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Archive for Friday, October 10, 2008

Maher finds ‘religulon’ in scathing documentary

Bill Maher goes to the Vatican during one of his quests in "Religulous."

Bill Maher goes to the Vatican during one of his quests in "Religulous."

October 10, 2008

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Smarmy, smirky and relentlessly self-congratulatory, Bill Maher might be the last person atheists would want to represent their position in public, except for one crucial fact. He is so very, very smart and funny.

Maher's antireligion documentary, "Religulous" (it rhymes with ridiculous), has numerous blasts of raucous humor amid passages that feel like a screed. Maher occasionally uses his prodigious powers of mockery against creationists, jihadis, divinely inspired gay-bashers and self-proclaimed saviors of every stripe. Mostly, though, he just asks everyday believers inconvenient questions, corrects their factual errors and allows them to make fools of themselves. Anyone affiliated with a Big Important Religion should brace for a sound thrashing. And that goes double for Scientologists.

The film is structured as a travelogue, following Maher on a pilgrimage from the Holy Land to Rome, London, Amsterdam, Salt Lake City and the Bible Belt. At every stop along the way, he asks true believers to explain the basis of their faith, quizzes scientists about their religious convictions (the vast majority identify themselves as atheists) and interviews apostates about why they have departed their former beliefs. Director Larry Charles revs up the momentum with frequent cuts to cheesy Biblical epics, outbursts of sectarian violence and, in the case of one high-living Latino evangelist, Brian DePalma's "Scarface."

In some cases, no jokes are needed. A tour through a creationist theme park shows dinosaurs coexisting with cavemen, including a model stegosaurus wearing a saddle. And the film offers a Comparative Religions 101 overview of stories that circulated around the Near East thousands of years earlier. The Egyptian god Horus; Mithra, a Persian god, and Krishna, the Indian god, all have biographies that overlap Christ's.

The film is unlikely to change many minds. If atheists had a choir, Maher would be preaching to it. The film has no taste for ambiguity, and it might have worked better if it at least glancingly noted religion's positive contributions. I'm not saying that the Sistine Chapel, Bach's "St. Matthew Passion" and Catholic Charities make up for the Crusades, but it's something. "Religulous" is at its most intriguing when Maher has nuanced discussions with a couple of priests. The Vatican astronomer eloquently explains why the Bible can't be used to teach science, and a good-humored retired priest says the scriptures are a valuable moral guidebook, but it doesn't matter because people are going to do what they're going to do anyway.

Maher drops the joking tone in the end. He argues that putting nuclear weapons in the hands of political leaders who are guided by ancient mythologies is unhealthy for the future of the human race. "Grow up or die," he warns. It's a stern conclusion to a rollicking sermon.

Comments

Peaty Romano 5 years, 10 months ago

kansas778, where is it playing? I haven't check today but yesterday it was not in the Lawrence area.

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kansas778 5 years, 10 months ago

I saw this movie last Saturday and it is definitely worth seeing. Several laugh out loud moments along with many thought provoking interviews with people of many different faiths and traditions. Maher is a comedian, and his roll is to point out the absurd. Religion, when you really think about it, is quite absurd. Talking snakes, people living inside a whale, and all the other silly things in the bible are quite absurd when you really think about it. Maher talks with Mormans, Jews, Muslims, Scientologists, Catholics and other christians about their beliefs. He doesn't claim to have any truth, he only seeks answers to his questions. Religious people claim to have the truth, and never question it. See the film, it's not offensive at all, you'll have a good time no matter what your beliefs are.

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Peaty Romano 5 years, 10 months ago

kansas778 / Kmat, thank you - I figured it would be playing at the Liberty. I'm going to have to check it out.

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Satirical 5 years, 10 months ago

Cthulhu_4_president:Yeah, your professor must be way smarter than every Justice who has ever served. Just because you can look up a word in the dictionary doesn't mean it isn't too overinclusive or underinclusive to be universally accurate. Your professor's definition does not encompass everything which could be regarded as a religion. Especially your 3rd criteria, not all religions believe in an afterlife or superior existence.

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cthulhu_4_president 5 years, 10 months ago

Tan, I may not be understanding your position clearly. If you are saying that everyone believes in SOMETHING even though there may be little direct evidence I would say you are correct. I believe that the sun will come up tomorrow, even though I have no evidence of this except for the face that the sun has come up every other day, which is anecdotal, not scientific, evidence. If, though, you are arguing on behalf of a nameless, omnipotent superbeing, I would suggest that you may be incorrect, as I and several of my associates are perfectly comfortable with the idea of a universe with no such superbeing. Perhaps we should agree to disagree :)

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Satirical 5 years, 10 months ago

Clint:There is a difference between intelligent and logic atheist like cthulhu_4_president and you, who pretends to be logic and intelligent but is lacking (maybe you should try passing the logic course next time)."As a once proud logic student I cannot, with good conscious, attempt to prove a negative." - ClintWhere did I ask you to prove a negative? I asked you to provide facts to support your claim. Since you obviously cannot, your claim cannot be proven. (Or to make a logical analogy you could understand; you argued there is a God but provided no facts).":of course "satirical" attempted to change the subject, (and attacked me), instead of giving a coherent argument." - ClintYou can misstate facts all you want, but everyone can read. You made a baseless claim (again no facts?) How ironic when you claim to rely on them so exclusively, you don't use them to support your own claims and distort them to attack others.As I have told you in previous posts; arguing about beliefs is like trying to prove a science experiment by relying on faith. It is pointless. When will you learn this?

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Satirical 5 years, 10 months ago

Kansas778:I don't think tangential was saying everyone is theist. One can have "faith" or a "belief system" without reference to a deity. Also, you are not born atheist. No one has the cognitive ability when born or shortly after to be an atheist. And if everyone must be taught about God, how did the first person know about God? (just trying to refine your argument, I know what will be your reply).

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Satirical 5 years, 10 months ago

Kansas778:You are putting words into my mouth and Tangential's. I didn't say it required "superior cognitive ability" I said newborn don't have the cognitive ability to be an atheist, and neither do (most) animals."Atheism or Agnosticism is the default position" KS778Of course not knowing something is the default position until you know something. That goes without saying.Tangential stated: "( and "god" is a nebulous enough concept to serve as the object )" He was referring to a belief in a object to which could be labeled "god." He did not say everyone believes in deity as you implied.

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mleanna 5 years, 10 months ago

As was pointed out in comments above, Bill Maher is not an atheist, he is an agnostic; he has been very clear about this position. Rather than representing the views of atheists, as the article says, I would describe him as more of a skeptic. Most of what he's doing here is asking questions. I don't really see why actually thinking and questioning what is generally accepted is offensive to anyone. Personally, I consider thinking through things rationally to be a positive trait.That said, I disagree with Bill Maher on many things. But the general attitude that there are certain topics we're just not allowed to question is, in my opinion, ridiculous. So I welcome people who bring these issues into conversation, who prompt people to question and defend their own views.

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Phil Minkin 5 years, 10 months ago

In a recent TV interview on The Daily Show, Maher said that he was not an atheist. He believes that atheists are as dogmatic and locked in to their views as are the devout.While I share some of his thoughts on religion, especially the radicals of any faith, I agree with the reviewers assessment of Maher-"Smarmy, smirky and relentlessly self-congratulatory". I believe strongly in Freedom of religion and even more strongly in freedom from religion.

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Satirical 5 years, 10 months ago

Mleanna:"So I welcome people who bring these issues into conversation, who prompt people to question and defend their own views."I agree that there is nothing wrong with questions, but there is a line between questioning and mocking. Questioning is thought provoking and productive; mocking is close minded and childish. You can find idiots from any religion and ask them questions. While I have obviously not seen this film, knowing Maher, it is likely mocking and does not add to any productive social discourse. Likely this film is purely for entertainment.

