Sunday, October 05, 2008


I've followed Bill Maher down a similar path. He was raised Catholic and is now a non-believer. The same is true of me. The difference is that Maher has turned his rabid agnosticism into an ideology as forceful and obnoxious as the religious extremists and fringe believers that he interviews in the new documentary Religulous. The film ends with a warring call-to-arms locker-room speech from Maher to other non-believers (and "modest believers") to rise up and fight the fight against faith for the good of humanity. Maher's crusade doesn't preach violent conversion but his line drawing comes off just as ignorant as the "infidel" speak of radical Islamic Imams.

Maher's subjects are so dead certain of their beliefs that they refuse to budge from a stance even when a twinkle of doubt is apparent in their eyes. Such is the case when Maher confronts an owner of a Christain gift shop and asks him if he truly believes in the Old Testament story of Jonah and the Whale. The store owner gets smiley and noticeably shifty when Maher says how ridiculous it is to believe that a man could live inside a fish for three days and nights.

Yet Maher suffers from the same blind stubbornness. When he stops at a tiny truckers chapel for a gotcha session with a handful of members, one trucker tells Maher that he was saved by Jesus and feels reborn. Prior to being a Christian, this man was a Satanist, living large off rolls of cash, drugs, and women. Director Larry Charles then quickly cuts to a shot of Maher in his traveling van snidely saying, "and why did he leave Satanism again???" This shows Maher's blanket unwillingness to accept even the positives that faith can have on people.

Such is the problem with the entirety of Religulous. Like Larry Charles previous film Borat, he and Maher have chosen easy marks to air their quibbles and argue their points. More than once, an interviewee says that they were unaware that "this type of documentary" was going to be made. And like Sacha Baron Cohen, Maher treats his interviewee's generosity with disdain. After the conclusion of one interview - a one-on-one with a gay conversion counselor - the interviewee offers Maher a hug, yet he can only respond with, "you didn't get an erection from that did you?"

More telling of Religulous' agenda is the way Maher and Charles run from information when it doesn't fit into their tunnel-vision screed. In one fascinating aside, Maher talks to an astronomic scientist from The Vatican, who mentions that Pope John Paul II said evolution is "more than an hypothesis". Yet Maher doesn't take this as an opportunity to explore the large chunk of Christians in America who find no conflict between their faith and the foundations of science.

But, you see, it just doesn't make for entertaining propaganda to have two opposing scholars sit down and debate faith versus agnosticism, no, cuz that would be too beneficial to people and could perhaps seal cracks that exist between disagreeing parties. Sadly, much like Mahmoud Ahmadenijad, whom Maher references often because of his wish to see Israel "wiped off the map", you get the feeling that Maher doesn't care to coexist with people of faith. He'd just prefer that once and for all they be wiped off the ideological map.


Evan Derrick said...

I'm hoping to see this later today, and I think we're doing our next podcast episode on it.

This is a great review, Fox. I'm expecting to respond much the same way you did, although my response might be that much more extreme, since I'm an evangelical Christian and squarely in the demo that Maher is intent on attacking. However, I typically have little issue with other people questioning faith, as long as they're doing it with a somewhat objective mindset (the docs Hell House and Jesus Camp, although profiling uber-extreme evangelicals, were quite fair in their approaches), but Maher's combative style has always been off-putting for me. In a similar vein, I had little interest in Ben Stein's anti-evolution doc, regardless of how much I may have agreed with it, simply because the approach he seemed to be using was the same one Maher appears to be using here - setting up Strawmen, burning them to the ground, and then trumpeting their own intellectual superiority. I'll have to pop back in here afterwards and give my thoughts, see if they're any different from yours.

Fox said...


Please do. I'd be very curious to hear your thoughts.

Every person in my life that has faith - in whatever deity and religion - are people that have respected my non-beliefs, and vice versa. Like politics, there seems to be this knee-jerk reaction that if one person falls into one camp of beliefs, that he or she cannot co-exist with the other. This has always irked me. So many facets make up a person, yet people like Maher want to smear them for one aspect of their make-up.

I have the urge talk with you about specific sequences in the film, so, yeah, let me know after you see it. I look forward to your MOVIE ZEAL review as well.

Rick Olson said...

Fine review, Fox. Until lately, I've been a fan of Maher, but he seems to have let his blind bigotry of anything religious get to him. If it's anything like Charles' "Borat" -- and you're not the first one to say it is -- then it will hardly be an even-handed treatment.

