Genre: Documentary (Comedy)
Starring: Bill Maher
Director: Larry Charles
For all my slandering of obvious American comedians, Maher stands out as one of the fewer that has the intelligence to speak out not through arrogance or defiance – though his atheist views have certainly earned him something of this reputation, a fact he doesn't really seem to argue against here – but for doing his research and genuinely trying to understand this gap in his understanding. As he puts it himself, “People who are otherwise so rational about everything else, and then they believe on Sunday they're drinking the blood of a two thousand year old god,” and it's an issue I've considered myself. More than anything else it's a lack of fundamental understanding of how they can believe in something so absolutely that they're blinded to the fact that they might not have everything right, and as he points out himself, believing you know everything can be used to justify even the most despicable of acts.
Perhaps the most convincing part of his argument is not in anything he says, but in what others have said and how little people of the same faith seem to disagree with. The Evangelical minister who describes Jesus as being a wealthy man dressed in the finest clothes, and as the voice of God he should do the same directly contradicting the Vatican priest who laughs when asked if the Palace is at odds with what's written in the bible exclaiming “Isn't that obvious?” Or the man devoted to teaching the history of the bible by creating a “Museum” depicting man co-existing with dinosaur, overtly juxtaposed with the scientific views of the Vatican Observatory, believing in the clear distinction between science and religion; cold fact and morality. There's also no shying away from Judaism and Islam, and whilst not as detailed – perhaps due to his own comparative lack of subject knowledge – the situation feels no different. It suggests that everyone needs to get together and get the details ironed out because it seems you can be in the same religion, claim to believe the same thing but ultimately have little beliefs in common.
But it isn't all another triumph for us non-believers, for despite his initial open minded premise, as the documentary continues he becomes gradually more insistent on pushing his own agenda. As interesting and persuasive as many of his arguments are; the notable differences in the opinion and interpretations of the various religions as they come across are all edited for results. Scenes of the Iraq war are cut in between discussions on the acceptance of Christianity; scenes of suicide bombers between Islam's similar arguments, all done for comic effect which whilst successful, would come across of derogatory towards those of faith. There are often two interviews cut together to show in black and white the difference in opinions held by members of the same faith, and it's not hard to see how his bias would seep through in the editing stages. Perhaps he knew no religious person would actually watch it with an open mind, so the usual pretext of trying to portray a rational argument for all as opposed to simply preaching to the choir he didn't feel applicable. But perhaps the most disappointing part of all of this is that he is intelligent and he does have a point; religion is ultimately destructive and has done far more bad than good. It's just a shame nobody of faith will endure his mocking long enough to receive that message.