Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000 to 2009.

Tell the wrong person you’re an atheist, and you might find you were better off if you’d punted their baby off a balcony. To them, belief in nothing, or even agnosticism’s shapeless something, is tantamount to apathy toward mankind.

But religion isn’t necessary to know it’s bad to punch strangers without provocation. And is such skepticism truly unhealthier than abusing religion as blanket redemption for treating others terribly?

Many people follow the faith of a peaceful stripe. Bill Maher might not understand them either, but he at least heard them out in 2008’s Religulous — everyday folks like open-minded Christian truckers, excommunicated Mormons, a priest condemning Vatican opulence, the two men at a Muslim gay bar.

Yes, Maher and Borat director Larry Charles dressed a one-sided, anti-religion diatribe in documentary clothes. But it’s difficult to blame Maher in the presence of capitalists at a passion-play amusement park or a “technology” institute devoted to circumventing Sabbath rules.

Isolated hypocrisies made great punchlines, but Maher addressed history’s disturbing trend: The willfully closed-minded in power always go a step further to distort religion as a mass-populace mandate for individually exploitative, discriminatory, murderous and warmongering needs.

Temper, for a moment, Maher’s extreme thesis that religion must die for mankind to live. More practically, he’s beseeching a balance of intellect and faith. In lieu of truth, religion leads only to other people and their attendant limitations. Since religion is often politics’ dog-wagging tail, it’s imperative to put informed stock in the right flock for all mankind’s sake.