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Religulous, The Bill Mahar Film; a review--Part One

Updated on April 5, 2015
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Chris spent 50 years in the Evangelical world as a layman, as a student at a prominent Christian University and as a missionary and pastor.

Source

In 2008, Bill Maher and film director Larry Charles, released a film by the name "Religulous." The documentary was produced by Thousand Words and distributed by Lions Gate Entertainment. This is Part One of a two part critique of that film.

Richard Dawkins: The God Delusion

The God Delusion
The God Delusion

You may not like Dawkins, but wouldn't a firm understanding of his arguments be helpful in defending your faith?

 

A Culture Threatened

If Christians are confident in the veracity of their beliefs, why would they be afraid when someone comes along and questions particular tenets and the system as a whole? When a person's worldview is threatened, the natural response is fear followed by anger. And anger is a dominant christian response to this film. Here are a few examples:

"The fact that God is a gracious, loving God, not willing that any should perish, is obvious in that Bill Maher is still with us!" Ken Ham (Scientist of Faith; an interviewee in the film)

"I kind of wondered how it was that he didn't get murdered while filming it"

"Bill Maher's "Religulous" Blasphemy"

"Maher reveals himself to be precisely what he is attacking, a closed-minded bigot who thinks he has all the answers."

"a pissed off skeptic’s stand-up routine."

"like being hit over the head with a club for 90 minutes. Because it's so atrociously dull, heavy-handed, and crude."

"If “religion must die,” isn't it a short leap to then say “religious people must die”?"

"I never saw it, but hear it was pretty stupid as is Bill Maher."


Source

A Critique of the Christian Response to Religulous

The above quotations represent a lot of the response I found toward the film. I have to say though, that there was also a great deal of very thoughtful, intelligent response. There is a problem though, in my view, with the thoughtful responses. The most common objection to the film was that Maher and Charles chose to interview many average Christians who are not theologians, scientists or philosophers. The gist of this argument is that the average Christian can't be expected to be able to answer the tough questions.

Here is the problem with that objection. Anyone who has made this argument is admitting that the average Christian believes in Christ and Christianity without having a clue why. This was one thrust of the film, therefore, Maher and Charles were correct in their premise.

an Ex-Jew for Jesus.

Early in the film, Bill Maher interviews Steve Burg, an Ex-Jew for Jesus. When asked why he came to believe in Christ, Burg claimed that God had performed many miracles in his life, so many that he had trouble remembering them all. Maher, admirably, asked for concrete examples of these many miracles. Burg’s best and only example was that he once wanted a drink of water, so he held a glass out of a window and prayed for rain. Of course, it rained. Maher’s response? “Sometimes it rains.” Burg did recover a bit from this well deserved humiliation. Maher asked him why, if he believed that life with Jesus after death was so wonderful, he didn’t just kill himself? Burg responded by saying that “God has things for me to do.” Of course Maher got the last word, observing that Burg’s “bar on miracles is pretty low.”

The Average (christian) Joe

The Truckers Chapel in Raleigh, North Carolina isn’t the average church, but these men believe with the same passion that most evangelicals possess.

Maher raised a question to the Truckers concerning the origin of certain beliefs. Weren’t concepts such as original sin, immaculate conception, and the virgin birth of human rather than divine origin? Now, even Christianity is divided on that list, but the truckers ran to the defense of Christianity and their best response was that blood taken from the Shroud of Turin was female blood, Mary’s blood, which ran through the veins of Jesus. Since God was his Father, only Mary’s blood could, and would be detected. In the end, the truckers were reduced to asking one of Christianity’s favorite questions for skeptics: “What if we are right and you are wrong?” Maher revealed accurately what the question implied, that many Christians are playing a type of spiritual lotto, doubling down, gambling on the reality of a final day of judgment by the Christian God.

Ken Ham, Australian young-Earth creationist
Ken Ham, Australian young-Earth creationist | Source

Bill Maher Stand-up Special

Bill Maher ... But I'm Not Wrong
Bill Maher ... But I'm Not Wrong

Bill Maher provides his hilarious insights and opinions on a variety of social and political issues in this stand-up special.

 

Scientist of Faith, Ken Ham

Every Christian should be able to defend their faith, but believing, professional scientists should be expected to have their intellectual ducks in a row at all times. Again, I must recognize here that Maher had sole access to editing. We may never know for certain what reasonable answers these men may have given. But ideally, even editing should not have been able to yield the ineptness revealed in the film.

Ken Ham is a Christian and a scientist who operates the Creation Museum in Kentucky. This interview was very fragmented, possibly pointing at the job of the editors, who portrayed him as irrational and unprepared. In the interviews immediately preceding and following the Ken Ham interview, the interviewees were asked how they felt about the idea of the earth being only about 5000 years old. That question was either put to Ken Ham and edited out, or never asked in the first place. This was the one man in the film who would have most definitely had something substantive to say on the subject. Ken Ham supports the idea that creation occurred about six thousand years ago. I don’t know why Maher did not reveal this, unless, in spite of his position, Ken Ham came across far too intellectually for Maher’s purposes in the film.

