This week, Bill Maher’s film Religulous [religion + ridiculous] gets released for all America to see – or at least those who have an interest in paying to hear what Maher thinks about God and those who worship him. Maher is more about dissing “religion” than God, although it’s easy to think otherwise. The fact is Maher claims not to be an atheist. He says, “There’s a really big difference between an atheist and someone who just doesn’t believe in religion. Religion to me is a bureaucracy between man and God that I don’t need. But I’m not an atheist, no. I believe there’s some force. If you want to call it God…” Most recently he has described himself as an apatheist – someone who doesn’t care but clearly his obsession with God betrays the truth. For some reason, Maher cares deeply. [to learn more about Maher go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Maher]
In the self-described documentary, which has been labeled more of an ambush-style reality TV show, Maher traveled to a few of the world’s most prominent religious destinations, such as Jerusalem, the Vatican, and Salt Lake City, interviewing believers from a variety of backgrounds and groups.
Among those interviewed by Maher was a man playing Jesus at a Holy Land theme park in Orlando, Muslims at a gay bar in Amsterdam, and Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda, a Puerto Rican heretic who calls himself both “the Second Coming of Jesus” and “the Antichrist.”
To obtain interviews, Maher admittedly lied about himself and his film. “We never, ever, used my name,” Maher said. “We never told anybody it was me who was going to do the interviews. We even had a fake title for the film. We called it ‘A Spiritual Journey.'” But Maher was/is not about finding out what makes religious people religious, but about using the antics of mostly fringe religious people to try and support his thesis that religion is a crock of spit – in his words, “a neurological disorder that justifies crazies and stops people from thinking.”
Check out this trailer…
Listen, it’s easy to get angry at Maher – but perhaps as Christians we should thank him. Yes – thank him for raising a topic worthy of focus and dialogue. God.
Honestly, the overall question Maher wrestles with is a good and appropriate one. Why such widespread religion? There must be some natural explanation for the universality and persistence of religious belief. Why have and why do people [down thru the centuries] in all cultures on every continent believe in God and seek Him?
Could it be true that “in the beginning God created” not only our universe, galaxy, solar system and earth but us [human beings] with each of us reflecting his image with the amazing capacity to think, reason, create, feel and love setting us apart from all other life forms? Could it also be true that “God has set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” [Ecclesiastes 3:11]
Maher also contends that religion is the cause for most of the problems in the world and in the end will destroy us all. This notion is becoming increasingly popular with some, yet when scrutinized, it lacks reason and credibility.
In all fairness, while religion has done much good in our world, one must concede – it can be divisive and lead to conflict, cruelty, terrorism, and war. History proves this. History also proves that efforts at outlawing religion [as Maher might suggest] have produced the same kind of tragic results. There have been several massive atheistic efforts to suppress, and ultimately eliminate, religion of any kind. In the 20th century, Soviet Russia, the Khmer Rouge [Cambodia], Cuba and Communist China were all determined to keep religion from dividing society or eroding the power of the state. The result was not more peace and harmony, but more suffering and oppression. Atheism can claim no less responsibility when it comes to the world realities of war, hatred, racism and suffering.
Take some time to think through these things. Get ready for the discussion this movie may generate with your family and friends and when the interaction begins, thank Bill Maher for caring enough to raise the issue.