[ExI] What's wrong with Maher's Religulous?

Fred C. Moulton moulton at moulton.com
Thu Apr 9 22:02:42 UTC 2009

On Thu, 2009-04-09 at 14:30 -0700, John Grigg wrote:
> I have not yet seen Religulous (I definitely plan to...) but some
> critics have said Maher definitely "stacked the deck" in editing to
> generally only show religious people in his film who were not
> articulate and came across badly/comically. 

As I have said previously these critics are missing the point about what
the movie is about.  It was never intended to be a rigorous intellectual

Consider if you saw an advertisement of a movie called Mechaniculous.
You see that the movie is done by Bill Maher and that it is about auto
mechanics.  You would likely expect that it would be filming some of the
goofiest mechanics saying and doing silly things.  Maher would probably
make jokes about the auto mechanics.  That is the kind of movie I would
expect; I would not go to a Bill Maher movie about auto mechanics
expecting a documentary analysis of the latest types of fuel injectors,
the new types of training in these devices for auto mechanics and the
special methods that auto mechanics use when dealing with them.

Now it is possible to not enjoy the overall genre of the type of movie
that Bill Maher makes; that is a personal aesthetic matter.  But to
criticize a Bill Maher comedy spoof by the standards of serious
documentary makes the critic look like a clueless twit.

Look at the difference between the movie "Religulous" which is a comedy
spoof and the movie "Letting Go of God" which is an autobiographical
comedy.  Each deals with religion but are doing it is different ways and
neither of them is intended as a documentary on comparative religion.
So to criticize either one for not being a proper comparative religion
documentary is either silly or stupid.


>  The focus was on humor
> and "sticking it to the religious believer," rather than having an
> even moderately intelligent/enlightened (which could still be funny)
> discussion.
> John
> On 4/9/09, Fred C. Moulton <moulton at moulton.com> wrote:
> >
> > On Thu, 2009-04-09 at 13:52 -0500, Max More wrote:
> >> I had been wondering whether to rent Religulous, having read some
> >> things that made me doubt it would be worthwhile. This review
> >> confirmed those doubts:
> >> http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php?/site/earticle/6447/
> >>
> >> Any comments from those who have watched it?
> >
> > I saw the movie in a theater.  There are parts of the movie that are
> > very funny and some that are not.  Some of the funniest parts are not
> > when Bill Maher is making a joke but rather when Bill Maher lets people
> > just be themselves.  The scene in the office of the member of the US
> > Congress is very funny and that scene alone was worth the price of
> > admission to the theater.
> >
> > My recommendation is rent the movie and enjoy the funny parts; ignore
> > the other parts.  Just adjust expectations according; it is not a great
> > movie, it is just an occasionally funny movie.  By the way the movie
> > "Letting Go of God" by Julia Sweeney is much, much funnier and much more
> > insightful.  Bill Maher is doing one thing and Julia Sweeney is doing a
> > different thing.  I enjoyed the Julia Sweeney movie more.
> >
> > As for the review by Brendan O'Neill.  I was rather disappointed.  It is
> > not much of a review rather it is an article in which the O'Neill goes
> > on about what he terms "new Atheists" and there are a few remarks thrown
> > in about the movie.  And the remarks about the movie seems to have
> > missed the point.  O'Neill seems to be at best only vaguely aware of
> > what Bill Maher was trying to do.  O'Neill goes on about the "new
> > Atheists" (usually considered as Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens and
> > sometimes Stenger) yet only quotes Hitchens.  And O'Neill goes on about
> > how the humancentricity of religion and claims that this is what
> > Dawkins, Dennett et al really hate about religion.  Well to put it
> > bluntly O'Neill does not know what he is talking about when it comes to
> > religion.  As for "new Atheists" one wonders if he has ever read Dawkins
> > or Harris since he clearly does not understand them.
> >
> > My suggestion: Skip the review and see "Letting Go of God" and if that
> > is not available see "Religulous".  Just have the correct expectations.
> >
> > Fred
> >
> >> Max
> >>
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