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

Updated on December 18, 2017
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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.

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

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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