Miscellaneous musings from the perspective of a lefty (both senses) atheist with a warped sense of humor.

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Location: Madison, WI, United States

I am a geek, but I do have some redeeming social skills. I love other people's dogs, cats, and kids. Snow sucks, but I'm willing to put up with it just to live in Madison.

Friday, October 03, 2008


Just came back from seeing Bill Maher's religion-bashing film Religulous (a word of his own invention, starting out as "religion" and ending up as "ridiculous"). As an atheist, I found it satisfying in its thoro trashing of the many stupidities of many religions, but it wasn't as funny as I'd hoped. Most of the chuckles came from a whole lot of quick cuts to scenes from old movies as a kind of sidebar commentary on what was happening on screen. This is a technique akin to what Stephen Colbert does on his "The Word" segment on his fake-pundit show: He'll say something in his persona of a right-wing blowhard, and the right side of the screen will flash a short satiric comment on it. Maher also uses the technique of subtitling (like "No, it's not!") to point out when somebody on screen is telling a whopper.

There's probably no way that this movie is going to convince anyone who's deeply religious that their own beliefs are ridiculous. Other people's, yes, but not their own. Maher admits as much near the end, when he overtly pitches anti-religious people to get off their butts and start making waves, and moderately religious people to take a closer look at their "evidence" and their mirrors.

His final admonition, accompanied by images of nuclear explosions, is "Grow up or die.".

Interestingly, he doesn't describe himself as an atheist, only as a doubter, but I think he probably conforms to the definition of "one without belief in any gods". Does he know there aren't any? He forthrightly admits he doesn't. That just makes him an agnostic, one who is not positive about his opinions. But he's still an atheist.

Would I recommend the film? Sure, if you're an atheist. It absolutely reinforces everything you believed about how religion is nuts for sure and often dangerous. It'll also give you some sense of Maher's sympathy for the people he encounters. They all seem pretty nice, sincere, and harmless, except for the one ardent non-Zionist rabbi who's just nuts and whom Maher eventually walked out on. He laffs his way thru most of the movie, and good cheer goes a long way toward making something palatable. But in the 2 bookend scenes at Megiddo, he's dead serious.

I'd like it if everybody would see this movie, but it would make way too many people uncomfortable.

I hope it does at least as well as Ben Stein's Expelled, but, since it's not aimed at an audience of mindless sheep who'll pay anything for a little more reassurance, it probably won't.

Sadly, it didn't contain a single word about separation of church and state.


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