Bill Maher, famed standup comedian and talkshow host, is about to unleash a religion-critical documentary on the silver screen. Titled Religulous, Maher will be arguing that religion is, well, ridiculous. Yes it is and thank you Bill Maher, for it’s high time it was shouted out loudly. Watch the trailer:
Evidently, Bill Maher takes a subtly humorous approach to the “controversial” topic of religion. If that’s what it takes to make people think, fine. For the masses, however, I’m hoping Religulous will act as a sock-puppet-simple explanation for neo-atheism and chisel out in stone that there’s a difference between being critical of religion and simply being intolerant.
So, what’s wrong with religion?
Before Maher gets his chance, I’ll try my luck in explaining it. Religions—by definition—share the core trait that they require belief in something supernatural, i.e. something that’s absolutely impossible to prove, observe or test. Religions hold this leap of faith in high regard and rewards believers with a number of preset answers that provide comfort in the difficult situations we must all face in this condition known as life. For instance, the belief that we have an afterlife is certainly more comforting than the idea that upon dying we simply revert to that state we were in prior to being born. Nothingness. Dust.
The comfort given by these answers begs reverence. It makes us want to believe. So much that if anyone tries to challenge these beliefs, they’re met with resistance. Sometimes violently so. For that reason, most likely, we’ve all been raised to respect faith in all its incarnations. Herein lies part of the problem.
In this modern day and age, most parts of the holy texts seem grossly obsolete. For example, I’ll wager we can all agree that no sane person would think that a child cursing his parents should be put to death for doing so (Leviticus 20:9). For the very same reason, most Christians I know of disregard Leviticus altogether. That is, except for a few of them, who happen to agree with the passages that claim homosexuality to be detestable. Quite simply, they order up the convenient parts. With fries.
The crux of it is that all religious doctrine is cherry-picked all the time. The parts that speak to people are revered, the barbaric parts are ignored. People differ on these parts, but hey, faith is a personal thing and no one else’s business, right?
Because religious doctrine is cherry-picked, it can be used to justify any action. How can we approve of a faith-based vote against abortion and yet condemn people blowing themselves up or ramming planes into buildings in the name of their god? The motivations for both actions are identical.
The problem with religion is that simply having faith is sufficient justification for any irrational idea.
For centuries, religion has polluted and poisoned everything, sometimes under the guise of “moral values”. Stem-cell research—potentially the most rewarding medicinal area of research—has been blocked at every step of the way citing a ridiculous misunderstanding of what “life” is1. Science is frowned upon when it contradicts the holy texts, prompting the teaching instead of creationist pseudo-science. Contraceptives are buried in favor of “abstinence bracelets” which are unlikely to help stop the spread of AIDS in Africa. In every aspect of society, whenever faith is invoked, completely irrational ideas are allowed to infect vital decisions.
Be honest and really give this some time in the noodle. When you really think about it, most religious practices are batshit insane, don’t you agree? Judging from the trailer, Maher has captured that in excrutiating clarity. I do expect to be chuckling at Religulous, but nervously so because it depicts reality.
The real gist of it is that we can’t just agree to disagree anymore. One side of the argument is right and the other side of the argument is dangerously fucking nuts. Don’t just stand there when a faithbased vote steps on your rights. Please reconsider your prepubescent flirt with “spirituality”—very probably there really isn’t much more “between heaven and earth” than you think. And YOU—”tolerant liberal”—your idea of tolerance isn’t helping anyone. Respecting completely irrational faith-based ideas in the name of live and let live will not be reciprocated. You only help perpetuate the problem. So take a deep breath and grow some brass ones. If Maher can do it, so can you.
It’ll take courage to be able to pick the rational side, but I’ll salute you for it.
The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.—Thucydides
Scratching your butt kills millions of living cells; how is that different? ↩