Movie Review

Religulous

MPAA Rating: R for some language and sexual material.

Reviewed by: Rev. Bryan Griem
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Documentary
Length:
1 hr. 41 min.
Year of Release:
2008
USA Release:
October 3, 2008 (500 theaters)
DVD release: February 17, 2009
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Lionsgate
Atheism

How to witness to atheists

God

How can we know there’s a God? Answer

What if the cosmos is all that there is? Answer

If God made everything, who made God? Answer

What does God say? Answer

Is Jesus Christ God? Answer

Why does God allow innocent people to suffer? Answer

Bible

How do we know the Bible is true? Answer

When we say that the Bible is the Word of God, does that imply that it is completely accurate, or does it contain insignificant inaccuracies in details of history and science? Answer

How can the Bible be infallible if it is written by fallible humans? Answer

Answers to supposed Bible “contradictions” and puzzles

Is the Bible truth or tabloid? Answer

INTERNAL HARMONY—Answers to a skeptic's questions about whether the Bible's internal harmony is truly evidence of its divine inspiration - Read

Bible and science

Bible archaeology

Biblical prophecies

Jesus Christ

Was Jesus Christ only a legend? Answer

Is Jesus Christ a man, or is he God? Answer

If Jesus is God, how could he die? If Jesus died on the cross, then how can he be alive today? Answer

Was Jesus Christ God, manifest in human form? Answer

Is Jesus Christ really God? Answer

If Jesus was the Son of God, why did He call Himself the Son of Man? Answer

Trinity—How can one God be three persons? Answer

Character—Is Christ's character consistent with his high claims? Answer

Has science disproved the miracles associated with Jesus Christ? Answer

Archaeology—Have any burial sites been found for the people involved in Christ's life and death? Answer

How do we know the Bible is true? Answer

How can the Bible be infallible if it was written by fallible humans? Answer

Jesus Christ: His Identity, Life, Death and Resurrection
JESUS CHRIST - Answers to frequently-asked-questions

Religion

Answers about religion

Featuring: Bill Maher
“Real Time With Bill Maher,” “Politically Incorrect”

Jose Luis De Jesus Miranda, Andrew Newberg, Steve Berg
Director: Larry Charles
Borat: Cultural learnings of America for make benefit glorious nation of Kazakhstan,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm”
Producer: Chelsea Barnard, Jesse Johnston, Alexandra Lambrinidis, Bill Maher, Kevin O'Donnell, Charlie Siskel, Jonah Smith, Palmer West
A Scanner Darkly,” “Requiem for a Dream
Distributor: Lionsgate

“The truth is near.”

Religious faith: reasonable or ridiculous? In the mind of Bill Maher, the title for his movie says it all, “Religulous.” To Maher, nobody really knows anything about God; so to say anything with certitude is simply to express unfounded faith in the ridiculous. He went so far as to caricaturize faith as something “that makes a virtue out of not thinking.” To his credit, there are entirely too many Christians that do not know why they believe what they believe, and those Christians were all too available for Maher’s interviews. Why do people believe in God? Answers from interviewees ranged from seemingly mild coincidences interpreted as personal miracles, to no reason at all – they just believed – because.

When people have no idea why they believe in God, it would seem that their faith is without foundation, and that has never been the faith of Scripture. If Christians define faith as just something they believe blindly, then why wouldn’t the pagan who believes in magical unicorns have as much claim to the truth as we? The fact is that God has not left us without evidences, good reason, and eyewitness accounts, but Maher would hardly know that from the champions of our faith with which he had the opportunity to dialogue.

The film is reminiscent of another documentary recently released titled, “EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed.” In that faith-affirming film, the host runs all over the world getting input about Intelligent Design, and splices in humorous clips from other movies to enrich points or to lighten the mood.

Religulous follows this same format, and there are some very funny bits for which only the dourest among us will be able to remain untickled. Unfortunately, these come with the unhappy realization that Maher is laughing at us, not with us, and that is what makes it all the worse because some of it is pathetically deserved.

Have we forgotten what it was like before Christ saved any of us? How did Christians appear to us then? Perhaps this is a reminder.

Bill Maher traveled the globe asking his questions, often with a smugness that left people speechless (and in several occasions, irate). He was ejected from churches and their property, and people walked out on him when they sensed they were being sucked into God-bashing sessions. Many tried to answer him with simple responses, not realizing that they were dealing with no mere seeker, but a hostile inquisitor. This was not unlike some of what occurred in the movie “Borat,” another film by “Religulous” director, Larry Charles, in which people were lulled into situations that would end with the star making fools of them.

