Bill Maher incurs the wrath of multiple religious zealots of myriad faiths in Religulous
, a snarky but unexpectedly powerful documentary. Maher bluntly disputes the value of religion in a world made increasingly dangerous, on the one hand, by fanaticism of all kinds and the human race's environmental self-destructiveness on the other. No one is immune from Maher's dogged questions about the illogic and negative fallout of doctrines that advocate violence or shun scientific evidence or marginalize minorities or punish anyone who disagrees with any religion's extreme tenets. Maher takes his inquiries to the Vatican; to small, evangelical Christian churches; to Jerusalem; to Amsterdam (where elements of an increasingly vocal Muslim community have shown violence toward critics); to a large, African-American church in a big city; and to several bizarre theme parks celebrating creationism and the life of Jesus. Wherever he goes, Maher seeks to demonstrate that many of the world's major religions are rife with hypocrisy, completely self-referential, and destructive to the collective good. The fast-moving, globe-trotting film is full of highlights, including a great scene where Maher, in disguise, argues for the core beliefs of Scientology to a bemused crowd at Speaker's Corner in London's Hyde Park. There's also a wonderful moment where Maher, just having been thrown out of the Vatican, gets a terrific interview with a maverick priest. Raised Catholic but in reality half-Jewish, Maher also spends time with his mother and sister trying to reconcile the role of religion in his childhood. Everything is really leading toward Maher's major point that atheists and agnostics are in a sizable minority but are afraid to speak out in these days of zealotry. If that minority stays in the background, Maher says, we may very well be heading toward catastrophe. --Tom Keogh
Beyond Religulous on DVD
Stills from Religulous (click for larger image)
In this new comedy from director Larry Charles (BORAT, "Seinfeld"), comedian and TV host Bill Maher ("Real Time with Bill Maher," "Politically Incorrect") takes a pilgrimage across the globe on a mind-opening journey into the ultimate taboo: questioning religion. Meeting the high and low from different religions, Maher simply asks questions, like "Why is faith good?" "Why doesn't an all-powerful God speak to us directly?" and "How can otherwise rational people believe in a talking snake?" For anyone who's even a little spiritually curious, this divine entertainment will deepen your faith...in comedy!