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.