Having an atheistic background I was naturally attracted by this poster – to see it in the middle of still catholic Vienna was a bit of a surprise. The poster was inspiring enough to visit cinema (which is a rare thing for me!).
Did I like it? Let me give you the detalis first and then I will deliver my opinion.
What is the film about?
The documentary RELIGULOUS is a film about organized religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Mormonism, TV evangelism and even Scientology, with detours into pagan cults and ancient Egypt. Bill Maher, host, writer and debater, believes they are all crazy. He doesn’t get around to Hinduism or Buddhism, but he probably doesn’t approve of them, either. He wants to convince his audience that religion is not only ridiculous, it’s downright dangerous.
How does Maher do that?
Typically anyone trying to make a case against God goes right to the pedophile priests and the suicide bombers, but Maher makes it a point to focus on normal, reasonably sane religious people. He talks to truckers in a roadside chapel, he chats with random, middle-class tourists at a Christian-themed amusement park. He talks to religious shop owners, small town preachers, televanglists, Jews for Jesus, fundamentalist U.S. Senators, Vatican priests, religious scientists, secular Muslims, gay Muslims, people in America (Utah), Europe, and even in Jerusalem. Though those fumbling for an excuse to discredit him may claim otherwise, these aren’t extremists or lunatics. These are for the most part sane, rational, even intelligent people who believe something which Maher believes is insane.
To the film’s credit, Maher never engages in Michael Moore-style gotcha tactics, but rather asks questions that raise more questions, in the form of a Socratic dialogue.
Smart, hilarious and thoroughly entertaining. Although rather a hard-core at some points.
All in all, the film is often funny, frequently unfair, mostly simplistic, at times offensively unethical and ultimately limited. I found stunning Maher’s visit of the Holy Land Experience in Florida, a theme park where you can watch Christ being nailed up three times a day(!) – a kind of a Christian Disneyland. Another interesting part was his interview with priests stationed in the Vatican. Between them, they cheerfully dismiss wide swaths of what are widely thought to be Catholic teachings, including the existence of Hell. One of these priests almost dissolves in laughter as he mentions various beliefs that children solemnly absorbed in Catholic schools. The other observes that when Italians were polled to discover who was the first person they would pray to in a crisis, Jesus placed sixth (and that is in a very catholic Italy!)…
What do I think of it all?
Maher claims he knows nothing and that is always a good approach. What I see is that he is basically battling the BLIND FAITH. And that is a great thing to do. My readers know that I love topics of public manipulation/propaganda and since my childhood I believed that religion is one of the greatest manipulators ever. How did K. Marx say? “Religion is the opium for the folks”, and that is what it is globally seen. Preaching love, it causes wars. Simply because every religion has nothing to do with its founding fathers. Not only Christ has never written the New Testament – but also none of the people who wrote it ever met him(!). Koran was written 40 years after Mohammed Saheb was gone…Knowing that 80% of modern wars are religion-based…What should one say? Seeing the absurdity of that every intelligent persons logically should ask oneself a question about the need of any organised religion.
Another point I like about the film is Maher’s quoting of USA foudning fathers (Jefferson et al.) speaking about separation of religion and the state – compared to the common todays attempts to represent USA as a Christian nation: it has never been one, it is just too diverse for that. And I strongly believe that none of the existing religions should ever be connected to the state – unfortunately also in Russia the Russian Orthodox Church is gaining power and influence.
Who should see this film?
I would like to think religious people would see this movie to broaden their horizons, but horizon-broadening is discouraged by many groups. While they may not explicitly say it, these people are taught to accept without question, and when they do question, they are taught to accept answers with no basis in fact. Yesterday in the cinema there were only about 20 people watching the RELIGULOUS – and that is considering the fact that only one (!) cinema in Vienna is showing it… 20 for a time may be a good number for a Catholic country like Austria, but still… I hope that more and more people will start facing the fact of thier blind faith – by seeing such films or by making truly spiritual experiences.