Bill Maher, Steve Burg, and Andrew Newberg star in a film written by Maher and directed by Larry Charles.

Bill Maher in <em>Religulous</em>.

During the course of this documentary, when interview subjects take umbrage at narrator Bill Maher‘s irreverent and sometimes offensive queries, Maher insists he is merely posing questions about religion. But Maher has a clear agenda: He wants to know why so many people maintain faith in religions that, in his view, strain credulity and have outlived their usefulness. Skeptics of organized religion will probably find Religulous highly entertaining-and sometimes educational-but fair and balanced it is not.

Subtitles and video clips are inserted, with humorous effect, into footage of interviews with believers of various faiths around the globe-but typically, interviewees are allowed to cut their own rhetorical throats: Senator Mark Pryor (D-AK) jokes that you don’t have to pass an IQ test to become a senator, before blanching when he realizes what he’s just said. But Maher picks easy targets, like an un-credentialed preacher who lives high off his congregants’ donations and stumbles when he tries to quote Jesus’ admonition about the difficulty of rich men ascending to heaven. Although Maher seems to spare nobody, one suspects that he doesn’t interview any religious social moderates who emphasize good works because it would have been harder to lampoon those people who believe religion is more about feeding the poor than decrying homosexuality.

And Maher betrays his own blind spots, like making the facile association between Islam and violence, and implying that a world without religion would be more peaceful-as if people wouldn’t invent other reasons to hate, fear, and kill each other.


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