‘Religulous’ hilarious documentary

Scott Viau

Film: Religulous

Director: Larry Charles

Producer: Bill Maher, Jonah Smith, Palmer West

Writer: Bill Maher

Starring: Bill Maher

Runtime: 101 minutes

Rating: R


Bill Maher is no stranger to controversy. If he’s not poking fun at religion, he’s making light of tragic events. It’s surprising, then, that “Religulous” is his first feature-length film. Bound to offend millions, it’s a scathing film where Maher effectively and hilariously points out the absurdities of religion, while trying to get people to question what they believe.

As an atheist, I agree completely with what Maher is arguing for, especially critical thinking about religion. It’s amazing to hear people talk of faith in terms of fact, and it’s admittedly hard not to criticize someone because of an outrageous personal belief.

Maher feels that the world would be a better place without religion, and I agree. Human decency and compassion should outweigh what the voices from up above tell us.

Hearing his interviewees talk about coming back after the Rapture on a white horse or seeing footage of people speaking in tongues should be enough to convince people there’s something wrong here. This doesn’t make sense, yet people believe it. This is what Maher finds mind-boggling. How can rational adults believe these things? One of Maher’s funniest moments is when he is interviewing a man who speaks about the glory of Heaven. Maher then suggests that the man kill himself to get there. Another amusing scene is at the Creation Museum, which presupposes that man and dinosaurs coexisted. Seriously.

While the interviews are often funny, there is also a tinge of sadness to them. When interviewing an “ex-gay for Christ,” Maher tells him that he seems to be obviously gay as he is handsome and neat. The man seems quite happy that Maher finds him attractive. What makes this so sad is that he is obviously wasting his life by trying to live in accordance with what a 2,000-year-old book tells him. These are the moments where Maher is spot-on about being inquisitive and having a penchant for doubt.

Ironically, one of the most compelling and effective interviews comes from George Coyne, who is both a priest and a scientist. He has been able to rationalize both science and religion into a way of life that works together harmoniously. He’s not opposed to science, and sees it as a way to fully understand God’s creation. If religion is to continue to be a part of our society, it’s people like this who will make it happen.

Maher sees religion as something getting in the way of the growth and development of the human race. While Maher speaks of religion with the same kind of intensity that extremists will speak of their God, he still makes a valid point. Some may feel that we need religion as a moral compass, which is questionable in itself. We don’t need the Bible to see murder as something not beneficial for a functioning society.

“Religulous” isn’t without faults. The major issue I had is that the editing goes out of the way to make the interviewees look stupid. Anyone who’s spoken to a firm believer knows they don’t need any help from editing. Maher also has a tendency to cut to archival footage to drive home a joke. Throughout the movie he uses short clips of anything from bombs exploding to people talking in tongues. Although this is funny at times, it tends to go overboard. In addition, I think interviews with atheists like Christopher Hitchens or Richard Dawkins would have added an interesting viewpoint.

“Religulous” is about more than just pointing out holes and inanities in religion. It’s about questioning our beliefs. I implore everyone to see it. It may not change your mind, but it will present information in a new light. As a society, it’s important for us to be skeptical about what we have been given as truth. This film truly offers both believers and non-believers the encouragement to question.