Movie Review: Religulous

In theory, Religulous exists as not only a cinematic necessity, but one that is long overdue – finally a film to objectively document the inconsistencies of organized religion, delivering thoughtful laughs along the way. That’s of course, in theory.

Comedian/social critic Bill Maher, known for his intelligence and accompanying arrogance, attempts to discount…err…explore the validity of the three major religions by travelling the world, visiting respective holy grounds – from Israel to Arkansas – and interviewing countless “believers.”

The premise of the film bleeds libertarianism, championing John Stuart Mill’s proclamation that in order to find truth, one must seek divergent opinions. Yet, as the movie progresses, viewers are faced with the disappointing reality that this Maher is more interested in cheap laughs and poking fun at stupidity than he is at discovering anything that he doesn’t already know – wait, is there anything he doesn’t already know?

Maher spends the first hour and 15 minutes immersed in polemics – attacking Christianity by bringing to light significant inconsistencies between documented scriptures and the dogma of Popes, preachers and the devoted.

But as an interviewer, Maher doesn’t play fair.

Sure he’s definitely quick, smart and entertaining but he interrupts, scoffs and slaps on bogus subtitles whenever he sees fit, making these one-sided encounters more depressing than fun.

And if Maher gets really annoyed, like he did in his interview with an anti-Zionist rabbi, he will end the interview abruptly, walking off the set. This interview is one of the few mocking Judaism, and questioning an anti-Zionist rabbi – not exactly the vanguard of orthodox Jews – pales in comparison to the slaughtering he lays on Christianity.

Maher’s commentary on Islam proved the most objective…imagine…and I commend Maher for fighting any religion’s logical fallacies to the death, mercilessly attacking believers’ lack of depth and the whole “Because God said so” mentality of America’s majority. But, too many exchanges end with Maher rejoining a believer’s “What if you’re wrong?” with an emphatic “What if you’re wrong?” discounting his movie’s opening song line, “They call me the Seeker.” Seeker of what? Making idiots look like even bigger idiots by being a bully?

That’s not to say the movie is all bad. It’s hard to feel sorry for the people he is bullying when you consider the vast amount of power many of them and their ideologies enact on the world.

Wait, wasn’t this supposed to be a comedy?

Directed by Borat’s Larry Charles, Religulous finally strikes comedic gold when Maher comments on a preacher’s “$2,000 suit,” getting said preacher to insist that “Jesus also dressed very well!” He continues to defend himself with, “My tailor [who is a Muslim, by the way] gives me very good deals on clothes,” to which Maher retorts, “So lemme get this straight – you’re a Christian with a Muslim tailor, but you buy your clothes like a Jew?”

Maher ‘s other glowing successes are in finding a guy who claims to be the second coming of Christ and in getting Senator Mark Pryor of Arkansas to admit some politicians are less than stellar intellectuals. Maher questions Pryor so aggressively, he can only respond with “you don’t have to pass an IQ test to be in the Senate.”

Laughs aside, this movie isn’t about convincing nay-sayers of the logic of doubt; it’s about making fun of those less intelligent than him. He’s too busy mocking believers to help them garner any real progress towards rational truth. Then again, maybe he’s just wise enough to know that there’s no reasoning with the unreasonable.

–Amanda Smith

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One Response

  1. nice blog, best writings. god bless you!

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