I saw this movie a few weeks ago. I had an evening free, and a coupon for a free movie, so for the price of expensive popcorn, I had some entertainment for about 100 minutes.
(Note: I love movies and as a person with a lot of visual training I appreciate films and filmmaking. I have a continuous NetFlix queue and watch about 5 movies a week. I could probably post as many movie reviews here as I do car photos. Who knows, perhaps I will.)
This movie is not really an artistic expression, or an example of the filmmakers art however. It is a shaky-cam documentary with Bill Maher questioning religious believers about the bizarre and illogical portions of their religions. He takes great joy in revealing the ironies, hypocrisies, and logical fallacies of organized religion. Organized western religions that is, as those of us in the western world have very little knowledge or context to analyze eastern religious belief, so he left those out.
It was of course thought provoking, and entertaining. The relentless knife of Occam’s Razor leaves very little left of religious belief, since so much of it appears to be stuff people made up as they had no other mechanism to answer questions of the unknown. As mankind gains knowledge, mythology is revealed for the nonsense of which it is, mostly. When intellect and empiricism is applied to mythology, very little survives. For example Thomas Jefferson, a man of considerable intellect, endeavored to condense the New Testament into logical statements, devoid of supernaturalism, and it ended up being less than 20 pages long. In large print. Go ahead, it is a quick read.
Or, you can flip it 180Â° to JUST the mythology and get it down to one small image file.
Of course Judiasm and Islam get equitable treatment in Religulous. Maher is an equal opportunity offender. Even Scientology and pot smokers gets skewered. It was good fun though everyone he interviewed became defensive and hostile when confronted with absurdities they held dear, whether it be virgin birth, talking snakes, expending effort on a particular day of the week, or eating one food but not another. Ironically the exceptions were two Catholic Priests, representing the Vatican no less, who seemed to take it all with a great sense of humor… It only took them about 400 years to come around to accept a heliocentric understanding. Perhaps there is hope after all?
The very fact that every religion continually subdivides into factions, big and small, is sufficient proof to me that nobody has a monopoly on truth. Every religion has at its kernel the golden rule, but wrapped around it are layers and layers of bullshit, mythology and irrelevant minutiae, and wrapped around that is an a hard shell ethic that says “everyone else is wrong.” “Others” are doomed to eternal punishment, or deserving of death, or whatever – and that certitude is in direct opposition to the core belief itself.
Unfortunately humans cling hardest to beliefs that are unknown, and refuse to subject them to serious inquiry and questioning. Instead they accept words written a millennia or more ago, and handed down through time as the divine word.
Then they fight over them. Usually to the point of violating commandments.
Where Religulous fell apart was the ending. Literally the final few minutes. It attempted to draw a conclusion to the previous 98 minutes of lighthearted inquiry. It fell into the same logical trap that religion does: “All those other people are crazy, so we are doomed.” In other words “They are wrong.” This was accompanied by a barrage of disturbing images delivered in a propagandistic style that would make Leni Riefenstahl proud. For me it literally ruined my night. C’mon Bill, you can do better.
One of the founding principles of this country is religious freedom. People can believe in whatever they wish, and so long as they don’t harm, or steal in the process, they’re welcome to be here. The Constitution says that Government has to butt out, and not try to impose any one belief system on its citizens (unfortunately something it fails at in innumerable small ways however.) Roughly one-fifth of all Americans are non-believers, or have chosen to not follow any specific faith, a fact that the believers often forget or ignore. But you can not legislate thought, or belief. Nor can you deny others their freedoms to speak, think, worship, and believe. I have no problem with fundamentalists building museums showing people and dinosaurs living together. Just don’t use government funding to build it, expect tax breaks because of it, or attempt to push it into the public school curriculum. I’ll defend to the death your right to believe batshit crazy stuff. Just don’t expect me to buy into your beliefs.
Bill Maher should have left his doom-filled conclusion on the cutting room floor and left us to draw our own conclusions… but hey, he’s entitled to his own opinions. 😉