Category Archives: Review

Religulous

As a writer, I’ve thought a lot about how to determine the value of words, of books and articles. As a lover of video games, I’ve thought about the same problem as it applies to that medium. I see that the most commonly available explanations seem to depend too much on subjectivity and/or the acceptance of an increasingly rigid matryoshka set of pre-suppositions. We should be able to do better than that.

The best I’ve come up with is graceful ageing. A thing has quality if it hasn’t lost its lustre with age. If it’s as enjoyable (or emotionally affecting, or funny, or whatever it’s main purpose was) today as it was when it was first brought into the world – or close enough.

Religulous just turned 10, and it’s as funny (and poignant) today as it was 10 years ago. I seldom laugh out loud. I did so as I re-watched it today. Multiple times. Perhaps even more than when I watched it the first time around.

Religulous is a documentary where Bill Maher exposes the contradictions and foibles of faith and religious thought. While it does veer into serious territory every once in a while, and especially at the end, what strikes me the most about the movie is how good-spirited it is.

When I hear Maher today, he looks like a very smart man who has a chip on his shoulder and is slightly too bitter and resentful. Not so with 2008’s Religulous Maher. Even as he points out the inconsistencies in the discourse and beliefs of his conversations partners, he does so with grace and a look of good-will and of genuinely wanting to listen to what they have to say.

I’m a lot more tolerant of religion now, than I was back in 2008. I admit that I felt some trepidation as I started watching the movie – perhaps it would be a bit too preachy, a bit too disrespectful of other people’s traditions. But that’s not the case at all – Maher plays the archetypal Joker, the character who pokes holes in the fabric of society for the fun of it, but also as a way to bring about meaningful change.

That is not to say that this is an impartial movie. It clearly has an agenda – to make people less religious; optimally, to make them non-religious. I’m not as convinced today that this is such a worthy goal, as I was 10 years ago. But I do think that, religious or not, anyone with a sense of humor can enjoy it.