Bill Mahers Religulous: It's Now Okay To Ridicule Religion

Religulous_poster

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” is (( Scratching your butt kills millions of living cells; how is that different? )). 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

13 thoughts on “Bill Mahers Religulous: It's Now Okay To Ridicule Religion”

  1. Anton says:

    Thank you Joen, well-written (as usual)! I salute you, good sir.

  2. Brendan says:

    The thing is, religion, or more important, “faith” gives people something to believe in. It’s a crutch, of sorts and is indeed used to justify pretty much every crime there is.

    However, the flip-side is that many are still too afraid of reality. They need the idea that an after-life gives their short lives some kind of meaning. They need to believe it’s “god’s will” that someone is ill, or dead. Because the reality is just too much to bare.

    Religion will always exist. My only wish is that it was balanced in respect of science and an open mind. Far too often science is placed on hold, our very ability to learn more about ourselves and our universe halted, out of fear that it will expose religion (and those powerful within it) as not being the answer after all.

  3. lm says:

    I agree that atheists manage just fine without religion because they believe in something else, but many hold to religion because of tradition or culture and i don’t see how you suppose to fight this.

  4. Philosovich says:

    There is one thing that I am pretty clear about in terms of my philosophy:

    The onus is on the religious to prove that God exists. And there should be no discussion of this subject until such proof emerges; and certainly no influence upon society by the religious until such proof emerges.

    God and religion is not merely ridiculous – it is not really even a topic for discussion.

  5. Thom says:

    I have no issues with someone who does not believe in God. However, I do have issues when people paint all religions the same. The problem with your post is that you take what certain people do and ascribe it as a trait for all. But not all people cherry-pick from religious doctrines. Not all people try to legislate their religious beliefs. Not all people have “batshit” insane religious practices. Not all people use their faith as an excuse for irrational behavior.

    I come from a very religious background (although I am no longer practicing). Yet no one in my family wants the government to mandate their beliefs as law. As a matter of fact, it was people of the same background that have fought the US government for years to prevent such unconstitutional practices.

    My personal feeling is that people will use whatever they want as an excuse for their behavior and in some cases that excuse is religion.

    I would also be wary of praising Bill too much. He know that he has to be make more and more controversial statements if he wants to stay relevant.

  6. Joen says:

    Hey Thom,

    Thanks for your comment.

    I do have issues when people paint all religions the same. The problem with your post is that you take what certain people do and ascribe it as a trait for all.

    That was certainly not my intention. I bluntly acknowledge that there are many harmless believers.

    This post, however, is not about the believers. This post is about the inherent danger that permeates religion. Because I don’t want to single out any one religion, I talk of religion in general. I believe that is the only sensible way to criticise it. Let me explain with an example.

    Some 200 days ago, a group that called themselves “anonymous” populated digg with anti-Scientology videos and calls to action. The responses were almost unanimously against Scientology and people widely cheered “anonymous” for taking a stance against this specific religion.

    Scientologists happen to believe that a galactic emperor Xenu, millions of years ago, dropped space aliens in to the volcanoes of Hawaii, caught their souls and released them as ghosts to haunt humans as “body-thetans”.

    It sounds like an episode of South Park, but it’s actually at the core of what Tom Cruise believes in. Because it’s so blatantly ridiculous, It’s very easy to label as batshit insane. Digg.com agreed.

    Yes, that’s nuts, but it’s only modern nuts. Sitting under a tree for 20 years, parting the waters or filling a single ship with two of every kind is also nuts. It’s just a sanctioned, traditional kind of nuts.

    The problem is that all those belief systems allow for extremely dangerous interpretations. If we aren’t allowed to criticize them — and some countries punish this quite severely — crazy things will keep happening in the name of “god”.

    The bottomline is this:

    The problem is not the harmless believers, and the problem is not one single religion. The problem is religion itself, and what it can do to people.

