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Tuesday
Oct212008

Religulous

Given the amount of violence in our world today, we have a lot to complain about. There are multiple wars going on all over the world, people are getting murdered, raped, and mutilated day in and day out, and we are in constant fear that something will happen to somebody we love. However, instead of trying to find the real reason as to why these devastations occur, we use scapegoats. Every time a new Grand Theft Auto video game comes out, we hear about a murder being connected to it. Every time a new Saw film is released, the various news channels condemn it for the way it glamorizes violence. But what really causes this violence? Religulous believes that organized religion and the falsities that accompany them are to blame.

Religulous is a new documentary starring Bill Maher and directed by Larry Charles, the director of the popular mockumentary, Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, that sets out to explain the hypocrisies of organized religion and debunk their alleged "facts." But given Maher's comedic talent, they wanted to make it as humorous as possible. I could go on for hours talking about religion, how the film portrays it, and what it hopes to tell you, but the important thing is this. Is it a good movie? Absolutely. Religulous may make you scowl. It may offend you. But it will also create discussion and it will make you laugh until you can't breathe.

Bill Maher travels the globe going to prominent religious locations, including the Vatican (which he is promptly thrown out of) and Jerusalem in an effort to explain to people why their beliefs are a farce, usually with hilarious results. I've got to hand it to him. He knew what he was talking about. He had his opinions and had scripture or data to back them up. However, the main problem of the movie is that he mostly talked to normal Joe Schmoes. Rather than seeking out learned theologians or scientists, he just went and talked to anybody of faith who have blindly followed their religion without thinking it over. In essence though, that's probably the point of the film. Had he talked to more than a couple of learned scholars, the film wouldn't have been as interesting because they would just reinforce Maher's beliefs.

Still, credit must be given to Maher who tried to talk to non-theologians and non-scientists that held a position of power. He discussed creationism vs. evolution with Mark Pryor, a US Senator from Arkansas and he tried to interview the Pope. But even these people have no true understanding of science or theology. They deny proven scientific fact because it contradicts their beliefs. There's no doubt that the Pope is probably the most prominent religious figure in the world, but the movie questions why that is. Why would over one billion people around the world base their beliefs on one man who is "infallible?"

Although Maher takes jabs at Muslims, Jews, Scientologists, and Mormons, he spends the majority of the film questioning Christians, and understandably so since they are in power. Our government (especially the conservatives, the film argues) stresses the importance of a Christian nation and that our founding fathers intended for us to be a Christian nation. However, Maher presents real quotes from quite a few founding fathers, including Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson, who say we'd be better off without religion. This is quite interesting because it shows how wrong people are when they don't take the time to research their beliefs. They simply hear it, follow it, and that's that.

And that is Maher's real argument. He tells the audience that if anybody tells you that they know what happens after you die, they're lying because nobody does. At one point, he admits that the beliefs that religion teach are one possibility, but isn't there also a possibility that nothing happens, that life just simply ends? Why is it that organized religions won't open their minds to what else can occur after death? The film argues that all religious people "know" that they are right, but they don't. That argument should be pretty obvious, but people of faith refuse to admit it and that's a sad fact.

All of that may seem heavy-handed. It may seem like a film a lot of people won't want to see, but I believe it's a film people need to see, especially religious extremists who see no truth other than what is written in a book. I don't believe religion is wrong. I also don't believe that ridding the world of religion will prevent wars like the film does. We will always fight over something. It is our nature. But there's no arguing that the various organized religions incite hatred, murder, discrimination, and homophobia. If nothing else, Religulous will create discussion and that's a good thing. If we don't question our beliefs, then what's the point in believing?

Religulous receives 4.5/5

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