Tuesday, October 28, 2008

On not getting the joke (this is a serious one).

Matt and I went and saw Bill Maher's movie Religulous this evening. Our friends told us it was hilarious. Matt thought it was hilarious.

I thought it was one of the most depressing things I have ever seen.

Let's start with a disclaimer. I am not religious. I am very not religious. But I have friends who are religious and I have basically stopped discussing religion with them. I respect their right to believe things that I don't believe (I also have friends who go jogging every day, and are vegans, also things I respect but don't believe in). But this movie was Bill Maher's excuse to pull a "Borat", and I found it just as disrespectful. It scares me that people think the end of the world is preordained and the Rapture is their reward for doing what the Bible says to. But I don't want to watch Bill Maher telling these people to their face that they are wrong and stupid and ignorant. I don't think that is funny. I believe that they are entitled to their opinions, and as much as I would prefer that they spent more time trying to protect the Earth while they're still on it rather than use it up since they're not going to be needing it much longer, I am not going to sit there and laugh at them.

Maybe it's because I am a very non confrontational person. I hate discussing politics with people, too. I just don't think I am going to change their minds. And I don't think Bill Maher is going to change anyone's mind with this movie. It verges on masturbatory, the way he lectures on how religion is the cause of all of our problems and we will never make it as a species unless we give up religion and learn to doubt. That's great, Bill, for you. I don't particularly dislike the guy, but I can't imagine that this movie will change any minds on the subject of religion - if you're not into religion, you're going to be entertained, but if you are devout at all, there is no way he will change your mind. He doesn't have a reasonable rational convincing discourse with most of the people he talks to - he just badgers them and mocks them. What does that accomplish? I guess it made him twenty bucks off of me and Matt going to see his movie.

The most positive impression I got out of this whole movie was when he was interviewing the Vatican astronomer. I wish I could find a clip - the guy was great, the most reasonable person in the whole movie. Possibly the only one who flat out said, no, you can't take it all literally, we've got to take all of this with a grain of salt. And he works for the Vatican. They need more guys like him. So does everywhere else. The saddest part for me was the interviews with the Muslim clerics discussing how their religion was about peace interspersed with the news footage of the crowds calling for the death of Salman RUshdie for writing the Satanic Verses/the crowds rioting over the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed/the interview with the Muslim woman talking about her misinterpreted religion on the spot where Theo van Gogh was murdered (won't go into that).

In all, he made Christians look like buffoons and Muslims look like murderers. Scientologists and Mormons were just made to look nuts. He went pretty easy on the Jews though. Hmm. Take-home message for me? Yeah, I just plain don't like Bill Maher.


Mella DP said...

I have no intention to see it or pay it much attention - in part because, even if I weren't a "religious" person, the expose-mockumentary isn't a genre that interests me, but also because Bill Maher isn't nearly good enough at what he does. Sloppy execution and abundant self-congratulation are markers of a talentless hack in any field.

Forever Chic said...


I'm in the same boat as you - very un-religious. I've had friends raving about this movie, but haven't seen it yet.

However, to respond to one of your criticisms, I'm not sure ANY movie could change ANYONE's mind in regards to their religious beliefs. Ad I don't think his intention was to actually change people's minds. I think his intention was to get laughs and to preach to his fans (i.e. nonreligious folks who like to poke fun at religious people). However, it sounds like he struck a sour note with you.

Anne (in Reno) said...

I think he must have been preaching to his fans, then. Although, I do love a mockumentary when it is done by Christopher Guest, I have to say.

Zack said...

I was worried this is what that movie would be like. I haven't seen it because I knew Bill Maher is so sure he is right and loves to paint people in a bd light just because they dont agree with you.

Even though he probably framed the people in the movie as dumb to beleive what they believe. I bet most of them are better human beings than fucking Bill Maher.