Andrew Sullivan, the gay Republican Christian commentator, was on Maher's HBO program the other day and called him a bigot. Maher didn't like that one bit.

An open mind supposedly a hall-mark of true liberalism. There's nothing open-minded about Maher's approach to Christian bashing; there's nothing liberal about it, either.

Graf Orlok Lapper said...

I think we both expressed our distaste for Borat on Coosa Creek a while back. I haven't seen this but from clips and reviews, including yours, I get the feeling it's along the same lines.

I myself do not believe and while I bear no ill will towards believers I do become discouraged and slightly depressed at times when I think of how many people in the 21st century still believe in such things. I find it depressing that men and woman of intelligence, including my own parents and sister, still believe there are supernatural beings that control the cosmos. But in their presence I feel no need to argue or convert or condescend. If someone starts the argument I will engage, vehemently, but otherwise I don't worry about it.

However, the evolutionary stance taken by some believers of varied faiths has oddly enough always bothered me from a theological angle. Forget the empirical data for it, it's insulting to God. Oddly, this bothers me.

If you're going to believe in God and worship Him then it seems you should have the outmost respect for Him. When you choose to discount evolution you are, to my mind, saying, "Whoa! Every living thing on Earth changing, developing, experiencing descent with modification, changes in gene frequency in a population from one generation to the next, the descent of different species from a common ancestor over many generations all adding up to an ever-changing ever developing biological universe? My God is waaaayyyyyy too dumb for that! No, no he's about two inches tall intellectually, plays with yarn in his spare time. No, he made everything how it is just like you see it now. Man, you're giving Him way too much credit."

It always seemed sadly amusing to me that people of deep religious faith did not, and still do not, IMMEDIATELY latch onto evolution as the ultimate example of God's glory. Creating a static universe? That's the equivalent of building a diorama. But an ever-changing universe. That's awe inspiring.

I've always thought, in relation to this, that if God did exist, the first question He would ask evolution doubters upon their death is, "Why did you think I was so stupid?"

Graf Orlok Lapper said...

Oh, and by the way, a discussion about the existence of God should be a little more rigorous than questions about Jonah and the whale. Many, many Christians already take the Old Testament with a grain of salt anyway.

And also, do they ever even discuss the existence of God or stay with religion? Because if they stay with religion then it's all too easy to find the extremists and target them but some of my best conversations about God came in conversations with Monsignor Beggiani at Catholic University who engaged me and my disbelief vigorously. I learned a lot about theology from him and I personally don't think Maher would stand a chance with him.

Fox said...

Rick & Jonathan-

Good comments.

Similar to Lapper's great post about awhile back (sorry, don't have the link...) about H.G. Wells and Liberal Fascism, sometimes hardcore idealogues on both sides of the spectrum become so obsessed with their point-of-view that they don't see their slow slide into a kind of soft-fascism. (Jonathan, correct me if I'm wrong on what that post was about. I don't want to misrepresent you...)

And no, I'm not calling Maher a fascist(I think that term is overused at annoying rate), I just think his forceful my-way-is-the-only-way comes off a totalitarian-esque at times.

And I think Sullivan would probably bristle at you labeling him a Republican. Maybe in a Goldwater sense he would accept that. A conservative, sure, since he wrote an entire book labeling his belief system as the "true" conservatism, but since 2004, he's been strongly anti-Bush (which I know a lot of old-school Republicans are), but Sullivan has also been one of Obama's biggest cheerleaders. Ahh... who knows what Democrat/Republican means anymore anyways... sorry for that aside, I started to notice that I was going down a wormhole. WEEEEEEEEEEE!


Maher avoiding exchanges with people like Monsignor Beggiani is one of the criticisms I am reading today in the reviews that are less that positive. It's humorous to watch Maher approach his subjects with a handful of notecards full of attack lines and gotcha quotes while his interviewees just wing it. I doubt he was aware of it, but he makes himself look like a fool b/c of this.

And there are a few discussions of "Does God exist?" but Religulous is mainly aimed at the nasty bits of Christianity for 75% of the movie and then Mormonism, Judaism, and Islam for the other 25%.