    So please understand that, I have meant no offense. Oh, and until this film, I didn’t particularly like Bill Maher 🙂

  7. Jenny-fa says:

    I first saw Bill Maher as a guest on a late night talk show, and I was forever impressed with his frankness and obvious intelligence. I even have a quote from him:

  8. Jim Kem says:

    Thanks Joen for a very good read. I completely agree with your views on how religion is turning into an excuse to justify any action. Its getting out of control and its time something be done about it – very openly. Bill Maher appeared on The Tonight Show last night and he said that eventho you might be religious and that I may have infuriated you with releasing Religulous, please watch this film. In all religions, an attitude of open-mindedness is always encouraged. Don’t be so quick to condemn it. It just might make you think.

    I am not religious but I think religion will never truly be a thing of the past. There will be religious people and non-religious people. I just hope that religion will be regarded more as guidelines to morality instead of indisputable protocols that MUST be adhered to and defended to the death – that’s just plain wrong. Nothing should be taken that seriously.

  9. Joen says:

    Jenny-fa,

    Thanks for your comment.

    I also read another one of those pro-atheist/agnostic books over the summer, written by a bestselling mathematician (Irreligion by John Allen Paulos). Have you read it?

    Afraid not, but I have promptly added it to my “to-read” list.

    Basically, the author presents twelve classic/popular arguments for God that have been made by pro-religious groups, then destroys each and every one with simple math and logic. And the great thing is, those counterarguments are essentially impossible to refute.

    That seems to be a popular concept, mostly because it’s quite often not that difficult.

    For instance, I saw the most delightful documentary on National Geographic Channel called “Was Darwin Wrong?”. Although it stepped on eggshells in its attempt to very gently sway — well in this case believers — it’s arguments were superbly compelling. For instance, the oft-used argument that the human eye is way too complex to have evolved naturally was obliterated in beautifully simple physical models showing how it could have evolved from being simply lightsensitive material to a full, round eye.

    The physical models were built by a norwegian scientist and were so compelling in demonstrating the usefulness of each iterative evolutionary step that even a kid could see that this was clearly how things happened.

    Jim,

    Thanks for your comment as well.

    I completely agree that being open-minded about this documentary is the only sane way to approach it.

  10. Luke Dorny says:

    Excellent, Joen.

    Wonderfully written. Somehow i keep ending up on your site when i see your post titles. It’s been a long time and the design is different, but I’m always blown away.

    My mostly unadvertised thoughts of religion have been color-coated by Sagan. I’ve used his quotes when speaking with many people, paraphrased them, etc. But he’s said it so bluntly and inoffensively that it’s hard not to listen:

    “The world is so exquisite with so much love and moral depth, that there is no reason to deceive ourselves with pretty stories for which there’s little good evidence. Far better it seems to me, in our vulnerability, is to look death in the eye and to be grateful every day for the brief but magnificent opportunity that life provides.”

  11. Paul Johns says:

    Religulous is going to be good. Like the Borat movie. Oh. Right. Nevermind.

    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.

    I don’t agree with this way of thinking, although I also don’t believe Richard Dawkins, who popularized – if not invented this approach, could have said it better himself.

    Unfortunately, not every person who practices a religion is going to stop, and not every atheist is going to start having faith. Since we share the same planet, we are going to have to put up with each other with neither side having their total will imposed.

    It’s kind of like when I want to watch a horror movie and the wife wants to watch a romantic comedy, we compromise by renting a suspense thriller.

    I don’t think that laws should be passed based on any religious doctrine unless everyone, including people who don’t subscribe to any religion are in agreement with it. For example, I’ve never heard an atheist have a problem with “Thou shalt not kill” also being a law. I think most people agree that flat out murder is bad. But when we start talking about abortion, that’s when things start to get jiggy with it.

    I don’t agree with abortion, but I also can’t make one decision that will be right for every situation. If I voted, I would vote for freedom of choice, so people could either have abortions if they think it’s right, or not have them if they think it’s wrong.

    If atheists and the religious focused as much energy on real world issues like hunger, AIDS, and homelessness as they do worrying about what the other side believes in their heart, the world would be a better place for everyone.

    In either case, I think tolerance and understanding of other people’s beliefs (or lack thereof) is the only answer. From both sides.

    Then again I’m a high school drop out with a GED. And I’m originally from Florida. Take with a grain of salt.

    Nice post, it really seems to evoke emotions from both sides of the argument. Well done.

  12. chris says:

    awesome Thucydides quote, Mr. Religion-Quote-Searcher-Googler.

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