Saturday, October 25, 2008

Religulous: A review

We watched Bill Maher's "Religulous" this Friday. The movie had a few entertaining moments but overall it was a little bit heavy on Bill's own persona. Maher is great at editorializing, but this was a two hour movie - and it felt like over half of it was about Bill himself.

I wish we could let his subjects talk more - I have a hunch that what they would have said then would be a lot funnier.

As it were, most of the interviews followed the following template:
Interviewee: <some insanely crazy stuff>
Bill Maher: "You can't seriously believe this crap..."
Interviewee: Yes I can...
Bill Maher: C'mon... You can't.

The one moment I really enjoyed was the interview with the senator from Arkansas, Mark Pryor, where he says that one doesn't have to pass an IQ test to get into the Senate. The absolutely priceless part is watching him right after he says it, and see how he slowly realizes what he'd just said, as the smile fades away from his face...

The other were a few quotes from Founders, to illustrate what they actually thought about Christianity (that the United States of America was founded as a "Christian nation" has long been the working theory of the right wing, and a platform of Texas Republican Party).

Here are the quotes:

Lighthouses are more useful than churches.
-- Benjamin Franklin

Christianity is the most perverted system
that ever shone on man.
-- Thomas Jefferson

This would be the best of all possible worlds,
if there were no religion in it.
-- John Adams

Of course, the movie will not win any converts. The people who believe in the "talking snake" will probably never even see it. But as far as the entertainment value for the people who don't - I would say wait for the DVD.


nathan3700 said...

These quotes are better understood within the fuller context of the speakers' lives. I have read their biographies, and except for maybe Jefferson, they were all devout Christians (for some value of devout) Jefferson was a devout believer in the ethics of Christ (not the divinity). Christianity heavily influenced them.

They lived at time when people associated despotic rule with religious zealousness and at a time when new scientific discoveries were challenging conventional views. But you can't say that their philosophies were not heavily influenced by Christian theology. For each quote critical of Christianity, you can find another one in which they admired it.

You also can't dismiss the fact that most of the signers of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were very religious. The country was built on their shoulders every bit as much as it was built by the intelligentsia.

Sometimes it is hard to see the forest for the trees.

Christianity itself led to the very idea of the Separation of Church and State. Yes, you heard me right. Before the Roman Catholic Church, it was totally unheard of for the state religion to be headed by someone *other* than the king. That the nations of Europe had two loci of power (Rome, and their King) was the inception of what we know today as the separation of Church and State. Thank God for Catholics! And it was Jesus who gave his adherents permission to have dual loyalties (render unto Caeser...)

Secondly, the Bill of Rights comes to us thanks to Christianity. There is no reason for people to believe in fundamental human rights from reason alone. Heavy handed dictatorships actually make more sense from a security and stability point of view. Jesus revolutionized the world by introducing the concept that the little guy matters more than the highest king.

Sergey Solyanik said...


Before you conclude that the Christian faith was amazingly beneficial to humanity, having been responsible for all these social and technological advances, contemplate this motivational poster: :-).

A few other things.

First, I don't believe in dictatorship, and I am not religulous. And I know many, many people that are like me.

Second, it appears that it is mostly religious people in the US who have exhibited deference to the government, in a way well beyond any reasonable degree.

Third, it appears that religulousness of the population is in direct correlation with the societal evils the religion claims to confront: the higher percentage of churchgoing population corresponds to the higher rate of (1) divorces, (2) teen pregnancies, (3) veneral diseases, ...