10/27/2008--Now I have seen Religulous, Bill Maher’s jeremiad against religion, and I loved it. I’m still thinking about the movie, but here are some impressions.
First, Maher is a religious seeker, in fact he may be a hallowed secularist. For all his professed atheism, he appreciates religion. He calls his doubt a luxury. If he were in a foxhole, he would be a believer and he has called upon God in the past. Maher certainly loves Jesus, who functions for him as the gold standard of human behavior and comportment. If you were a Christian, you would want all Christians to care as much for Jesus as Maher does.
Second, the biggest threats to human welfare that Maher identifies—nuclear weapons and pollution—are in no sense products of religious conduct. They are products of the secular reason Maher champions. Maybe religious people are willing to blow humanity up and endanger the planet because they believe in a “last day”, but secularists have done, and are doing these things now, without such a justification. Americans actually dropped two atomic weapons. No one else has done so. Why blame religion?
Finally, for now, there is nothing in the movie about how to live. Why should we sacrifice our own interests for the sake of others? The most moving scene in the movie is the crucifixion show at the biblical theme park in Florida. Maher wants to make fun, but the power of seeing good debased by evil speaks to us despite the silliness of the setting. Maher feels it too. He just does not want to admit it.