Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bill Maher: Religulous


The documentary RELIGULOUS follows political humorist and author Bill Maher ("Real Time With Bill Maher," "Politically Incorrect") as he travels around the globe interviewing people about God and religion. Known for his astute analytical skills, irreverent wit and commitment to never pulling a punch, Maher brings his characteristic honesty to an unusual spiritual journey.

Directed by Larry Charles (BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN, "Curb Your Enthusiasm"), RELIGULOUS will mark Charles' first feature project since the critically acclaimed, wildly successful BORAT. Jonah Smith and Palmer West of Thousand Words (A SCANNER DARKLY, REQUIEM FOR A DREAM) are producing.
Religulous - Trailer

Before getting to the main quote of this post, I wanted to share something that Bill Maher said in the DVD commentary.

As the saying goes: Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. I think Maher is speaking mostly of the religious leaders in this regard, but it got me thinking that certitude itself is also a sense of “power.” Which may help to explain why not only the religious leaders, but their followers as well feel that they are infallible and can do no wrong:
Bill Maher: Well, because they were so nice, and you know, I mean that’s the next thing we get to as I recall, I don’t want to ruin it for anyone who’s watching this first.

Director Larry Charles: Jesus dies in the end.

Bill Maher: But we kind of get to this point about, you know, it’s so many nice people trying to do nice things, how the fuck does it become this burning and killing and stabbing and fucking?

Larry Charles: Because there’s enough people who use it to do not nice things.

Bill Maher: Because you can’t give people absolute power. That’s why our government is great, cause it has checks. You know, because people are schmucks.

Larry Charles: Human nature is…

Bill Maher: Right, horrible. So, to give people absolute power, you know, you’re infallible [the Pope], and you’re the priest, and you’re the--you know, of course they’re going to fuck kids, and burn, and start wars, and you know…

Larry Charles: And not pay the price for it.
This next monologue is part of a montage of clips from the show and quotes from the Bible and the Qur’an which I have not included for the sake of brevity. (libhom, you might like this one)

For the record, I do believe that some people may “know what happens when you die,” and “possess mental powers” that Bill Maher does not - be they few and far between, but I feel his take on the destructive effects of religious blind faith is dead on:
Bill Maher: It seems peaceful, but this is the very spot [Megiddo, Israel] where a lot of Christians believe life on Earth will end. The irony of religion is that because of its power to divert man to destructive courses, the world actually could come to an end.

The plain fact is, religion must die for mankind to live. The hour is getting very late to be able to indulge in having key decisions made by religious people, by irrationalists, by those who would steer the ship of state not by a compass, but by the equivalent of reading the entrails of a chicken. George Bush prayed a lot about Iraq, but he didn’t learn a lot about it.

Faith means making a virtue out of not thinking. It’s nothing to brag about. And those who preach faith, and enable and elevate it, are our intellectual slave holders, keeping mankind in a bondage, to fantasy and nonsense, that has spawned and justified so much lunacy and destruction. Religion is dangerous, because it allows human beings who don’t have all the answers to think that they do.

Most people would think it’s wonderful when someone says, “I’m willing, Lord. I’ll do whatever You want me to do.” Except that since there are no gods actually talking to us, that void is filled in by people with their own corruptions, and limitations and agendas. And anyone who tells you they know -- they just know what happens when you die, I promise you, you don’t. How can I be so sure? Because I don’t know, and you do not possess mental powers that I do not.

The only appropriate attitude for man to have about the big questions is not the arrogant certitude that is the hallmark of religion, but doubt. Doubt is humble, and that’s what man needs to be, considering that human history is just a litany of getting shit dead wrong.

This is why rational people, anti-religionists, must end their timidity and come out of the closet and assert themselves. And those who consider themselves only moderately religious, really need to look in the mirror and realize that the solace and comfort that religion brings you, actually comes at a terrible price.

If you belonged to a political party or a social club that was tied to as much bigotry, misogyny, homophobia, violence and sheer ignorance as religion is, you’d resign in protest. To do otherwise is to be an enabler, a Mafia wife, with the true devils of extremism that draw their legitimacy from the billions of their fellow travelers.

If the world does come to an end here or wherever, or if it limps into the future, decimated by the effects of a religion-inspired nuclear terrorism, let’s remember what the real problem was: That we learned how to precipitate mass death before we got past the neurological disorder of wishing for it.

That’s it. Grow up or die.

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