While Maher questions all religious belief, it is the Bible which irks him most of all, and that because he was raised a nominal Catholic. He recalls hating church and viewing it as boring and irrelevant. This, if anything, should be instructive to us about how important it is to positively engage kids in their Sunday school classrooms, if we ever hope to have them value and retain their faith into adulthood.

Maher’s family abandoned churchgoing and spiritual things when he was very young, and as he sat and interviewed his own mother and another family member, it became obvious that that the apple hadn’t fallen far from the tree.

The language in this movie is rough. It’s typical, worldly, conversational speech that is punctuated by profanity throughout. It’s not as though the use of such verbiage is there to deliberately shock anyone, it’s simply the way people who don’t abide any divine parameters express themselves, and Bill Maher is one of those. It would be pointless to number the times any particular offensive word was uttered since everything that could be said, was.

There is also one movie clip inserted to illustrate a perverse point, and it involved a sexual situation with a topless nun. The scene is brief, but it does add an element of lewdness to the film which was probably responsible for gaining the R-rating.

Other clips were included that display angry people wielding guns, but there is no real violence to speak of. If scenes of smoking bother particular viewers, then they’ll be bothered a tad more that Maher is shown smoking marijuana with some cult leader of a stoner religion in the Netherlands. This is another of the things that helps muck up the truth about God in “Religulous,” as well as in the mind that conceived it, since every cult, pagan religion, and oddball spiritist gets thrown into Maher’s supernatural blender and poured out as examples of religion’s idiocy.

If Maher would focus in on biblical scholarship and seriously be open to answers regarding Christian faith, he might actually find himself believing what he now denies.

How do we know the Bible is true? Answer

When we say that the Bible is the Word of God, does that imply that it is completely accurate, or does it contain insignificant inaccuracies in details of history and science? Answer

How can the Bible be infallible if it is written by fallible humans? Answer

Answers to supposed Bible “contradictions” and puzzles

Of note was one eureka moment when someone explained the Trinity to him, using the single-substance water analogy of liquid, solid and vapor. Christians debate the usefulness of such poor models for God, but it had a measure of resonance for Maher, briefly, before he laughed it off as stupid. If that example provided even a drop of reasonableness to his faithless mind, imagine if more and better things could be shared with him and those of similar ilk.

[Trinity—How can one God be three persons? Answer]

Maher vehemently denounced what he deems arrogance on the part of people who speak with any certainty about spiritual matters, but that causes me to ask why Maher’s certainty of everyone else’s ignorance should be preferred. He is certain that nobody else knows anything for certain, but only their certainty is arrogant? Maher has not thought all of his logic through, nor has he done enough homework to get beyond the atheistic canards of the past. He takes swipes at the life and existence of Christ, claiming the biblical account to be a mere retelling of earlier myths about resurrected Greek gods. No unbiased scholar today believes this, of course, and the evidence shows that the making of parallels between Jesus’ life and the ancient mystery religions developed after the first century, not before. In other words, the Christian story was co-opted by the cults, not the other way around.

But his gripes should remind us how important it is for every generation to be prepared to revisit the old questions and to have good answers for them. Maher is also certain enough about his own position that he judges religion to be a “neurological disorder,” and he is betting his life that no hell awaits him on a non-existent judgment day. I’m betting my life that he’s wrong.

The movie ends rather sadly when Maher asks his mother if there is a heaven, and she replies with little concern, “who knows?” Everyone laughs. After this, a screen inscription informs the audience that she is now dead. Christians will think, “She now knows the truth with a bit more vested interest.”

My advice for thinking Christians is to see the movie. If anything, it will put your faith into high gear as you seek to answer Bill Maher’s challenges. Children cannot see the film for its rating, but they wouldn’t like it anyway, and I wouldn’t take your sainted grandmother to see it lest she go apoplectic. But for the rest of us, if we can’t countenance the language and challenge of the movie, then perhaps we aren’t engaging unbelievers very much in our Christian walk and witness.

Some will disagree with me, citing Psalm 101:3 that I should “set before my eyes no vile thing” (NIV), but I think this is a different sort of vile thing. This is not a vulgar film to be enjoyed as rank entertainment, it’s the world’s playbook, opened for our understanding and subsequent response. Had God not seen our sin, Christ would not have come, but our need necessitated His action, and we are His ambassadors to engage sinners on account of the Gospel. Here’s our opportunity.

Violence: None / Profanity: Heavy / Sex/Nudity: Moderate

Christian Answers EffectiveEvangelism™ site—Learn how to be more effective in sharing the Gospel Stumped about how to share your faith in Christ with others? Our EffectiveEvangelism.com site assists Christians in effectively reaching out to others with love and truth. Learn about the worldview of the people you meet, ways to share the gospel, read stories submitted by site users, and more.


