAHER: And unscripted comedy. An uproarious comedy.

KING: An uproarious film that'll have you splitting -- anyway. OK, the vice president picks. Apparently it's right around the corner.

MAHER: Right.

KING: Could be tomorrow. Could be the next day with Obama. What's your read?

MAHER: I was worried I might get bumped today, actually, Larry. I thought, oh, Obama is going to pick him and then it's like, "Bill, something happened. Good-bye."

KING: What's your read?

MAHER: You know, I'm reading, I guess, the same thing you're reading, that it's between three boring white guys again.

KING: He doesn't need a black guy.

MAHER: Actually if he doubled down on Colin Powell, how wild would that be? I mean, this is the Democrats' problem. Is that they never do anything bold once they get the nomination. You know, I'm still for Obama, but I have to tell you, he's trying my patience.

KING: Really?

MAHER: Well, moving to the center on so many issues and just doing what I saw Kerry do, what I saw Al Gore do. I thought he was going to be different. He didn't have that "I'm going to blow it" look on his face like those two did. But he's doing sort of the same thing: moving to the center, moving to be a kind of a lighter version of the Republican candidate.

KING: So who do you -- who do you handicap? Do you think it's going to be one of these three boring white guys?

MAHER: I do, but I think that's, again, the wrong -- the wrong sort of strategy. At this point I think they need Hillary Clinton.

KING: Really?

MAHER: Yes. Look, I may change my mind tomorrow. I've been thinking this way a long time, but I swear to God. Not just because it's bold and they need to show bold, but you know what? I think they need the Clinton ruthlessness onboard. I really do.

I'm beginning to think Bill Clinton is still the only guy in that party who really knows how to do this, as far as talking to the American people, making the counter argument to the Republican arguments that, again, Obama just seems to be cozying up to their way of thinking. "Oil drilling? Yes sure. I'm for that. Wiretapping? Like that, too. Religious nut? I can get onboard there." I'm telling you, I like this guy but...

KING: Why -- why was Biden a bad choice? Here's a guy with world...

MAHER: He's not a bad choice. KING: ... foreign policy experience.

MAHER: He's not a bad choice, but is he going to excite anybody? Hillary Clinton would excite the base. I keep saying the Democrats have to move toward their base. They have to make the case that there is this other America out there.

KING: You mean technically. Not technically. There's an unpopular president, the most unpopular president ever.

MAHER: Right.

KING: An unpopular war.

MAHER: Right.

KING: Economic worries. Why isn't this a done deal?

MAHER: You'd think it would be a no-brainer in a country where...

KING: How much of it is...

MAHER: ... torture is legal and marijuana isn't. You'd think it would be a no-brainer.

KING: How much of it is race?

MAHER: That's a big factor, much bigger than people think, I believe.

KING: Sad.

MAHER: I think the poll I read recently was 30 percent of white Americans have a positive view of Barack Obama. You know, even if he gets every black person in America to vote for him -- and he will, by the way -- I don't know if -- that's just going to cancel out the people who wouldn't vote for him just because of that one reason.

And of course, the Republican campaign is all about making him different. He's not like us. He's from some weird place like, I don't know, Morocco or something. He doesn't always wear a flag pin, and he's got a lippy wife, and his pastor wears an African shirt. You know, this stuff is scary, Larry.

KING: You think McCain is playing to that?

MAHER: Absolutely.

KING: Does McCain disappoint you in doing that?

MAHER: They both have disappointed me, but yes, McCain has been disappointing me steadily since 2000 when I was supporting him.

KING: I remember when you supported him. MAHER: Yes. But you know, that Straight Talk Express has taken a lot of detours, Larry. And the closer he gets to it the more -- the more they both do ridiculous things. Once -- you know, once Paris and Britney got in the race, that's when I said, you know, this is another year where I have to march forward, again, without an ideological champion.

I mean, Obama is no -- I like him better because he's younger, he's cooler, he's smarter. I do think he'd be a better president. You know, he does nuance, and you saw how well that goes over with the Rick Warren people.

But as far as an ideological champion, do I have one anymore? Do I have one -- do I have a candidate who's -- who's taking the side on the issues that I would want the candidate to take on most issues? No. I'm left with two...

KING: Will -- might McCain go bold and pick, say, a Democratic running mate or a pro-choice running mate: Tom Ridge, Joe Lieberman?

MAHER: Well, Joe Lieberman is already a Republican. He's just a Democrat in name. I don't think that makes a big difference.

