Bill Maher’s ‘Religulous’ made me take a good look at my own beliefs. And judgments. I consider myself open to people’s spiritual ideologies, but while Bill Maher was questioning the faithful, I found myself thinking, ‘How the heck can they possibly believe that?’ I felt hypocritical, and that was uncomfortable.

Now, one of the most important points of this film is that Bill Maher is an agnostic – one who believes that there can be no proof of the existence of God, but does not deny the possibility that God exists. He says, ‘I preach the gospel of ‘I don’t know.’’ This point, however, can be easily lost on those who find Maher’s liberal stance and comedic material objectionable, irreligious even.

On http://deisbeliefnet.com, a couple of young men, Trevor and Tim Christian, hit song writers of ‘The Rapture Right,’ have posted a video denouncing and urging a boycott of Maher’s movie. They had only seen a preview of the film and called it ‘Relig-i-ous,’ missing Maher’s point of the ridiculousness of it all, entirely. They say, ‘He hates Jesus a lot.’ I watched the film several times and he never says anything like that. My understanding is that he feels it’s important to expose what organized religions can do to stir fear, intolerance and hate to divisive extremes and even terrorism.

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The owner of the store from which I rented the film limited the number of copies of ‘Religulous’ he had available for rental, because he was offended by the film. He is religious. Did he actually watch the film? Hmm. What would happen to him if he saw a chink of truth in anything Maher said? What are the consequences of people questioning their belief systems? What if there were no religions? According to our second President, John Adams, ‘This would be the best of all possible worlds if there were no religion in it.’

Please understand: Maher doesn’t pick on any one religion, they’re all fair game in ‘Religulous.’ In an interview with Larry King about his controversial movie, he clearly stated, ‘I think all religions are cuckoo.’ Interestingly enough, he is often just as staunch in his ‘rationalist’ belief as the religious fanatics he attempts to discredit.

I spoke with my mother prior to watching the movie, and her review of ‘Religulous’ put my hackles up (she can be rather defensive of her religious beliefs). She called Maher ‘smug,’ and told me that she and my father didn’t agree with him. I have to defer to her assessment, though. I found Maher exceedingly rude to several of the people he interviewed, interrupting them incessantly and being crass simply for entertainment value. Irreverent is an understatement. Blasphemous? Let’s just say it’s a good thing we don’t practice flaying in this country.

I do have to say that there were dozens of times during the film when I broke out in deep belly laughter. There are a lot of awkward pauses as interviewees look for comebacks to Maher’s incisive questions. Those moments are fertile ground for nervous laughter, too. Bill nailed it in a discussion with Mark Pryor, the Democratic senator from Arkansas. ‘It worries me that people are running my country who think, who believe, in a talking snake.’ Pryor, who believes, replied, ‘You don’t have to pass an IQ test to be in the Senate, though.’

At the end of the movie Maher is standing at the base of a rocky hill in Megiddo, Israel. According to The Bible’s Book of Revelation, this is where the world will come to an end in a final battle between God and Satan.

‘The plain fact is religion must die for mankind to live. The hour is getting very late to be able to indulge in having key decisions being made by religious people, by irrationalists, by those who would steer the ship of state, not by a compass, but by the equivalent of reading the entrails of a chicken.’

‘Religion is dangerous because it allows human beings who don’t have all of the answers to think that they do. The only appropriate attitude for man to have about the big questions is not the arrogant certitude that is the hallmark of religion, but doubt. Doubt is humble, and that’s what man needs to be considering: that human history is just a litany of getting shit dead wrong.’

I believe in something, and I can’t begin to define it. If I could, it wouldn’t be big enough for me. If I can put boundaries on it, give it a sex or a habitat, I’ve already limited its power. If I need to perform rituals or abstain from life’s gifts to reach it, it’s not mine. I call it God, Creator, Spirit, The Universe, Love, Light or Energy. I try rituals and practices that work for other seekers, things that make people feel connected, peaceful and happy, and I have a strong spiritual community that supports me on my personal path. I find truth and inspiration in many belief systems and can learn from everyone I encounter, because I believe that we are all Divine. I strongly believe, however, that no one should force their ideas on anyone else, let alone use fear to make them conform to those beliefs. To me, the great danger of religions is how they separate us from each other and from our innate Divinity.

Author

  • Kira Catanzaro

    Kira Catanzaro is a writer and renaissance woman deeply committed to connecting with spirit through meditation, creative arts, and the wonders of nature. She wrote for Moonshine Ink from 2006 to 2012.

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