Thursday, October 9, 2008


So, last weekend I saw the film Religulous, which is Bill Maher's take on the current state of world religion. If I hadn't paid money for it, I wouldn't have sat through it. Not because it was bad. Not because it made me think. But because it made me uncomfortable, at times immensely so.

I'm not sure how aggressive Bill Maher normally is, but MAN was he aggressive in this movie. Which serves a purpose, an important purpose - to challenge institutions which are not challenged frequently enough. I think there's many important questions to be asked about world religions, and he asks many of them in this movie, and makes some interesting points and challenges some ridiculousness.

What I don't agree with is when he ridicules an individual because of his/her belief, which at times he does in this movie. This for me detracted from the main points he was making about religious institutions and the leaders of these institutions, and also was just plain rude. But I guess rudeness is the basis of half of comedy, which is why many people laughed in the theater.

My friends and I had much discussion about the movie afterwards. It's stated in the movie that there are only about 16% declared agnostics/atheists in the world, and I think maybe 1% (likely much less - .01%) of those might see this movie, and likely noone else. Bill Maher is angry about this subject and it comes across. There are some funny parts, but truly this is a movie about crazy religousness, and really in his opinion, all religion is crazy.

This premise made me uncomfortable. Because no matter what, I was born and raised a Catholic and was pretty religious until I was in 7th grade. It doesn't go away easily - things get into your system and don't come out.

One time while living in Germany we went on a trip to Italy. The headmaster of the school was Jewish (imagine that) and we were visiting a church. He went up onto the podium up front and even over to where the chalice was and my instinct was to tell him to get off - to me it was like someone was scraping fingernails on a blackboard. He looked at me bemusedly but did step down. The thing is, to the inner me it was a space reserved for the priests, and his curious meanderings were not right. Just as some of the things that came out of Bill Maher's mouth in the movie were not right. I caught myself often with my arms crossed and my legs crossed and very tense, and I'd struggle to let it go and just take it in. Which I did to the extent possible. Perhaps it's like when you're getting a semi-friendly divorce. It's ok if I say bad things about my ex-ish, but if others do, I defend him.

I think I need to see the movie again, so maybe I can listen better. I would definitely suggest seeing it.


Susan said...

I thought about going to see this but I think I'll wait for it to come to video.

Glamourpuss said...

There's fine line between opinion and judgement. But rudeness is never acceptable - it completely undermines whatever authority you claim for yourself.


NoRegrets said...

Susan, it definitely can be a video watch.

Puss - problem is, different people have different definitions of what constitutes rude...

OG, The Original Glamazon said...

Yes, I wanted to go see that, but that is my one real issue with Bill Maher (pun intended) its like he is on a crusade to prove those who have religious as idiots or silly people. I actually know a few atheists and it seems that some feel the need to make you feel stupid because you believe, but at the same time want you to respect YOUR none belief. It’s kinda irksome.

I don’t look down on people because they don’t believe in a God or that they were created, because as far as I am concern religion and practicing it is a very personal choice. I don’t ridicule people for their beliefs or non-beliefs, in Maher’s case.

I want to see the movie because I think Maher’s provocative question makes you exercise your faith and beliefs I do think you should be questioned on what you believe because through defending it you can find out what really makes sense to you (as opposed to just believe what your family taught you). I will DEFINITELY check it out. Have a good day lady!!


Churlita said...

Bill Maher is always like that. I suppose the good thing is that he's stimulating dialogue.

I don't believe in organized religion, but I know that it's really helpful for other people and respect that. My daughter loves that structure, and I'm glad she gets a lot out of it. I do remind her to question everything so she doesn't end up in any kind of cult experience. It was like how my mom raised me, take what you need from it, but you don't need to subscribe to the entire doctrine.

NoRegrets said...

OG, exactly. It's a personal choice. I do understand that this can sometimes lead to being influenced to do 'bad' things in the name of religion. It's a fine line...

Churlita - again, it's the issue of how the institution can sometimes manipulate individuals who can't or won't think for themselves. I understand Bill Maher's point in that.

They interviewed a few people at the Vatican who were so reasonable it was shocking. But look at what the institution does. It's hard.

M. Robert Turnage said...

My general attitude towards Bill Maher is that he loves himself enough for both of us, so I don't have to love him.

For people who aggressively go up against religion to the point of eradicating it, they tend to want to throw out the baby with the bathwater. The hard-line stance is that anything religious is automatically evil and wrong - a point where I fundamentally disagree.

Do we want to smash Michelangelo's David because it represents a religious viewpoint?

Do we want to ban anyone singing 'Amazing Grace' because it might make people feel closer to a non-existent God?

Do we want to get rid of AA twelve-step programs and support networks because of their explicit use of the words "God" and "a higher power"?

If you are a hard-liner, like I am hearing Maher is, the answer to all of those is going to be "yes." For me, that possibility is more frightening than the world we live in, so I reject it.

As Americans, we have freedom of speech, freedom of religious views, and freedom of thought. If we happen to not think the same way you do - Deal with it.

Having said all that, I will probably rent the movie.

Mrs. Hairy Woman said...

Bill Maher at times can have a big mouth.. But he is trying to get people to think about the way things are in the real world. I probably won't see it.. But I use to watch his late night talk show and he had some very valid points and was quite aggressive in his opinions. A person's religion is a personal one whether they practice it or not.
I did not grow up in an excessively religious home, but I did enjoy going to church and attending bible studies. It was a learning experience for me.

His rudeness will eventually push people away from the issue and they will decide for themselves if it's worth their time.

Squirrel said...

My sister caretakes for a church. Despite having strong atheist/agnostic leanings myself, I still feel a little weird being in there when she's cleaning, because so many people do take it so seriously.

I don't take others to task for their beliefs unless they're preachy or they're using their "faith" to create misery for others. In fact, I try to avoid discussions of "faith" altogether. Believers aren't going to convince me, I'm not going to convince them (and don't care to), and there's not much value in having a discussion that can only end in animosity.

Not everyone agrees with me on that (eg, Bill Maher, Michael Moore). It upsets me that anger and vitriol are the only means of communication some people have.

laura b. said...

Thanks for the post. I was curious about the movie and like things that make me think. I dislike ridicule, though, which is why things like Borat are unwatchable for me.

NoRegrets said...

MRT, I can kinda see that about him. I must admit that the point is that it's the violence that religions engender that he's railing against.

Mrs. - yes, it will push some people away.

Squrrel - again, it's the 'creating misery in others' that's a lot of the institution of religion, which I also dislike.

Laura - just for you. ;-) Yeah, I would never watch borat either.

M. Robert Turnage said...

I haven't seen the movie, but I would agree with him on that point - religious-inspired violence is not good. I just don't want to replace it with atheist-inspired violence and call that an improvement.

The CEO said...

In the light of the discussion, I didn't understand the part about the Jewish guy on the podium?

NoRegrets said...

MRT, I agree.

CEO - It was related to the point of "It doesn't go away easily - things get into your system and don't come out. " It was pure instinct that I got upset at the Jewish guy's actions.

Mel said...

Frankly, wouldn't mattered the religious orientation of the man going places reserved for priests--leastwise not to me. It's the respect thing, not a 'religious' thing.

Same reason I had difficulties walking into ancient churches, down the ailes where they bury their astute dead in England--disrespectfulness...

I'd spend time being angry if I watched the movie--just going off of what you shared here.
And that's not in defense of 'religions'--but in defense of human rights to make choices and to be treated respectfully.

Tera said...

It's funny you post about religion...I trust you will read my latest post in its all of right now! Hint hint?

P.S. Not sure I would want to watch that movie.