Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Religulous

Several years ago, sometime in the early 90s as I recall, the woman news anchor on one of my local TV stations had her first child. After a brief maternity leave the newscaster returned with a bright, new focus: stories on motherhood, and raising children. A whole lotta them during the next few years. Stories that focused on working mothers, the high cost of day care, pediatric medicine, creating playgroups, etc.

The news-person had an epiphany, and felt compelled to share with us her insight. Not only did she see the world in a new light, she seemed to feel obligated, as someone newly enlightened, to spread the knowledge.

Bill Maher reminds me of that news anchor. And Religulous,
his movie about the absurdity of religion, reminds me of the stories the newswoman did on motherhood. Ad nauseum.

I'm an atheist, Bill. I get it. The talking snake from the Garden of Eden story is a goofy fable that many people accept as fact. In religious texts, God comes across as petty and jealous; if God really does exist and there are no other gods, there is no need for these feelings to occur. Humankind has created religious systems to satisfy our own needs, and justify our actions. As long as religion plays a significant role in political decisions, real progress across the world will be thwarted.

It's like Maher produced his movie from the index of The Atheist Handbook. His take is obvious, and repetitive. He's had an insight on the subject, and can't figure out why most of the world still hasn't.

There have been, and still are, periods of time I dwell on faith and religion. I'm a long-time atheist who would rather not be. I value spirituality, and consider myself spiritual even without faith in a supernatural being. Somewhere along the way (and I think it was while eating a couple hot dogs and having a root beer), I came to some peace over what appears to be a contradiction. Being spiritual is an individual perspective, based mostly in one's thoughtful action in the world. It matters little to me if there is or is not a God; what matters to me is having a positive connection to my community, and being respectful of the beliefs held by others.

That's what Maher is missing in this documentary: while his usual shtick is toned down for the flick (he only taunts country folks a couple of times) he has no real respect or appreciation for the beliefs of others. Beliefs that are, sometimes, thousands of years old and ingrained in cultures. Although Maher insists one of the main reasons he made Religulous was to explore his own doubt, his actions speak otherwise. His real motivation seems to beat the dead horse that is religious fundamentalism in a way that mocks not only the belief, but the person holding the belief.

That's not the way to learn from the experience of others. Maher is practicing exactly what he is preaching against: intolerance.

16 comments:

Hoyt said...

I agree with your take. I also found one of Maher's remarks incredibly offensive because it fostered a Jewish stereotype. Maher likely believes that because he's "half Jewish" that he can make cracks about Jewish stereotypes. And I thought he was smarter than that.

Stanton said...

Unlike Hoyt, I don't think Maher is smarter than that. In fact, this movie confirmed for me that he is what I have always thought him to be; a complete poser who derives his sense of what is right and wrong from the rantings of others: Mostly from his equally mindless guests on "Politically Incorrect", who came on the show because they were bombastic, not enlightened.

His current rant against religion, or more correctly, against people who believe in god - any god - seems to be fueled by his desire to be accepted by his new-found group of friends, the militaristic atheists. I find this group just as threatening to humanity as religious zealots.

The movie is mean-spirited and made me, a person of faith, too defensive to hear whatever message it might have had for me. All I could hear was, "how can you be so stupid?"

For me, religion simply provides a vocabulary with which I can speak about spiritual realities. Someone denigrating the vocabulary doesn't threaten my belief in the realities, but it doesn't make me like them very much.

The Film Geek said...

Hoyt: I think he thinks he was being an equal opportunity offender. Like you, I think he was just offensive.

Stanton: Tolerance and accpetance does seem to be a good thing, most times.

The Film Geek said...

acceptance, even.

SagaciousHillbilly said...

The only thing worse than listening to some random granola chewer rant about religion would be watching that arrogant pompous moron Bill Mayer rant about religion.
Funny how it's OK to rant about religion as long is it's not about MY religion!
Now, back to my blog where I've got some important arrogant pompous ranting to do. . .

Suzy said...

Well said, geeky! I also have difficulty listening to a message given by someone on a rampage. For my part, I feel trapped in the middle of my sister's (angry) atheism and my parents' (ultra) conservativism. Why can't we all just get along?!?

Jackie said...

Stanton = 1
Filmy = 0

The Film Geek said...

Jackie: WTF? I gotta read Stanton's comment again, I guess. I thought he and I were in agreement.

Stanton said...

I think Jackie just likes me better. Probably because I'm not a godless heathen. Like you.

I mean, you are OK right now, Geek, but that whole burning in hell thing is gonna be a real buzzkill.

But for the record, I kinda thought we were in agreement too.

The Film Geek said...

Jackie does like you better. I could tell that one day we all met for hot dogs in Charleston. When I put ketchup on mine, I could see Jackie's look of disgust.

Jackie said...

Surely no one is implying that I didn't read that long, long post about Bill Nye and his religious beliefs. Because I did...really.

And just so yall know strike means strike and through means through. It's how I roll.

The Film Geek said...

I'm gonna pray for you, Jackie. :)

JDB said...

For the record, Bill won't identify as an atheist, as he thinks we're as obnoxious as the religious folks. That's the "militaristic" ones, I guess. In that sense, he doesn't even appear to have the strength of his own convictions.

There is a fine line between belittling people and making fun of their ideas and it's one Bill regularly crosses. To be fair, I do it, too, sometimes. I tend to give him a pass because (a) he frequently makes me laugh and (b) it adds to the breaking down of the idea that religious beliefs are off limits from criticism.

Now Bill Nye, he's a complete douche. ;)

The Film Geek said...

I've heard him ID himself as an agnostic, and talk about his doubt. But folks I know who doubt listen to the ideas of others once in a while in order to work that doubt toward one end or the other of the spectrum.

primalscreamx said...

ohm....

Read Me said...

Thanks for the review, FG. You gave just what I need to know so that I know I don't want or need to watch it. The biggest problem I have with religious people is that they condemn others for not believing what they think is right, and it's no different if it's an atheist or agnostic person doing the same thing. Belittling and unfairly judging others because of their spiritual beliefs, or lack of spiritual beliefs, is malicious and soul-crushing. Luckily there are those of us, religious or not, who accept that all of us can have differing spiritual, or non-spiritual beliefs, and respect those differences. That premise might make a good movie.