I treated myself on Friday night to go see Bill Maher’s new movie “Religulous.” I joked, half serious that I was renouncing Christianity and assuming a belief system based on love. As far as I’m concerned Maher did a pretty accurate depiction of everyday, borderline evangelical Christianity in this country.
The opening venue is a truckside chapel with some real Joe Six-packs who perhaps are married to some hockey moms in the chapel listening to Maher and a) I thought it was interesting that he had notecards the entire time. I’m not sure if it was because he just wanted to stay on task, or was it really because he didn’t know some of the stuff.
Meh, who knows.
Of course he went in there and began questioning EVERYTHING. And one of the truckers got up and walked out because he said “I don’t know what kind of documentary this is, but you aint gon’ be tearing apart my God.” And he walked out. At least the others, as Bill noted acted Christ-like in engaging in his dialogue, and not like Christians.
He proceeded to discuss theology with a man who considers himself reformed from homosexuality because clearly he doesn’t accept that as in the will of God. This despite the fact that as Bill proclaimed, there are many, many happy gay folk who don’t think twice about what religion thinks, let alone God. The man went on to say that these were intrinsically unhappy people.
Maher also went to a number of other places, one of which was the Vatican where he got kicked out rather quickly and ran into a priest who sounded American, prolly somewhere on the East Coast who was old and balding, and essentially had adopted my new motto towards religion “It’s all vanities.” Bill couldn’t help but laugh because essentially, the old guy was agreeing with everything Bill said.
Later they showed Bill at the Holy Land Theme Park in Orlando, sponsored by TBN (which immediately turned me off) and the certain re-enactments of the crucifixion story. It was about as hokey as when the Simpson’s went to Praiseland. He even talked with “Jesus” who kept giving all of these platitudes about why Christians believe what they do.
By about this point in the movie, it was wearing thin on me what the whole point of this movie was. I somewhat started texting on my phone when he got to the interviews with the Muslims, but not before I watched the BUFFOONERY that was the Orthodox Jew who adhered strictly to the 39 rules in Leviticus about what one could not do on the Sabbath. I mean, this guy felt that he couldn’t push a button because it was punishable by DEATH in the Torah.
Whoever said works are needed to get into heaven needs to give this man a golden star.
He also took the time out to ask a few scientists what their take on it was, and of course we got the standard scientific answers. But what I thought was the best interview because it was just so candid was his interview with Arkansas U.S. Senator Mark Pryor who, po’ thang, came off as not just a religious fruitcake but a general nut in the first place. After not having an answer to Bill’s sardonic remark that “I have a problem with the people running my country who believe in a talking snake” making a reference to Gen. 3 and po’ Marky responds “Well, you don’t have to pass an IQ test to get in the Senate.” And Bill Maher totally deadpanned the comment in wonderful Maher fashion. And then they cut back to Marky who had an “Oh Sh!t” look on his face like a deer caught in the headlights.
It was wonderful.
Now, I’m not sure just what level of intrigue did he do with certain segments of religious life because I thought that he left out a lot of the redeeming factors of liberal Christianity. What he suceeded at was interviewing the nutcases who don’t know anything. People like Jeremiah Cummings (yes, the one from Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes), who looks like a Louis Farrakhan reject, who insisted on being called “Doctor” in the interview even though he has NO degree whatsoever, or the Rabbi who was anti-Zionist who was clearly as much of a one-sided fanatic as Bill himself can be. But even though these people are certified in my opinion, these are the people who have far and wide-reaching appeal to the masses.
These people know nothing more than their parishoners. I thought it was an accurate claim in some cases in Maher’s closing pronouncement of doom against religion that the preachers, pastors, imams and rabbis are doing nothing more than providing an opiate for the masses–not his exact words, but these borrowed words from Karl Marx I think drive his point home. Although if I remember, Maher pushed it a bit further and said that various clergy from the three major religions are in fact instrumental to the destruction of humanity causing blindness to world issues by placing religion first.
Meh, for the most part I agree with him. I’m not sure opiate for the masses is necessarily the intent of many clergy; I’m quite convinced that the clergy believe just as strongly as the laity in many cases. However, for someone to watch this movie, it should make one slightly more uncomfortable sitting on the pew on Sunday morning.
To bring home my ultimate criticism, he didn’t interview one single seminary trained clergy or professor of religion. No one with a Ph.D. in the field of religion of the Christian persuasion was interviewed. I suspect because of what I saw that perhaps he’d be shocked at the level of liberalism that exists amongst trained and educated clergy. Those with real Ph.D’s behind their name. Of course those with degrees run the gamut as far as liberal and conservative. Of course someone graduating from New Orleans Baptist Seminary, or Dallas Theological Seminary is not going to think the same way as someone who graduated from Vanderbilt or Princeton Theological Seminary.
But of course Bill was going for the shock and comedic value of the movie. I mean, there was to be a real documentary done on this topic, do you think they would have let Bill Maher be the moderator.
Well, I didn’t mean to write all of that, but I’m glad I did.
I welcome your comments. Have you gone to see the movie? Would you pay money to go see Bill Maher ack a fool? Why would you or why wouldn’t you? For those die hards out there, if you feel your faith is being challenged or mocked, I ask is it really a faith at all if it can’t stand up to the likes of Bill Maher.
Keep it uppity and keep it truthfully radical, JLL