Friday, October 30, 2009

Bill Maher and Religulous

Last night we watched a documentary called Religulous by Bill Maher. I think I have seen this guy before, but didn't really know what his shtick is. I guess I was hoping someone would mount a real argument against the tenets of faith and see if they could knock them down. I left before it ended.

I was disappointed. Maher himself is more interested in listening to himself feel superior. He interviewed all variety of goofballs and then actually Frances Collins, who is the originator of the Human Genome Project, but edited the interview so ferociously that it basically was just Maher talking. Then on to the goofballs and a bunch of clips of snake oil salespeople (who have existed for all of eternity, but now we can see over and over thanks to TV), disgraced televangelists and movie shorts.

But in no way can I improve on what Frank Shaeffer wrote about Religulous and Bill Maher. Found here, and worth a read because it is also funny.

Here's some Schaeffer asserting the well known tenet that Maher's form of Atheism is not only akin, but ostensibly equal to fundametalist thinking.

The New Atheists' books provided a context for Bill Maher's movie Religulous, the most blunt instrument imaginable. Maher's documentary expands what Harris started in his book The End of Faith. Harris begins his book with a scene of a young Islamic terrorist in Jerusalem smiling as he commits suicide while blowing up a bus full of innocent people. In Religulous, Maher gleefully includes many more images of look-how-crazy-God-makes-everyone, religion-inspired violence. The Harris/Maher message is as clear: the world would be better off without religion.

There is another message in the Maher/New Atheist oeuvre: everyone must think in categories stripped of allegory. Forget the idea that perhaps one may hold two contradictory ideas at the same time, say that none of the stories in the Bible happened as written, but that they are true in more subtle ways than mere historicity, or that we're nothing but jumped up chimps, but are also connecting to a deeper reality when we say, "the Lord is my shepherd" and hope that he is.

The New Atheists don't seem to "get" grown up allegory any more than the fundamentalists of the Religious Right do, let alone literary imagination. And both the Religious right and the New Atheists also seems oblivious to serious religious thinkers from Confucius to the Sufi poets, from Reinhold Niebur to one of Reinhold Niebuhr's biggest fans; President elect Obama.

Maher's world contains no Pastor Deitrick Bonhoffer (martyred for trying to assassinate Hitler, and who defined the intellectual and theological terms for resistance to state tyranny based on Christian ethics), or the intellectual man of letters and convert from atheism to the Roman Catholic Church, Malcolm Muggeridge, let alone an awareness of the prayers written by the "atheist" W.E.B. Du Bois for his students, a poignant demonstration that faith is not so easily abandoned.

Read more at:

No comments: