Monday, October 27, 2008

The Ridiculous Religulous

There is a small and smarmy documentary in a couple of theatres right now by Bill Maher called “Religulous.” If you know anything about Maher’s leanings, you already know all you need to know about a film by him investigating how ridiculous religion, specifically Christianity, is. Certainly this is destined to be among the great intellectual artifacts we leave our grandchildren right alongside “Borat” and “High Karate” cologne. I often thank God for people who see movies like this one so the rest of us don’t have to. The STR blog cites a review from National Review and notes:

...Maher thinks he knows so much more about the target of his opprobrium than he actually does. He makes his first mistake in the first line of the movie by referring to the “Book of Revelations” — it’s not plural — and it just snowballs from there.

Within a few minutes Maher is denying not just the divinity of Jesus Christ but his actual historical existence, a question disputed by almost no credible scholar. You can argue that it is difficult to believe in Jesus’s existence considering that primary records for his existence are recorded by only a precious few devoted disciples who recorded his allegorical teachings in detail as well as the social unrest they inspired. Then again, if that’s the standard – you probably don’t believe Socrates either.

It should be at least a little embarrassing that Maher hasn’t done much of the hard work necessary to actually tackle these issues. But then again, one man’s shame is another’s glory.

Another review of the worldview behind the movie is done by D’Souza. D’Souza notes that though Maher takes the tried-and-true road of finding the weakest and easiest targets, it doesn’t always work.

You get the picture: Maher is in search of weak opponents that he can embarrass. Still, it’s remarkable how many of them get the better of him. On one occasion Maher interviews a Jesus actor at a Holy Land Experience who seems like a carefully selected dummy. But when Maher asks him to explain the Trinity, the actor says it can be understood in the same way that water appears in three quite different forms: in a solid form, as ice; in liquid form, as water; and in the gaseous form of water vapor. Maher is completely stumped by this and rendered speechless.

In another segment, Maher talks to some blue collar guys worshipping at a Trucker’s Chapel in Raleigh, North Carolina. They are overweight and poorly dressed and they cannot answer all his questions, but one says that he used to be a drug addict and “I gave all that up when I got saved.” At the end of the discussion, just before Maher’s triumphant exit, the truckers hold hands and pray for Maher. This is the sole moving moment in the film, and in a way that Maher doesn’t realize, it raises these simple people entirely above his snide sophistication.

D’Souza’s conclusion:

Ultimately he is an intellectual coward who relies on the argumentum ad ignorantium—the argument that relies on the ignorance of the audience.

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