Religulous

I hadn’t seen Religulous (2008) before last week, but found it on Vimeo, so apparently it’s not a violation to host it.

I found it pretty funny, scathing, and, while not a masterpiece, certainly a worthwhile way to spend an hour and forty minutes. Roger Ebert, a pretty vocal atheist himself, deliberately avoided taking stands on faith in his review, but nevertheless gave the movie a thumb up:

Many of Maher’s confrontations involve logical questions about holy books. For example, did Jonah really live for three days in the belly of a large fish? There are people who believe it. Is the End of Days at hand? A U.S. senator says he thinks so. Will the Rapture occur in our lifetimes? Widespread agreement. Mormons believe Missouri will be the paradise (“Branson, I hope,” says Maher). There are even some people who believe Alaska has been chosen as a refuge for the Saved After Armageddon. In Kentucky, Maher visits the Creation Museum, which features a diorama of human children playing at the feet of dinosaurs.

His two most delightful guests, oddly enough, are priests stationed in the Vatican. Between them, they cheerfully dismiss wide swaths of what are widely thought to be Catholic teachings, including the existence of Hell. One of these priests almost dissolves in laughter as he mentions various beliefs that I, as a child, solemnly absorbed in Catholic schools. The other observes that when Italians were polled to discover who was the first person they would pray to in a crisis, Jesus placed sixth.

But, while trying to look objective at the end, Ebert deliberately shows his hand:

I have done my job and described the movie. I report faithfully that I laughed frequently. You may very well hate it, but at least you’ve been informed. Perhaps you could enjoy the material about other religions, and tune out when yours is being discussed. That’s only human nature.

In contrast, Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle didn’t like it:

In the end, Maher reveals his serious intent, to put forth the idea that not just fundamentalism but religion in all forms is a danger to the survival of civilization. Agree or not, that’s a serious idea, but the obnoxious interviews and the zany treatment undercut it. Certainly, if his intent was to persuade anyone of his view, well, fat chance of that. (If anything, Maher is obnoxious enough to make people want to get religion.) In the moment, the message of “Religulous” is that everybody who believes in God is stupid, cowardly or intellectually dishonest. That’s a sentiment better expressed in a single wisecrack, not a feature-length documentary.

You can see it on the tiny screen below:

or watch it on large screen at the Vimeo site. Reader opinions gratefully received.

_________________

UPDATE: In the comments below, reader Mark Joseph has a transcription of the end of Maher’s movie. It’s quite good and I thought it deserved to be put up here (thanks, MJ!):

“The irony of religion is that because of its power to divert man to destructive courses, the world could actually come to an end. The plain fact is, religion must die for mankind to live. The hour is getting very late to be able to indulge having key decisions 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. George Bush prayed a lot about Iraq, but he didn’t learn a lot about it. Faith means making a virtue out of not thinking. It’s nothing to brag about. And those who preach faith, and enable and elevate it are intellectual slaveholders, keeping mankind in a bondage to fantasy and nonsense that has spawned and justified so much lunacy and destruction. Religion is dangerous because it allows human beings who don’t have all the answers to think that they do. Most people would think it’s wonderful when someone says, “I’m willing, Lord! I’ll do whatever you want me to do!” Except that since there are no gods actually talking to us, that void is filled in by people with their own corruptions and limitations and agendas. And anyone who tells you they know, they just know what happens when you die, I promise you, you don’t. How can I be so sure? Because I don’t know, and you do not possess mental powers that I do not. 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. This is why rational people, anti-religionists, must end their timidity and come out of the closet and assert themselves. And those who consider themselves only moderately religious really need to look in the mirror and realize that the solace and comfort that religion brings you comes at a horrible price. If you belonged to a political party or a social club that was tied to as much bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, violence, and sheer ignorance as religion is, you’d resign in protest. To do otherwise is to be an enabler, a mafia wife, for the true devils of extremism that draw their legitimacy from the billions of their fellow travelers. If the world does come to an end here, or wherever, or if it limps into the future, decimated by the effects of religion-inspired nuclear terrorism, let’s remember what the real problem was. We learned how to precipitate mass death before we got past the neurological disorder of wishing for it. That’s it. Grow up or die.”

144 Comments

  1. Posted January 5, 2013 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Scathing, indeed. I loved it. But, he was definitely ‘preaching to the choir’ on this one. The thing is, this is Maher’s style. For him to do otherwise would be disingenuous. Can you imagine him asking those questions and *not* making a wise-ass remark? Still, it would be nice to see someone else do a similar documentary in a more serious tone to reach a larger audience.

    • Marella
      Posted January 5, 2013 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

      Richard Dawkins has done so.

    • pulseteresa
      Posted January 5, 2013 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

      The second time I saw Religulous at the theatre I had a couple of Christian friends with mee. They thought it was hilarious, even while not agreeing with much of it.

      • gravelinspector
        Posted January 9, 2013 at 11:05 am | Permalink

        Obviously your Christian friends are damned to eternal damnation for not taking their religion po-facedly enough. I’d recommend taking a half bottle of fine whiskey to dull the pain of you informing them of this.

    • Yiam Cross
      Posted January 10, 2013 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

      Why? I thought it was quite balanced, he wasn’t gratuitously abusive for no reason, he was on target every time. It was interesting, amusing and watchable while being chilling in the accuracy of its conclusions.

      It should be part of every school curriculum.

  2. Posted January 5, 2013 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    I’ve seen it a few times and agree that it’s well worth the time spent watching it. I personally have no problem ridiculing religion as it has been given special treatment for entirely too long. In fact, ridicule is just the beginning. We should move on to contempt from there.

    If religion was not protected from criticism by an absurd desire to avoid offending people who believe in nonsense, we could expedite the eradication of it. I don’t believe that will ever happen, but at a minimum, it should be relegated to the levels of belief in Bigfoot, haunted houses and Astrology.

  3. gbjames
    Posted January 5, 2013 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    LaSalle says

    “the message of “Religulous” is that everybody who believes in God is stupid, cowardly or intellectually dishonest.”

    like it is a bad thing.

    • Gary W
      Posted January 5, 2013 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

      I don’t really agree with LaSalle that that’s the message of the movie. But calling everyone who believes in God stupid, cowardly or intellectually dishonest *is* a bad thing, because it’s not true and it’s counterproductive. Unfortunately, a significant fraction of non-believers seem more interested in feeding their own sense of self-righteous superiority by telling religious people that they’re stupid or dishonest than in trying to persuade them that their religious beliefs are unjustified and misguided.

      • Jeannette
        Posted January 5, 2013 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

        I agree. There is a lot of self-righteous chest beating on some atheist blogs. I had to stop reading most of them. In my personal experience, religious people are no less intelligent or honest than the non-religious.

        • Gary W
          Posted January 5, 2013 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

          Well, I wouldn’t go that far. I think there’s some credible evidence that religiosity tends to decline as intelligence (and education) increases. I don’t really object to scathing attacks on, say, people with advanced scientific degrees who peddle “creation science.” They ought to know better. They really are being either stupid or dishonest. It’s contemptuous dismissals of religious people in general that I find objectionable. Of course, some non-believers go too far the other way, attacking any serious criticism of certain religious beliefs for fear of offending their political and social allies.

          • Jeff Johnson
            Posted January 5, 2013 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

            It’s contemptuous dismissals of religious people in general that I find objectionable.

            Though I sometimes lose my patience and feel contempt for those who can’t see past what now seems to me the obvious phoniness and shallowness of religious narratives, I agree with you that it is a mistake and objectionable to despise, mock, ridicule, and disrespect people for their belief. It’s important to attack the ideas but not the people who believe them.

            It’s been a few decades but I still remember what it is like to believe, and I remember what it is like to truly doubt and feel uncertain about God. Having walked in those shoes it isn’t right for me to judge people still confused by pervasive cultural traditions. We shouldn’t underestimate the power of culture to hold sway over people’s minds.

            And while I feel certain that religious belief is foolish and even harmful on the whole, I still believe it is an inherent goodness in people that draws them to religion, and that they persue it with sincere good intentions. This goodness and sincerity is not to be mocked. When gullible people are fooled into parting with their money by a confidence trickster, we can still feel compassion for them even though they are in a sense making themselves into victims by their own foolishness. And it is the same with the credulous religious.

            Compassion and respect for fellow human beings is an important part of a well reasoned atheist morality, in my view of things.

  4. Posted January 5, 2013 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    I watched that last year. It is good fun watching the video on the computer.

  5. Griff
    Posted January 5, 2013 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    Maher is a useful ally to have. I don’t think he tells us anything earth-shattering – we all know how nutty these people are.

    Call me petty, but I rather enjoyed some laughter at the expense of religion. Comedians reach audiences that science can’t.

    • suwise3
      Posted January 5, 2013 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      And the people of faith that I know love Ricky Gervais’s humor.

      • Griff
        Posted January 5, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

        Which is odd, because I like to hear him talk, but I never found The Office funny. Probably because it felt more like a documentary to me than a comedy!

        He doesn’t go after religion in his comedy tho’ does he?