He does throw out the regular "But if there is a God, then why does he let FILL IN THE BLANK happen?" argument, which, I mean, come on, that was something that popped in all of our heads at the age of 10. Lobbing that question to a guy dressed as Jesus and a Holy Land theme park is pretty weak. Now, if he were to go head-to-head with a theolgian on that question, it would be very interesting to watch.

Graf Orlok Lapper said...

He does throw out the regular "But if there is a God, then why does he let FILL IN THE BLANK happen?" argument, which, I mean, come on, that was something that popped in all of our heads at the age of 10. Lobbing that question to a guy dressed as Jesus and a Holy Land theme park is pretty weak. Now, if he were to go head-to-head with a theolgian on that question, it would be very interesting to watch.

Exactly! I've met many a hard-headed theologian but also many a genius as well. In fact, in my time at Catholic U. I honestly came to wonder if the Jesuits even believed at times. Beggiani used to present so many tantalizing questions and arguments that supported God's non-existence that it fascinated me that he believed. But he understood that it was necessary to understand all of the available arguments. I'd go into some of them here but it would take too much time and space. But he was a great guy and theological thinkers like him never get interviewed. It's usually the most bile spewing on both sides that get the press. To this day I cringe if someone places me, as a non-believer, in the same camp as Madalyn Murray O'Hair (yes that's how her name is spelled). I couldn't STAND HER but to an outsider we were both in the same camp. I hate that kind of pigeonholing.

Megan said...

Great review and great comments!

Having a theological discussion with a Jesuit is always facinating. Do you have any idea how much studying they have to do before they are ordained? Freaking years. And they don't just study Catholicism.

I'm suddenly feeling better about the Catholic school question...might have to post more about it...

Fox said...

Megan... I feel some kind of Catholic-themed Blog-A-Thon coming on, no?? And it wouldn't be negative, per se. I'm no longer a believer, but I find many things about the religion calming and beautiful, namely St. Francis,... more specifically Rossellini's The Flowers of St. Francis.

Anonymous said...

I've never understood the criticism or flagrant mockery of faith. Why confront people with supposed evidence or rationalizations which counter their beliefs? What is gained by the inquisitor in doing this? Are they trying to change their minds? Make them look foolish? Amend any misgivings or inadequacies they feel about themselves?

It's called FAITH! Faith needs no proof. It needs no evidence. It is not reliant upon science, nor rationalization, nor logic. It merely requires the belief itself. So many opponents of faith use the mind to criticize it when, in fact, it's in the heart that we find it.

In my opinion every human being should have faith in something...anything. To believe in an idea, or an entity, or a concept in which there is no proof makes us better human beings.


Fox said...


Well said. I don't understand the attack on faith, in general, either.

I DO understand the attack on fundamentalists or extremists whose beliefs & actions penetrate into the lives of others, or start transforming the society around them. But on a purely "AGAINST FAITH!" crusade, it kind of comes off like bigotry.

I don't remember the scene or quote exactly, but in Religulous there is asking a believer to "prove" his faith and the man says something like "well, it's faith... that means I can't prove it." Now, "proof" or lack thereof is exactly why I don't believe, but why should I care if someone does?

And I think you're onto something when you say that some people may feel threatened, or, I should say they are trying to make themselves feel more at ease with their lack of faith. Others, I think, just find believers intellectual inferior so they try to "educate" them. The flaw in that is they don't understand the "head" vs. "heart" factor that you mention. That can be a powerful thing.

As far as having faith in anything, it's true, but it can be painful... I've had faith in the Houston Astros for 20 + years, and they still break my heart.

Anonymous said...

LOL! Yes, as a 20+ year Astros fan myself I know that pain well.

I never said faith isn't painful. That's what tests our faith which is essential in haven't it in the first place. If it's not tested, it can't ever be faith.

And I'm somewhere in the middle when it comes to not having the "beliefs and actions penetrate the lives of others." I think it should to a degree.

If there was a tree in the woods that continually grew $100 bills and I hoarded it all to myself without telling any of my close friends (or anybody else for that matter), I'd be one despicable human being.

Yet, those who are strong in their faith believe that their faith is far more valuable than any money tree and they feel compelled to share it with those around them or risk being reduced to the same despicable human being. I commend and applaud those who share their faith (or lack of faith) with others. But there needs to be respect, civility, and compassion for those around us when expressing such things.

