I finally got around to watching Religulous this morning, Bill Maher's documentary about the ridiculousness of religion. It wouldn't be fair to say that Maher is being mean here. . .mostly, he just asks honest questions of the religious. Christianity is the prime focus, but Islam, Mormonism, Judaism and even Scientology are given some attention. Many others aren't, but that is likely because the audience for this film is largely American, and these are the religions we are most familiar with.
Maher is an agnostic bordering on atheism, which is exactly what I am. He even seems to have arrived at his conclusions in much the same way. Talking snakes, Jonah living in a whale that is also a fish. These things struck me--and Maher--as utterly ridiculous even as teenagers. Maher makes an interesting hypothesis in the film that religions start with a wacky idea, because if believers will swallow that, you've got them hooked, and will believe anything.
Maher travels to several countries for the film, including the Netherlands (specifically Amsterdam), England, and the Vatican. He gets rousted from both the Vatican and from a spot in front of a Mormon temple in Salt Lake City, Utah. The special features include expanded monologues from these locations, since they are edited down in the film. All of his monologues are quite interesting.
But Maher is preaching to the converted when it comes to me. The Other Half--raised Catholic, since fallen--seemed to enjoy the film too, but his response was a little more muted than mine. That Catholic upbringing is very deeply ingrained, it would seem, and many of the old beliefs and traditions can't be 100% argued away. We both enjoyed Maher's interview of a radical priest at the Vatican, who acknowledged the artificial layers of pomp and circumstance added to Catholicism since the church's founding.
But the problem for unbelievers like Maher and me, is that we see the world rationally and logically. I will freely admit to being irrational and illogical on occasion, but I do not put those thoughts in a box and declare them correct. I recognize those types of thoughts as wrong, and do my best to correct them. With religion, it is required to accept--even celebrate--the cognitive dissonance that results in holding irrational, unprovable beliefs to be true. Faith is only required in areas that are fantastic, supernatural, unexplainable. If it was all laid out, everything made sense, and Jesus went on CNN and proved everything, faith wouldn't be required.
So, this film's attempt to logically and rationally show the ridiculousness of religion will only change the mind of a person who was questioning anyway. The deeply religious don't care if there are countless, previous religions with very similar myths to their own. It doesn't matter if the New Testament seems like it was cribbed and cobbled together from earlier faiths. All can be explained away by faith. . .and a little fan wank. Believe it.
My review: Highly recommended to thinkers and the open minded. All others, beware.