You know, that's an important pick, because McCain is, you know, another Bush in the sense we're getting another very detached, anti- intellectual president. There's a big vacuum when you have a president like that. And so the vice president very often steps into that vacuum, as we saw with Dick Cheney. That could happen with McCain.

I think when you get McCain you get the worst of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. Old, forgetful, doddering, anti-intellectual. And into that breach who knows who might step?

And I'm amused that the press thinks -- the pundits, you know, he's going to pick somebody younger. Gee, you think? Who's available that's older? Bob Dole, Lauren Bacall and Abel, I think, is the short list.

KING: Boy, you're really down on this campaign. It's got you down. Both of them.

MAHER: Well, I'm reading the paper, and how could it not? Is it me? Am I making this stuff up?

KING: What does Bill think of the John Edwards sex scandal? We'll ask him. It's still ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHER: John McCain has to stop starting every sentence of every speech with the words "my friends." If he's really my friend, then how come every time we get together I'm the one who has to buy the weed? (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with Bill Maher.

MAHER: That's ridiculous.

KING: He's our guest. Before we get to the John Edwards caper, what do you make of the statement by Joe Biden today. He said, quote, "I'm not the guy."

MAHER: I didn't hear that. Really? For vice president?

KING: Yes. Does that mean he is the guy?

MAHER: You think it's reverse psychology?

KING: Yes.

MAHER: Throw him off and make him pick me.

KING: What do you think?

MAHER: I think any time Joe Biden limits a sentence to three words, he's winning a lot of fans, and he's trying to prove that he is the guy. I think what he means is he's not looking for it, but he would take it.

KING: OK. John Edwards. What does one say? I know you liked him very much. Or like him very much.

MAHER: Yes. I still do. He didn't cheat on me. Although I understand when people say they're disappointed in the sense that, well, I guess it's like if you invested in a company and somebody did something to damage the stock. You know, I did send him money. People did send him money. And what if he was the candidate now? What if he had gotten the nomination and this broke? I mean, it would have been a disaster for the Democrats. They'd have to do an Eagleton and get somebody else at the last minute. You know how hard that is to get help at the last minute, Larry.

I -- always when somebody is caught cheating, of course it's never an admirable thing to do, but I still think there's a giant lack of national perspective on this crime.

KING: Meaning?

MAHER: Meaning, a man is married 31 years, you know, people, not just men, women. I mean, you're married a long time. You know, you're desperate for something new. I mean, men like new sex. Women like new shoes. You know, people like new. You can't stop human nature.

So OK. It's not an admirable thing to do. The noble thing to do when you're married is to suck it up and suffer. We all get that. Fine. But it's a shame that we have to lose a good message from an otherwise good man. He was the guy who had the health care plan that they both copied. His idea that we have two Americas and in one of them he's single. I mean, but certainly, that's an important message. And it's a shame that, you know, his name and all of his work, he's just a national punchline now.

KING: Are the conventions relevant? Do they mean anything? It's like going to the Super Bowl and you know the winner. Isn't it the same thing?

MAHER: Yes, but -- but it has morphed into something else which is American people generally don't pay attention to politics very much, certainly not before this time of the year. I do think they're often too dumb to be governed.

At least this is a time when the parties can sort of step out and say, "Here's who we are. Here are our people. Here's what we're selling. We packaged it up for you. We're only going to take an hour of your evening, and you can go right back to Howie Mandel or whatever you're watching. And it is your country. We are in bad shape. Just take a look at our wares this year. This is our fall line. We've got health care. We've got this. We've got that. These are the people we're putting up there who we think represent us best."

You know, there is something to that. To just -- you know, people in this country need you to package it and put a bow on it and make a pageant out of it. And I'm sure if they could get them in swimsuits they would, but yes, I do think there is a value to that.

KING: You do?

MAHER: Yes.

KING: OK. It's no secret that you deal with religion a lot. And you have a new movie coming called "Religulous." I saw that movie. It's is really well done. Now, it will offend -- I think it will offend the deeply religious people. Those on the border -- certainly, agnostics are going to love it. Atheists are going to love it. But there's a lot of open religious people who would just appreciate it as a very funny movie.

MAHER: Right. You don't have to agree with it, I think, to laugh.

KING: What -- what part -- now you mentioned Rick Warren. What part does -- what should religion play in our political life?