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cthulhu_4_president 5 years, 10 months ago

Preebo, I am a little confused. Are you equating virulent hatred with organized religion? I'm not saying I disagree (or agree), but I don't believe that the definition of religion is based solely on fanatacism.

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kmat 5 years, 10 months ago

ksdivakat - you continue to amaze me with your lack of understanding of religion. Your ignorant statement - "I, too, do not want nuclear weapons in the hands of those who believe in talking serpents, and that a nude woman tempted the first man with an apple."*************"Instead you want them in the hands of people who believe that they will be met in heaven by 70 black eyed virgins, and that you in the west are pure evil and must be terminated. Way to go!"Do you have any clue about Islam? Obviously not. Muslims also believe in the Genesis story. The first books of the Koran, Torah and the Old Testament are pretty much the same. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are called the Abrahamic religions. Can you guess why? Could it be the father Abraham? I am always astonished at the cultural and religious ignorance of most Christians.Maher's statement is about all leaders around the world that are religious fanatics, including our own fanatic leaders and how scary it is that they have the bomb.You really need to spend less time on LJW and do some reading. Your ignorance is astonishing. Do a little googling on Abrahamic religions and enlighten yourself a little. It's actually quite nice to understand others and not be as bigoted towards others as you tend to be.

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cthulhu_4_president 5 years, 10 months ago

You're right Satirical. It continues to elude me why the Supreme Court has such a hard time with it when I just took an intro class in college and used a dictionary. According to my professors in this class, a religion must meet 3 guidelines:1) A moral direction or instruction (or set of instructions)2) A being or central idea that serves as the foundation or as a parable for the ultimate "good" (an archetype for "evil" is not necessary)3) A belief of some afterlife or existance that is superior or desireable relative to the earthly existance which is attainable through the teachings of said religion.I submit that atheism offers none of the above three points. I welcome differing opinions, though!

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manus_flexibilis 5 years, 10 months ago

-At every stop along the way, he asks true believers to explain the basis of their faith, quizzes scientists about their religious convictions (the vast majority identify themselves as atheists) and interviews apostates about why they have departed their former beliefs.- "Some people have the option of retiring or basically self-terminating, possibly to join the masses of dysfunctionial beliefs." -The Vatican astronomer eloquently explains why the Bible can't be used to teach science, and a good-humored retired priest says the scriptures are a valuable moral guidebook, but it doesn't matter because people are going to do what they're going to do anyway.- "Good humored or not, sounds like religious (retirement) economics, done served the purpose."

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budwhysir 5 years, 10 months ago

I love this guy he is great, who else could point out the relevant facts that put religion and politics together. And tell it like it is Bill. we dont mind.And science? thats just one proven fact over another. If I told you that ants are living on pluto as we live here, could you disagree with me and be completly sure of yourself.Also, if the sun comes up and goes down and I am here to see it, Im not going to jump to any conclusions as to how this happens, and I am sure not going to upset anyone or any "thing" that may cause it

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cthulhu_4_president 5 years, 10 months ago

Satirical:Thanks for the discussion!My statement about religions being regarded as such may be seen as tautological, but if it were incorrect that would mean that every cult member on Earth is part of a legitimate religion (which is the example I was thinking of when i wrote it). This may be true in the philosophical sense, but not in the legal one, and that is ammo for another discussion altogether!Unitarianism is interesting, and I admit that you may have answered the question that I was originally asking which is "Why does the law have such a hard time defining religion?" I am familiar with the fundamentals of the belief, but I am ignorant on their belief of the afterlife (if any). Perhaps you could enlighten me?As for the definition from answers.com: I can only speak for myself and those whom I know, but a good deal of atheists I have come in contact with do not "pursue" their dis-belief of a God, or view it as a "cause". I, myself, did not have to work for a cause to become an atheist. It seemed a natural way to me to view the world without any proof otherwise. I do not veheemently deny a God. If God, or Zeus, or Odin talks to me someday, then I will be a believer with no ill reservation. I and my ilk simply haven't had reason to believe yet. Atheists may seem zealous, and some militant atheists are, but true atheism isn't about a cause, it's just about taking the universe as we see it, and letting people believe what they want, even if it's nothing. Check out Peaty's first link above for a great definition of a logical atheist.I got a little more preachy (pun intended) than I meant to. And you are right, some atheists (a vocal minority) do pursue actions trying to get others not to believe in any God, hence it could be perceived as a religion, but they are a fringe and are no better than the religious establishments they wish to destroy.

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Satirical 5 years, 10 months ago

Clint:.I am not attacking you I am pointing out that your stereotypical conclusion doesn't appear to have any basis. I am pretty sure that is acceptable whether I am a theist or an atheist. Am I wrong?Since you stress the importance of objectively verifiable facts, what facts do you have that I don't question my own belief system?

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kansas778 5 years, 10 months ago

Peaty, I live 1000 miles away from Lawrence right now. The movie came out last Friday out here, it was sold out. Satirical--who says it requires any superior cognitive ability to be an atheist? Animals don't believe in gods, and neither do babies. Atheism or Agnosticism is the default position. And tangential used the word 'god' to define the object of belief.

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cthulhu_4_president 5 years, 10 months ago

Satirical: I was not trying to belittle your opinion, I was trying to expand upon it. I'm sorry if you interpreted it as such. Please realize that these criteria are not "mine", they are a widely accepted definition of true religion. Also, just because something is "regarded" as a religion does not mean it is a religion. As I said in my post, I welcome differing opinions and the chance for dialogue. What religious beliefs are not encompassed by the 3 criteria?

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Satirical 5 years, 10 months ago

Cthulhu_4_president:.I did not interpret your post as belittling my opinion. I understand the criteria were not "yours' (I mistakenly said "your 3rd criteria" previously). I also understand the definition you gave may be widely accepted. My counterargument was that since humans are capable of defining a word to be anything, and some of the most intelligent humans cannot find an all encompassing definition of "religion," it is very possible such a definition could include atheism. The definition below could easily encompass such."4. A cause, principle, or activity pursued with zeal or conscientious devotion."http://www.answers.com/religion"Also, just because something is "regarded" as a religion does not mean it is a religion." c_4_pThat is a tautological argument."What religious beliefs are not encompassed by the 3 criteria?" c_4_pI am sure there are more, but off the top of my head; Unitarian.

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Satirical 5 years, 10 months ago

Cthulhu_4_president:Your argument was tautological because I disagreed that the definition of religion you provided was universally accurate and gave an example of when something is commonly understood as a religion but didn't fit in your definition, to which you responded the example was not a religion because it did not fit in the definition. "This may be true in the philosophical sense, but not in the legal one" c_4_pThis is entirely my point, there is no uniform legal definition of "religion." Whenever the law tries to define it, an example is provided which alters it to the point of either being too broad or still too narrow. I am not stating religion cannot be defined, merely that Atheism as practice by Maher could fall within one definition of religion.I don't know all the beliefs of Unitarians, but as I understand it one can practice any belief and be a Unitarian. While your anecdotal evidence may suggest you and your friends don't' belong to a "religion" ( I could offer an argument you still fall within the definition but decline), my argument was never: Everyone who is atheist is practicing a religion; my argument was in defense of preebo's statement "(Maher) has got to the point where his Atheism is a religion in itself,"to which you responded, "I don't believe that the definition of religion is based solely on fanatacism." Since religion can be defined to include Maher's activities thought the previous definition I applied, I countered your counter argument.As to your personal beliefs or lack thereof I have no contention. If you wish to continue discussing theism v. atheism I would be happy to oblige.

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Peaty Romano 5 years, 10 months ago

I've seen the preview and hope it plays locally, I'd like to see it and decide for myself if I like the movie. I do like Bill Maher.I think there are quite a few misconceptions about what an Atheist really is. I feel this sums it up well enough:http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/atheism.htmlThis is pretty good too:http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/mathew/intro.html

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SettingTheRecordStraight 5 years, 10 months ago

More evidence of the conservative media, right?

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tangential_reasoners_anonymous 5 years, 10 months ago

I'm saying... everyone believes.( and "god" is a nebulous enough concept to serve as the object )

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kansas778 5 years, 10 months ago

Satirical (Anonymous) says: Kansas778:."Superior cognitive ability" and having a cognitive ability superior to a newborn baby are completely different. That is why I was making the distinction. (Do you need an illustration to make it easier for you?)*****Are you sreious? Completely different? Yes, let's hear your wonderful illustration. Show me how someone with superior cognitive ability is completely different from someone with cognitive abiltiy superior to a baby. I'll get some popcorn, this should be good.

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preebo 5 years, 10 months ago

I like Bill Maher, really I do. I got HBO solely to be able to watch Real Time, that and John Adams and Operation Kill. I've been a fan of his since Politically Incorrect. That being said, it has to be mentioned, however, that he has gone over the cliff with this loathing of Religion of any type. He has got to the point where his Atheism is a religion in itself. He is so consumed by this hatred for religion that has become his religion outright. I have no doubt this film will be funny, but I had to mention that Bill has gone off the deep end with his distain for people's faiths.

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Confrontation 5 years, 10 months ago

It's interesting when Christians refer to atheists as being ignorant. Apparently, you have to believe that a man-written book of fantasy is reality in order to be intelligent.

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kmat 5 years, 10 months ago

Peaty - it's playing at Liberty Hall. 4:30, 7:00 & 9:30.

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manus_flexibilis 5 years, 10 months ago

your only led to follow the masses of todays society, your looked down upon as an outcast if you don't follow any of the wonderful sects, faiths, ideologies, doctrines, etc...them heathen savages

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tangential_reasoners_anonymous 5 years, 10 months ago

cthulhu: "... If, though, you are arguing on behalf of a nameless, omnipotent superbeing, I would suggest that you may be incorrect, as I and several of my associates are perfectly comfortable with the idea of a universe with no such superbeing. Perhaps we should agree to disagree :)",;-Dcthulhu, you're having this argument with yourself, as I would never propose such an absurdity.Hey, cthulhu...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-DsgZ4...

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Satirical 5 years, 10 months ago

Gotta go, have a good weekend all!

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cthulhu_4_president 5 years, 10 months ago

I don't believe I said that. Please don't put words in my mouth.

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Satirical 5 years, 10 months ago

Kansas778:."Superior cognitive ability" and having a cognitive ability superior to a newborn baby are completely different. That is why I was making the distinction. (Do you need an illustration to make it easier for you?)"Regardless, if not knowing something is all that is required, then I submit that babies and animals can easily not know something."What is your point:?As to Tangential's point:First, he later defined what he meant by "god" "(and "god" is a nebulous enough concept to serve as the object)" It was clear to every objective person he was not referring to a deity, but you chose to take his statement out of context.Second, this is not my argument so it is pointless to discuss it any further.

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acg 5 years, 10 months ago

This is going to be awesome. I love Bill Maher, always have. I was royally ticked when they fired him off of Politically Incorrect. I think he's smart and funny and can pull this off without being too condescending (I hope). I am so not into religion, but those that believe so completely fascinate me.

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cthulhu_4_president 5 years, 10 months ago

Go Mahar. What a sad statement that in a supposedly enlightened country, atheists are now one of the most discriminated against minorities, and it is a prerequisite for the president of the united states to acknowledge his/her belief in an imaginary friend before they have any hope of holding office. I, too, do not want nuclear weapons in the hands of those who believe in talking serpents, and that a nude woman tempted the first man with an apple.

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cthulhu_4_president 5 years, 10 months ago

tan, are you saying that everyone believes in a God, even if they claim that they do not? I'm not trying to argue. Just curious.

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Satirical 5 years, 10 months ago

cthulhu_4_president....Try to define "religion" the U.S. Supreme Court has been struggling with that one for a while.Maher may be a good entertainer, but smart...ha!

