Sunday, March 8, 2009

Religulous Preaches to the Choir

Bill Maher, you disappoint me. I watched you on The Daily Show and The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson, promoting your movie Religulous as an intelligent documentary that pokes fun at religion by pointing out how otherwise rational people can believe the irrational stories of The Bible. I consider myself both a person of faith and a person of intelligent thought and logic. I looked forward to seeing how you would challenge people like me to explain their beliefs in a book that says a man lived in the belly of a whale and came out alive. This is not what you did. You did not interview what I, or I believe most, would call "normal" or "intelligent" people. You talked to extremists.

You went to the south and picked out the type of uneducated hicks that makes us intelligent folk cringe. You went to a trucker's chapel and expected truckers to be able to answer complex theological questions. No offense to the truckers, but a group of southern truckers doesn't exactly represent the "normal" church-goers I grew up with in California. You picked extremists knowing they would be easy targets and would make for funny clips in your film. I wouldn't fault you for that if you hadn't promoted your film as thought-provoking and intelligent. It's not. It's comedy. It's quite pathetic, actually.
I know you are an arrogant man, and your arrogance sells your comedy, but you didn't even give these people a chance to talk. You treated them with complete disrespect. You gave some respect to the scientist who believes in The Bible, but still, if you actually let him explain his beliefs, you didn't show that part in your film. The rich, bling-wearing minister who used to be in 1970’s soul group is not a "normal" person. How many "normal" people have had a chart-topping song? The man who claims to be the second-coming of Christ and the people at Holy Land Experience are good for a laugh, but their ignorance is not going to open anyone's mind.

Why didn't you interview the ministers with doctorates not only in theology but also in subjects like philosophy and history? Why didn't you interview the young 20something who grew up in the church, graduated college, and is able to balance her beliefs in an unseen God with her beliefs in tested science? Most of us aren't talking in tongues every Sunday at church. Some of us believe the stories in The Bible happened as written, and some of us believe they were written to exemplify morals. But did you talk to us and ask us to explain why we believe in Jesus as savior, but don't necessary believe the stories in The Bible are meant to be taken literally? No, Mr. Maher, you did not.

What bothers me most about your film is your hypocrisy. I've watched you for years and you claim you "don't know" what the truth is, and you're not an atheist because you don't want to be as self-righteous as the religious folks who claim to know "for sure" that their beliefs are true. Yet, you sure don't act like an agnostic. If you "don't know" how can you then claim the Christians, the Mormons, the Scientologists, the Jews, and the Muslims are wrong? 

You conclude your film by pointing how these religions are completely detached from intelligent thought and rational thinking, so they should be laughed at. You in fact, ARE saying "you know." You may not have the full answer, but you're full of yourself enough to claim you know what isn't the answer. Isn't that just as bad as the Christian or Muslim who believes they know all other faiths are wrong? It is. It's the same thing. And by the way, most of us Christians don't believe we're the only ones who are right. 

My old minister had a saying, "I believe our way is the way, but it may not be the only way." This minister from middle-town America was open-minded enough to believe in something while not excluding the validity of the beliefs of others. Maybe if you could deflate that big head of yours, you could do the same.

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