MAHER: Well, if you ask me, none, or in any part of life, but you know, look who you're talking to, the guy who made "Religulous." But certainly in political life it's had a terribly detrimental effect. I mean, did you see the Rick Warren thing?

KING: Sure. And we had him on last night.

MAHER: Yes, right. And by the way, let me just preface this by saying I'm asking people for perspective. I have it also.

Rick Warren, big improvement over Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. If we have to have a pope of the super Christ-ies, I'd rather it be him. He's got good ideas about actually, you know -- actual helping people.

Because you know, one thing I don't like about religion is that, you know, ask any of the truly devout. It's not mainly about doing the right thing or being ethical. It's mainly about salvation. It's mainly about getting your butt saved when you die. And that's why I think they're less moral than ethicists. But they would...

KING: But Rick is different?

MAHER: He's better. He's an improvement. But you know, when he says, as I heard him say before the event, "I'm going to ask the tough questions." What would those questions be? How tightly do you close your eyes when you insist on believing something that your mind must be telling you can't be true? OK.

But here's a good example of why it shouldn't infect our public policy. The big question that got all the play in the news snippets was asking what should we do about evil? Evil. And...

KING: Is there evil?

MAHER: Is there evil? And what should we do about it? So Obama gives a very nuanced answer, and again this is why I do like this guy. He sort of can't win for -- lose with the winning. I mean, he's damned if he does and he's damned if he doesn't. He gives a nuanced answer, which I like, and he loses the crowd.

He said, "Yes, we should be aware of evil, but we should be humble about evil." And what he was trying to say, I think, was you know what? It's easy to sit back in America and go, "Well, we're the good people. That's common knowledge. Evil is always over there and never here."

He was saying you know what? We have a lot of evil right here. Look at the prison system. Look at the justice system. Look how we treat immigrants. We torture people now in America. There's, you know, rampant sexual harassment of women in the military. There's a lot of evil that we're doing. OK. This didn't go over very well.

Then McCain is asked. What do we do about evil? Two words. Defeat it. Now, of course, to the people in this audience, this goes over great because when they hear evil, they think of something very tangible: the devil. They're not kidding. They believe in this comic-book figure called the devil who's going to poke your ass in hell if you're bad. Heaven, air conditioning. OK.

So, you know, you have to take this into account. These are voters. These are people who think evil is the devil. We can defeat it by the end of my first term. We will defeat evil. And, you know, how are you going to have a country, supposed to be a super power, in this world making the right decisions if this is the kind of thing, thinking that goes into it? It's like trying to write a song when half the keys are out, you know, the keys on the piano are out of tune.

KING: We're just getting warmed up with Maher on religion, politics, the election, when LARRY KING LIVE returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MAHER: Do you believe in evolution?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, my -- first, I don't know. Clearly, the scientific community is a little divided on some the specifics of that, and I understand that.

MAHER: I don't think they are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, well, I...

MAHER: I think they pretty much agree.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know how it all happened. I mean, I'm certainly willing to...

MAHER: Could it possibly have been Adam and Eve 5,000 years ago with a talking snake in the garden? Could it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it could have possibly been that.

MAHER: Come on. This is my problem, because I'm trying -- I mean, you're a senator. You are one of the very few people who are really running this country. It worries me that people are running my country who think, who believe in a talking snake.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't have to pass an IQ test to be in the Senate, though.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: That was funny.

MAHER: And a very nice man.

KING: He is.

MAHER: You know, I hope he's not...

KING: OK. This -- this film, "Religulous," opens October 3. It will be wide?

MAHER: Oh, yes.

KING: All over?

Here is another clip from the film, "Religulous." Watch. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(MUSIC: "Jesus is just all right with me Jesus is just all right oh, yes.)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I left myself on. Testing, one, two. Testing.

All right. How you doing, Bill? God bless you.

MAHER: Hi.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Seen you around.

MAHER: Having no other gods before you, that's not moral. There's nothing moral about that. It's just -- it's just something a jealous god would do.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It does say that our god is a jealous god.

MAHER: But your god is jealous? That seems so un-godlike that God would have such a petty human emotion.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's also...

MAHER: I know people who have gotten over jealousy, let alone God.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's two sides of the coin. He's a just god, and he's also a merciful god.

MAHER: The first five books are about wiping out people.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His ways are higher than ours, Bill.

MAHER: But our shirking (ph) should be higher.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's a good point.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: You better explain. Where was that? That man was Jesus right?

MAHER: Yes. That was in heaven, Larry.