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Satirical 5 years, 10 months ago

Clint..."It's funny that you "believers" can only attempt to refute what people like Mr. Maher say, but you can't actually defend your own belief."And you make this stereotypical broad conclusion based on...

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kansas778 5 years, 10 months ago

Satirical--really? Why are you talking about the word superior as if that completely changes what you said. You said babies lack the cognitive ability, therefore, you are implying that some cognitive ability superior to that of a baby is required. How does that restatement change what you said? Regardless, if not knowing something is all that is required, then I submit that babies and animals can easily not know something. I know this is going way out there, but I just have a hunch that it's true. Now this is Tangential's quote:Premise: "No one-not even Bill-escapes/transcends belief systems."Then he goes on to explain:He just keeps his god hidden, to avoid the sort of mockery to which he subjects those who wear their gods on their sleeves."Tangential is the one talking about gods--by that explanitory sentence, he implies that Bill, like everyone, believes in gods.

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ksdivakat 5 years, 10 months ago

"I, too, do not want nuclear weapons in the hands of those who believe in talking serpents, and that a nude woman tempted the first man with an apple."*************Instead you want them in the hands of people who believe that they will be met in heaven by 70 black eyed virgins, and that you in the west are pure evil and must be terminated. Way to go!

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tangential_reasoners_anonymous 5 years, 10 months ago

No one-not even Bill-escapes/transcends belief systems.He just keeps his god hidden, to avoid the sort of mockery to which he subjects those who wear their gods on their sleeves.

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kansas778 5 years, 10 months ago

Tangential--I do not accept your premise that no one "escapes" belief systems. Everyone is born an atheist, they have to be taught about a god.

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TacoBob 5 years, 10 months ago

Something wicked this way comes: On May 3, 2005, while appearing as a guest on Craig Ferguson's Late Late Show (CBS), Maher made controversial remarks about Michael Jackson's alleged child molestation behavior. He spoke about the need for perspective when thinking about crimes and criminals. He implied that the alleged behavior wasn't as bad as it was widely deemed because it was only alleged that Michael Jackson "serviced" the children and not the other way around. After a response from Ferguson, Maher said "If I had a choice between being savagely beaten and being gently masturbated by a pop star. It's just me." Immediately after Maher's statement, Ferguson ended the interview.ABC decided not to renew Maher's contract for Politically Incorrect in 2002 after he made a controversial on-air remark on September 17, 2001,[38] in which he agreed with guest conservative political commentator Dinesh D'Souza that the 9/11 terrorists were not cowards. He then went on to say, "We have been the cowards lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That's cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building, say what you want about it, it's not cowardly."Maher's comment about the cowardice of terrorists followed another controversial comment he made on Politically Incorrect earlier that year where he compared dogs to retarded children: "But I've often said that if I had - I have two dogs - if I had two retarded children, I'd be a hero. And yet the dogs, which are pretty much the same thing. What? They're sweet. They're loving. They're kind, but they don't mentally advance at all.... Dogs are like retarded children." When another guest told him that her nephew was retarded and that she didn't think of him as a dog, he responded with "Maybe you should." What a waste of blood.

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LiberalDude 5 years, 10 months ago

I saw it last night, too. It was outstanding. I haven't laughed that hard at a movie since Borat (which was made by the same guy).

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TacoBob 5 years, 10 months ago

Well, sort of. I thought we were talking about Bill. He made a movie. Just released. Not sure that your examples made movies. Not sure why they are relevant?If you want to change topics, or justify Bill's examples by deflection, you may have a point. This is trailer park logic. My kids, when they were in grade school, used this kind of 'argument'. I know you are but what am I?Left or right comparisons mean nothing. Bill is the topic. Given just these few examples of Bill's antics, can't understand why you would defend this bozo?So you like this guy?

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Peaty Romano 5 years, 10 months ago

Saw the movie last night. I liked it, it was very entertaining, the retired priest was a hoot.

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