Bill Maher set out to mock all religions in his comedy Religulous. What he ended up doing is revealing the religious fervency of his brand of atheism.
Titled to convey that “religion is ridiculous,” the new film by cynical comedian and television personality Bill Maher is nothing short of an all-out attack on faith and a call for atheists to advance. This is no surprise to the AiG family, who experienced Maher’s subterfuge and dishonesty last year in gaining access to the Creation Museum and AiG President Ken Ham for a (fictitious) documentary on the “cultural landscape of the United States.” It was obvious this was the usual MO for this film crew, headed by producer Larry Charles of Borat fame, as other interview subjects or their publicists are shown stopping interviews as the true nature of the project was revealed.
Maher, who readily admits that he has not made a documentary but a comedy, introduces the movie by stating that he is promoting doubt—he is honest on-camera, at least, about his intent to get people to question their faith and belief in God. He explains his own religious background, which was nominally Catholic, with a Jewish mother who did not attend Mass with the family. Religion was never discussed in the home, and all faith practice stopped when Maher was about 13. His Catholic school experience had by this point already led to his dissatisfaction with the idea of God or any religion.
Christianity is the first faith practice questioned, as Maher interviews believers at the Truckers’ Chapel in Raleigh, North Carolina. While no theologians, these men of faith try to field Maher’s intense, Christ-attacking questions, and in the end earn his respect for their Christ-like attitudes, despite what he considers their weak defense of Christianity.
Other Christian representatives interviewed besides Ken Ham include an ex-Jews-for-Jesus member; John Westcott of Exchange Ministries in Winter Park, Florida; Pastor Jeremiah Cummings of Amazing Life World Outreach; and the actor who portrays Jesus at the Holy Land Experience theme park in Florida. While these men all attempted to be positive representatives for Christ, Maher showed no respect for them, mocking them and bombarding them with questions that were so in-depth about Scripture and Christian history that they wound up looking out of their league.
In the clip from the Creation Museum, Ken shows the photographers some of the exhibits and speaks of the ministry’s openness about its basis on the Word of God. This is presented straightforwardly, as Maher assumes he needs no help in portraying creationists as irrational. A clip from actor Kirk Cameron is taken out of context and inserted here, however, to infer Christians don’t use their intellect.
As Maher interviews Ken in his office later, Ken is able to answer Maher’s questions well and rationally—even on the nature of God. Ken turns the tables on Maher by asking him a question he can’t answer: “Bill, are you God?” Maher is left with no answer other than “no” and then silence. It is telling that he interviewed no one else with the theological grounding to defend the Christian faith.
Maher next takes aim at Catholicism, reminding audiences of the sex abuse scandals of the Catholic Church, along with the violence done through the ages in the name of Christ. He stumps many Catholic representatives, who agree this is not what Jesus intended for His followers. Furthermore, he ignores the fact that many more people have been tortured and killed by atheistic regimes.
Keeping with the theme of violence done for the cause of faith, he then examines Islam and fundamentalist terrorism. He ultimately condemns all faith, stating that religion is dangerous and that passionate worship of any god leads to nothing but violence.
He pokes fun at Judaism and its laws designed to protect the Sabbath, interviewing a scientist who has created technology to get around some of these restrictions. This is more evidence, according to Maher, for how “silly” many faith practices are.
Maher doesn’t reserve his venom just for the major religions, instead classing Christianity, Judaism, and Islam with cults like Mormonism, Scientology, the worship of crop figures in Southern England, and the self-proclaimed second incarnation of Christ, Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda.
He concludes by telling audience members to “Grow up or die,” meaning that if they don’t “get over” the idea of faith, it will kill them.
My recommendation? If you feel compelled to see Religulous (which is rated R) and line the pockets of Maher and his producers, see the film later this month or, better yet, borrow it from the library when it comes out on DVD—a strong box office on opening weekend can lead to even more theaters showing the film in coming weeks.
101 minutes, rated R for language and sexual content