For the record, I'm a Christian but not a very good one. I go to church every Sunday, pray, and consider my faith in God a blueprint towards all the success I've achieved in life but I never share that with anybody. I've got close friends who I know would benefit beyond their comprehension to have God in their lives but I'm far too chickenshit to be the one to introduce them. To those who don't have faith they may applaud and respect me for that. But I just think that makes me one despicable human being.


Jason Bellamy said...

OK. This blows. I've seen the movie, but I haven't written my review yet, and so I don't want to read Fox's. So I've skipped that and jumped straight to the comments area. Even then, I've tried to skim only. I feel like I guy cheating with a prostitute who feels like if he closes his eyes it isn't really happening. But I digress.

Anyway, I had to jump in and ask a question on this one...

It's called FAITH! Faith needs no proof. It needs no evidence. It is not reliant upon science, nor rationalization, nor logic. It merely requires the belief itself. So many opponents of faith use the mind to criticize it when, in fact, it's in the heart that we find it.

BMS: I get that. I'm not going to ramble on my religious history because that's not the point at the moment, but, believe me, I get it. But I guess I don't think it's as simple as you make it out to be.

So you just believe. But why? Where did that come from? You didn't just wake up with "faith." Somewhere you got an idea of what to have faith in. Where did that come from?

Did it come from your parents? OK. Where did THEIR faith come from? Correct me if I'm wrong, but at some point doesn't the faith have to come back to the source? And isn't that the church and/or the Bible?

I love Lapper's comment that more or less implies that, hey, can't natural selection and intelligent design more or less coexist? I can see where faith can bridge that gap.

But let's leave Maher out of this for a second. If I don't have faith, and I want to understand your faith, doesn't that start by asking you questions? And shouldn't those questions have answers? Not perfect answers, necessarily, but better answers than just "hey, that's what I belive"?

Maher may be attacking belief. I know that I have attacked belief before in similar ways. But in my case, at least, it doesn't come from wanting to attack belief itself or those who have it. It comes from wanting to understand the origins of a belief that I don't feel. If I raise things about your religeon that don't add up to me, that's not an attack, it's an explanation.

I'm sure this will make it into my review, but one of the things I thought astonishing was the number of believers who didn't want to talk to Maher the second they realized he was going to ask them critical questions. What kind of belief is that? The Jew for Jesus guy, well, maybe he's a Maher target, but at least he stands for what he believes, even if it can only be explained by "faith." I don't see that as losing the argument, necessarily, even though Maher might. But those who run from the argument, who can't even acknowledge some of the facts, that doesn't speak well to the strength of faith.

I'm rambling now. Damn work. Why can't I make a living commenting on blogs?

I hope this makes sense. Even more, I hope it's clear I mean no disrespect. I certainly love the idea of believing in something, anything, that can't be seen. That's a beautiful thing. But those who 'just believe' without questioning? Well, some pretty ugly things have happened in the history of civilization when that happens.

Jason Bellamy said...

Dammit. I wasn't ready to post that. Had typos to fix. Oh well. One clarification: I realize in the above I make it sound as if Christianity is the only religion. I'm not dumb. I know it isn't. I was just rolling with a previous example.

Good discussion folks.

Fox said...

Fair distinction. What I should have been more clear about when saying "penetration into lives" is that I don't consider someone sharing their faith with another to fall into that category. If the other person isn't interested, they can simply walk away.

What I meant was more along extremist lines. Pushing towards dreams of theocracy; religuous beliefs pushing violent actions against "infidels" or "sinners"; things like Sharia Law becoming prominent as a means of justice instead of established, secular law, etc.

And also for the record, I enjoy talking to people about their faith. I don't engage them in a way that I want to change or challenge their beliefs, I just enjoy the exposure to how somebody else sees things.

Much like stereotypes of religuous people, people often pigeonhole agnostics/atheists as immoral, spiteful, nihilistic people. Surely, nihilism comes from a loss in faith, but it irks me when someone - this happens at work alot - finds out I don't believe, and they look at me like a fallen person.

Daniel Getahun said...

I'm coming in late, and without having seen the movie, but I'm really inspired that the level of conversation here has remained respectful.

I'm a believer and haven't gone out of my way to see Maher's or Stein's films for the reasons Evan laid out. Your excellent review, Fox, doesn't make feel like there's any reason to think I should change my plans. Had you been impressed by it as someone who shares Maher's "beliefs" (savor that irony, Bill - you hold to as much of a belief system as I do), I would have been interested to make time for this. As it is, reading everyone's comments has probably been a lot more enlightening than this movie.

