‘Religulous’ Questions the Many Institutions of Faith

Ani Khashadoorian

This review is not for the faint of heart. If you are easily offended or a radical religious conservative, please turn to the next page and continue on with your life – or keep on reading this review for the delightfully tart treat that is Bill Maher’s “Religulous.”

“Religulous” breaks all of the rules of never bringing up politics or religion in polite company. Maher isn’t interested in entertaining overly sensitive believers; instead, Maher seeks to inform. The film hits home as a study of hypocrisy and ignorance among leaders and followers of mass religious groups from around the world.
The satirical documentary is the lovechild of Maher and Larry Charles, director of “Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan” (2006), who is also known for his work on the hit shows “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Seinfeld.”

“Religulous” is Maher’s personal take and journey through the world as he encounters various religions and the people who follow them. Ultimately, Maher’s goal is to reveal the hypocrisy and disturbing ignorance often preached by mass religious groups all over the world.

From a humorous exchange with a Dutch stoner (whose faith is the worship of God through cannabis) to heated arguments with an evangelical trucker (at a chapel for Christian truckers on-the-go), Maher does not discriminate with whomever he meets and interviews.

The film starts off with Maher discussing his own ideas of faith, with his mother and sister adding along commentary on Maher’s upbringing. The Maher women muse about religion and how Bill has viewed religion throughout the years. From there, Maher begins his voyage around the world with all the colorful religious zealot characters it has to offer.

Hail Mary, since “Religulous” does not just exploit the stupidity displayed by most clichéd devotees of faiths (after all, stereotypes do exist for a reason and the film highlights this). Maher speaks with theologians throughout the world – from the scientific community (the geneticist who discovered the “God gene” is interviewed) to a Vatican priest, all discussing the concept of faith and the implications of it.
Maher does not take advantage of the stereotypical extremists that are often portrayed in media – he presents all viewpoints and ideas, allowing the viewer to collect opposing viewpoints in order to form their own thoughts.

What the movie ultimately boils down to is how militant religions that lead countries throughout the world are finally leading to the destruction of the world. We may be causing our own end without knowing it – perhaps doomsday is a product of man himself.
“Religulous” spares no punches and takes no victims. Maher’s brutally honest interrogation exposes everything from historical inaccuracies that are commonly hailed as truth, to calling out a renegade urban musical artist (known for his outlandish remarks and songs) for his own double standards towards other faiths.

The most disturbing part of the movie is how Maher points out the commercialization of all that we consider sacred. Maher takes a trip to “Holyland,” a Florida-based themed exhibit that appears to be more of a tourist attraction than a Biblical museum.

The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is shown in a striking reenactment at Holyland, with Christ being dragged by Roman soldiers as he bears the cross – his body drips blood, while being paraded around the streets.
Suddenly, the camera pans to the tourists, some of which are taking snapshots of the performance with their camera phones. In the background of the shot, a lone tourist sits on a bench in front of the reenactment, wiping tears from her eyes. “Religulous” brings up the question – is this what religion has become?

The only flaw with Maher’s film is that it is simply too short to satiate the audience -the viewer is left pining for much more with this film. The seats in the theater did not squeak until the final credit rolled. For a stark look at what our world has become (and may end up fulfilling), “Religulous” does its job.

“Religious” runs at 101 minutes and is rated R for some language and sexual material.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars.