Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Religulous: Atheism 101 in 90 Minutes

I have now seen Religulous and found it funnier and lighter in mood than I expected, featuring fewer tense moments and sharp exchanges than I had been dreading. While I welcome the outright ridicule of religious excesses, this film would miss an opportunity if it didn't try to appeal to believers.

Contrary to his critics, Bill Maher does make an effort to understand the basis of belief in god, and more exactly, the basis of the certainty in such beliefs. That he does not walk away sharing in that certainty does not imply that he did not give believers an opportunity to present their views and make their case.

Throughout, he makes a good effort to be friendly and to seem friendly in his exchanges with a reasonably diverse swath of religious believers, and in a few cases, I thought he was more polite than the situation or the wacko merited. In particular, the Muslim rapper Propa-Ghandi and Rabbi Dovid Weiss displayed cognitive dissonance and self-contradiction to such an extent that the only reasonable explanations are (a) they are utterly insane or (b) they are utterly dishonest.

The film does a pretty good job of distilling the atheist view into an unexpectedly fun and light 90 minutes.

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