Regarding Jason's comment on how people acquire faith, well I'll take the easy road here and just say that I personally think it comes from personal experience and not indoctrination. Faith is one thing; traditional ritual and religious custom is entirely different. Most people who hold to various religions were "born" into it, yes, but there are just as many who have left (Fox and Maher included) as have remained, so there must be some experience in our lives that is causing us to take different forks in the road, and I don't think it's just a matter of who listened more to their parents. We're all completely different people living completely different existences, and it's not my place to figure out why I have faith and you don't. All I know is that I've seen and/or experienced things in my life (and I'm not talking about miracles or anything more supernatural) that provide ME with enough evidence for MYSELF. I wouldn't expect you to have faith based on my life experience, just as you wouldn't expect me to reject faith based on your life experience.

Alright this got a lot more heady than I meant it to be. Thanks for the thoughts, everybody.

Fox said...

Alright this got a lot more heady than I meant it to be.

No way, Daniel! This is what it's all about. I was just telling a friend and my wife yesterday that I was happy a respectful discussion like this broke out over such a polarizing movie. Like you pointedly said, we've been able to reach more understanding here - I think - than Maher did with his film.

I remember one time asking my friends - both Christians - why they believed in God. Just straight up, "Why?", I asked, and they came back with the answer "Well, if you're non-believer then our answer isn't going satisfy you." I think that's an excellent point, and it kinda seals the whole debate.

I think the question of "why?" is something we all ask ourselves eventually. As Daniel said, some come out of the tunnel on one side, some on the other.

My problem with Maher is that he doesn't seem genuinely interested in hearing people's stories or reasoning, he just wants to do a "Hey look at this guy!... he's pretty stupid, isn't he??". A scene that really showed Maher's insincerity, to me, was when he was in that Jew for Jesus guy's shop, and while the owner was answering his question, Maher interrupted to make a joke at the price of a porceline statue of Mary and Jesus. The guy just kind of paused and said, "ok... as I was saying." Maher looked like a bully in a china shop.

Daniel Getahun said...

Add that to the list of scenes you describe that just sound ludicrous. I'm not offended by it and I can see why it's funny, but it still seems like a waste of time for those who are hoping to take anything of meaning from it.

Sometimes I think of a C.S. Lewis quote regarding faith. I'm not sure if it's from his book Mere Christianity or not (which, by the way, should be required reading for atheists AND Christians - probably the most even-handed popular book on the subject that exists):

"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."

Lots of "I"'s in there, which is my point.

Fox said...

A very good friend of mind has told me that that C.S. Lewis book is brilliant. Is that the one where he speaks of his conversion from atheism to Christianity?

I don't know where my friend stands on her faith right now, but she said regardless - as you said - it is essential reading on this very topic.

Jason Bellamy said...

Daniel: Great points. Let me jump back in here with one rebuttal of sorts.

Yes, pure faith is as simple as having it. And it can from anywhere – no indoctrination (organized or accidental) required. The guy Fox mentions uses as an example a moment when he asked God for rain and it rained. He sees that as a sign of God. Maher sees it as a sign of weather. I can’t tell you which of them is right, but neither of them is wrong, if you follow me. That’s the kind of belief I think is fantastic. But here’s the but …

Most believers don’t just believe, they believe in a belief system. Christians don’t Just Believe. They believe in Jesus. There’s a big difference. And so that’s where I think it’s wholly proper that someone says, "But, wait, where did you get the idea of Christ?" "Why Christ and not Muhammad?" "Why Lutheranism and not Catholicism?" It’s at this point that I fail to understand the majority (I think I’m safe in calling them the majority) of believers.

If the conversation were as simple as Those Who Believe In God and Those Who Don’t Believe, we wouldn’t have much to debate. But rarely is it that simple. Most of the time, believers believe in a specific God, the image of which is shaped by a specific religion. And that’s where I agree with Maher (at least I think I do) that believers should be able to identify WHY. No disrespect, but in that case, I don’t think “I just believe” is a satisfactory answer. In some ways, I think it’s almost insulting. Not to send us on a tangent, but: many of us couldn’t put a finger on quite why we fall in love with the people we fall in love with, but I would hope all of us could list some significant factors beyond “I just do.”

