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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Movie Watch: Religulous

Religulous is Bill Maher's attack on religion, plain and simple. It follows a somewhat Michael Moore route of documentary, including plenty of scenes where Maher is personally speaking to the camera and some bear baiting interview techniques.

As an agnostic, I'd like to recommend the movie - but it is rather hard to do so since Maher very carefully selects his interviewees from some of the wide fringes of religion. As a introspective into said fringes, it's actually a pretty decent piece of work. The real problem, I think, is that he goes to this fringe for evidence that religion as an entirety is, as he puts it, a matter of mental illness. It's a bit like going to a Trek Convention and saying "look, people who watch Sci Fi like to dress up in funny costumes".

I'm as big of a fan of doubt as the next guy - and when someone tries to put a completely ridiculous argument as if it's scientific fact (which occurs several times in the movie), I'm more than happy to watch a guy like Maher take them to task on it. And often when he does it, it's fairly precise, on target and humorous.

Let's just not confuse the film with a serious discussion on the state of religion today, because the overall picture of people's beliefs are far more complicated than the one Bill chooses to portray. He comes down particularly hard on Islam, it seems, as he seems to adopt the stance that it's a violent religion despite who preaches it - which seems an unfair standard considering the history of most religions.

So it's entertaining in many places, and I think it's good to know just where the fringes of religion may exist, but Maher's overall argument is empty at best, dishonest at worst.

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