        • suwise3
          Posted January 5, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

          “If there is a God, why did he make me an atheist?” Gervais figured out he was one when he was eight years old! (Ricky Gervais on Atheism, on YouTube.)

          • Scott near Berkeley
            Posted January 5, 2013 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

            Just an FYI, the same argument was used by Fritz Nietzsche’s mother to justify his abandonment of religion, which he announced when he came home from college, for Easter.

            Frau Nietzsche felt (after days of anguish) that it was OK, because, God controls everything, and who are we to question why he’s doing this to/with Fritz?

        • Geoff
          Posted January 5, 2013 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

          His film The Invention of Lying is an attack on religion, and I think in the best possible way.

          • PeteJohn
            Posted January 6, 2013 at 9:41 am | Permalink

            That’s a good movie. I also like the not so subtle argument that religion can only exist in a world where people lie.

        • Brygida Berse
          Posted January 5, 2013 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

          He doesn’t go after religion in his comedy tho’ does he?

          Yes, he sometimes does:

          youtube.com/watch?v=n9YzOkxB-Gc

        • Dale
          Posted January 5, 2013 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

          There is always his take on Noah

          from youtube

          watch?v=ln64DYflGT4

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted January 6, 2013 at 5:11 am | Permalink

          @Griff

          (Ricky Gervais):
          He tends to play it very deadpan, which does indeed make ‘The Office’ seem more like a doco than a comedy. And sometimes too ‘real’ for comfort.

          It’s a matter of personal taste and I must admit I’m often a little disconcerted by the pseudo-realism of ‘The Office’.

          His stand-up routine (from what I’ve seen on Youtube) is more explicitly comedy.

    • Diane G.
      Posted January 5, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

      “Maher is a useful ally to have.”

      I tend to disagree, given that he’s an anti-vaxxer. Sort of compromises his credibility.

      • Posted January 5, 2013 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

        +1

      • gbjames
        Posted January 5, 2013 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

        Agreed. His anti-vax worldview undermines his value as an ally. Still, he is pretty much dead-on where religion is concerned.

      • Griff
        Posted January 5, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, the anti-vax viewpoint is bizarre. Hopefully he’ll change his mind over time, given the fact that, for example, Smallpox has been eradicated and polio would be (were it not largely for the resistance of certain religious groups)

      • Posted January 5, 2013 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, there’s the anti-vaxing. And there’s also this:

        “…host Bill Maher said: “I believe in ghosts, I believe in numerology, I believe in astrology.”

        Disclaimer: I haven’t heard these things from the horse’s mouth, so I’m not sure how accurate that quote is. But I’ve heard them from a number of different sources.

      • steve oberski
        Posted January 5, 2013 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

        So in order for someone to be credible they would have to agree with your opinion on every possible subject ?

        I disagree vehemently with Bill Maher on his stance on vaccination but I think that in no way invalidates what he has to say about religion.

        Show me someone who does not entertain contradictory beliefs about some aspects of reality.

        Is there no area of discourse where others might disagree with your beliefs ?

        Would their disagreement in one area compromise your credibility in other areas ?

        • Diane G.
          Posted January 5, 2013 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

          Call me a stickler, but when the whole conversation is about what constitutes a rational view of the universe, I just can’t see how someone who’s not only completely ignoring science but vociferously arguing against it meets the definition of “useful ally.” Your definition may differ.

      • microraptor
        Posted January 5, 2013 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

        He’s also prone to some vicious misogyny- the most infamous being the time he went after one of the hosts on The View due to her being a conservative and made a lot of really offensive statements about her being female.

        And then there’s his continued PETA membership- nothing good or useful ever seems to come out of that group.

        I agree with you, Diane G, Maher has entirely too much baggage for me to consider him a useful ally.

        • Diane G.
          Posted January 5, 2013 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

          And I agree with you–way too much baggage.

          It was awkward to say the least when some of the atheist community were trying to dance around all this back in 2009, regarding, um, a certain AAI award…but let’s not fight that battle again, sigh.

        • Gary W
          Posted January 5, 2013 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

          And then there’s his continued PETA membership- nothing good or useful ever seems to come out of that group.

          PETA has a long list of concrete achievements that improve the welfare of animals.

          • microraptor
            Posted January 5, 2013 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

            Such as? There’s a bunch of animal welfare groups in the US. What accomplishments can be credited to PETA exclusively?

            PETA’s main claim to fame seems to be their moronic stunts that, if anything, make it easier for the opposition to drum up support by saying “hey, look at these stupid animal rights activists, they think that pigs are the same as kids and that whales in Seaworld are slaves and fish need to be called seakittens…”

            • Gary W
              Posted January 5, 2013 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

              PETA’s main claim to fame seems to be their moronic stunts that, if anything, make it easier for the opposition to drum up

              Translation: microraptor doesn’t like PETA’s stunts. It’s possible that PETA’s actions have done more harm than good to animals, but I haven’t seen any evidence to support that claim. I have seen lots of evidence that PETA’s campaigns have dramatically improved the treatment of animals. Ingrid Newkirk, the organization’s founder, said that it is PETA’s “outrageous” stunts that attract the most public attention to cases of animal abuse and produce the mass public pressure against targeted companies (boycotts, letter-writing campaigns, social media campaigns, etc.) that persuades them to change their practises. In addition to the public stunts, PETA does a lot of low-key, behind-the-scenes work to expose legal and regulatory violations of animal welfare that result in prosecutions. You can find many examples in the list of achievements I linked to below.

          • Torbjörn Larsson, OM
            Posted January 5, 2013 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

            I dunno about that, and you give no references. But they are a known terrorist group who routinely make death threats and harass biologists to boot. Here is just one example: http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/entertainment/sydney-confidential/peta-issues-death-threat-against-melbourne-fashion-designer-alannah-hill/story-e6frewz0-1225758754122 .

            • Posted January 5, 2013 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

              I’m not sure if you read the article you posted. Firsttly: it does not seem credible at all (why would a PETA executive send ungrammatical mail using their official ID, and why would there be only one newspaper, that too not a local one, reporting it? I could not find any other independent sources confirming the story.

              Secondly, Alannah Hill, the designed in the story, is mentioned on the PETA website, and that suggests that far from sending her death threats, they have been lauding her for going “fur-free”:

              Great news for all you PETA Files readers down under: Australian fashion designer Alannah Hill has agreed to stop using rabbit fur in her collections.

              Good on ya, Alannah!

              ….

              Alannah joins the ranks of compassionate designers like Stella McCartney, Calvin Klein, Kenneth Cole, and Tommy Hilfiger, who have all sworn off fur.

              Hopefully, other designers (Armani, are you listening?) will soon follow suit.

              So, no, it does not seem likely that PETA sent her a death threat.

          • Gary W
            Posted January 5, 2013 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

            Such as?

            Here’s a list. It goes on for 73 pages. Many of these achievements are very significant, like the campaigns that led to McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and KFC making dramatic improvements in their animal welfare policies.

            What accomplishments can be credited to PETA exclusively?

            I’m not sure that any improvement in animal welfare can be credited “exclusively” to any organization, but PETA is the largest animal rights organization in the world and by far the most vocal and active in lobbying for change. Numerous companies have met with PETA in response to its campaigns against them, and agreed to meet at least some of PETA’s demands. Large-scale public protests tend to scare companies into action.

        • Thanny
          Posted January 5, 2013 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

          Maher doesn’t shy away from gender-specific pejoratives. He has never attacked any woman for being a woman. He has no hatred for women. That means he’s not a misogynist, by definition.

          The fact that you believe he is means you’re carrying some baggage of unreason. Should I dismiss you now?

          • microraptor
            Posted January 5, 2013 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

            So you think that when he said that we should have exchanged Elisabeth Hasselbeck for Laura Logan (who was attacked and raped by a mob in Egypt), that wasn’t sexist or misogynistic? Because that sounded a hell of a lot like he thought she deserved to be raped by a mob to me.

            And before anyone claims that I need to get a thicker skin or that it’s okay because he’s a comedian, no it’s not okay. Jerry Coyne doesn’t run Why Evolution Is True as quite the same political soapbox that PZ Myers runs Pharyngula, so I’m going to try to avoid commenting any more on this.

            • Mark
              Posted January 6, 2013 at 7:32 am | Permalink

              First, I don’t think any of the details of Logan’s rape were known at the time Maher made the joke. He appears to have been referring to Logan’s prior detention by police.

              Second, the joke was part of the “New Rules” segment of the show and was, “New rule: now that Hosni Mubarak has released Lara Logan, he must put her intrepid hotness on a plane immediately. In exchange, we will send Elisabeth Hasselbeck.”

              It’s rude but I don’t see the joke mentioning being raped by a mob (which as I said, was probably not known at the time) nor is it a general attack on women or an attack on Hasselbeck for being a woman.

              A big part of Maher’s shtick is being rude to public figures. His previous show was called “Politically Incorrect” so it’s safe to say he has given fair warning to potential viewers that his brand of humor is offensive to some people.

        • Posted January 6, 2013 at 7:48 am | Permalink

          Agreed that Maher isn’t such a useful ally, but he makes for an awesome un-indicted co-conspirator.

          Cheers,

          b&

  6. Posted January 5, 2013 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    I enjoyed watching it, but I also found some of the interviews to be grating and unnecessary. I know the whole point was to be humerous, but there’s no real reason to keep attacking nice and friendly people after they’ve already shown their hand. You’ve already shown us that their beliefs are ridiculous – time to move on. But at the same time, as a Southerner myself, it’s always hard to watch outsiders make fun of the South, no matter how well-founded.

    It’s been a while since I’ve seen the film, and I don’t remember specifics (so I could be off base with this), but it seemed like Maher perhaps wasn’t straightforward and completely honest when approaching potential interviewees — the same [valid] complaints we have about e.g. the directors/host of “Expelled.” But all in all, I did enjoy it, I own the DVD, and I’ve watched it a few times. But I liked “Selling God” better (it’s on Netflix).

    • moarscienceplz
      Posted January 5, 2013 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      “as a Southerner myself, it’s always hard to watch outsiders make fun of the South, no matter how well-founded.”

      Hmmm, I kinda have a hard time respecting this sentiment. If you love something that is flawed, shouldn’t you want to see the flaws exposed so they can be fixed (eventually)?

      I’m from Arizona, and if anybody wants to remind the world of all the stupid shit that has come out of there lately, I’ll be happy to hold their coat.

      • Andrew B.
        Posted January 5, 2013 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

        It’s not really a sentiment, it’s just a kind of natural defensiveness that one feels when their group is criticized by a member of the “out-group.” If I claim the US has serious social and political problems, you might agree with me. If a foreigner makes the same criticism, it’s harder to swallow even though you accept it.

        • TheBlackCat
          Posted January 6, 2013 at 5:12 am | Permalink

          Speak for yourself. I have no problem whatsoever doing that, in fact I usually point out the problem is worse than they think

    • microraptor
      Posted January 5, 2013 at 6:36 pm | Permalink

      That was something of my reaction to the film- Maher did seem to occasionally go too far when it came to going after people, to the point where he frequently just seemed mean rather than funny.

      And I didn’t approve of film makers misrepresenting themselves to get interviews with Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers for Expelled, so I feel that I can’t approve of using the same tactic in Religulous.

      • pulseteresa
        Posted January 5, 2013 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

        What the makers of expelled did with Dawkins and PZ (two well-known, PhD biologists whose interviews misrepresented the views or took them so completely out of context to make it appear that they actually support intelligent design is not comparable to what Bill Maher did with some unknown individuals. Maher did not attempt to distort their beliefs. He let them tell him what they believed.

        • microraptor
          Posted January 5, 2013 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

          Yes, but he got his interviews by misrepresenting who he was and what he was doing. I didn’t like it in Expelled, I don’t like it here.

          • gbjames
            Posted January 6, 2013 at 8:47 am | Permalink

            Can you support that assertion in some way?

      • gravelinspector
        Posted January 9, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

        Maher did seem to occasionally go too far when it came to going after people, to the point where he frequently just seemed mean rather than funny.

        There is a nice and easy way to say “these are your opinions, which you’ve just expressed, and the are ridiculous/ contemptible/ insane/ illogical (delete as appropriate)?”
        It’s a serious question – I’ve got to do an eulogy for a friend who had no well-defined religion (though a slight leaning towards Buddhism as a philosophy), for an audience that will include staunch Catholics, Protestants, I think a Muslim, at least two Wiccans and me standing up in front of them as an atheist. And I’ve got to do it as an atheist (and ordained minister in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster). So, seriously, how do you hold religion in contempt, but nicely?
        (Other tricks that need performing include squaring the circle and trisecting the angle. Feel free to take a crack at them in your spare time. No marked straight edges.)

        • Jeff Johnson
          Posted January 9, 2013 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

          How about letting God talk for himself? Perhaps you could have some incomplete sentences, and you inform the attendees that there will be some deliberate silences for God to fill in the blanks. Say that religious can listen to God, while any atheists will hear only silence. Perhaps look up and around expectantly yet disappointedly during the silences. Maybe then work in something about the Buddhist concept of emptiness and impermanence, according to which our existence is fleeting like sand mandalas, brought together from countless molecular specks of dust to form existence, and then dispersed out of being and existence upon death.

          This is demonstrating God’s absence without saying it. It’s showing, not telling.

          • gravelinspector
            Posted January 9, 2013 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

            I think that would sound weird. I don’t know if the widow has any plans for having a god-squaddie stand up and spout (she’s one of the Wiccans) at all. I suppose that I’d better check when I’m finding out what the music plans are … which I’d better do tomorrow night, to make sure that the CDs get to the funeral director.
            The two hardest speeches of my life, for different reasons. I should punch the bastard, but I just want him back.

  7. Posted January 5, 2013 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    I found it pretty funny, scathing, and, while not a masterpiece, certainly a worthwhile way to spend an hour and forty minutes.

    It’s been some time since I saw it, but that’s as good a summary as I’d be able to come up with from memory.

    If it serves any purposes beyond humor, it’d be twofold: to let believers know how outsiders think of them — namely, the same way they themselves think of all unlike-minded believers; and, in so doing, to increase whatever cognitive dissonance they might be feeling. Sure, some might attempt to further retreat into the bowels of faith, but it’s hard to block the laughter with chants of “nyah nyah nyah nyah I can’t hear you!”

    b&

  8. Posted January 5, 2013 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    i had a good laugh when i watched it

  9. jose
    Posted January 5, 2013 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    IIRC he walked out on a Jewish guy he was interviewing, the topic was Palestine. I wonder why they just left the footage of him leaving. Did they figure it would be some sort of bold statement to walk out on the guy?

  10. Posted January 5, 2013 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    I’ve just started to watch this FULL YOUTUBE VERSION

    It has English subtitles & one can read the full transcript with timings too
    [click the fourth symbol to the right of the like/dislike symbols]

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted January 5, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      I suppose from a comment below that my video link is unavailable in the USA

      • Posted January 5, 2013 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

        Yes.

        However, it’s available on Netflix streaming…and, for those who know what to do with such things, here as well.

        Cheers,

        b&

        • Posted January 5, 2013 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

          Hmmm…apparently, WordPress is too smart for its own good when it comes to magnet links….

          b&

  11. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted January 5, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    The best part of the film is when Maher observes that acting on apocalyptic beliefs may make them a self-fulfilling prophecy bringing about the very calamities predicted.

    I’d like to see that bit expanded into a whole film unto itself.

    • gluonspring
      Posted January 5, 2013 at 8:42 pm | Permalink

      “The missiles are flying. Hallelujah, Hallelujah!” – From The Dead Zone

      Words that are chilling because it rings true.

  12. Carlos
    Posted January 5, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    The movie is a lot of fun. The DVD has more material that he didn’t use – like the Raelians and other bizarre believers without a shred of evidence to support their beliefs. Bill Maher is facile of mind about religion and calls himself the “Relgion Guy”. His dispatching of believers is well known.
    On what I think is a parallel note, it escapes me that he bizarrely embraces the anti-vaccine nutjobs – Jenny McCarthy and Jim Carrey – and doesn’t use the same skills to critically see that vaccines are safe. When he had Bill Frist on his show he couldn’t embrace fact and possibly thet he was dead wrong about the risk of vaccines. In a similar way I would paraphrase Steven Weiberg. “To not believe the vaccine science – that takes delusion.”

    • gravelinspector
      Posted January 9, 2013 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

      The movie is a lot of fun. The DVD has more material that he didn’t use – like the Raelians and other bizarre believers without a shred of evidence to support their beliefs.

      Hmmm, now that might well be worth seeing.

  13. Mark Joseph
    Posted January 5, 2013 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    I was introduced to the film by a woman I know who has left her family’s fundamentalism for atheism, and who also introduced me to Weisman’s “The World Without Us” and Quinn’s “Ishmael”. I loved the film, but then again, I love most anti-religious statements. As several people have already commented, Maher might not have said anything new, but what is important is how he said it; “True wit is nature to advantage dressed. What oft was thought but ne’er so well expressed” (Alexander Pope).

    So, without further ado, the closing lines of Maher’s film which, to me at least, was astonishingly well expressed:

    “The irony of religion is that because of its power to divert man to destructive courses, the world could actually come to an end. The plain fact is, religion must die for mankind to live. The hour is getting very late to be able to indulge having key decisions 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. George Bush prayed a lot about Iraq, but he didn’t learn a lot about it. Faith means making a virtue out of not thinking. It’s nothing to brag about. And those who preach faith, and enable and elevate it are intellectual slaveholders, keeping mankind in a bondage to fantasy and nonsense that has spawned and justified so much lunacy and destruction. Religion is dangerous because it allows human beings who don’t have all the answers to think that they do. Most people would think it’s wonderful when someone says, “I’m willing, Lord! I’ll do whatever you want me to do!” Except that since there are no gods actually talking to us, that void is filled in by people with their own corruptions and limitations and agendas. And anyone who tells you they know, they just know what happens when you die, I promise you, you don’t. How can I be so sure? Because I don’t know, and you do not possess mental powers that I do not. 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. This is why rational people, anti-religionists, must end their timidity and come out of the closet and assert themselves. And those who consider themselves only moderately religious really need to look in the mirror and realize that the solace and comfort that religion brings you comes at a horrible price. If you belonged to a political party or a social club that was tied to as much bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, violence, and sheer ignorance as religion is, you’d resign in protest. To do otherwise is to be an enabler, a mafia wife, for the true devils of extremism that draw their legitimacy from the billions of their fellow travelers. If the world does come to an end here, or wherever, or if it limps into the future, decimated by the effects of religion-inspired nuclear terrorism, let’s remember what the real problem was. We learned how to precipitate mass death before we got past the neurological disorder of wishing for it. That’s it. Grow up or die.”

    • Diane G.
      Posted January 5, 2013 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      Now that’s a mini-essay that stands by itself! Thanks.

      • moarscienceplz
        Posted January 5, 2013 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

        “If you belonged to a political party or a social club that was tied to as much bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, violence, and sheer ignorance as religion is, you’d resign in protest.”

        And yet the Republican Party still exists.
        :-p

        • Notagod
          Posted January 5, 2013 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

          The republican party is an expression of christianity. Did you watch the repugs primary debates?

          • Gary W
            Posted January 5, 2013 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

            The republican party is an expression of christianity.

            Then the Democratic Party is also an expression of Christianity.

            • Mark Joseph
              Posted January 5, 2013 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

              This comment by Gary W and the immediately preceding one by Notagod together could not help but remind me of this marvelous sketch (from SMBC theater):

              • Mark Joseph
                Posted January 5, 2013 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

                And,apologies for forgetting and embedding the video, instead of just the link.

              • Gary W
                Posted January 5, 2013 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

                The message of that sketch is that the differences between the Republican and Democratic parties are relatively small. I couldn’t agree more. That was kind of the point of my response to notagod.

              • Mark Joseph
                Posted January 5, 2013 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

                (Response to Gary W, as indenting further is not allowed)
                I know, and I was agreeing with you. Much as I hate to put matter and anti-matter (oops, meant to type “Ben Goren and Gary W”) together in the same place at the same time, Ben said it wonderfully the other day, “few people realize that, within rounding, there are no liberals or even moderates in the States, if you use global standards.

                We have a far-right hard conservative party and a batshit fucking insane lunatic party.

                In most parts of the world, the Democrats would be considered so radically far right as to be bordering on fascism. And the Republicans make the Democrats look liberal in comparison!”

                Like Ben, I am a registered Green. I understand that you have cut the Gordian knot in a different manner. That is a different conversation.

              • Gary W
                Posted January 5, 2013 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

                In most parts of the world, the Democrats would be considered so radically far right as to be bordering on fascism.

                An utterly ludicrous assertion.

              • TheBlackCat
                Posted January 6, 2013 at 5:15 am | Permalink

                Not really. The policies put forward by the Democratic party are considerably more conservative than the policies put forward by the conservative parties in many parts of the world.

              • Jeff Johnson
                Posted January 6, 2013 at 8:21 am | Permalink

                There is a bit of exaggeration going on here. “Bordering on fascism” and “considerably more conservative” than other country’s conservatives seem both to go too far.

                I agree that conservatives in other advanced economies are close in policy to the US Democratic Party, but not necessarily to the left of the Democrats. Our “conservatives” are off the deep end, corrupted by religion, Ayn Rand, and neo-conservatism into something truly bordering on fascism in many respects.

                The exaggerations that other conservatives are to the left of our Dems require some examples to back them up.

              • Posted January 6, 2013 at 8:34 am | Permalink

                The exaggerations that other conservatives are to the left of our Dems require some examples to back them up.

                Military assassinations of American citizens. Drone strikes in general. Guantanamo. TSA VIPR. Warrentless wiretaps. Keystone pipeline. As many aircraft carriers as the rest of the world combined. Obamacare. Privatized prisons. “Free speech zones” at political party rallies.

                All have been proposed, supported, or not largely opposed by Democrats in both chambers and the White house.

                b&

              • Gary W
                Posted January 6, 2013 at 11:12 am | Permalink

                There is a bit of exaggeration going on here. “Bordering on fascism” and “considerably more conservative” than other country’s conservatives seem both to go too far.

                “Bordering on fascism” is utterly preposterous, but even “considerably more conservative” is pretty silly. I’m not sure the Democratic Party is “considerably more conservative” than even the most liberal countries in the world, like Sweden and Denmark. And it’s certainly not “considerably more conservative” than the numerous theocracies and dictatorships in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

                If Mark Joseph seriously believes that the Europeans consider the Democrats to be “bordering on fascism,” one wonders how he explains the fact that Obama is enormously popular in Europe.

                Apparently, being a member of the U.S. Green Party means being utterly clueless about political reality.

              • Gary W
                Posted January 6, 2013 at 11:40 am | Permalink

                Ben Goren’s examples of America’s supposed conservatism (or is it “fascism”?) are nonsensical. Few countries, if any, protect free speech as strongly as the U.S. “Warrantless wiretaps” are common in other countries. See Europeans love warrantless wiretaps for some details of routine wiretapping in Europe. Private prisons were first developed in the UK. And as for drone strikes, the reason other countries haven’t used them is that they don’t have the technology. High-performance drones that can fly for long periods and accurately hit their targets are a relatively new technology even in the U.S. Other countries do their killing of foreigners the old-fashioned way — conventional aerial bombing. And of course the U.S. has more aircraft carriers. We are by far the richest and most powerful country in the world. Since the end of World War II the U.S. has been the world’s policeman because of its commitment to its interests and the interests of its much weaker allies around the world.

              • Mark
                Posted January 6, 2013 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

                For the people arguing over whether the Democrats are “conservative” by international standards, blanket statements aren’t much help here. The U.S. welfare state is smaller than those of Europe — that’s an example of the “conservatism” of the U.S. On the other hand, compare the status of civil rights and the power of the police in the U.S. and a country like France.

                Americans have Miranda rights, can refuse a police search if there is no warrant and don’t have to carry a national ID card and show it on demand. Many other countries have laws exactly like the Arizona immigration law that require everyone to carry documents with them at all times and produce them on demand to a police officer. Police sometimes overreact at protests in America — in Italy, a bunch of protesters at the G8 summit were arrested, beaten, threatened with sexual assault and forced to sing old Mussolini-era fascist songs by police.

                There is a lot to criticize about the U.S. but with actual far-right parties credibly competing and even winning in some European countries (like Hungary, for instance), it’s not helpful to throw around terms like “fascist.”

              • Jeff Johnson
                Posted January 7, 2013 at 7:50 am | Permalink

                I was kind of hoping for an example of a foreign Conservative party that was to the left of the Democrats.

                There is out of control militarism and a growing authoritarianism post 9/11, and it does seem to be based on a bipartisan consensus. It also seems to be tolerated, not by all, but by a majority of Americans, unfortunately. Another dangerous consensus seems to be that money rules, but this one is less tolerated by the public. But these problems don’t meet the definitions of fascism, and it can’t really be classified as left or right very easily. There is a history of militarism and authoritarianism on both the left and right around the world, though in the US we tend to associate militarism and authoritarianism with the right.

                For a country that calls itself the land of the free and the home of the brave, we have really allowed a culture of fear to trump any bravery and erode our freedoms, especially post 9/11.

                But in terms of approaches to the environment, education, health, social insurance, public investment, active fiscal and monetary policy that leans toward emphasizing employment more than inflation fears, the Democrats are left of center, and they are the only substantial political force in the US resisting the rightward pull of the ever more extreme GOP. There is nothing one-dimentional or binary about politics, so left-right labels are problematic. Political change is a complex long term process of evolution. The public seems to be shifting toward the left slowly. The pace of change in our democracy will not outstrip the attitudes of voters, no matter how fervent the longings of the left or the right. For this reason change comes slowly and incrementally, like a giant extraordinarily complex interwoven multi-dimensional tug of war.

                In a realistic view of American politics one needs to acknowledge that the Democrats would like to be further to the left, but they are forced into compromises because of where the votes are, because of the results of the midterm elections and the GOP control of the House and ability to exercise the filibuster in the Senate. If the public had elected a safe and stable supermajority in the Senate and a Democratic majority in the House, things would be different. So pointing fingers at the parties is to some extent identifying symptoms, not causes, while missing the underlying realities of voters and economic forces at work, which actually determine the behaviors of the parties.

                I don’t really know much about politics outside the US, but what little I have seen still makes it difficult for me to imagine that conservative parties abroad are by and large to the left of the Democrats. The British Tories strike me as center-right by American standards. German CDU may seem to the left of Democrats in some ways, and to the right in others, but remember, they aren’t dealing with the huge mass of right wing nut jobs that Democrats must deal with. The fact is that in the aggregate German voters are to the left of American voters (which by the way is a pretty heartening demonstration of the possibility of political change over time). I figure Democrats are pretty solidly to the left of the Likud (which is to the left of our GOP), and that Democrats may be quite similar to mainstream conservative parties (they all have their extreme right fringes) in the most liberal of European countries, but certainly not considerably more conservative.

                Regarding the drone warfare, I would simply say that if we had conducted the so-called “global war on terror” that way from the start, there would be considerably fewer innocent victims than resulted from the military invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and that these attacks are more specifically and efficiently on target against America’s actual enemies, though they do nonetheless result in tragic loss of innocent life. I think anyone opposing the drones has a responsibility to propose what alternatives are better as a response to a real and determined movement of Salafist Jihadis out to kill Americans.

              • Gary W
                Posted January 7, 2013 at 9:52 am | Permalink

                Jeff Johnson,

                I agree with much of what you write and your overall point, but your claim of “out of control militarism” is just completely wrong. The size of defense spending as a fraction of GDP and as a fraction of the total budget is at or close to a record low since the end of WWII. The size of our active-duty military force is also at or close to a record low. We have only half as many military personnel stationed abroad as we had forty years ago (but twice the population). And we have dramatically reduced the size of our nuclear arsenal. U.S. militarism was *much* greater during the decades of the Cold War than it is today.

                True, we did just wage lengthy wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but our troops are now almost completely out of Iraq, and we’re winding down operations in Afghanistan. And these wars were small in comparison to the wars in Vietnam and Korea.

              • gravelinspector
                Posted January 9, 2013 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

                (Responding to Gary W, because of the indenting limits)

                In most parts of the world, the Democrats would be considered so radically far right as to be bordering on fascism.

                An utterly ludicrous assertion.

                Speaking from one of the non-USA parts of the world, Gary W may well find that assertion ludicrous – people can find all sorts of things laughter-inducing – but that doesn’t make the statement wrong.
                Yes, a lot of the Rest Of The World does consider what the US projects as it’s political system to be a choice between the practically fascist and the extreme fascist. Whether that’s a reality, or a product of your advertising industry’s demand for eyeball-seconds, and hence the media’s demand for “controversy”, is a problem for Americans to care about.

              • Gary W
                Posted January 9, 2013 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

                Speaking from one of the non-USA parts of the world, Gary W may well find that assertion ludicrous – people can find all sorts of things laughter-inducing – but that doesn’t make the statement wrong.

                Several people have cited evidence suggesting that the statement is not simply wrong, but absurdly wrong. If you seriously believe that Mark Joseph’s assertion is true, then please make your case.

              • Posted January 9, 2013 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

                Still banging that drum, Gary?

                <sigh />

                Compare where Obama and Rmoney lie on this chart:

                http://www.politicalcompass.org/uselection2012

                with each of these charts:

                http://www.politicalcompass.org/nz2011

                http://www.politicalcompass.org/canada2011

                http://www.politicalcompass.org/ireland2011

                http://www.politicalcompass.org/aus2010

                http://www.politicalcompass.org/ukparties2010

                http://www.politicalcompass.org/germany2005

                Okay, so there’re a couple ultraconservative parties in there near where Obama and Rmoney are, maybe even one or two good-sized parties slightly more batshit fucking insane than those two.

                But, yes. Our whole political system fits squarely in the “batshit fucking insane hard right ultra-conservative authoritarian” camp, while everywhere else has a full spectrum of politics.

                Now, if you’re true to form, you’ll either nitpick about a couple fractions of a point or you’ll blather about how superior American batshit fucking insane lunacy is and how everybody else in the world should just be dismissed because they’re unrealistic idealists or something. Or maybe you’ll claim some sort of bias on the part of politicalcompass.org. The one thing I’m sure of is that you’re not going to let the liberal bias of reality penetrate your skull.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Jeff Johnson
                Posted January 9, 2013 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

                Ben,
                I took the test at the political compass and came out here: http://www.politicalcompass.org/printablegraph?ec=-6.75&soc=-5.44

                I seriously question where Obama is placed on that graph. How did they rate him? Did somone take the test and answer how they thought the President would answer, or did the President actually take the test? I suspect the former, and that his position represents a bais with a vested interest in placing him as far right and authoritarian as they might plausibly get away with. I suspect if the Preident took the test himself he’d end up much closer to the center.

                So I reject as questionable the initial data for the comparison you’ve suggested here.

              • Posted January 9, 2013 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

                Jeff, somewhere they discuss their methodology for how they rate politicians and political parties. As I recall, they have a hierarchy that goes from sponsored legislation through votes and signatures on legislation, then official policy / campaign statements, and finally press interviews and the like.

                So, if somebody said one thing to a reporter, something else on the stump, and introduced a bill that did something else entirely, what would matter would be the bill that was introduced. If said person didn’t introduce (co-sponsor, etc.) any legislation, but did date a public vote, it’d again bet the vote that counted and not any public statements.

                I just took the test with my guesses of where Obama would lie, and wound up squarely in the upper right quadrant, though closer to the center than they have him placed. Considering how off-the-cuff my quick breeze-through was, I’m willing to trust that an actual analysis of what he’s actually signed and voted for would, indeed, place him right where they have him.

                That is, it passes the “sniff” test, at least for me.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Gary W
                Posted January 9, 2013 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

                Our whole political system fits squarely in the “batshit fucking insane hard right ultra-conservative authoritarian” camp,

                No, our two major parties are in the blue, upper-right square. So are the Conservative and Liberal parties in Canada, the Conservative and Labour parties in the UK, and the SPD and CDU parties in Germany. The only parties that are far from that square in any country are small parties with little support. Your own chart contradicts your absurd claim.

                A even simpler illustration of the absurdity of your claim is the enormous popularity of President Obama in Europe.

              • Posted January 9, 2013 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

                Can I call ‘em, or can I call ‘em?

                b&

              • Jeff Johnson
                Posted January 10, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

                Ben,
                I think there is a difference between how an individual thinks about or idealizes politics when free of constraints, and the kinds of decisions they might make when tasked with real responsibility and the real practical limits and constraints of our constitutionally divided government. There is a difference between how one wishes things to be and what voters will support. There is a difference between what you want to do and what you must do because of pre-existing initial conditions and momentum, conflict and limitations to power, and because of physical and financial constraints. There is a difference between long term goals and strategy, and short term pragmatic compromise. There is a difference between being an open minded liberal humanitarian and being the guy who takes the blame if a single terrorist attack kills hundreds or thousands of Americans.

                One can fill out the political compass test based on an attempt to translate the actual actions and choices of the government during Obama’s tenure in office into opinions on the test, or one can look at Obama’s stated goals, ideals, and opinions, and try to fill out the test as you think the man alone without practical limits, facing only his ideals and dreams, would answer the questions. I attempted to do this latter, based on who I think Barack Obama is. I think that he often has complicated nuanced positions that attempt to see both sides of an issue, so it’s not always easy to choose Agree or Disagree. There are always questions of context and mitigating circumstances to consider. I also did not answer any question with “Strongly”, but only answered Agree or Disagree in every case. I think this is consistent with Obama’s moral approach of trying to see things from both sides and to search for intelligent middle ground that resolves differences in a way that still allows some progress and change.

                This is where I believe Obama would come out if he sat down alone and answered the questions himself. Obviously I could be quite wrong, but I tried to be honest on each question, and if we had the time to sit down and discuss each response, I think I could make strong arguments based on his political record to justify each response.

                My view of Obama: http://www.politicalcompass.org/printablegraph?ec=-6.75&soc=-5.44

                There is a complication here. I agree that the government under Obama has been in the upper right quadrant, but I think the political compass rating of Obama vs Romney errs considerably. I think actual governance has been closer to the center. And I think it has shifted significantly toward the center since the Bush Administration.

                Here is an article discussing Obama on immigration, to offer just one example that I feel correctly describes the kinds of tradeoffs he makes, where his short term actions appear to differ from his long term goals. Just as when one hits a roadblock, one must sometimes temporarily backtrack to make progress, I see Obama’s aggressive enforcement of current immigration policy as a short term step to disarm the opposition to a more liberal, tolerant, and complete immigration policy. I think Obama sees immigration in the traditions of America, that it has always been a source of strength, of cultural broadening and enrichment, and a force for renewal and reinvigoration of the country. The opponent’s strongest weapon is the resentment of people who feel they are somehow being cheated out of their national and cultural legacy by upstart interlopers from the outside, and that it is an intelligent strategy to weaken that opposition by creating the general impression that things are not currently out of control. Here is Will Wilkenson at the Economist discussing Obama on immigration: http://www.politicalcompass.org/printablegraph?ec=-6.75&soc=-5.44

                I think similar arguments apply to Obama’s approach to the environment, national security and the military, civil rights, the economy, marijuana enforcement, gay rights, and other issues where the left can rightly point out that in the short term he has trampled on liberal principles and preferences to various degrees.

                All I can say in response is that I believe those most strongly opposed to Obama are being shortsighted, and also that examining where the country stands today compared to four years ago, the dialog has shifted noticeably to the left on the environment, gun control, gay rights, immigration, health care, and regulation of markets. There are tectonic shifts happening, and I think that if Obama had governed more agressively to the left he might not have accomplished that shift, but instead provoked an even more angry and possibly violent reaction in the opposite direction. As it is, the scope and intensity of the reaction to Obama has been mind boggling.

              • Jeff Johnson
                Posted January 10, 2013 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

                I’m sorry, I posted the wrong link for Obama on the political compass. I accidently repeated my own score.

                Here is where I thin Obama would end up if he took the test himself: http://www.politicalcompass.org/printablegraph?ec=-3.25&soc=-2.51

              • Posted January 10, 2013 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

                Jeff, there are two possibilities.

                One is that Obama really is the bleeding-heart liberal as you think he is, in which case he has absolutely no commitment to his principles and is pissing away the power of the ultimate office of the most powerful nation in the history of the Earth.

                The other is that Obama really believes as he’s governed, and he’s just blowing smoke up the collective asses of his base in order to get their votes.

                Makes no difference to me if he’s a quisling or a liar. What matters is what he’s actually done, and that’s govern as the absolute most conservative president in all of American history.

                I mean, what’s the point of being President if you’re going to pass the buck to the political opposition that you soundly defeated?

                b&

              • Jeff Johnson
                Posted January 11, 2013 at 9:57 am | Permalink

                Jeff, there are two possibilities.

                That would be true if the President were not constrained in any way, and if there weren’t economic, political, and diplomatic consequences for his actions. Then he could do everything according to his personal preferences.

                The idea that the way things have proceeded during Obama’s Presidency are all according to his personal preferences seems to be an unrealistic oversimplification to me, and does not take into account the realities of governing the United States.

                In fact the President has to live within the constraints of the Constitution, the budget, the opposition from Congress, and the extremely complex interplay of a host of forces, including the economy, the general political will of the public, foreign military threats, and international relations.

                So between your two idealized poles are a plethora of other real possibilities, some hint of which I’ve already outlined in my post above.

                I suppose a useful thought experiment would be to imagine yourself as President, and if in every case where your preferences differ from the President’s actual decisions and policies, consider how outcomes would have been different if the President had actually done exactly what you prefer. Do you have confidence that you understand enough and have enough information to predict what the outcomes and all the effects of those changes would be? Both short term and long term? Are you confident that you know and understand all the information the President had available to him in making his choices? Personally, I don’t believe I know enough to say with confidence that I could have done better than he has done, or if an idealized President who is a political doppelgänger of myself would have actually achieved better overall results.

                In my book there is some advantage to playing small ball and making concrete progress in small increments, rather than swinging for the fences and striking out. Often slow and steady wins while a dramatic attempt to win everything in one fell swoop loses.

                Certainly using my personal preferences and hunches I can formulate criticisms and moral arguments for why I think Obama should have done things differently in a number of instances, but I can’t formulate detailed arguments that take into account all economic and political factors to satisfactorily demonstrate with certainty that the overall results of applying my preferences would have been better. This is because I don’t know how to predict all of the reactions, side effects, and other unintended consequences. But I can imagine some of these if I try, and that is enough to appreciate the extraordinary difficulty of the position the President is in. My assessment of him as a President is tempered by that consideration. I don’t judge him against my personal ideals, but against the practical possibilities he faces.

                There really is no room in a diverse pluralistic democratic system to get upset if a leader fails to live up to 100% of one’s own personal preferences as a voting citizen. Reality forces us to accept a mixed bag of results as the best we can do, and we have to live with that. Patient consistent effort toward long term goals works better than a quick burst of change in this complex political environment.

              • Posted January 11, 2013 at 11:38 am | Permalink

                Jeff, many of Obama’s worst misdeeds he’s done all by himself, without any prompting from Republicans, with no negative consequences to himself if he hadn’t done them.

                I’m referring, of course, to the targeted “extra-judicial” (i.e., illegal) assassination (i.e., murder) of at least one American citizen and countless foreign civilians; dramatically expanding the TSA to the point that they’re now groping people at sporting events; expanding warrantless wiretaps; and so on.

                Those are not the actions of a bleeding-heart liberal. They’re the actions of a tyrant, in every definition of the word from the eighteenth century to today.

                If you don’t believe me, re-read the Declaration of Independence, paying special attention to the litany of complaints against King George.

                That Obama has a smile on his face when he’s going these things, that he’s reassuring you that he doesn’t really mean it, that he’s doing it for your own good, that it’s in the best interests of national security, that he doesn’t have any other choice, that Republicans would do even more and he’s just barely holding them off as it is…that’s all meaningless bullshit, aka “spin.”

                b&

              • Jeff Johnson
                Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

                Yes, but there are further considerations, namely the attempt of the Christmas or “underwear” bomber, and the pressure the President feels as the man responsible for protecting the lives of innocent Americans from such an attack. It is no secretly that Awlaki publicly advocates indiscriminate murder of Americans, and he is known to have directly inspired Hassan who carried out the murders at Ft. Hood, and the failed “Times Square” bomber. These are some pretty damning facts traceable to Awlaki and his public intentional program to murder or inspire others to murder Americans.

                Obama has weighed the constitutional factors you complain about against the possible outcome of leaving Awlaki alone, because arrest and prosecution did not seem possible. Our President taught constitutional law for ten years, so there is probably little if anything you could teach him on that subject. His decisions in this area are probably strongly affected by his role as a father, and there are millions of parents who are glad and relieved that he thinks this way.

                I don’t see tyrant at work. I see a human being balancing impossible priorities and making gut wrenching trade-offs that are way above my pay grade, and even above the pay grade of any richly reimbursed CEO. If he extended the kill list to go after John Boehner or Rush Limbaugh, or the Koch brothers, or any other Americans who happened to displease the President, I’d see a tyrant at work who would need to be arrested and impeached immediately.

                I also recognize, and I believe he does as well, that he has set a disturbing and possibly dangerous trend, and that having some kind of FISA type judicial review for such actions would be more consistent with American political principles and instincts. I support this wholeheartedly. I will be shocked if we don’t get to that point sometime in the future. My gut feeling is that it is far more likely that the disturbing post-9/11 trends will be reigned in moving forward rather than spiral out of control into tyrannical dictatorship. If I believed that opposite, I might feel panicked about this subject, but for now I simply don’t have such a fear.

                I fear we may be getting on Jerry’s nerves with this lengthy discussion. I think I’ve expressed all that I can about this, so I won’t follow up again. In summary, I don’t disagree with your complaints, but I disagree on what they represent. I see them as consequences of the messy chaos of reality butting up against abstract principles, a kind of regrettable noise or unavoidable imperfection caused by competing and contradictory priorities, not as an evil tyranny or a dire threat of the collapse of our entire constitutional system.

              • Posted January 11, 2013 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

                Tyrants always have the best interests of the common good at heart. It’s just that they exclude certain people from the common, and they cite exceptional circumstances to justify why those people are not deserving of the full measure of rights. Even Hitler followed that pattern; he did what he did out of love of the Fatherland and to protect it from the pernicious subterfuge of the Jews.

                A civilized people is a people of laws, not of protection. Better to die protecting the rights of all than to live by denying others their rights.

                We let criminals go when the police violate their Miranda rights, even when everybody is sure that they really are bad people. We do this because the harm the criminals might cause if we let them go is less than the harm that police will cause if they aren’t forced to always follow procedure even when a shortcut is obvious.

                Just as it’s a heinous crime when police mete out justice to those they catch red-handed, it’s an even more heinous crime when the military does it.

                That’s why we have the Constitution in the first place, because we’ve been through all this before, and it’s always ended very, very badly. Every time in history.

                If that’s not sufficient empirical evidence in favor of the rule of law over expediency, then what is?

                b&

  14. Jeff Johnson
    Posted January 5, 2013 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    I like that a famous person such as Maher is getting this message out. But I kind of sided with Mick LaSalle’s point of view when I saw the film.

    I guess ridicule only goes so far, and at some point I lost patience with Maher’s attitude of mockery toward people who sadly just don’t know any better.

    Imagine a film that spends lot’s of time interviewing people about how little math they know, and mocking them for being so stupid and uneducated. It just wouldn’t fly.

    There is a way to to handle the topic, mock the ideas and beliefs of religion, without mocking the people who are unable to see outside of the cultural bubble they’ve been born and raised into. This would be much harder than what Maher has done.

    • Scott near Berkeley
      Posted January 5, 2013 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps Mick LaSalle is mistaken. Perhaps the intent is to not convert people to a different way of thinking, but to show them an example: “Were I to be stopped and questioned about my beliefs, are they supportable? Would I be shown to be a fool? How can I justify what I believe?”

      Staying in a “cultural bubble” in this day and age is =exactly= why Maher fears we may end up extinct from some suicidal+nuclear scenario.

      If you are in a “cultural bubble”, know it, get out of it.

    • Hayden Scott
      Posted January 5, 2013 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

      I think your hypothetical film on math would work if the interviewees were shown not to have tried to learn, if shown to be proud of their resulting ignorance and if shown to be making important life decisions on the basis of their ignorance.

      Your suggested way of handling the topic involves giving up on the very topic Maher wanted to cover: people. He’s not solely interested in the abstract “ideas and beliefs of religion”; he absolutely wants to show you “the people who are unable to see outside of the cultural bubble they’ve been born and raised into.”

      In my view, his mocking tone is appropriate to the arrogance of his subjects (which they all appear to possess regardless of whether they are educated or not).

  15. Jeremy Nel
    Posted January 5, 2013 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    The nice thing about all the ‘famous’ New Atheists™, is that they all stress slightly different aspects of the basic arguments. Everyone emphasises how poor the religious arguments are, but Dawkins underlines the contrast with science’s “Magic of Reality”, Hitchens stressed God’s totalitarianism and the hypocrisy of his earthly representatives, Harris highlights the power of bad ideas to wreak mental and physical destruction, etc. …

    Maher concentrates most of his firepower on showing just how batshit crazy religious beliefs actually are. He’s quite effective at waking you from the “anaesthetic of familiarity”*, whereby we forget how insane these ideas are purely because we’ve been surrounded by so many people believing them for so long.

    I like it!

    * ©Dawkins

    • Hayden Scott
      Posted January 5, 2013 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

      Spot on!

  16. Sastra
    Posted January 5, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    One of the great values of this movie is that it makes fun of religion — all religion — — and it played in mainstream theaters. It was aimed at the general public.

    That’s actually pretty huge.

    • gluonspring
      Posted January 5, 2013 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

      That is big. NOTHING like this existed in my world growing up. Not on TV, not in movies, not in books I could find at the local book store (books existed, of course, but you had to go to a library to pick up something that critiqued religion, not the local bookstore). I didn’t have access to any such things as a teenager when I started to question my own crazy religion. If a movie like this existed back then, along with all the other resources we have now, it might have saved me years of additional time in the wilderness.

      The power of hushed voices and unaddressed questions is immense, and anything that shines light anywhere, whether a gentle glow of a soft light or the bright glare of a harsh light, it is a good thing.

  17. Brygida Berse
    Posted January 5, 2013 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never seen this movie in its entirety, only small bits. Based on that, I thought it was a tad too shallow, but I’m willing to give it another try.

    Unfortunately, for some reason, the Polish subtitles in the Vimeo version are out of sync with the movie. Being a native speaker of Polish, I find it sufficiently distracting to make it impossible to watch. And the YouTube version is not available in the USA.

    I’m too lazy to rent/buy it, but I’m looking forward to reading the opinions of other people at this site.

    • MadScientist
      Posted January 5, 2013 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

      The movie is much better than what the trailers might lead one to believe and I think it’s worth watching, but it’s still not a great movie.

  18. MadScientist
    Posted January 5, 2013 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    I guess Mick LaSalle never saw the movie; I wonder if he got his review from The Lighthouse or some similar piece of garbage offering salvation. There were funny bits which of course were outnumbered by the dull bits, but I remember thinking that Maher seemed rather subdued and not quite the brash persona which he promotes on his TV show. I also remember thinking “this show’s not going to win any awards” and I was a bit surprised that Maher got a Dawkins award for creating the film.

  19. papalinton
    Posted January 5, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    Griff
    “He doesn’t go after religion in his comedy tho’ does he?”

    Have a look HERE and HERE.

    Hilarious.

    • Griff
      Posted January 5, 2013 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      Actually, you are right – I have seen some of his standup (via YouTube) and here I do find him funny.

      • papalinton
        Posted January 5, 2013 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

        :o)

  20. hankstar
    Posted January 5, 2013 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    I think the film’s lack of seriousness is due to the combination of Maher’s general irreverent schtick and the same of the director, former Seinfeld writer Larry Charles. Charles directed the Sacha Baron Cohen films Borat and Bruno, both of which are built on a foundation of ridiculing propriety and various social norms via absurdity and ambush. Not works of genius by any stretch (though Borat had its shining moments) but you can see why Religulous plays out the way it does.

  21. wildhog
    Posted January 5, 2013 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    The last five minutes or so is on youtube and Ive watched it many times. It starts at the same point as the verbiage quoted above, and the dramatic footage really adds something to the effect. Glad to have a text transcript now.

  22. SM
    Posted January 5, 2013 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

    Some might be interested in this interview on the CBC with Maher and Larry Charles

  23. Posted January 5, 2013 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    Speaking of religulosity: –

    The Anglican Church has just ruled that gay priests in civil unions may become Bishops – if they stay celibate. (This has not appeased the conservative Anglicans.)

    As Bill Clinton should have asked, “What is sex?” Does snuggling count?

    • steve oberski
      Posted January 5, 2013 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

      I’m alright with that as long as the hetero Anglican priests stay celibate as well and are preapared to prove it.

      • Posted January 7, 2013 at 2:25 am | Permalink

        I think they call what they’re doing “loving the sinner but hating the sin”. They avoid discriminating against GLBT Bishops (no T Bishops yet, but how could we tell?) by reason of orientation, and hence coming into conflict with human rights legislation, but can still express their homophobia by intruding into the Bishops’ bedrooms.

        (I think the Catholic Church does allow married convert priests to stay married – since it forbids divorce – but they must become celibate if they are to stay priests.)

        • Posted January 7, 2013 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

          Shuggy, technically, celibate means unmarried by the Church’s definition. So, no, they converted priests do not have to be celibate if they were married at the time of conversion. The odd thing is that the Church allows them to serve as priests, but they have a shortage.

      • gravelinspector
        Posted January 9, 2013 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

        and are preapared to prove it.

        That raises all sorts of eye-watering possibilities, from the perspective of “penetrator” and “penetratee”. My mind’s eye sees something derived from a “Prince Albert”, but with … protrusions. Bidirectional protrusions.
        However, it is a racing certainty that any such effective device is already in production, for use by people. Voluntarily. They probably have gold-coated versions and deluxe versions coated with coarse silicon carbide.
        I’ll ask some people I know. It’s safer than searching the web. NSFW, and definitely NSFH either!

    • gravelinspector
      Posted January 9, 2013 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      As Bill Clinton should have asked, “What is sex?”

      Errr, doesn’t that depend on the meaning of what the word “is” is?

  24. Posted January 5, 2013 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    It’s a fantastic film; I’ve watched it many times and thoroughly enjoy it every time.

    I’m quite surprised some readers are annoyed by him apparently mocking believers, to me they deserve what they get. For 2000 years religious beliefs were absolutely safe from being challenged, and given the numbers of non-believers that have been tortured or killed in the name of religion, a bit of mockery is more than justified.

    It’s not just that believers are ignorant – they are proud to be ignorant and can’t even consider alternatives. Drawing attention to that is exactly what’s required.

    Once again, a sad part for me was hearing the odious Ken Ham and realizing he’s Australian. We’re not all like him thankfully.

  25. Posted January 5, 2013 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    I’m thankful for people like Maher in the world. Sometimes, there’s no ‘delicate’ way of expressing a simple truth.

    Noses will always get bent out of shape, delicate toes will always feel stepped on, and delicate sensibilities will always feel offended.

    What was that comment Steven Fry made about ‘being offended’? Here it is, and I quote:

    “It’s now very common to hear people say ‘I’m rather offended by that’ as if that gives them certain rights; it’s actually nothing more… it’s simply a whine. It’s no more than a whine. ‘I find that offensive,’ it has no meaning, it has no purpose, it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that,’ well so fucking what?” -Stephen Fry

  26. Dan
    Posted January 5, 2013 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    He should have defined religion better, so people can make the connection of how it can be dangerous much easier.

  27. matt
    Posted January 5, 2013 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    i usually share this picture when this movie comes up in conversation. this was handed to me in austin, texas. i went to see this movie at the Alamo Drafthouse. i laughed in the cashier’s face when i got handed this while buying my ticket. another one of their theaters handed this out with the bill at the end of the movie. either way, this caused me to cut back my movie going at this place. utterly ridiculous.

    • Sastra
      Posted January 5, 2013 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

      This ‘disclaimer’ is interesting. How weak and feeble the religious are, that they must whine so pathetically over “editing” which fails to show religion as basically positive, and interviews which fail to be properly “courteous and tolerant.”

      ALL religions have a primary spiritual tenet of peace. So what? Because of the nature of faith, this primary spiritual tenet can be interpreted in a way that looks like the exact opposite of peace to the heathens, heretics, and unbelievers.

      It’s been a while since I saw the movie, but at the time I thought Maher was much more fair and gentle than I had been lead to believe. It would be interesting to go through the movie and write down every instance where he recognizes some good in religion or in the believers. There are probably many such examples: he follows them up with a serious problem, though. Which, in the eyes of the religious, wipes them out.

    • Dave
      Posted January 5, 2013 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      I wonder what they handed out when Mel Gibson’s travesty was playing?

      • Sastra
        Posted January 5, 2013 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

        Church flyers?

      • Diane G.
        Posted January 5, 2013 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

        Barf bags.

      • gravelinspector
        Posted January 9, 2013 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

        Blindfolds?
        And ear plugs?

  28. marcusa1971
    Posted January 5, 2013 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    Been there, done that, bought the tee shirt. Yes, I’ve seen Religulous a couple of times now and enjoyed it.
    And that second quote about Maher being obnoxious in the film was complete BS. I thought he was actually very polite to the believers, actually giving them the chance to explain their views. Of course, that just gives them enough rope to hang themselves with.

  29. marycanada FCD
    Posted January 5, 2013 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

    Just finished watching the movie. Found it disconcerting how the muslims downplayed the hysterical reactions of fundamentalists by referring to it as “just politics”. If that’s so, then they’re definitely fair game and they shouldn’t receive special status in Western societies.

    Unlike some who have commented already, I don’t feel sorry for those who appear to be too ignorant to know better. They seemed to be very satisfied with their lives and not interested in exploring any alternatives. So be it.

    I enjoy Maher’s style and his sarcastic tenacity towards religion. Great soundtrack!

  30. kelskye
    Posted January 5, 2013 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

    I found the last 5 minutes a real non sequitur to the rest of the film. “Look how stupid this is, oh and by the way look at how dangerous it can be”. I suppose were meant to take its ridiculousness as the reason for why its danger matters? No idea.

    Aside from that quibble, I did enjoy the film. Wasn’t very informative, but it did make for light entertainment in a largely inoffensive way.

  31. Matt
    Posted January 5, 2013 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

    The basic problem I have with this idea, that we have to remove religion to survive, or as Maher says, “The irony of religion is that because of its power to divert man to destructive courses, the world could actually come to an end. The plain fact is, religion must die for mankind to live.”, is that it confuses proximate and ultimate reasons of causation.

    Religion is just one mode by which people can be made, or choose, to do horribly destructive things, to themselves or others. It has no patent on it. So far as I know the closest we have come to destroying ourselves was the Cuban Missile Crisis. That was not a religiously motivated event.

    We may destroy ourselves because of the combination, or fruits, of our evolutionary past (e.g. social primates, “smart,” loyalty to groups/”tribal”/kin selection, certain cognitive biases, etc.) and current (and future!) social/cultural/economic/historical/etc. conditions (e.g. development of technology, nation-states, locations of resources overlain, and NOT overlain, with the location of societies, etc.). Saying the religion is going to destroy the world unless we get rid of it is a bit like blaming the Rwandan genocide on the existence of machetes. I think one has to take a broader view of humanity and recognize the commonalities underlying our behavior. I wouldn’t shed a tear if religion went away, but I also wouldn’t be naive enough to think that its extinction had really made us any safer.

    • Jeff Johnson
      Posted January 6, 2013 at 8:07 am | Permalink

      The idea that we are doomed by religion, and would live in utopia without it, is pretty silly. It is true that religion can make good people do terrible things, which is not the same as saying all religious people do bad things or that non-religious people can’t do bad things.

      Letting go of religion and its false assumptions is just one step forward in the evolution of humanity, but many other challenges and dangers remain.

  32. Posted January 6, 2013 at 4:56 am | Permalink

    Jerry, You should buy the DVD. The extras are even more hilarious. Oh I have UK and USA version because UK version didn’t have the extras.

  33. Red
    Posted January 6, 2013 at 8:51 am | Permalink

    I once considered watching this movie, but the more I read on it, the less I wanted to, especially as I learned more about Maher himself (the anti-vax stance, the misogyny, etc.). There are already comments about how he used similar deceitful tactics to those used for Expelled, but one reason I haven’t seen is that he actually seems not to have done much research.
    I saw a clip of the film a while back; the one with all the pre-NT myths that sound remarkably similar to the story of Jesus. However, doing some simple reading, I found that at least two of the three examples cited are completely misrepresented. Very little is known about Mithra, and everything that is known has no similarity to Jesus, and the myth of Horus is also drastically different. And considering I found that out with little effort, I find myself skeptical of how much Maher knows when he got so much so wrong for a feature-length documentary.

    • steve oberski
      Posted January 6, 2013 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      Any other movies that you haven’t watched that you’d like to do a review on ?

      • Neil Schipper
        Posted January 6, 2013 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

        s/he had reasons to distrust the filmmaker, and, s/he found info that was easy to refute in a clip. There’s nothing wrong with red’s comment. It does not claim to be a review of a movie.

        Your comment, however, could do with retraction and apology.

        • steve oberski
          Posted January 6, 2013 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

          Sounds like you should write the reviews for the movies that Red has not bothered to watch but apparently has the time and energy to comment on as you seem to have special insight into the inner workings of Red’s mind.

          • Neil Schipper
            Posted January 7, 2013 at 7:22 am | Permalink

            emotion-driven denial

          • Red
            Posted January 7, 2013 at 7:43 am | Permalink

            I don’t see how mentioning the problems with Maher and pointing out certain factual inaccuracies in a movie he was a big part of to illustrate why I never bothered watching said movie constitutes a review.

  34. ekinodum
    Posted January 6, 2013 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    I find I often agree with Maher on many things, especially political, but even when we agree, I am suspicious of how he arrived at his (correct) conclusions.Possibly because he is also an ant-vaxxer, belives in astrology (allegedly) etc. I don’t recall exactly what it was that led me to this conclusion, but nowadays I make a crack about it:
    “I often agree with Maher, but he needs to show his work”
    As an example here, I’m impressed by the transcript of Maher’s movie summary, but it is better reading it than hearing it, and I am totally on-board with Mick LaSalle’s review.

  35. Gunner KEE
    Posted January 6, 2013 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Maher says, “The plain fact is, religion must die for mankind to live.” This, I feel, is misleading. I very much subscribe to the concept of our culture that Daniel Quinn has put forth in his excellent books “Ishmael” and “The Story of B”. I can’t claim to understand it fully or know it completely, I am neither a scientist nor an anthropologist, or anything of an official capacity, sort of like Maher without an HBO audience, but what I have taken from Quinn is that civilization, our culture of ‘Takers’, has ‘symptoms’ that are a result of our worldwide civilized society and the moving away from the natural state of man as just one species on the planet. Those symptoms include hunger, pestilence, war, crime, and organized religion. So, in that context, when Maher says religion must die for mankind to survive, what he means is that for civilization, or our culture of ‘Takers’, to survive, religion must die. This simply can’t occur. Civilization and religion go hand in hand, just as civilization and war, civilization and crime, perhaps civilization and technology, go hand in hand. If civilization were to go away, religion would go away, but man could survive, as it did before civilization began approx. 11,000 years ago. I’m not sure that’s what we want because it means returning to nature, and nature is tough, to put it mildly. But, war (war is not the same as territorial raids and the like, where tribes clash and a few lives are lost, but boundaries are established as a result), crime, religion, et al, would go away. I often struggle with that thought, that concept, that reality, because I do feel it’s reality. If civilization were to end and man were to continue on, then we would be reduced from over 8 billion (yes, 8 billion. We will reach 12 billion well before the year 2040, so I am confident the world population clock is quite likely currently behind in the count) to 10 million or so, quite likely. It would look like “The Walking Dead” for a while, without the zombies, eventually returning to tribal man, Native America before the arrival of European explorers, etc. I don’t know if this could happen, or even should happen. If it doesn’t, and civilization remains on its present course, then by 2040 we’ll be at 12 billion individuals on the planet, and quite likely by 2070 we’ll be at 24 billion. Can the planet sustain that? I doubt it. What will happen? I don’t know. Armageddon without the religious aspects, just all out war? I certainly couldn’t say.

    I’ve stated quite a bit here. Just reflecting upon the reading of 2 of Daniel Quinn’s books and trying to reconcile it to my observations of reality, or perceived reality. I am nowhere near smart enough to know if there are better explanations out there, I just haven’t come across anything that makes me understand reality differently. I do know religion isn’t an answer, and have known that most of my life, even if taking awhile to admit it.

    I would love to discuss these concepts with someone such as Mr. Coyne, as well as other concepts. I doubt he has the time or inclination to do so, but just in case, my email has been identified with this comment.

  36. eric
    Posted January 6, 2013 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

    Haven’t seen Religulous but LaSalle is one of those movie critics who is so bad he’s good. Meaning: you can accurately judge whether a movie is worth seeing by reading his review…then seeing exactly those movies he dislikes.

  37. John Kelly
    Posted January 7, 2013 at 1:41 am | Permalink

    I think Maher paints with too broad a brush. Like bacteria, religions can be harmful or beneficial. A religion that discourages critical thinking and promotes bigotry harms both its adherents and the world around them; a religion that encourages independent thought and tolerance can give people spiritual comfort, a sense of community, and a network for charitable work. I think pride of place here goes to “covenantal” religions like modern Unitarian Universalism, where atheists, monotheists, and polytheists together repect the dignity of all people.

    • steve oberski
      Posted January 7, 2013 at 7:30 am | Permalink

      Religion by definition “discourages critical thinking and promotes bigotry harm[ing] both its adherents and the world around them”.

      If there are institutions out there that do not meet this criteria but still self identify as religion then they are just not being honest with themselves and others.

      This brings to mind John Shelby Spong, a retired American bishop of the Episcopal Church. I have read a number of his books, and as far as I can tell he espouses none of the irrationality, bigotry and sectarianism of religion in general and xtianity specifically but appears to be enamoured with the ceremony and ritual of religion, and to all extents and purposes seems to preside over a tax exempt Mr. Dressup show for adults.

      And good for them I say, as long as we all realize that this is a just a socially sanctioned fantasy and role playing game acted out in the public area.

      The problem is that, as Sam Harris points out, these basically decent but confused people provide a core of respectability to the more virulent forms of religion and helps to insulate them from proper criticism in the public marketplace of ideas.


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