Ken Ham ended his interview with the same lame argument as the members of the Truckers Chapel. He said that God “Is an infinite God, working in ways we don’t understand.” Those are not the words of a competent scientist. Those are the words of a Christian who has gotten backed into a philosophical corner and can't see any other way out.

Ken Ham wrote an article regarding his interview in the film. It has been removed from the web.


The “ex-gay” man is John Westcott, a Florida man who walked away from a seven-year committed gay relationship to develop a Christian ministry to gays.
The “ex-gay” man is John Westcott, a Florida man who walked away from a seven-year committed gay relationship to develop a Christian ministry to gays. | Source

A man with a ministry to homosexuals

Pastor John Westcott, who refers to himself as a “former homosexual”, is head of Exchange Ministries. Westcott denies that any person is really gay and that there is no“gay gene”. At this point the film quickly diverts to a clip of the introduction to the scientist who discovered the “gay gene”, Dr. Dean Hammer. One would have expected Westcott to have seen this one coming.

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    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 2 years ago from Maple City, Michigan

      ps, This is a film that most people seem to either love or hate. I think that due to my background, I was able to remain in the center while writing this review. I do appreciate Maher's straight forward approach. Thanks for reading the article. Just in case you missed it in the title, there is a part two as well.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 2 years ago from sunny Florida

      Well written and expressed. I have not seen the film, but have 'heard' of it.

      I will have to view it to make a final comment or decision on it.

      I sometimes think that folks take a stand in favor of something or against something that they think will cause a lot of attention to be focused on them.

      thanks for sharing... Angels are on the way to you this afternoon ps

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 3 years ago from Maple City, Michigan

      Kukata Kali, Thanks for visiting my hub. I appreciate the time you have taken to read and comment.

    • Kukata Kali profile image

      Kukata Kali 3 years ago

      I loved the film and totally appreciate your expressions from it. Voted up~

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 4 years ago from Maple City, Michigan

      Kerry, I'm going to have to start cheering you on. If you didn't see the whole film, it really is worth the time. Granted it was not balanced or really even fair at times, but the final monologue is really quite brilliant in my view. Nice to see you.

    • profile image

      Kerry43 4 years ago

      Hi Chris, I didn't catch all of this, but I did see the bit - small, humiliating bit, with Ken Ham. I totally agree with your point of view on that.

      Kerry...on to part II

    • cam8510 profile image
      Author

      Chris Mills 5 years ago from Maple City, Michigan

      Thanks for clarifying. I am very familiar with what you are talking about. I grew up in an evangelical Christian home, attended four years of Bible College and received a BA in Biblical Ed. I was a missionary for three years and a pastor for seven. I only mention these things so you can better understand where I am coming from. Good interacting with you.

    • zeke2100 profile image

      zeke2100 5 years ago

      What I think you are saying about "all prophecies being fulfilled" is that the Bible is a closed canon, meaning that there are no prophets today that give new revelation from God. The Bible is complete and no new revelations from God will be added to it. But there are many prophecies that have not yet been fulfilled in the Bible. The Ezekiel 38 war has not taken place, the rapture has not happened, the seven year tribulation period has not happened, and the millenial reign of Christ has not taken place.

    • zeke2100 profile image

      zeke2100 5 years ago

      There are many still to be fulfilled. One off the top of my head is the Ezekiel 38 war which has not taken place yet. Matthew 24 talks about what will happen in the end times, as well as things in the book of Revelations. Israel will rebuild their temple in the area where the Dome of the Rome currently sits. That hasn't happened yet either.

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 5 years ago from Maple City, Michigan

      zeke2100, that is interesting because many Christians claim that all prophecies have been fulfilled. What places and people related prophecies do you believe have yet to be fulfilled?

    • zeke2100 profile image

      zeke2100 5 years ago

      In the section "a blunt and truthful look at religion in history" it says that some Christians believe God will end the world with nuclear explosion.

      The theology I hold to is exactly the opposite. That the world will not end by nuclear explosion because there are prophecies in the Bible (related to the geographic location and people) that have not yet come to pass, and that Israel will not by destroyed with nuclear weapons.

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 5 years ago from Maple City, Michigan

      zeke2100, thanks for the tip. I will definitely check it out. And thanks for reading some of my hubs.

    • zeke2100 profile image

      zeke2100 5 years ago

      Cam8510, I haven't been through all of your Hubs yet, but I think a review of "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" by Ben Stein would be a good complimentary Hub to compare with Bill Maher's movie review.

    • cam8510 profile image
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      Chris Mills 5 years ago from Maple City, Michigan

      Peeples, thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I agree. The film was very good and entertaining.

    • peeples profile image

      Peeples 5 years ago from South Carolina

      This was a very well written hub. I personally enjoyed the movie very much! Voted up!

    • profile image

      cam8510 5 years ago

      josh3418, Thank you for taking time to read my hub and to comment as well. Any further comments you have about this particular hub or any of my other hubs would be greatly appreciated.

      Chris

    • josh3418 profile image

      Joshua Zerbini 5 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Well written and very informative. You are an excellent writer because you do not seem to sound overly intelligent but rather simplistic. I enjoy this writing style. Voted up and useful, keep up the great work!