Monday, March 16, 2009

Movie Review: Religulous

I didn't set out to make this blog about either movies or religion, but both topics are of interest to me, so don't be surprised if they appear here from time to time. Imagine my delight at finding a movie, however snarky, about religion.

"Religulous" is a documentary, almost a mockumentary, hosted by Bill Maher, of HBO's "Real Time". It's a series of interviews with various personages, intercut with Maher's monologues, film clips and other bits. I've read several complaints that Maher doesn't present the material straight, but documentary filmmakers always cut the film so that people appear to say what they want them to say.

Maher travels around the world: from the US to the UK, the Netherlands and Israel. He talks to Christians of assorted stripes, Jews (including a Holocaust-denier) and Muslims. He visits a religious "theme park" in Florida, the Speakers' Corner in London and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. He tried to film at the Latter Day Saints' church in Utah, but the Mormons chased him away. I half-expected some of his interviewees to resort to violence, but the worst that happens is that one guy, a trucker at a roadside chapel in Raleigh, NC, walks away.

Maher says at the beginning and end that he's preaching doubt. He admits that he doesn't know what happens when we die, and he resists the notion that anyone is capable of knowing. He's frightened of the certainty that some religious persons possess. That guy in Raleigh left because Maher was challenging the existence of his God. I've got to say, if your faith is so weak that it's shaken by a couple of questions from a comedian, then you're probably not the believer you think you are.

I found the movie to be entertaining, but I am a member of the choir Maher was preaching to. I can't predict how others will react. All I can ask is that people approach it with an open mind.

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