Fox: Your criticisms of Maher are right on, but be careful of one thing: Maher could be a bully and an asshole and still be “right.” Let me be clear: I’m not defending Maher here. But it would be a mistake to ignore the message just because we find the messenger despicable.

To all: Agreed. This is a great discussion. As Fox said, this, right here, is the reason to blog.

Fletch said...

I don't know where to start, so I just won't.

Excellent review and even better discussion, people.

kristena marie said...

Ok, I'm back. Sorry for being so tardy with my own review, but I wanted to get it written before I returned to comment.

As others have said, great discussion here.

I really don't have that much of a problem with him ribbing and mocking the crazy "faith" people: he's a comedian, that's his schtick, some of it was genuinely funny, I get that. It's the same kind of comedy that routinely appears on The Daily Show, and even if I feel a little bad for the people who are getting ambushed, I still laugh my butt off. My faith is thick skinned enough that I can take a little poking.

No, my specific problems with the film deal with Maher's "have my cake and eat it too" approach. If he were only to ambush people and mock them, that would be one thing. Sasha Baron Coen did it the entirety of Borat and everyone loved him for it. But no, he insists on spouting manifestos at the end about how everyone needs to destroy organized religion. This is especially hypocritical when he has blatantly thumbed his nose at legitimate discussion. Notice how he spent all of 30 seconds with the head of the human genome project, but used up a good 4 minutes talking to the head of the Church of Cannabis. And then he decides to get all high-and-mighty and declare how horrid religion is? Really, Bill? This is all you can come up with? You can't get away with an appeal to reason at the end of film that has squarely mocked critical thinking the entire time and where you edited one of the most brilliant scientists in American clean out of the picture. That doesn't float.

The final 5-10 minutes of the film are completely out of step with the rest of it, and it hurts the picture overall. It reminded me of Charlie Chaplin's horribly miscalculated speech at the end of The Great Dictator. More than anything else it is indicative of Maher's disdain for his audience. If he trusted his viewers he would have let them make up their own minds. Instead, he insists on preaching to them like small, stupid children.

My 2 cents. For what it's worth.

Evan Derrick said...

Whoops. That was me posting there. My wife was logged into her account and I posted using it instead.

Or you can just assume I'm a cute, petite red head. Whatever works for you.

Evan Derrick said...

Let me just add that I thought Maher made a lot of wonderful points, especially about the corruption of certain sects of religion (taking "Doctor" Jeremiah Cummings to task was priceless). The moment when he stood in front of the Vatican and said, "Is this what Jesus was really talking about?" was also dead on.

My disappointment, and frustration, stems from the fact that he sabotages the few good points he makes with his editing tactics and fiery rhetoric. As Fox said, rather than trying to bridge the gap between intelligent believers and intelligent atheists, he'd rather they just go away once and for all.

Jason Bellamy said...

Evan-Kristena: More good points.

I agree that Maher sabotages his own best intentions, or perhaps just reveals his bottom line: When it comes to sparking a culture movement or entertaining, he chooses entertaining. Yeah, yeah, I know. Many people are put off by Maher's version of "entertaining." My point is that he's preaching to the choir. And many of his gags -- the "Brokeback Mountain" music cue, for example -- are hilarious, but they're not the stuff of discussion that will turn nonbelievers into, believers into nonbelievers. You know what I mean.

I'm not the least bit offended by Maher's self-righteousness, in large part because that's what I've come to expect from him. But, yes, I must admit that a lot of it is that I identify with so many of his arguments. Over on Fox News, Dennis Miller is equally smug and self-righteous, and he makes me want to vomit about 90 percent of the time because I disagree with him about that often.

The point is that if you want to change someone's opinion, Maher's tactics (like Miller's) aren't ideal. A more reserved, less emotional, more evidence-based approach (closer to Al Gore in "An Inconvenient Truth") would almost certainly be much more effective.

All of this said (and I still need to write my own damn review): I enjoy movies that make me think. Imperfect though it is, I'm thankful for "Religulous" on those grounds, if nothing else. Thanks again for the thoughtful discussion here.

Jason Bellamy said...

P.S. to Fox: These comments reached the Helen Mirren zone. Better yet, they were all substantive. Until this one, at least. Congrats.

Fox said...

