Religulous

They've been advertising Bill Maher's movie making fun of religious belief pretty heavily lately - it looks fantastic. Religiosity deserves all the ridicule it can get - Dawkins and Hitchens style, with no apologies or reservations.

My favorite part is when the Jesus Christ stunt double asks Maher straight up, "What if you're wrong?", channeling some Pascal's wager in soft, gentle tones. The quick-witted Maher instantly counters with an acerbic "What if you're wrong?" This look-alike has devoted his entire life to dressing up as a make believe character in an amusement park. Pretty fucking meaningful, if you ask me. People who get dressed up as their favorite hero for a comic book convention are dope and all, but you have to start questioning their sanity if they return home still thinking Bilbo Baggins exists and that There and Back Again is the official rulebook for life.

Here is Maher talking about the motivation behind the movie:

Since starting on “Politically Incorrect” in 1993, it has been my pleasure over the last decade and a half to make organized religion one of my favorite targets. I often explained to people, “I don’t need to make fun of religion, it makes fun of itself.” And, then I go ahead and make fun of it too, just for laughs.

With religious fanatics like George Bush and Osama bin Laden now taking over the world, it seemed to me in recent years that this issue—this cause of debunking the man behind the curtain—needed to have a larger, more insistent and focused forum than late night television. I wanted to make a documentary, and I wanted it to be funny. In fact, since there is nothing more ridiculous than the ancient mythological stories that live on as today’s religions, this movie would try to be a real knee slapper. Unless, of course, you’re religious, then you might not like it.

Who could I get to direct me on such an epic quest? In reality, there was only one man, and his name is Larry Charles. I hope that together we fulfilled that quest. Which really isn’t that hard, considering that comedically speaking, the topic of religion is pretty much hitting the side of a barn.

As a comedian, religion has always interested me—it was the single easiest subject to make jokes about. I think that tells us something: comedians look for things that don’t make sense, that are illogical.

Even as a young comedian, routines I did that got the biggest laughs and got me invited back on “The Tonight Show” were the religious ones— like the one about being half-Catholic and half-Jewish and bringing a lawyer into confession: “Bless me father for I have sinned— and I think you know Mr. Cohen...”

Politics is a rich area, but even politicians, although they promise some ridiculous stuff, don’t approach the level of, for example, the Mormon practice of promising couples a planet to rule over in the after life if they have a really good marriage on earth. They give you a planet—kinda like when someone gives you a certificate that says a star has been named after you—except here, they really give you the star!

Join me in the final battle between intelligence and stupidity that will decide the future of humanity. Coming soon to a house of false idols near you.

A longer theatrical trailer can be found here. Here are some additional sneak peaks and media appearances.

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Religulous

Another new assault on God. Maher's Religulous, Sherry Jones' "The Jewel of Medina" and particularly thekickasspress' "Sex with THE Virgin Mary" [In which a Boston wantabe fireman is indicted for fraud over his sale of the Blessed Mother's virginity to the highest bidder]
are all examples of today's irreligiosity. Heads will roll and Hell will be filled.

Actually I think Hell will

Actually I think Hell will turn into a huge swimming pool filled with swimming giraffes.

Hum, it seems we disagree... How do you suggest we settle this disagreement and find out who's right ?

Pistols at dawn. One rule:

Pistols at dawn.

One rule: You shoot a man when he is on the ground and I will personally make sure you die where you stand.

Heads will roll and Hell

Heads will roll and Hell will be filled.

I can't wait. If given a choice between spending an eternity with the sorts of people the religious tell us are going to hell (rock stars, pornographers, drug users, the gays) or spending an eternity with the sorts of people the religious tell us are going to heaven (little old church ladies, prudes, the perpetually celibate, librarians, and self-righteous pricks), the most desirable option is an obvious one. Hell: bring it on, bitches!

Saw it yesterday night. Meh.

Saw it yesterday night. Meh. There are fun parts and Bill Maher is a good comedian, but the movie tries to be witty / funny and deliver a serious message at the same time, as a result it does both with mediocrity.

The fun message is that religion is stupid, it's about grown up believing in fairy tales and there is no reason we should respect someone's religious belief more than we should respect a grown up's belief in Santa Claus. I agree with that and that's fun. To do this, Bill Maher focuses on interviewing fringe people, young earth creationists, televangelists, etc. That's fun, but it doesn't make for a good criticism of mainstream religion.

The movie claims that religion are at the root of violence, wars, etc, and Maher tries to make a serious point out of this. This case could arguably be made (although I don't buy it), but Maher is definitely not making it convincingly. Michael Moore's documentary are an example of integrity and unbiasedness in comparison. No one is given a chance to make serious counterarguments. Some Muslim attempt to explain that the problem is political, and I believe they have a point, but they are dismissed without regard by Maher who barely listens to the people he interviews. He also brushes intelligent arguments from an anti-Zionist rabbi, walking out of the interview.

It's a Borat type comedy against religion that tries to be a political documentary and fails miserably at it. Too bad.