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Posts Tagged ‘religulous’

RadarOnline

Posted by dystressed on October 9, 2008

Radar Magazine has a great interview with Bill Maher.

I’d like to put in a plug for these people because they do a really good job in discussing the problems with Scientology and they profiled the Rational Response Squad. They also take stabs at 9/11 conspiracy cults,  Kabbalah, and tons of other touchy subjects.

I think that this magazine has some great intelligence with it, so I think everyone should at least add it to your bookmarks. I have a charter subscription, but I’m not asking you to go that far.

Posted in FreeThought | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Religulous: better than I thought

Posted by Andy Welfle on October 6, 2008

Bill Maher, left, and The Dude. Er, a Jesus impersonator

A movie still: Bill Maher, left, and The Dude. Er, a Jesus impersonator

Last time I posted, I expressed concern about Religulous, a pseudo-documentary film by Bill Maher. (Read that post here.) Several commenters told me I should reserve judgment until I see the film. I don’t necessarily think that is required, since the film’ preview really exists for people to pass pre-judgment over any movie, but I did fully intend to see the film no matter what I thought of it.

I went to see it with my friend and co-hort in atheist crimes, Butter (the non-waffle half of our personal blog, ButteredWaffles). And his review of it is very similar to mine. It is posted in entirety (with permission from Butter, of course) below:

Religulous isn’t the boring Jay-Walking skit I feared it might be. It’s much better than that, and I wonder about the critics who say it wasn’t funny. I was laughing several times, as was most of the rest of the crowd, because of the absurdity of the subjects and because of the well-timed jokes that point that absurdity out. The jump cuts and fast editing are there, but they’re not malicious; they just inject context to what are usually one-sided, contextless conversations. And the targets are mostly frauds or idiots who have voluntarily put themselves in the public sphere, by getting a Rev. before their name, or opening a creationism museum, or being a Senator, or running to Iran and meeting with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, or running an ex-gay counseling service, or playing Jesus in the public shows at Jesus Land. Or claiming to be the Second Coming of Jesus personally.

There was a little Michael Moore-ish grandstanding, like when he got tossed out of the Vatican for barging in with a camera and wanting to talk to the Pope, but those moments were mostly tongue-in-cheek side jokes (unlike a Moore film, where they carry the weight of the whole polemic). And the über-trendy canted camera angles, like it’s some MTV special where the host is so cool that we’re presumed to want to see camera shots of him talking to some other camera, were just jarring and dumb.

But there’s enough meat there to overshadow the sparse bits of egotism and amateurism. He’ll give subtitles exposing the lies of the opulently dressed megachurch megapastor as the guy speaks; he’ll interview Catholic priests (including the Vatican astronomer) who giggle at the idea of hell and Creation and all the stuff their flock is goaded into taking literally; he’ll get the Senator to equivocate on evolution, he’ll hammer at the Jesus actor, past all the “God-sized hole in your heart” rhetoric, until the guy pulls out Pascal’s Wager; he’ll show you the salesman for the crazy kosher workless wheelchair—and he’ll do it with that affable, I’m-on-your-side schtick that disarms his opponent.

He delivers the goods, and he’s honest enough to speak directly to his target audience at the end, telling you to get off the fence and actively oppose superstition if you’re smart enough to find the preceding hour and a half disturbing. The film is clever enough, and chooses its targets well enough, to be funny even to someone who’s already an atheist and well-versed in the issues and the players in the debate, while still summarizing those issues and players concisely for a moderately intelligent but apathetic fence-sitter. It’s the Michael Moore populist-polemic-documentary genre done right—which really shouldn’t be too hard, when your targets are this pathetically easy to pick apart. I’m glad he did it.

Link to the original post.

I’ll agree with Butter. While my opinion hasn’t changed that Bill Maher is an ass, I will concede that he is a smart and funny ass. It’s reminiscent of a quote from the Big Lebowski:

Walter Sobchak: Am I wrong?
The Dude: No you’re not wrong.
Walter Sobchak: Am I wrong?
The Dude: You’re not wrong Walter. You’re just an asshole.
Walter Sobchak: All right then.

And he has the amazing ability to put someone down without them really being aware of it. Whether that is a good ability or bad is undecided.

There were some points in the film where I thought Bill and the crew took some hits on their credibility for a few laughs. For example, he was interviewing a Muslim imam who said that Islam is not a violent religion. The imam’s cell phone rang, and he took it out of his robe to answer a text message. The Religulous producers showed what they think he was typing on the screen:

> What r ur orders

> Kill the Jew Maher

>LOL

Yeah, it was funny. But critics are going to have a field day with it.

If you haven’t seen it yet, I think you should. It might turn out to be an important film.

Posted in Religion | Tagged: , , , | 6 Comments »

Religulous: mean-spirited or a champion of truth?

Posted by Andy Welfle on September 30, 2008

I just heard Bill Maher interviewed on Fresh Air on NPR today. He, along with director Larry Charles, talked about Religulous, the controversial documentary lampooning religionists and their beliefs. (Check out the trailer here.)

What I want to know is, as a social group trying to be good community members while communicating our message, does this documentary help or hinder our cause?

Personally, I think Bill Maher is an ass. Having occasionally watched Politically Incorrect, I never cared for his permanent sneering face and pseudo-intellectual speech. He’s a smart guy, yes, but he has a holier-than-thou attitude (ironic!) which just rubs me the wrong way.

I’m glad that he has taken on the mission to expose religion as the ultimate “hustle” as the website’s language puts it, but does he really need to do it by directly ridiculing people and their beliefs?

I realize that many freethinkers would answer “yes” to this question. But doesn’t this just add fuel to Christians’ fire? They would have an easier time dismissing the atheist cause by just pointing out that this film is pointing fingers and laughing, a la six-year-old humor.

Now, granted, I haven’t seen this movie yet. There may be some intelligent debate, and some discourse with the theist community. But I think it is safe to say that the majority of the film kinda does a Jay Leno-style “man on the street” interview, where they get people to say ridiculous things. At least that’s what the trailer says about the film, and what Terry Gross talked about.

I think the best way to further our cause is to have an open, friendly, line of communication with the theist community. Let them initiate debate, and then methodically counter their arguments, point by point. That’s how my deconversion happened (Well, that, and a natural distrust of what I was being taught).

Nevertheless, I do plan to see the film, and would like to know what others might thing about this. Please feel free to use the comments of this post as a forum.

Posted in FreeThought | Tagged: , , , | 15 Comments »