KING: Where was...

MAHER: We went on location. Believe me, it's not easy to get in there. Permits. You think the Chinese are...

KING: You especially. I don't think you have a shot to get in.

MAHER: No. That was Holy Land. That was the amusement park in Florida, in Orlando.

KING: Like Disneyland?

MAHER: Oh, yes. You never heard of Holy Land?

KING: Well, I never -- I saw the movie.

MAHER: You've got young kids, Larry. You take them down there. They will love it. They'll see a minor league baseball game. You go to spring training. You go to Holy Land. It will be a fantastic trip.

KING: What do they do in Holy Land?

MAHER: Well, they -- well, they have Jesus. They re-enact -- we show it in the movie -- they re-enact the -- I guess, the March of Tears -- no, I'm getting that wrong, but you know, where he was carrying the cross and he was beaten by the centurions and then they, you know, crucify him.

KING: They show you all that?

MAHER: They re-enact it with that man. That was Jesus.

KING: And you interviewed him?

MAHER: And I interviewed him, yes.

KING: Did you watch the whole presentation?

MAHER: Oh, yes.

KING: What do you mean?

MAHER: You know, I mean, this is -- this is what they believe, and having been to the real Via De La Rosa in Jerusalem and then this re-enactment in America, I was confounded as to which I thought was more commercially crass. It was really a tossup.

KING: Really?

MAHER: Ever been to Via De La Rosa in Jerusalem? It's really the Via De La Rosa mall. You know, it's very commercialized, not that that's the worst part of the whole religious problem.

KING: In this film you take a tour. You go to the Mormon Church. You go to the Vatican. Did anything alter your thinking? Did anything impress you?

MAHER: I was impressed with how hard it is to make a movie, and it altered my thinking about ever wanting to make another one. You know, you just have to get up early in the morning and put on makeup. You know, it's endless, all day.

KING: A great director.

MAHER: Larry Charles was the right man.

KING: Who directed the...

MAHER: Yes, "Borat." And I needed someone who understood comedy, because we're making a comedy. We're trying to -- well, we're mostly trying to make people laugh, but I also would like to arouse the somewhat, like, 16 percent of people who I call rationalists. They would call them atheists or agnostics in America. It sounds like it's a small minority, but 16 percent is actually bigger than blacks or Jews or homosexuals or NRA members, or teachers union, Hispanics. If those people stood up and made themselves heard, but they never do.

KING: Do you think it might be more? Do you think there are people who just don't admit it?

MAHER: Absolutely. You know what they are? They're a lot of people like me, like I was. We make a point in the movie to show that my evolution toward where I was, where I am now, was gradual. You know, I still had, later in life -- I wasn't a religious person. I definitely didn't believe in the Jesus story after we quit the Catholic church.

But I did have an idea of some imaginary man who lived in my head who got mad at me if I was bad and who I had to bargain with if I was bad. And I was always being like, "Oh, please, God, get me out of this. Just get me out of this. I promise I will never do this again."

So, you know, it doesn't happen overnight. You have to come to it slowly.

KING: I asked Rick Warren if he could vote for -- would America vote for an atheist? And he said never, because in his opinion, he could never vote for someone who did not believe in a higher authority than himself or herself.

MAHER: Well, but see, I used to read parts of Rick Warren's book onstage in my standup act. It produced, I promise you, gales of laughter, because the idea that any person on earth can tell you with such specifics what happens when you die just blows my mind. That somebody on earth, another person, can just say to you, "Oh, yes. And what happens when you get to heaven? Yes. You'll meet Jesus. He's wearing a white robe. There's a little gold piping on the sleeve. And then you go in this room and eat eggs and you watch 'F Troop'."

Are you kidding? What are you talking about? You're just a person like I am. You are clueless. You have no idea what happens.

KING: Don't you think Rick believes it?

MAHER: Of course he believes it, but how -- how ridiculous is that? Like, if I went to the Himalayas to find the holiest of holy men in the world who had all the answers, the guru. And I got to the top of the mountain. I said, "Please, master, can you help me with the ultimate meaning of life?"

He'd say, "Yes. There's a guy Rick in Long Beach, Rick Warren. Go ask him. He knows exactly what happens when you die." And, you know, that is my ultimate message. Unless a god told you personally what happens when you die, it all came from another person with no more mental powers than you have, and you don't know. So just man up and say, "I don't know." But they believe.

KING: And belief -- belief is a tough thing to counter.

MAHER: Yes. And I understand why it's a luxury for some people who don't need it and why a lot of people are less fortunate, and they do need it.

So we're not trying to point fingers in this movie. I think we do it -- we're laughing all the way through it. I think we're winking and having a good time, and we're not trying to be judgmental. But at some point, you know, mankind is going to have to shed this skin if he's going to move forward. I do have a serious intellectual problem with it.

And on another level it just ticks me off. It's just the ultimate hustle. It's just "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain." You know, why can't they, I always ask -- I asked Jesus at Holy Land, "Why can't God just defeat the devil and get rid of evil?"

You know, and it's the same reason the comic-book character can't get rid of his nemesis. Then there's no story. If God gets rid of the devil -- and he could, he's all powerful -- well, then there's no fear. There's no reason to come to church. There's no reason to pass the plate. We're all out of a job. You know, it's got to go on.

KING: Start dialing. Bill will take your calls.

MAHER: Yes, right.

KING: Ahead on LARRY KING LIVE.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHER: New rule: President Bush must resist the urge to invade Cuba. Fidel Castro has stepped down and now Cuba is being run by his brother. And the majority of Americans can't wait until our president steps down and our country is also being run by a brother.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: We're back with Bill Maher. Tonight's quick vote, by the way, I like it when Bill Maher takes on politics or religion? Take your pick. Go to CNN.com/LarryKing and cast your quick vote now. Email question from Mike in San Francisco: "I'm always puzzled by undecided voters. I think it's more appropriate to call a lot of them unhappy with the choices. Do you believe the time is right to move beyond Republicans and Democrats and have a truly multiparty system?"

MAHER: Sure. But it's probably not going to lap in our lifetime. A multi -- you know, every time a third party has tried in this country, it's absorbed by one of the other two parties. Because we don't have a parliamentary system. If we had a parliamentary system, that affords many parties. You know, it's probably a better system, but can you imagine taking on the U.S. Constitution and trying to get away with that?

KING: Let's take a question from Orlando. Hello.

CALLER: Bill, for years, Evangelicals never cared about pollution and the destruction of our environment. They only cared about making converts. Do you think the Evangelicals' new found mission to now save the environment is because they realize it's smart business to appear politically correct?

MAHER: Wow, what a well thought question. She had it ready and she didn't fumble. Very good. Thank you. That's one reason why I'm saying Rick Warren is a big improvement, is that he cares about the environment, poor people. He's actually -- has read the New Testament, I think. So there's a Christ-like, not just a Christian element to him. So, great. If they throw their lot in with saving the Earth, that's fantastic.

One reason I have always been anti-Evangelical and people who take the Bible literally is because it allows you to be horrible to animals, people, too. Slavery is OK with the Bible, keeping women down, and honor killings and let's not even go into how bad they are to people. But animals, you know, the Bible says man can have dominion over animals. And also they believe people have a soul, whatever that is, but animals don't. So do whatever you want with them.

So if they're getting more on the page of being kind to animals and helping the environment, then sign me up.

KING: Do you believe it?

MAHER: Yes, I do. I don't doubt their sincerity. I doubt their -- you know, I always say it's a neurological disorder. I doubt that part of their mind that's walled off. I want to knock down that door. And, you know, I think this movie is going to be that for a lot of people. It's going to be the anti-"Passion of the Christ." For all the people who liked that movie, there's another crowd.

KING: This is the antidote.

MAHER: Right.

KING: Email question from Linda in Nebraska: "what's your opinion of the so-called stimulus package that Congress passed? Any clue about what or whom it actually stimulated?"

MAHER: I read that the only industry that got a spike was online porn. Seriously, people got their stimulus checks and got to stimulating themselves rather quickly. But I find it sleazy, you know, that the government bribes people. Every time there's a problem, what did Bush say after 9/11? Go shopping.

KING: McCain attacked that yesterday, at the Rick Warren thing. He attacked that pretty tough on that go shopping idea.

MAHER: He picks his moments to pretend to look tough. And then, of course, we had a war with tax cuts. I mean, no one has ever done that. Even Croissis (ph), I think, raised taxes on the Persians when he had to fight a war. Now we find ourselves in a recession and the answer is here's 600 dollars. It's sleazy. Here's some cash. Do whatever you want with it.

KING: Both parties favored it.

MAHER: Both parties favor almost everything. This is my problem. Nancy Pelosi and Barack Obama have come down now at least wishy washy on oil drilling. At least they're not opposing it. Again, where is my champion? Where is the Democrat who would have stood up and said, you know what? Even oil people get it, that offshore drilling is not the answer. It's not even a short-term answer and it's not a long-term answer. It's a lose-lose. And yet two thirds of the people in this country were convinced somehow that this is going to lower our gas prices in the short term and they're for it.

This is what I mean about being too dumb to be governed. A politician can't be that much better than the people. The people have to look in the mirror. Yes, the leaders are bad, because the people almost demand it of them.

KING: Do you agree with Lincoln, who said no one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people?

MAHER: And he was writing in the '30s, when people were a lot more intelligence. Imagine what he'd say now. His head would explode.

KING: An email from Lad in New Jersey: "As a former member of the U.S. Air Force, I feel the drinking age should be lowered to 18. If somebody is old enough to fight for their country, he's old enough to drink. What do you think Bill?"

MAHER: I couldn't agree more. In fact, I'd say 14. No. Sure, I mean, 18, I don't know. How long ago that I started drinking illegally, but --

KING: You don't drink anymore. Do you?

MAHER: I drink way less than I used to. But I certainly do have a cocktail.

KING: Pot?

MAHER: Pot?

KING: I do pot in the movie.

MAHER: Larry, we were in Amsterdam. Don't get me in trouble with the authorities.

KING: It was legal, correct.

MAHER: We were in Amsterdam, where it's legal. In America, I only smoke it when I'm 12 miles offshore. I have a boat, Larry. I go out there beyond U.S. territorial waters and I light up.

KING: We'll continue with the Emmy award nominating -- how many times have you been nominated?

MAHER: Twenty one.

KING: And never won.

MAHER: You'd think once just by clerical error I would have won.

KING: Right after the break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAHER: The Crocodile Hunter clan has to leave nature alone. This week, the late Steve Irwin's younger son was bitten by a Boa Constrictor. Authorities don't know exactly what went wrong, but they think the accident might have happened when a bunch of idiots let a four-year-old (EXPLETIVE DELETED) around with a giant snake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: "Real Time With Bill Maher" returns Friday, August 29th. He is appearing at Humphries in San Diego this Sunday, and his film, "Religulous," will open October 3rd wide across the United States. No matter what you think about religion, you should see this movie. Charlottesville, Virginia, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Bill. I have a question. What do you think when religious people say that men who believe in God are weak minded?

KING: When religious people say that?

CALLER: Yes. They call men weak minded.

KING: Men who don't believe in god you mean.

CALLER: Yes.

MAHER: I've heard it the other way. Jesse Ventura had that great quote, religion is a crutch for week minded people who need strength in numbers. Pretty harsh words from somebody who I think was governor at the time.

KING: He was.

MAHER: I don't know how it's more weak minded to be the one who is saying, look, I don't know what happens when you die. So I'm just going to say I don't know. That, to me, seems a more honest approach than believing in -- KING: Well, in truth, don't most people think that? Would you gather that they don't know? Because if they knew, why would they fear it so much?

MAHER: Right.

KING: Why would they not -- why would you not -- why fear death?

MAHER: You know, I agree. I've never been the person who's been troubled by those big questions. I've never been able to answer them and I know I never will. And you just give yourself a headache thinking about them. I mean, if you start thinking about these things, you kind of get down to why is there anything? Try to ponder that one afternoon, if you're not high. You'll be, you know --

KING: Why is there anything?

MAHER: Well, like if the universe begins at a certain point, what was before the universe? Nothing. But how can nothing -- we can't contemplate that, because nothing is something. See, there may be answers. I'm not saying that there isn't something out there. I'm not strictly an atheist. An atheist is certain there's no god.

KING: That's a religion.

MAHER: Sort of. You know, people say could it be Jesus? Yes, it could be Jesus. It also could be Furbee (ph) or the lint in my navel. I have a feeling it's probably not something that smacks of the story that bronze-age men would write down, people who didn't know what an atom or a germ was, or where the sun went at night, or why their women got pregnant. You know, if the Bible was written by a god who's beyond time, it wouldn't be so limited to the morays of that era.

KING: Cape Coral, Florida, hello.

CALLER: Hey, Larry, love the show.

KING: Thank you.

CALLER: Bill, I love your show too. I can't wait for it to come back, sir.

MAHER: Thank you.

CALLER: I have a question. Do you think McCain will be just as bad or worse than Bush? I'm a first-time voter, and I'm Barack all the way, man.

