image001.thumbnail.jpgReligulous is smart, funny, thought provoking, full of love for humanity and its absurdities, the main one of which according, to the the film’s star and writer, Bill Maher is religion.

Baffled by the idea of faith,  and with a firm view that religion is the root of all of  Western society’s evils, Maher sets off on a journey of discovery. Not self-discovery, because he’s very happy  (and cynically so) believing in nothing, but discovery of why,  what and how the deeply religious in the Western world believe.

And no exploration of the deeply religious would be complete without an trip into American fundamentalist Protestanism–especially its wackier aspects. Along with visiting a tourist attraction in Orlando, Florida called Holy Land  Experience and the Creationist theme park Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, Maher pays a visit to US senator from Arkansas Mark Pryor, who admits that taking an IQ test isn’t requirement of his job.

Along with excoriating exploring such easy targets, who reveal–and revel in–their ignorance of the basic tenets of faith and what is contained in the Bible, Maher travels to London and Amsterdam to examine fundamentalist Islam in those European capitals, the Vatican where the priests come off pretty darn cool, and finally Israel where he visists the inventive rabbis and  tours the Temple Mount. Along with the three major Western faiths, Maher and director Larry Charles (Borat) touch on two outer space-based religions, Mormonism and a more litigious one with celebrity followers.

News reel footage, movie clips and cartoons are used for emphasis, and Maher’s intellect coupled with Charles’s direction, create outrageous opportunities for the interview subjects to express themselves. Though not always in a flattering light. Makes for great comedy, though.

In view of the coming elections, addressing religious fundamentalists in the three Abrahamic faiths are more urgent than ever. And Maher does it with whipshot accuracy. However his view bias on how to save our planet and its inhabitants–to do away with religion–does not take into consideration the importance of faith/religions’ place in creating social order and as well as it being the prime driving force in in the arts, law  and culture of civilizations. 

Because to call for the ending of all religions, not matter how goofy they are, to demand aethesism, is the same as calling for the imposition of a theocracy. And that’s the point Maher missed discussing.

Lisa Derrick

Lisa Derrick

Los Angeles native, attended UC Berkeley and Loyola Marymount University before punk rock and logophilia overtook her life. Worked as nightclub columnist, pop culture journalist and was a Hollywood housewife before writing for and editing Sacred History Magazine. Then she discovered the thrill of politics. She also appears frequently on the Dave Fanning Show, one of Ireland's most popular radio broadcasts.