Tuesday, April 14, 2009

8th April 09 - Religulous

Ah religion. Like the whole football idea last week, religion is another concept to have escaped my understanding. As a child I prayed to god that I’d stop having bad dreams, and when I discovered this didn’t work I came to the realisation that it was all a bit made up and silly. This was a nine year-old’s conclusion. The fact that fully grown adults – millions of them – still cling to religion is baffling, and it seems comedian Bill Maher agrees as he heads up this documentary on just why people still practice religion, and the harm it can do to the human race.

Maher embarks on his journey with a bemused fascination with beliefs, asking the obvious questions that aren’t asked often enough and at times highlighting the corrupt and hypocritical nature of those who preach. He uncovers some characters who are ridiculous enough to cause hilarity – the self proclaimed “reincarnation of Jesus” (who makes money via a tv show), the man who plays Jesus in a Christian theme park in Florida, a gay man who married a lesbian and now refuses to believe that “gay” exists, and the creator of the first creationist museum. But alongside such people – we’ll call them “mentals” – Maher adds his own humour, be it smirking asides or cheeky add-ons in the form of subtitles or clips of popular culture to emphasise his point. Or just make fun.

And this isn’t just a Jesus-bashing, as Maher covers a variety of religions (albeit with a heavy focus on Christianity and a lighter touch on others, although since criticism of others can land you with death threats it’s no wonder why he steps more carefully). His overall point – that we need to stop this nonsense and concentrate on more important things like not destroying the earth and each other – is an important point to make, and makes you wish this film was made available to a wider audience rather than a small cinema screen full of guffawing pretentioles like me.

Though at times it seems the focus runs off course in favour of interviewing mentals for laughs, Religulous is still a funny and important documentary, enraging as it enlightens and making a point that’s so bloody obvious it’s painful – painful when you know not nearly enough people realise it already. I demand you find a partial believer and trick them into seeing this film, perhaps under the guise that it’s “The Passion – part two”. If we can get the casual believer on to the rational side, perhaps there’ll be enough of us to tackle such nonsensical ideas like having religious politicians.

Religulous scores an impressive CF3, another high score for another documentary (see Anvil). Come on “fictional” films – can you keep up with real life?

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