Sunday, April 26, 2009

Religulous: God is Great, God is Good.

(This guy's a local and he's the second coming of Christ! Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda is apparently THE Lord. I always knew J.C. would return as a Rican and settle down in Miami. The weather here really is unbeatable.)

Bill Maher sets out in Religulous to cast doubt on the viewers' religious beliefs, in faith and in religious institutions. 

I've mentioned before that I studied religion and like Maher, I also was raised in a Catholic household. And probably similar to the comedian, I would do just about anything to not to have to go to mass. Weddings, funerals, holidays, these all should be celebrated with drink and smoke.

Obviously, I want to pick apart the film. I wasn't at all surprised that the Vatican priests were the most progressive characters representing formal religions. For years, I've been trying to explain to people that Catholics are relatively, or rather comparatively, modern. I obviously know the Church teachings fall very short of being acceptable, i.e. no birth control, no abortions. However, generally, outside of these huge human rights issues, Catholics understand that the scriptures are living texts, that they are not the actual words of God, but rather tales, conduits to finding and expressing your faith. Most Catholics do at least. Many. At least a few do. 

I think the 2 Vatican priests disproved Maher's claim that one cannot possess faith and intellect. Now I love Bill Maher. I LOVE HIM, but he sort of didn't do enough research on Islam for this film, and he wasn't adequately critical of Zionism. 

There were some claims he made when he was in Israel that I know for a fact are horseshit. I've been inside the Dome of the Rock and I prayed at the Western Wall. Maher says that Muslims won't let Jews into the Dome, but that is NOT TRUE. No one asks for id at the door. Also, they said there's a "women's corner," I wandered around the whole place with my male cousin and brother. He didn't even mention what it's like to visit the Jewish Orthodox section of Jerusalem where women have to cover their arms and legs and Arabs are NOT welcome. One sided, much, Bill? For all the shittalking he does about Muslims, they were some of the few with whom he spoke that actually seemed to be able to carry out an intelligent, though evasive, conversation. If you're going to be "objective" then be so, don't pander. 

Clearly he targets Evangelicals because their beliefs are so incredibly illogical and seep so deep into the cracks of our political system that it's pretty hard to accept their fervor. They are an easy and obvious punching bag. I was glad to witness the hits. 

The Muslim musician Propa-Gandhi made a good point about Maher; his perspective is too extreme - too black and white. 

Faith is not just for stupid people, though some stupids try to use faith as an intellectual agent, which it isn't. Faith is sort of like a feeling, maybe one that Maher hasn't experienced recently. Which is fine, not everyone feels faith. But as it is, most people do feel and experience it regularly, and that says something about humanity. Faith isn't intellectual, but neither is happiness or a stomach ache. 

He seems unable to see that some wars are about politics, not religion. Many leaders use religious reasoning to justify the attacks, but I believe that fundamentally wars are about need/want/scarcity. Sure Bush W. used outrageous religious talk to justify invading Iraq, but most of us saw past the talk - remember, no blood for oil? If it weren't for God-language, they'd find some other way of sweet talking the people into submitting to combat. Just as they are faithful, the masses are aggressive, defensive and easily convinced. 

Essentially what I'm saying is that faith isn't the culprit. Plenty of people live with their faith in a way that isn't violent or absurd. Religious tales are like fairy tales, Maher is COMPLETELY correct in making that comparison. Both teach us how to live and grow within the social constructs of the society in which we live. Nothing terrible about that. Everyone needs guidance. 

There's no need to preach doubt, it's preachy and the preaching is the problem. It's obnoxious and unnecessary. You risk sounding as bad as they do. The movie's worth watching though, because Bill Maher is fuuuuunny and you might learn something about the wrath and grace of God or just how truly unstylish a mullet still is.  


swampthing said...

blog is good, bro is great, sweet mary, let's partake.

We go to heaven for the weather, hell for the company.

Anonymous said...

great review!

Emily Sue said...

I haven't seen the movie but this is an excellent analysis. I have been avoiding it because of many of things you mention - Maher's limited black & white view, gross generalizations, etc. Now I sorta want to check it out! Well said, bro!

EAT said...

Gracias, amigos!