I'm an atheist. I don't really make it a secret, but I don't go about promoting it either. Why? As proud as I am of such a status, I hate when people walk around talking about God all the time, and I'd be doing quite the same - only with an opposite message. Nevertheless, it rubs me the wrong way when religious people get offended by non-religious people, as if they don't think that we get offended when they try to convince us of some illogical, mythical creature.
Now that I've offended eighty percent of you, Religulous is the movie for the other twenty percent. If you don't speak openly of your atheism or agnosticism, which I'm sure is most of you, you can live vicariously through Bill Maher, who hosts this documentary that appears to have only two purposes: convince people that God doesn't exist, and make fun of those who do.
Of course, those who are religious are unlikely to be swayed by Bill Maher, Then again, they are unlikely to watch this movie in the first place. If Maher's true intent was to persuade the religious, he would have done so in a less controversial and comical way; after all, you're not going to win over too many converts when you're punching them in the face time after time.
But for us atheists, it sure is fun to watch.
Religulous basically follows Maher around the United States, Europe and Israel as he interviews Christians, Mormons, Jews and Muslims, trying to get them to prove that God exists - or even say something intellectual and truthful - while throwing underhanded barbs at them the whole time. His interviewing style is always abrasive and at times cringe-inducing; his earlier interviews, where he talks with a bunch of truckers at a truck stop church, are more cordial, but when he comes across those who don't have a clear answer, he pounces. Then again, in his truck stop interview, he's talking to a bunch of guys twice his size - and the door is behind them.
Maher, and director Larry Charles, only go overboard in one scene, where Maher implies that a Muslim cleric is a terrorist. At least he doesn't do it to his face, but rather via faux subtitles during the editing process. Nevertheless, most of the film is hilarious, as Maher does get his hands on a few crazies, a Senator who clearly didn't know who Maher was before agreeing to the interview and even the rabbi who attended President Ahmadinejad's Holocaust denial seminar. Interestingly, the most liberal and dubious people he interviews are Catholic priests, who pretty much sound like they think God doesn't exist.
While surely biased, Maher does present some pretty interesting facts that I didn't know about; I've been meaning to look them up to see just how factual his claims are. If anything, the movie would have been even better had Maher spent a little more time on comparing fact vs. fiction, as there are some intriguing developments raised throughout.
Religulous is not for those who are easily offended, but for those who doubt the existence of God, or at least the institution that is formalized religion, this is a must-see.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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