See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—Came across this review expecting a vitriolic response and was delighted to find a well reasoned judgment of it. The religious extremists and pay-per-view “merchants in the temple” come in for the most ridicule, and I suspect they deserve it. If I have an issue with the film it was Bill Maher's desire to “preach” at the end, my brand of religious apathy dictates that I feel no group has the right to shake it's fist and preach at me one way or the other.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Wearysloth, age 46
Positive—“Religulous” is the kind of film which few will see, and the kind of film about which many of these non-viewers will complain. I will make the claim that Maher takes his opinions to a too extreme degree (proclaiming all religion should die out for the world to live). However, if the only examples of religion are the types willing to talk to Maher, I would say he makes a good point. The people portrayed—Christians, Jewish people, and Muslims-appear as ignorant, irrational fundamentalists at best and dangerous con-artists who spout hate speech at worst. I would say if you take the stance that religious extremism (of any persuasion) should die out, and that anyone with religious persuasions should develop better rationales for their faith than “because” then I would support that stance. Beyond that, I found the film very funny, the kind of humor in which you wince as you laugh, and I found Maher very smart and intelligent.

I have always liked Maher, from his stand-up to “Politically Incorrect” to “Reel Time with Bill Maher,” I find his style incisive and clever. I have also always admired his intelligence Those traits are on prominent display in Religulous. The film is offensive, but it is also thought-provoking, and if your faith is so unsteady that it cannot handle a smart, skeptical observer, then your faith is not very steady and warrants reexamination. For my own views (I do consider myself a Christian who also doesn't blindly follows those facets of the Bible I do not understand. I question, and I attempt to explain.)

In short, I support many of Maher's stances: I'm for a separation of Church and State, I consider myself a political liberal (it's not a dirty word), and I'm for the death of extremism religion and hate disguised as religious beliefs. I think Maher raises some interesting points, although I also feel he takes these views to too far an extreme, and that the shift from comedic jester to atheist preacher is too abrupt a tonal shift to make the film feel balanced. Despite that, I still find the humor funny and thought-provoking, and think that many of the questions he raises bears scrutiny, from both believers and non-believers.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Julianne Ramsey, age 24
Positive—I came across this film on accident. I know Bill Maher from his HBO show and though I disagree with a lot of his liberal and Atheist views, I was struck by the answers of is interviewees gave him when he asked about their faith. I was always taught in church that you should leave a sermon feeling as if you toes were stepped on. I in this film was reminded that there are several “pay-per-view” churches that give Christians a bad rap, and that there are people that do not know god and believe what the media tells them about the faith.

I recommend this to the adults whom of which are secure in their relationship to god. I saw this film actually as a way to talk with my fellow college friends and relay what we feel is important to strengthen our arsenal for when people like Bill approach us. I urge you that yes do not let grandma see this film let alone children. But if your looking for a film that can be used to strengthen your walk with Christ in a world that knows not of him then I recommend this.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Greg A., age 20 (USA)
Neutral
Neutral—I am very impressed by the wisdom of this review. So many Christians would want to respond to this sort of movie with the same mockery towards Maher that he exhibits towards Christians. But I just feel so sad for Maher. I hope to see the movie when it is released on video for the very reason the reviewer gave… we must be ready to defend our faith intelligently and gently, with love, hoping that “God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth” (2 Tim. 2:24-26).
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Christine Diehl, age 44
Negative
Negative—I would encourage others if they want to view this film to do so without sponsoring Bill Maher, purely because you are encouraging hate towards Christian faith by putting money in his pocket. I suggest a free movie rental coupon or lending it from the library or buying it second hand when it is released to DVD (and then reselling it).

He does not treat all religion with equal disdain, as it seems he saves his worst vile for Christians, ignorant or otherwise. It is one thing to be an atheist having a laugh at Christian's expense, and quite another to be a proselytizing atheist, which I submit he is the latter. See his Wikipedia article to see his previous comments.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 1
—Phill, age 43
Negative—I am conflicted about this film. It is the same conflict I felt when The DaVinci Code was written. I think it is important for Christians to be informed about the nonsense that permeates our society, but I also do not think it is right for Christians to use their money to support this nonsense. I don't think any Christian should pay to see this film. I think it is clear to most people what Bill Maher stands for and what he is trying to prove with this movie. Why use our money to reinforce his influence?
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 1
—Byron L. Pfordte, age 32
Negative—I wanted to take a moment to show my sincere gratitude to the author of this review. While this movie showcases everything that is wrong with blind and thoughtless faith in all its forms, the reviewer reacts so intelligently and wonderfully to the challenge that I find myself filled with hope.