KING: How do you compare McCain to Bush?

MAHER: OK, dude. It's hard to say. It's hard to imagine a president being worse than Bush. But I could see McCain pulling it off. I don't know. McCain is a real hard one to figure, because he could get into office and revert to the maverick McCain that we used to like. He could. He could say, you know what? I had to do a lot of stuff I didn't like to get to this spot, which every politician has to do. But now I'm here. You can't touch me. I'm not going to run again, perhaps. I'm just going to do it my way. And, you know, he is -- he can be better on a lot of issues than Bush.

But on issues like Iraq he's not. He doesn't get the most fundamental thing about this war, that it is our presence in that country that is the problem. He's OK with leaving troops in Iraq for a hundred years. He said this. He said, look, we have troops in Germany and Japan and South Korea. Yes, but they're not Muslim countries. What irks them is just our presence there. As long as we have troops in the heart of the Middle East, there will always be terrorist planners trying to kill us, young, Muslim men who want to kill us for doing that.

So on that level, alone, I can't say he's better than Bush.

KING: We'll be back with more of Bill Maher. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We're with Bill Maher and the caller is from Concord, California. Hello.

CALLER: Hello. How are you.

KING: I'm fine. Go ahead.

CALLER: I have a question for Bill. You've come across -- maybe it's just the cockiness that you have answer to everything. But you never seem to present anything that you don't have an answer. It's just your opinion. I was wondering why.

MAHER: I don't know what that question means.

KING: He just said he has no idea where the world began or ends.

MAHER: I mean, when I give my opinion, it's assumed -- I think tacitly we understand -- I'm not speaking from a position of religious authority. Yes, I sound like I know what I believe. It's what I believe at the moment. I could be wrong. I'm the first one to say I could be wrong. But, you know, if you don't sound like you know what you're talking about, no one's going to believe you.

And again, if I may get back to the problem with Obama and McCain, you know, McCain looks confident. When he says defeat it, it looks confident. Obama by sidling up on so many issues to the Republican doesn't look confident. And the American public is clueless. They don't know who's right, Obama or McCain. That would involve reading and watching CNN. Please.

So they vote for the person who looks the most confident and if the Democratic candidate is constantly slinking toward the positions of the right winger, they're going to say to themselves at the end of the day, why vote for the imitation? Why not just vote for the real thing?

KING: Atlanta, hello.

CALLER: Hello, Bill.

MAHER: Hello.

CALLER: I wondering if you knew George Carlin on a personal level. Also, I remember a movie you made back in the '80s with Brian DePalma, if I'm not mistaken. Was that you?

MAHER: No. No, that was "Body Double." That's a guy who did look like me back then.

KING: George Carlin, by the way, is nominated against you for an Emmy.

MAHER: Yes.

KING: Ironic.

MAHER: And I'm doing the -- another one I'm bound to lose. I'm doing the Mark Twain Award for him in Washington in November. I'm thrilled.

KING: Are you going to accept it for him?

MAHER: I think a bunch of comics are going to make a presentation. It's a very prestigious award. This is not just something they offered to him posthumously, like, oh, he's dead, let's give him an award. It was bad timing on his part.

KING: You were on the night he died. That was a sad night.

MAHER: We had a good show about it. Did I know him personally? Not that well. I wish I had. But, you know, at the moment in my life when I got to know him and work with him, he was in his '60s. He was set in his ways. He did his show, he went home. I wish I had met him when he was younger, and we could have got out and had a drink together.

KING: An e-mail question --

MAHER: I was younger and go out and drink more.

KING: Email question from John in Toronto, Ontario: "Bill, you're very outspoken about staying a bachelor. Has there ever been a woman who made you second guess your choice not to settle down?"

MAHER: On a nightly basis, Larry. But I resist. I have kept my toe out of the trap.

KING: Is there any girl in your background that you said, she might be -- could have been?

MAHER: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. Stop asking these questions, mom, about when am I going to get married. First of all, I've never been against marriage. I always admit that it works for a certain amount -- number of people, a certain percentage. And I know people who are very happy and wouldn't be happy if they weren't with their partner. So my hat's off to them.

There's another bunch of people who I think it doesn't work for. And the kind of people like me, we're growing in numbers, just like the no religious people, we're growing in numbers. People don't feel the need anymore to conform just for the sake of society.

KING: So you prefer single?

