Friday, January 09, 2015

Religulous (2008)

Note:  This review was originally posted to my Epinions account.

I don’t usually watch documentaries.  Every so often, though, I come across one that strikes my interest.  I’ve liked Bill Maher on occasion and I have been known to watch documentaries that deal with religion.  Based on what I saw of this one, I could tell that Maher wasn’t a huge fan of religion.  I figured I’d give Religulous a try.

That being said, I’m hard pressed to call this a documentary.  You can tell that Maher is on a mission of sorts to debunk, mock or ridicule religion.  In once scene, he interviews someone who has created devices to get around Judaism’s ban on not using machinery on the Sabbath.  (How the devices don’t count as machinery is beyond me.)

When he talks to various religious people, you can tell that he’s holding back his contempt, but just barely.  Other scenes, like a decked-out priest, are shown to hold up the person as an example of what religion shouldn’t be.  (If Jesus gave to people, why is a priest wearing expensive clothes?)

Maher also visits a Christian-themed amusement park in Florida.  While talking to a person who portrays Jesus, Maher asks the employee how God can be three things, referring to the Trinity.  The employee responds that water can be three things:  liquid water, water vapor or ice.  It’s the one time that I recall where Maher was caught off guard and remotely recognizes that someone has a point.

Maher also looks at other religions and groups, such as Scientologists and Muslims.  I don’t want to give the impression that Maher is picking on one or two religions.  The main focus here is on religion in general and how it’s gotten to the point of being ridiculous.

The problem here is that when you look to debunk something, or even to support it, you can usually find what you need.  That’s not to say that religion isn’t full of crackpots and losers.  However, the movie doesn’t really do much to analyze anything.  There weren’t any moments where I felt Maher looked deeply into anything.

Take the contraptions to get around using machines on the Sabbath.  Maher didn’t really go in to detail on why the machines were necessary or why you weren’t allowed to use machines on the Sabbath.  The entire thing took a few minutes.  Then you were on to the next thing.  I think a movie like this could really do more justice by looking a little more deeply rather than holding it up as something that’s beyond rational belief.

There are a lot of better movies out there that deal with the issue of religion better.  Many focus on one aspect of religion, such as child abuse or a particular group of people, that do a better job of showing the hypocrisy or ridiculousness of religion and its adherents.  Even if you’re looking to slam religion, I’m sure there are better examples.

If the movie comes on TV, you might watch a few minutes of it.  Otherwise, I wouldn’t bother with it.

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