As someone who has struggled with my own spirituality over my life, seeking answers in the Roman Catholic Church, the Baptist Church, and with non-denomination Christian Churches, this reviewer reminds me of the very best of what I have seen during that search. Much like the Jesuit Priests at the college I attended, his reaction of meeting this challenge with careful thought and a seizure of the opportunity it presents is inspiring.

Thank you very much for sharing your thoughts and world-view.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Good / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Bill Godfrey, age 35
Negative—As a bondservant of Christ, I would just like to say that the God of the bible is just and sovereign. People ask me all the time… how do u know that there is a God and how do u know that there is a heaven and a hell? The first thing we must understand is what separates believers from non-believers. Did Jesus Christ rise in 3 days? Well, let's check some stuff out… 1st—Prophecies were fulfilled when Jesus walked the earth. Jesus fulfilled over 300 prophecies or predictions from the Old Testament that was written hundreds of years before He walked the earth. It was prophesied about 800 years before that Jesus would be crucified and crucifixion wasn't even a form of death at that time so someone is predicting something that no one has ever heard of… but He was crucified. It was prophesied that he would be born in Bethlehem… not Africa, not modern day New York City… no Bethlehem. and he was. It was prophesied that He would be betrayed by and friend… Judas… and that He would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver, which He was. Isaiah 53 says that He would be pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities, which He was. Prophecy has come true through Jesus Christ like it said it would but going back to the BIG question…

Did Jesus rise in 3 days? Is He still alive? Now let's think about this… Jesus would be a liar if He said He would rise in 3 days and didn't… so how do we know He did? Just because the bible says He did? well yes but let's get a little deeper into this… how can we truly know He did. Let's look at some of the facts. The bible says that there were witnesses but are witnesses enough proof… not always but let me give you hard evidence that Jesus did in fact rise in 3 days. Let's look at the apostles. The apostles walked with Jesus, talked to Jesus, saw His miracles… ok great but how can we know that he rose?—Because after Jesus was sent back to heaven, ALL the apostles went to death for Jesus’ name.

They were given the chance to denounce Jesus. They were given the chance to spare their lives. Some were crucified, some were beheaded, but they all went to death for Him. Why?? Because they saw Jesus walk again after they saw Him die on the cross and if the apostles revived Him like so many people say… Oh, did they check his pulse????… then they wouldn't have gone to death for Jesus. The romans sadly did MANY MANY crucifixions and they knew what they were doing but if the apostles HAD to revive Jesus, then they would have gone to death for a lie and they would have known that He was in fact a liar. Read the Book of Martyrs. All those people were given the chance. “Deny Jesus Christ, deny that He was the Son of God and you will keep your lives”… and what did they say? They said NO. Why? because they knew it was true and they WOULD NOT have gone to death for a lie.

So now, if Jesus wasn't lying about rising in 3 days, then He wasn't lying about where He said He came from… Heaven… and that the bible is in fact true to every word it says. I can go on and on, but I won't. I really hope that when someone reads this, they will search out the God of the bible and the bible only for themselves. I truly want to see everyone in heaven and whether God reveals Himself through the stars, which I've actually read in a book, or whether its through creation, which HAS to have a creator, or through missionaries, or whatever… God will get to every person. And everyone is born with a conscience that you cannot deny and that's the Law that God wrote on your heart.

Even if you've never read the Bible, you know its wrong to steal, or wrong to kill or lie… which are some of the 10 commandments… so please check it out for yourself because if every christian is wrong, then nothing happens to us but if non-believers are wrong, then they are going to be in a place where God does not want them to go. It says that God's will is that none should perish but that all should come to repentance, which means turning from sin and hating every sin because its evil in God's eyes and living a life where Jesus is our ultimate example. Thank you for reading and I really hope to see everyone who reads this in heaven and I pray that this comment can help just one person. If Jesus said that heaven is paradise, then He wasn't lying cuz He is God and He doesn't lie. Take care everyone and God bless
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 1
—Carlos Lopez, age 21
Comments from young people

none

Comments from non-viewers
As a Christian, why would you have any desire to see such a movie. At the same time, we must realize, these people are of the world and do not know God. These people do not understand why as Christians we believe in faith so highly. In fact, they can't understand until they've actually tried for themselves. I will not give a good review for such a movie at all because it preaches a certain sense of intolerance to religion (not just Christianity). However, their stabs at Christianity I can honestly say aren't offending because they give insight to how the world perceives us. Now we know the misunderstandings and know better as to how to witness to non believers. All in all, seeing the movie in its entirity is a waste of time, but seeing the comments it makes about Christianity in particular may not be a bad idea. Let's look at this movie and relaize it is something that some believe about Christians and is an issue only we can clear up by showing the genuine love of Christ.
—Christian, age 17 (USA)