MAHER: I do to this point, but who knows? I just entered my fifties a couple years ago. It's my experience that every decade you live, you're kind of a different person or you lead a different life. I led a very different life in my 20s, my 30s, my 40s. I don't know what my 50s are going to be. It might include that. Please, god, no, I'll bargain again with you if you get me out of this one.

KING: We'll be back with more of Bill Maher. We have sad news to pass on tonight. Leroy Moore, the saxophone player and the founding member of the Dave Matthews Bands has died. He was only 66. He was 46, I'm sorry. He was apparently in a TV accident on June 30th in Virginia. He punctured a lung and broke a few ribs. As we understand it, Moore went back to the hospital recently due to complications from those injuries and he died this afternoon.

The band will perform tonight as scheduled at the Staple Center in Los Angeles. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Bill Maher has said a lot of strange things in a long an illustrious career, but he just told me something during the break that requires a follow up. He said to me, he loves the recession.

MAHER: Larry.

KING: Why?

MAHER: Because I was driving over here and I have driven over here many times. Traffic is light. You know?

KING: Oh, I see.

MAHER: People aren't out as much. The stores are empty. The businesses are so happy to see you. Have you noticed that? You walk into a restaurant and they're about to close. My friend, please come in. Just so happy to have anybody's business. That's not an attitude that businesses usually have. It goes right away.

KING: Good point. We love the recession. Boston, hello.

CALLER: Hi, Bill. I know you're an animal protection advocate, as am I. And I know there's currently a lot of discussion in the animal advocacy community about the potential for change with a new president from the Bush administration, which you know has been disastrous for the environment and the animals that live there. I wanted to know if you could share your opinion on which presidential candidate you think would be best to benefit the animal protection movement in the U.S. going forward.

MAHER: I would have to guess it would be Obama. But this is an issue that's hardly on the radar of presidential candidates.

KING: Has not come up in a debate.

MAHER: Please, I mean, animals don't vote. They forgot about poor people, let alone animals. Anyone who doesn't have a vote, forget about it. Children, why are old people taken care of so well economically in America and children not? Because old people vote. So I don't know. It's a host of issues that I wish, again, my champion of the liberal wing would take on, like the drug war and animal rights. But I'm not holding my breath. I'd be happy if they could end the war.

KING: You got to be pleased by T. Boone Pickens. He was on this show for an hour, against oil addiction, in favor of wind power.

MAHER: Right, we're trying to get him on our show. I would love to talk to him.

KING: I bet he would come.

MAHER: Yes. And that shows you where we are. When an 80-year- old oil man has to show the government the way. You know, this guy gets it. You know, I just -- I just -- I hate to be despairing. But, again, you know, when I hear two thirds of Americans are for oil drilling, oil drilling which is not going to improve anything at all. Oil companies and oceans never worked out so well before. In fact, the phrase that we have for things not going well together is actually oil and water.

KING: Yes, you're right. Good point.

MAHER: That's how much we should know not to do this. But let's end on a happy note, Larry. Let's not leave people with --

KING: A great writer, Philip Reilly, told me once in an interview that when you talk to man about generations not yet born, it goes in one ear and out the other. He ain't thinking about generations not yet born. It's take care of me now.

MAHER: Yes. But this doesn't. You know, people don't seem to be able to make rational decisions. Like I'm -- I'm not always on the side that liberals are on. I'm for nuclear power. I think McCain is also. And I know a lot of people hate this. Bill, what about the waste. Yes, nothing is a -- not everything can be a win-win situation. There are problems. But we are definitely killing ourselves with fossil fuels.

France has had nuclear power for decades without an accident. And in this country they want to bury it at the bottom of a mountain.

KING: Got to run. MAHER: Sorry.

KING: Bill Maher, he's the host of "Real Time With Maher." That returns August 29th. He will be appearing at Humphries in San Diego this weekend and look forward to that movie, "Religulous." It opens October 3rd. There's still time to cast your quick vote. Tonight's question, I like it when Bill Maher takes on politics or religion. Go to CNN.com/LarryKing and have your say. While you're there, check out our other features. Sign up for e-mails, text message alerts. We got you covered at CNN.com/LarryKing.

It's Trump times three on Friday night; Donald and his daughter Ivanka will be here and his son Donald Jr. That's the guest list. It's Trump night. That's not all. "American Idol" winner David Cook and the nine finalists are going to join me to talk about their summer tour. Now it's time for Campbell Brown and "AC 360."