What it's about:
Comedian Bill Maher travels to all corners of the globe and interviews followers of various religions in an attempt to expose the lack of evidence, and the violence and prejudice that blind faith can cause. From Orthodox Jews to a cannabis using preacher in the Netherlands, everyone is fair game for examination, and ultimately ridicule. Maher takes a disarmingly light-hearted approach to such a serious subject, but keeps his end point of rationalism clear.
What we thought of it:
Religulous is a daring proposition in these rather desperate times in which many people are prepared to take up arms for their god – a humorous documentary that calls all religions a pack of lies. Presented by controversial (his Comedy Central show was pulled after comments he made about 9/11) comedian Bill Maher and directed by Borat director Larry Clarke, it would seem that such a project is in the right hands, but sadly it falls short of being either gut-bustingly hilarious or totally convincing.
The format of Religulous is the starting point of its problems – Maher simply talks to too many people, so all we have are the tiniest snippets of interviews in which the subject usually says something stupid or incriminating, interspersed with clips from a variety of movies stuck in for comic effect. As most of this subjects are zealots, weirdos, or just downright odd, the interviews are amusing, but there is very little in the way of information to digest once you’re past the “Wow, this fat Puerto Rican guy claiming to be the second coming of Jesus is a lying freak!” feeling.
The barrage of jokes and funny visuals goes some way to creating a unifying thread throughout the chaos, and this is largely thanks to Maher’s inability to suffer fools quietly. He sometimes comes across as mean with his mockery of these simpletons, but in a climate in which people’s faiths (and in many cases, actions) are considered beyond criticism, it is very refreshing to see so many hypocrites and liars taken to task.
Sadly it takes a whole lot more than a watertight logical argument to change minds – if it didn’t, we’d have been living on an atheist planet for centuries, so I’m guessing the message of Religulous won’t be well received by many religious viewers, if they even bother seeing it.
Depending on your outlook, Religulous will either be 90 minutes of blasphemy presented by a hell bound smart ass, or a breath of fresh air in a time where more and more people choose to place their trust in works of fiction.
As an atheist, or someone who agrees with Maher, it tells you nothing new, and the snickering at the blindly faithful gets old pretty quickly. The audience who will appreciate this documentary the most are children, teenagers, and spiritual fence sitters, as it’s a glimpse at the world from the rarely seen atheist perspective, and would certainly provide food for thought for someone with questions.
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