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Are You There God? Bill Maher Sells Doubt in Religulous

A wordplay on ridiculous, Bill Maher's new docu-comedy Religulous found its calling this weekend when it opened across the country. It grossed a modest $3.5 million and ranked number 10 at the box office, but I suspect many people will have an opinion regardless of whether they see it.

Directed by Larry Charles of Borat and Curb Your Enthusiasm, Religulous will remind you of everyone's favorite Kazakhstani roaming around America, exposing isms and making enemies. It adopts the same wanderlust quality and lets Maher loose in the US, Europe, and Middle East to humiliate unsuspecting people.

I decided to check out the movie this weekend so I could report back to you today. To find out what I thought,


I keep hearing that Maher can't expect to appeal to religious people by belittling them, but I don't think that's his goal. He's not talking to them. He's talking to the 16 percent of Americans that consider themselves nonreligious — challenging them to talk openly about doubt.

In the doc, Maher interviews Christians, Jews, and Muslims, most of whom are easy targets for comedy. Here are a few that stood out.

  • Senator Mark Pryor (AK-D): This senator may never live down saying, "You don't need to pass an IQ test to be in the Senate." Guess not!
  • José Luis de Jesús Miranda (Messiah in Miami): José believes Jesus's lineage moved through Europe until it reached Spain and then made the voyage to Puerto Rico, where he was born. People should follow him over Jesus, he says, because Jesus was Jewish and he is Christian.
  • Roman Catholic Priest (Vatican): I could have watched this man for the whole movie. He laughs. And laughs. And genuinely seems amused by illogical teachings and contradictions in the Catholic Church. Unfortunately, Maher does not dig enough to learn how he rationalizes the two. The priest does leave us these words: People are going to believe what they want, and then they'll die. Amen.

I wish we heard more from the skeptical devout like the Vatican priest. In fact, I had hoped Maher would interview Stephen Colbert (real-life Stephen, though fake would do). Colbert's a practicing Catholic (he even teaches Sunday School) who would appreciate the irreverent humor and, unlike most of Maher's victims, be savvy enough to keep up. But when it was over, I was really only fixated on one fact. Did you know there's a theme park in Orlando called The Holy Land? There you can experience the "wonder of ancient Israel."

Did anyone else see it? Who's going? Who would you like to see Bill Maher interview?

Photos courtesy of Lionsgate

Join The Conversation
Great-Sommelier Great-Sommelier 8 years
" And it does make you realise, to my mind, anyway, that there really is no such thing as certainty when it comes to religion and faith, and that if you look at the tenets of any faith objectively, that they all seem pretty ridiculous (and similar!)." That's why it is called faith.
bailaoragaditana bailaoragaditana 8 years
I went to see this movie last Saturday. Twice. Once in the morning with a friend, and then again in the evening, with the same friend and a few more. I've encouraged a lot of other friends to see it, and plan to see it again this weekend. I think, despite Maher's occasionally grating questioning style, that it raises a lot of good points, although not enough of them. And it does make you realise, to my mind, anyway, that there really is no such thing as certainty when it comes to religion and faith, and that if you look at the tenets of any faith objectively, that they all seem pretty ridiculous (and similar!). I do love the Vatican priest, though, he's fantastic. And the Vatican astronomer, who comes after the Creation Museum dude. He just cuts the creationist theory straight down to the ground, like it's nothing. It's one of the highlights of the film.
Great-Sommelier Great-Sommelier 8 years
lol, just a little bit! :wink:
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
:rotfl: are you pregnant? ;)
Great-Sommelier Great-Sommelier 8 years
I had no intention on getting one, then when I saw the picture, the first thing out of my mouth was, "What's the biggest size Frosty you have?" I then proceeded to order, bucket-o-frosty!
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
I just came back from lunch, and man that sounds good. French fries in chocolate, hmmmmmm. :drool: Ok, I think I need a milkshale or something...
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
That...sounds really good right about now, GS.
Great-Sommelier Great-Sommelier 8 years
"It's not the decorations that entice Satan in on Halloween, it's the massive amounts of yummy candy by the front door" Darn tootin'! And right now I am dipping french fries into a chocolate frosty!
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
Side note: As I "work," I'm listening to a lesson going on in the other room. I end up learning a lot of this stuff by osmosis that way.
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
I do see what you mean as well, Dave.
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
I understand what you mean Jude, and I agree that there are differences. What I am saying though is Christians are encouraged to follow those laws as well, but it's not a requirement to be saved, like it is with Judaism
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
It's not the decorations that entice Satan in on Halloween, it's the massive amounts of yummy candy by the front door ;)
CaterpillarGirl CaterpillarGirl 8 years
Right now in my office there are certain people "offended" by halloween decorations, and come christmas there will be the grumblers about those also. There is always going to be someone who gets thier panties in a wad, our office just blanketly ignores them. thank goodness. I was told yesterday that i was "inviting satan in" by having halloween decorations on my door. yeesh
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
*Oh, and "saved" isn't really the correct way to put it. It's just early in the morning and I can't think of a better way.
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
*I don't know why I felt the need to post such a rant. I think it's because I'm at the office arranging our Yom Kippur services.
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
UD, you are correct in the statement that both Christians and Jews believe in the Old Testament, with a large difference that Judaism doesn't recognize the New Testament. There are some other rather large differences too, however. The most major one, in my opinion, is that Judaism is specifically against proselytizing to non-Jews and trying to convert them for the sake of their "eternal salvation." Missionary work and coercing people to convert: not in. In my understanding, Jews (and here I'll admit that my understanding comes mostly from my work at a Chabad synagogue--ultra-Orthodox Chassidic Jews) are obligated to fulfill the 631 commandments given by the Torah (that's lots more than just the ten). However, that doesn't mean that non-Jews have to follow those in order to be considered "righteous" and worthy of "salvation." Non-Jews are asked merely to follow the 7 Laws of Noah. And the righteous among the non-Jews will also be "saved," so to speak. As far as commandments such as the laws of family purity and keeping kosher, there are many different explanations, but the Orthodox teaching states that these commandments were not put into practice as a primitive way of getting people to promote food safety or feel that menstruating women are dirty, but rather are meant to be followed simply because "God says so." In other words, they promote a closer connection to God because you are choosing to do as God says even if it doesn't make sense. So...yeah.
hausfrau hausfrau 8 years
omg ts, i would have kept that too. i know what you mean though, i always feel bad getting a laugh out of something that wasn't intended to be that way. but christmas letters are just so all about showing off that i feel like they kind of deserve to be mocked! :)
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
I let my wife do our Christmas letter. I like to add too much humor to it for her taste. Actually, I let her do it because I'm not very talkative. ;)
True-Song True-Song 8 years
I've never done a Christmas letter. Maybe we will this year. If I start planning now. Last year, no joke, my aunt and uncle sent out magnets that say in huge writing JESUS LOVES YOU! and so do we! and then it says their names. And I feel kind of bad because I thought they were so ridiculous and hilarious, even though they were quite sincere. It's still on my fridge.
hausfrau hausfrau 8 years
ts that is brilliant! i would love to get that letter! i have a love/hate relationship with christmas letters. i love getting them, but i just love to make fun of them. :)
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
That would be a great Christmas letter. :rotfl:
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
I can understand how it would be difficult to just "follow the rules and laws" of the Old Testament without understanding why those laws and rules were put in place. The purity laws, for example, were enacted because people were dying from thing like eating undercooked pork. We now know that pork needs to be cooked thoroughly to be safe, but they didn't understand that, so the leader simplified the problem by saying "don't eat pork" The New Testament, in a nutshell, says that following the Jewish rules and laws isn't going to get you into heaven. You can only do that by believing that Jesus is the savior, and through his forgiveness it is possible. That doesn't mean you shouldn't follow the laws of the OT, just that it's OK when you fail to live up to those standards.
True-Song True-Song 8 years
Haha. I should put it in my Christmas letter. "We were so blessed this year! We've each happily settled into new jobs, Obama won the election, and we were able to take a vacation in Colorado! In other news, the hybrid's still running well, we got a new espresso maker so we can have soy lattes at home, and our neighborhood opened a great new sushi place!"
hausfrau hausfrau 8 years
yea TS i can see how thats tough for you. but i wouldn't be offended or upset if you sent me that kind of card, as long as you wouldn't be when i send you my christmas card. unless its a super obnoxious one, in which case i totally did it on purpose to make you laugh! :) if obama wins you should tie it in with that, maybe a picture from a victory party or something.... NO NO!!! it just occured to me!!! put a wreath on your hybrid!!! haha! that would be awesome!
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