Kristena, Evan, and Jason-

Just wanted to poke my head in here and say great thoughts from all of you. Sorry I didn't get in the discussion, but I made my way to Dallas and have kinda been away from the computer the last two days. I hope to get to you guys either on this post or in another forum soon. I've really enjoyed it.

Thanks to everyone for making out of this post exactly what I wanted. And a "right on!" to reminding me that I went over the Helen Mirren count with a post like this Jason.

Jason Bellamy said...

To close the loop on my end, the long weekend finally gave me time to write my review. Here's the link, for any who are interested.

Geoff said...

I thought this was a very good movie…
It’s true that most of the people Maher talked to in this were what should be considered as “extreme” Many of them, you’ll also notice, said things like, “What kind of documentary are you making?” (which may bias some people to think that the manner in which this film was made was unfair, and one-sided)


In my personal experience, there are actually very few Christians whom will actually sit down with you and have an INTELLIGENT conversation about Christianity, if they know that you have legitimate doubts to be addressed. In fact, when a valid point is brought up…it’s soooooo easy for them to say something like, “well that’s where FAITH comes in!”

And, honestly, there’s no REASONING with someone when it gets to that point. This movie isn’t going to make Christians, Muslims, Mormons, or Catholics just up and change their views…start questioning…go on a mission to stop religion, etc But will ANYTHING???
No. Nothing will…because even if someone goes out and KILLS ANOTHER PERSON, all they have to do is say “the devil got to me” and go on about their everyday business, because God will forgive them if they’re saaaaaaved!!!

True, there are things in the Bible that are good. Good qualities to have, good ways to live, sharing, thinking of others before yourself, etc… However, (like Maher said) THESE ARE COMMON SENSE!!!
In my opinion, the Bible was made to try to keep people in line during their lives, and that’s it. The fear that they’ll burn for eternity will keep believers from going all ape$hit. People don’t make decisions for themselves, because “it’s in God’s hands…He’ll tell me what to do.” Now, God’s become so much of a cop-out, it’s ridiculous!

Let’s just have a damn televised Religious Debate, and get this over with. Only people with common sense are allowed to vote.

I’m finished ranting…go see the movie. I give it a 5-Star rating

Fox said...


There MIGHT be a Religulous-type TV debate soon b/c news has it that Larry Charles wants to put a lot of the edited-out interviews etc. onto a HBO show; a regular series.

If so, I think this debate of ours will continue.

Thanks for your comments. This discussion has been a great one.

Tyler said...

wow did you seriously just compare Bill Maher to Mahmoud do you understand that this is a comedy/documentary..therefor it is suppouse to be funny... so of course he is gonna make fun of the person who is a gay converter like seriously who wouldnt that is just ridiculous...idk how you went into this film but if you went into thinking it was gonna be a analysis of each side without humor obviously you are gonna come out like this but thats not what he was trying to do...he was attempting to be funny and show the ridiculous nature of the majority of religion....and he did a pretty god damn good job of it

JD83 said...

"...but he seems to have let his blind bigotry of anything religious get to him. If it's anything like Charles' "Borat" -- and you're not the first one to say it is -- then it will hardly be an even-handed treatment."

I had been questioning my faith too and found this movie very influential in the sense that it pointed out the other side. I believe Bill played the cards exactly how many religious people play them; its my way or NO way.

Taryn said...

Let me preface by saying I am a firm non-believer, and that I very much enjoyed Religious.

For me, a person sunk into a midwestern Christian family, being a (it's hard to put the word in print), well, you know... is kinda awkward. It was pretty refreshing to see someone get out there and make a documentary that could have come from my own mouth (with a few exceptions. I disagreed with his treatment of the truckers chapel. as you said, he ignored the positive aspects of religion in this docu, so he should have left that interview out).

And I think several important points, such as the undesirable importance of Christianity in our politics, and the irrationality of hating the gays, were brought up.

Of course his documentary is flawed, and of course it's one sided. I don't think he ever misled anyone into thinking this documentary was supposed to be about anything other than *his* problems with religion. He states from the start that this is about his quest to explore the things that just don't make sense to him.

And the little call to arms at the end, I certainly don't agree with that. I think religion is fine, but that maybe some of these people who espouse some of these harmful, extremist beliefs that he mentions, ought to exercise a little more sense in their faith. But disagreeing with him on the necessity of the annihilation of religion actually doesn't interfere with my love of the movie. After all, that conclusion was added almost as a side note, it seems to me.

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