I had a feeling I might be somewhat conflicted towards this film, and in large part so I am. I find Bill Maher kind of amusing, though admittedly I’ve only seen him in small chunks so far, and I tend to find myself broadly in agreement with the position he takes on religion; its power to fuck people up mightily is pretty hard to deny. But there are ways of going about attacking it, and I think Maher has gone about it the lazy way here. Taking down religious idiocy can be hugely entertaining, and I’m the first to admit I’ve roared with hilarity at some of the Christian propaganda offered up on those special nights at Mu-Meson Archives, and that’s fine if the proposition you’re trying to advance is “Christian media produces some wacky shit”. If your argument is that “religion, irrespective of which religion you mean, inherently poisons everything”, you need a bit more. Too, I call bullshit on Maher’s description of himself as an “apatheist”; you don’t go to the length of making a 100-minute film about religion if it’s really irrelevant to you. Religion seems to matter to him a great deal, particularly Islam, which for him seems to have some sort of particular monopoly on misogyny (read any Buddhism lately, Bill?) and hypocrisy about calling itself a religion of peace while trying to conquer the world (heard of the Crusades, Bill?)… but Maher’s not really offering an argument as such, simply putting forth the statement that religion can only inspire evil (the possibility that it might actually inspire people to do good and actually not harm others is something he won’t countenance), he’s not really interested in what his interviewees think, and though he talks at the end about offering doubt in favour of the certainties religion offers, that’s kind of bullshit too; he’s very sure he’s right and those other guys are wrong. On the whole, interesting but I wish Bill hadn’t insisted upon trying to continually undermine my sympathy with his position by being so fucking smug.
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