I saw Religulous last night, and really enjoyed it. It’s a comedic version of Dawkins’ God Delusion…or more properly, his Channel 4 documentary The Root of All Evil?. It actually has quite a few similarities with The Root of All Evil?; in Religulous, Bill Maher interviews religious leaders, notables, and worshipers from many religious backgrounds: Protestant Christianity, Mormonism, Roman Catholicism, Judaism, and Islam (and a few bonus sects!). Like Dawkins, he uses the opportunity to expose what he sees as the ridiculousness of the belief in omnipotent beings that express human emotions like jealousy, the notion that non-religious people can’t have morals, and that ancient Bronze Age texts are not only inerrant, but actually trump modern science where they conflict
Both performances are good; the difference is that Bill Maher is funny (assuming you’re willing to laugh at the subject matter, of course). There are many …. well, flat-out ridiculous points within the movie, where I couldn’t decide between laughing out loud and crying out in anguish at the responses to Maher’s jibes. For anyone who’s a skeptic, freethinker, agnostic, atheist, or generally irreligious (did I cover enough ground there? *grin*), the comedy is pretty thick.
Maher ends on a somber note, though. Again much like Dawkins, he concludes with a call to action. He asserts that it is time for the non-religious to stand up and be counted, and time for the world to either “grow up, or die”. Too many religious traditions (and pretty much all the major ones) are direct competitors, antagonistic to others, and have fundamentalist branches that advocate violent means of either conversion or elimination of non-believers. His conclusion is that it’s time for humanity to outgrow our need for religion.
If you’re deeply religious, I wouldn’t suggest it…you’ll find it offensive. I won’t apologize for that, but it’s a point that has to be noted. Religion has always been a taboo topic; it’s difficult to criticize it in almost any way without being taken to task. People like Bill Maher are willing to do that, and I appreciate it. Unsurprisingly, the film has been heavily criticized…there are multiple negative reviews linked in the
Reception section of the Wikipedia article. I encourage you to take a look. Some of the criticism is valid, as far as it goes…Maher’s intent is certainly to get in-and-out, and score easy points. But Bill Maher is, well…a comic. Give him a break; that’s his style. As noted earlier, try Richard Dawkins’ documentary for a more reasoned, less overtly inflammatory take on the same topic (available in 2 parts on Google Video: Part 1, Part 2)
But if you’re non-religious, irreligious, or just willing to go in with a VERY open mind, give Religulous a try. It’s really quite good, and a refreshing change of pace in a world that generally gives religion a free pass.