Bill Maher’s Religulous

00:05 Mon 20 Oct 2008. Updated: 17:28 28 Jan 2009
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I went to see Bill Maher’s Religulous on Friday night. The SF Chronicle reviewed it and didn’t like it, characterizing it as completely unfair and one-sided. After reading that review, I thought I might not like it, myself, since I tend to prefer fair and reasonable debate/argument.

However, I did really enjoy Religulous. I though it was hilarious. It is completely one-sided, a polemic, in which Maher cuts his interviews entirely in his favor, with subtitles the interviewees are unaware of, plus the occasional shot from some other movie put in there to make the interviewees look ridiculous.

However, it’s not attempting to be a balanced examination, nor is there any requirement that it be so. Religion gets such reverential treatment, especially in this country, that you could have forty movies like Religulous come out per year and the scales wouldn’t be anything close to balanced.

Maher essentially takes on a jester role, gleefully skewering the sacred cow that is “faith” and making its adherents look like idiots or madmen. Of course there are questions that he doesn’t address, such as: if religion is so irrational, so disadvantageous, why is it so successful? Or, put slightly differently, why does it have such appeal? Maher pays lip service to the later question and doesn’t really ask the former—but there’s no real need for him to do so. Instead he points out the contradictions, the intolerance, the appalling hypocrisy (i.e. calling for tolerance of your own bullshit while simultaneously calling for the suppression of those who “offend” your). And if this makes believers uncomfortable, makes them feel as if their faith is being assaulted, so what? Why not more of that? If they have such faith, they should be entirely comfortable in having it ridiculed, rather than trying mightily to constrain discourse so that their beliefs (and only theirs) are exempt from examination and criticism. That, of course, is how public discourse in the US operates—religion per se is almost never required to justify itself, while e.g. atheism is always asked to justify itself.

One Response to “Bill Maher’s Religulous

  1. Lev Says:

    Perhaps it’s time to take a ride on the atheism bus.

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