• Categories

  • Archives

Popcorn Philosophy

Scott’s Blog 10/07/08

Popcorn Philosophy


Where do you go when you want some insight into the deepest issues of life?

It used to be a lounge at a college student union.

Or a cool espresso shop.

Now, things have changed.

We have cable television programs where we can see the big questions discussed.

Well, maybe not discussed.

Most of the time these presentations degenerate into two people either trying to shout the other down, or a display of such reasonable, well nuanced points like “You’re ugly and your mom dresses you funny!”

So how do you get your point across without losing your voice?

Seems like there is a new way around these full throated insult fests – make a movie!

Controversial left leaning documentary maker Michael Moore pioneered the popularity of this approach with his decidedly snarky works “Michael and Me”, “Farenheit 911” and “Sicko”.

Now, the advantage of making such a film is that you have complete control over the finished product.

Opposing point of view makes you look silly?

Leave it on the cutting room floor.

Experts who disagree might ask you questions you can’t answer?

Line up a list of the bizarre and extreme and poorly informed so you can look like you are the voice of reason.

By making a film you can make yourself look like an intellectual Rocky Balboa taking thirty seconds to KO Barney Fife.

The latest practitioner of this less than honorable art?

Wanna be philosopher and comedian Bill Maher and his cinematic offering “Religulous”.

Syndicated talk show host and noted movie critic Michael Medved offers this evaluation of three fundamental (Can I use that word?) flaws in Maher’s foray into cinema.


First, and most obviously, Maher selects easy and vulnerable targets for his sneering assaults on God and Jesus. He never chooses to interview formidable religious intellects, like author Dinesh D’Souza, or theologian Al Mohler, or evangelist Ravi Zacarias. Instead he focuses on oddballs like the portly proprietor of a religious curios shop, or the surfer dude who plays Jesus in those theme park crucifixions, or the sleazy, pompadoured Latino evangelist who claims he’s the reincarnated Christ. On the rare occasions that the movie shows him in conversation with a serious thinker (such as Dr. Francis Collins of the Human Genome Project) the interchange is edited to avoid substance and to highlight Maher’s insulting zingers.

Second, the movie concentrates its fire on Christianity in its various forms while giving a free pass to the most dangerous elements of radical Islam. Islamic fanatics and jihadists obviously passed up the chance to talk with Bill Maher (or, perhaps Maher wisely made scant attempt to talk with them), so the only Muslims he encounters look harmless and clueless—like the pair of nerdy middle-aged guys trying to start a gay encounter group for the Islamic community in Amsterdam. Only at the end of the film does Maher make significant reference to Islamo-Nazi terror, and he does so to warn of an alleged world-ending threat from religion in general – conflating the dangers of Islam, Christianity and Judaism (Hinduism and Buddhism are all but ignored) as if each of the Abrahamic faiths counted as equally menacing. A frightening montage cuts together images of burning buildings on 9/11 and Osama bin Laden, with footage of Pope Benedict, President Bush and devout Jews in prayer.

Finally, Maher scrupulously avoids any honest examination of his own spiritual state or pursuit of happiness. At one point, he interacts with his mother and derisively recalls his Catholic upbringing, but there’s no hint as to whether his anti-religious path has led him to enlightenment and satisfaction or merely to bitter loneliness. Since Maher has established himself as a famous and rich comedian, we’re obviously meant to assume that he’s achieved some sort of happiness or fulfillment. But he never reflects on his own lack of a wife, children or family, or his comments elsewhere about his enthusiastic indulgence in drugs and hookers. A bit of honest self-examination might have helped shape a far richer, more provocative film, by undermining Maher’s pose of smug superiority in encountering religious people whose lives, by conventional standards,  count as far more “together” and rewarding than his disconnected and decadent celebrity existence. your definition of deep thinking is sarcasm, sweeping generalizations, straw man arguments and liberal use of vulgarities then “Religulous” may be your cup of tea.

The most ironic thing about “Religulous” is that Maher is absolutely certain that absolute certainty about God is the greatest threat to humanity.

I wonder if he would apply that same standard to those who are absolutely certain religion is the problem?

As Michael Medved summed up:

Maher’s concluding fire-and-brimstone sermon (there is no other phrase) flatly declares that the world would find itself greatly and profoundly improved if every form of faith simply disappeared and humanity learned to live in the pure, cold, blinding sunlight of materialist reason.

To follow up on that concept, perhaps Maher’s next project could feature visits to those favored areas of the planet where religion has already vanished, thanks to the efforts of enlightened and determined leaders. North Korea or Cuba might provide ideal places to begin such a tour, and we can only wish Bill Maher luck in negotiating permission from such benevolent and religion-free governments. think the Bible says it most succinctly:

The fool has said in his heart,“There is no God.” (Psalm 14:1)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: