erik lundegaard

Two Minute Review: Religulous (2008)

In the aftermath of the 2004 election, where a simplistic absolutism had once again beaten a more profound relativism, I began to wonder what I was truly certain about in this world. It was almost a childish lament. Man, everyone’s having fun with absolutism but me.

I lived in an age of fundamentalism and here I was, an agnostic, and what could an agnostic, who is basically giving the shrug of all shrugs, be certain about?

Slowly it hit me. I was a fundamentalist of sorts. I was a fundamentalist agnostic. Because not only did I know that I didn’t know, but I know that you didn’t know either. And Billy Graham didn’t know. And the Dali Lama didn’t know. And Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t know. None of us knew. We all had guesses. And for most of the history of the known world, we’ve been killing each other over these guesses.

All of which is lead-in to Bill Maher’s new documentary, Religulous.

Let me state right out that I don’t find Maher off-the-wall funny — the way that, say, John Stewart and Stephen Colbert are off-the-wall funny. He’s hit-or-miss. He’s often too pleased with his own jokes, he’s a bit doctrinaire, particularly on the subject of religion, and his latest advice to Barack Obama — to punch more, to hit back mean and hard — may please Maher, and may even please me, and may even have helped win the 2004 election (which was more about the Iraq War and the War on Terror), but it’s bad advice on winning this election, which is more about the economy and extricating ourselves from the Thousand Crises of the Bush Administration.

So I didn’t expect much from Religulous. But man is it funny.

Maher is also a fundamentalist agnostic. He’s as dismissive of the certainty of atheists as he is of the certainty of fundamentalist Christians. He preaches the gospel of Doubt. That’s my kind of church.

Sure, some of his targets are easy. And he doesn’t really differentiate between the obvious charlatans of religion (a man who claims to be the second coming of Christ) and the people who appear to be fooling themselves (a homosexual who has gone straight and tries to straighten other homosexuals via Christianity) and the myriad true believers he meets. And he gets too certain and preachy in the end.

But the movie will make you laugh.

Posted at 08:59 AM on Wed. Oct 08, 2008 in category Movie Reviews - 2000s  
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Mister B wrote:

Actually, I've known for years that I'm a devout agnostic.

The hard part has been trying to figure out how to get believers to send me 10% of their annual income.
Comment posted on Wed. Oct 08, 2008 at 09:27 AM

Tim wrote:

I completely agree about Maher's hit-and-miss tastes; the least-interesting part of any episode of REAL TIME is the intro/monologue. But I am looking forward to this film.

To be fair to Maher, on his last show he did suggest that his desire for more slap-downs from Obama might be poor advice, given that the overall reaction to Obama's cool and civil demeanor has been positive. Personally, I think there's a way to do both -- keep one's civility while still calling McCain out for his dishonesty...
Comment posted on Wed. Oct 08, 2008 at 08:45 PM

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