Wednesday, February 18, 2009

My review of the film “Religulous”

Bill Maher’s film about the ridiculousness of religion

by Larry Simons
February 18, 2009

To even a moderate fan of Bill Maher, it should not be a secret that he has an enormous amount of contempt and sharp criticism for not just the entire concept and practices of religion, but also for its many lackeys worldwide. Now Maher has finally tackled this subject head on, in his first documentary/comedy film, “Religulous”, which was released yesterday on DVD.

Maher pulls no punches, traveling the world and visiting the most holy lands interviewing monks, Vatican priests, Muslims (even gay Muslims), ex-Mormons and even a televangelist who thinks he is Jesus Christ himself (and it’s not Charles Manson). Maher is not on a quest to find the one true religion because the entire premise for the film is that we can't possibly know the truth. Maher at one point stands behind a pulpit and declares, "I preach the gospel of 'I don't know'!"

Some of my personal favorite highlights include Maher’s chat with journalist and author Ray Suarez about why most (if not all) Christians in this country automatically blend Christianity with nationalism and believe the myth that the founding fathers were Christians. Even Senator John McCain believes this fairy tale. He is shown in a clip saying, "I would probably have to say, yes, that the Constitution established the United States as a Christian nation”. It did? Can he pinpoint where it says this?

Ray Suarez

Suarez says, “These men (the founding fathers) understood very well that there was a difference between being Christian and being American”. Then he says, “In Jefferson’s day and age, fewer people went to church less often”. But, yet in the past 200+ years, our ancestors, as well as ourselves, and our children have been indoctrinated into believing that the founding fathers were the 18th century equivalent to the 12 disciples.

This came from the same indoctrination that taught us that Lincoln hated slavery and was a great president, that brown skinned people from the middle east are evil because they’re not Christians and that we (America) always do right and that God ‘likes us more’ because we have “In God We Trust” on our money. Put a picture of a president beside the words, “In God We Trust” and all of a sudden----poof, Washington and Jefferson are instant Christians! 100% utter bullshit. It was great to learn there are people like Ray Suarez around who actually do their homework and know the facts.

Then, there was Steve Burg, an ex-Jew for Jesus, who claimed that he has experienced real miracles. Maher asks him to name one of his personal miracles. Burg said he prayed for rain once and 10 seconds rained. Hmmm, after the rains came, why didn't he pray for 100 million dollars? I would have asked him, "Why did it take 10 seconds?"

ex-Jew Steve Burg

One of my favorite people in the movie was Senior Vatican Priest, Father Reginald Foster. Maher seemed to genuinely like this man. Although Foster is a priest, he appears to not be fooled by the contradictory church practices of building palaces as places of worship and the fact that December 25 has never been proven to be the birthday of Christ. Father Foster is one of few people who simply has faith in God (which I’ve never been personally against) but is still smart enough not to fall for the bullshit contradictory practices and rituals of religion.

Father Reginald Foster

Then we come to "amusement park Jesus" or (APJ). This guy seemed to be a genuinely nice man. But, it was during Maher’s questioning session with ‘APJ’ that Maher asked, “Doesn’t it bother you that the story of a man who was born of a virgin, was resurrected, your bio, was something that was going around the Mediterranean for at least 1,000 years (before Christianity)? Then, Maher proceeds to tell ‘APJ’ about the other gods (Krishna, Mithra) mentioned hundreds of years before Christ who had the same story: born of a virgin, resurrected from the dead, had 12 disciples, etc. I was glad to see Bill had done his homework. Maybe he had seen the film "Zeitgeist"??

Mithra and Krishna: Two of the many gods that match the Jesus story

The film mentions the Egyptian Book of the Dead from 1280 B.C. and the god Horus, who was “born of a virgin, baptized in a river by Anup the Baptizer (who was later beheaded), tempted alone in the desert, healed the sick, the blind and cast out demons, walked on water, raised Asar from the dead (“Asar” translates to “Lazarus”), had 12 disciples, was crucified and 3 days later, after which two women announced that Horus had been resurrected.”

Even if these stories were false or made up, the fact that they were written nearly 1,300 years before Christ presents a colossal problem for the validity of the Bible. Either we have more than one savior, or the same God who had the providence to speak the universe into existence couldn’t muster up any originality when it came to choosing the scenario in which to send his son....he had to copy the story from the ancient Egyptians!

