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Canada's own Bill Maher

Before there was Religulous, there was William Hopper and the Heathen's Guide to World Religions.

Peter Jaworski - October 3, 2008

Before there was Bill Maher and his "Religulous," there was William Hopper and the Heathen's Guide to World Religions.

Originally published in 1997, the book has gone through five editions, and is now in its sixth. Like Religulous, the new Bill Maher-hosted anti-religion movie, The Heathen’s Guide has found its share of recognition from reviewers and religious folk alike. Surprisingly, most of it has been good.

The Georgia Strait wrote "Instead of getting mad at God, [Hopper] made it his mission to get even... Assuming he survives the letter bombs, the fatwas, and the bus-stop lectures, I can’t wait for the promised sequel." The Toronto Star's reviewer, meanwhile, called The Heathen’s Guide “Wickedly fun and informative.”

"After ten years of doing what Mahar is doing now, I can say there’s some envy at his success,” says Hopper honestly, "But when you’re working within the Canadian publishing system, you take what you can get.”

Two years ago Hopper took his book to the internet, and has drawn some interesting fans, and interesting stories. "It’s an odd feeling to ship copies of The Heathen’s Guide to places like Iran and Saudi Arabia," says Hopper. “I’ve honestly worried that someone could get killed for reading a copy of it under certain regimes.”

Amongst the fans of his book is the female singer Esthero who went on tour with "the Artist formerly known as Prince" recently. The atheist magician-comedian duo Penn & Teller, famous for their television show entitled "Bullshit", have also received copies.

“It’s popular in the film and music world,” Hopper says. “But they tend to keep it behind the cameras where it’s safe.”

This week in California, during an interview with Brave New Films to promote his movie, Bill Maher will be handed his very own copy. It will be signed by the author, with a note that reads “To Bill Maher; a kindred soul.”

“Maher looks at today’s religions and shows them up for what they are,” Hopper says. “My stuff shows the history... where it all came from; who slept with who, who killed who. You know... the real origin of the doctrines. It’s a perfect compliment for Bill’s work.”

More articles by Peter Jaworski