Ian Bushfield, president of the University of Alberta Atheists and Agnostics, reviews Bill Maher's new documentary: Religulous. His review originally appeared in The Edger, which is at least as awesome as Religulous: check it out at theedger.org.
It's not often that, in one week as a campus club leader, you author an editorial slamming your schools religious convocation, host a pastafarian themed Talk-Like-A-Pirate-Day party, attend a rally for a Canadian opposition party leader, see your club's banner get vandalized (I will write an Edger feature on this soon), get on local TV news covering the story and then get to see Religulous. All-in-all it's been quite a busy week (I should add that I've also been campaigning for a local candidate in the upcoming Canadian federal election).
Want the short version with no spoilers? It's the comedy version of Richard Dawkins' "Root of All Evil" (or The God Delusion's video companion). It has roughly the same arguments against religion, uses many of the same locations, and ends with the same conclusion. In short: if you can laugh about religion, you will love this movie.
We already know the premise behind Bill Maher's new documentary. Basically, he sets out to expose extremist religion in humorous fashion. But what I hadn't realized is that he pushes a message to all extremist religious people:
Grow up, or die
Now, Bill isn't threatening that atheists (he never calls himself an atheist in the movie) will kill religious people - his argument is that unless people start injecting doubt and thought into their ideologies, that these people are going to end up killing each other, and potentially the entire world.
But the entire movie isn't all doom-and-gloom.
We see Bill meet the founder of the Church of Kantheism in Amsterdam. This church doesn't have much dogma, but knows it can reach the divine through marijuana. After a few tokes, Bill tells the pothead priest that his hair's on fire (it's not) and the priest freaks out for a bit.
Bill interviews Dr. Francis Collins (director of the Human Genome Project) and exposes a double standard in Dr. Collins beliefs about evidence in that the same level of evidence isn't necessary for Jesus and the resurrection. Dr. Collins even goes as far to defend his faith through the New Testament as "first hand accountants" to which Bill decries that they are at least several decades detached.
Bill gets kicked out of the Vatican (he wanted to interview the Pope), off of a Mormon churchyard in Utah, out of the biblical theme park in Florida, and a number of people end the interview abruptly when they figure out what's going on. Where Mathis and Expelled held interviews that didn't seem out of line (and were under false pretences), it became quickly obvious what Maher's intentions were as soon as he opened his mouth.
The cutting of many interviews was quite obvious, and you could tell Maher wanted to push comedy over allowing his interview subjects the chance to fully speak their mind.
Finally, I have to say, I really liked Bill's approach. He never claimed to have the answers. He often said "I don't know", and even shows an interview between him and his mother - who also doesn't know what they believe anymore. Bill preaches the word of doubt and rational thought.
Overall, the movie was awesome. I can tell a lot of people won't like Religulous, but if you're reading articles on Edger, this movie is probably perfectly suited for you.