Monday, October 06, 2008


Religulous is most effective when it's funny. This isn't a movie trying to beat you over the head with in-depth philosophical discussions. It's not a serious documentary. It's meant to be entertaining, but also to poke fun at many of the ridiculous assumptions of organized religion. No one is spared: Mormonism, Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, Scientology, you name it.

Religulous is a road movie, of sorts, with Bill Maher traveling around the world talking to religious people of all types at churches, museums, the Vatican, etc. The biggest source of laughs is the earnestness of people's blind faith. They live by reason in every other aspect of their lives except in their religion. People are more than happy to use all the benefits of science (medicine, computers, transportation) but do not see the disconnect between a belief in science and a belief in God. They drive around in a car that runs on fossil fuels (they are called "fossil fuels" for a reason) but still cling to the belief that the world is 5,000 years old.

Even more ridiculous that those that ignore the disconnect between religion and science are those that try to reconcile the two. For example, the Creation Museum. Dinosaurs with saddles on them ... right.

Jewish Atheist made an interesting point in his review of the movie (Religulous: A Review) ... that it felt cool, and unusual, to be in a movie theater where you pretty much knew everybody else was an atheist, skeptic, agnostic. I don't get that feeling very much in real life. There were 10 other people in the small theater, and they were all laughing just as hard as I was.

One of the problems I do have with the movie is in how Maher misrepresents atheism. He perpetuates the common myth that atheism means certainty that there is no God. That's not what it means. It means a lack of belief in God. Though Maher's beliefs are really no different than mine, he gives the impression that they are by singling out atheists. And that does atheism a disservice.

The movie is directed by Larry Charles, who also directed Borat, and in many ways mirrors that movie in how it doesn't necessarily try to present some broad philosophical take or ideology, but rather just wants to use real people to get a laugh and to maybe make you think.

I like this movie quite a bit. I laughed throughout the movie and I believe that even some religious people would find it entertaining. If they don't, then that only proves Maher's point even more. I read another review that just about sums it up:
Steve Persall of the St. Petersburg Times ... commented: "If he offends your particular faith, Maher will soon have you laughing at someone else's, wondering how 'those people' could be so gullible."

I recommend this film. Grade: A

In only 5 minutes this morning, looking at news sites, I found two articles that go even further to show how stupid people of faith can be:

Jewish "Modesty Patrols"

JERUSALEM — In Israel's ultra-Orthodox Jewish community, where the rule of law sometimes takes a back seat to the rule of God, zealots are on a campaign to stamp out behavior they consider unchaste. They hurl stones at women for such "sins" as wearing a red blouse, and attack stores selling devices that can access the Internet.

In recent weeks, self-styled "modesty patrols" have been accused of breaking into the apartment of a Jerusalem woman and beating her for allegedly consorting with men. They have torched a store that sells MP4 players, fearing devout Jews would use them to download pornography.

"These breaches of purity and modesty endanger our community," said 38-year-old Elchanan Blau, defending the bearded, black-robed zealots. "If it takes fire to get them to stop, then so be it."

Female fan's kiss ends music concert in Kuwait

KUWAIT CITY - A Kuwaiti official says authorities abruptly ended a music concert by an Egyptian singer in this conservative Muslim country when a young female fan jumped on stage, hugged the male singer and gave him a kiss.

Qanas al-Adwani, who heads the government department that monitors public entertainment, says the girl's behavior at Friday's concert "defied the conservative traditions" of Kuwait.

Al-Adwani also said Sunday that the fan's behavior broke controls on public entertainment, which were imposed by influential Muslim fundamentalists after they failed in 1997 to ban concerts altogether. Concerts have to be licensed by the government, and monitors from the Information Ministry watch the crowd to make sure nobody stands up to dance.


wunelle said...

The news bits are great.

I've been tempted to see the movie, but haven't yet. I'm afraid it will just be depressing to see how many ways in which we fall for stupid things.

Of course, that business of seeing everybody else's stupidity on these things can open the door to freeing outselves from our own mythologies. But naturally the people who most need to see it would never agree to set foot in the theater.

Laura said...

I think we're going to see this this weekend. I heard he's very narrow minded about Islam as well - choosing the focus only on extremism. Not that I'm surprised, since he does that on his show constantly and conflates terrorism and extremism for Islam itself.