I only had insignificant issues with the film. Like Maher mistakingly saying that "nobody who wrote about Jesus ever met him". In fact, the Bible says that Matthew, Mark, Peter, James and John were among those who wrote about him and met Jesus (or at the very least could have). Also, a misspelling of the book "Revelation" appeared several times. The film added an "s" several times near the end. No big deal, but it could have added more strength to the film if Maher would have had everything right, even the small things.

Probably, without question, my favorite part was Maher’s epilogue to the film:

“The plain fact is, religion must die for mankind to live. The hour is getting very late to be able to indulge in having key decisions made by religious people, by irrationalists. By those who would steer the ship of state, not by a compass, but by the equivalent of reading the entrails of a chicken. George Bush prayed a lot about Iraq, but he didn’t learn a lot about it.

Faith means making a virtue out of not thinking. It’s nothing to brag about. And those who preach faith, and enable and elevate it, are intellectual slaveholders, keeping mankind in a bondage to fantasy and nonsense that has spawned and justified so much lunacy and destruction.

Religion is dangerous because it allows human beings who don’t have all the answers to think that they do. Most people would think it’s wonderful when someone says, “I’m willing Lord. I’ll do whatever you want me to do.” Except that since there are no gods actually talking to us, that void is filled in by people with their own corruptions and limitations and agendas.

And anyone who tells you they know, they just know what happens when you die, I promise you you don’t. How can I be so sure? Because I don’t know, and you do not possess mental powers that I do not. The only appropriate attitude for man to have about the big questions is not the arrogant certitude that is the hallmark of religion, but doubt. Doubt is humble, and that’s what man needs to be, considering that human history is a litany of getting shit dead wrong.

This is why rational people, anti-religionists must end their timidity and come out of the closet and assert themselves. And those who consider themselves only moderately religious really need to look in the mirror and realize that the solace and comfort that religion brings you actually comes at a terrible price.

If you belong to a political party or a social club that was tied to as much bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, violence and sheer ignorance as religion is, you’d resign in protest. To do otherwise is to be an enabler, a mafia wife for the true devils of extremism that draw their legitimacy from the billions of their fellow travelers.

If the world does come to an end here or wherever, or if it limps into the future, decimated by the effects of a religion-inspired nuclear terrorism, let’s remember what the real problem was: that we learned how to precipitate mass death before we got past the neurological disorder of wishing for it.

That’s it. Grow up or die.”


Anonymous said...

Actually Maher was on solid ground when he said nobody that wrote about Jesus met him. Your notion (based on early Church doctrine) that the Gospel writers met him and were indeed Matthew, Luke, etc. is the same misconoeption that caught some of his interviewees.

Biblical scholars agree that the Gospels weren't actually written down by the people they are supposedly written by. For example, in my NIV version of the Bible, it says something like the book of John was probably written by one of John's disciples around 100 AD. Which is about 70 years after Jesus would have done the whole resurrection bit. Same goes for Matthew, etc.

So when Maher makes that comment, he was well aware of the historical research. Frances Collins and the trucker priest were caught unawares.

Real Truth Online said...

well, you very well may be correct, but I was giving Christians the benefit of the doubt in that aspect. But, let me clarify one thing...the fact that the gospels and other NT books may have been written much later (90, 100 AD) does not mean the books weren't written by who the Bible claims wrote them. It makes it a bit bizarre why they would write those things down MUCH later, but it doesnt make it impossible that they did. When I said that Matthew, Peter, John, etc...wrote about Jesus and they met him, I was giving the response that Christians would give based on what I learned at Bible college myself. You may be correct that these men never wrote about him---and that's my main problem with the Bible: How will we ever know for sure?

alfredo said...

um...When Maher Mentions the origins of Krishna. Truth is he was the sun of a nobleman married to a princess. first (x). Krishna was also born in a prison, not a stable. There is no real evidence that Krishna is even related to Jesus Christ.

alfredo said...

Krishna's story actually follow more the story of Moses. MAher should have done his research a lot better. I persioanlly beleive that his dialogue is more of hatred instead of attempting to reason. His attitude really taints his message to anyone who is not familiar with him as a respectable intellectual.

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