Religion and Religulous

Workout Notes 4000 yard swim; slowish 500 (9:03), 500 drill/swim (zoomers), 10 x 100 on the 1:45 (1:41, then 1:37-1:38), 5 x 100 fist (1:43-1:45), 5 x 100 (25 3g, 75 free) 1:48’s, 10 x 50 on the 1 (47s), 500 strokes.

On one hand, I can see my times slipping, but mostly what this means is that I am past my peak. On the other hand, this would have been a good workout 2-3 months ago.

Religion and Religulous

My wife and I saw the Bill Maher film Religulous yesterday.

(hat tip: Friendly Atheist)

My take Basically, Maher goes to various churches and/or religious leaders and basically asks “how can you believe that? Do you really believe that? Isn’t this inconsistent with reality?”. He interviews: someone who started a cannabis church (Amsterdam, of course), someone who claims to be the Messiah, Francis Collins (the world class scientist), a sitting US Senator (Pryor, D-Arkansas) a few priests, and folks who were attending a trucker’s chapel (among others).

He also talks to Muslim Clerics, Jewish Rabbis and people who were visiting a “Holy Land” amusement park in Florida.

Maher’s makes me squirm at times; he asks people the questions that I’ve asked myself a long time ago; many resent it; some actually seem to enjoy the back and forth (Collins, the guy who played the Jesus part in that Florida park), some come across quite well (the Astronomer at the Vatican, the “maverick” priest outside of the Vatican), and some get quite defensive.

Facts do get presented, but this is mostly “let’s make a joke about it”, by which the point is made.

I am glad that I saw it and can recommend the film. But, in my opinion, the same points are more forcefully made by the Dawkins documentary The Root of All Evil.

You can buy the DVD at the Dawkins website (I have a copy) or you can see the videos here (48 minutes each)

The takes are a bit different though; Dawkins argues for atheism whereas Maher is more about “doubt” and being skeptical.

Speaking of doubt: how much doubt can one have and still call oneself a “Christian”? Follow the link to see this question being discussed.

About the effect of this film or the effects of the “new atheist” books: is the focus misplaced? The article I linked to notes that much of what is written is more written for the “already de-converted” or “never theistic to begin with” rather than to persuade the believer. Also:

[…]Maher and director Larry Charles are highly adept at ridiculing their fellow citizens. Anyone who has seen Charles’ last film (Borat) is familiar with his directorial style: put ordinary Americans on camera, ask them a few questions about their beliefs, and then stand back as they reveal their vapidity. The technique is simple, but the psychological response it provokes in viewers is anything but. We laugh as we shake our heads in disgust, squirming with a mixture of pity and repugnance for the pious fools on screen. But we also enjoy a rush of pride for getting the joke, since every laugh confirms that we in the audience are smarter and more sophisticated than the ignoramuses ignorantly and ineptly defending their convictions. Maher is our surrogate here, posing the questions, smirking at the idiocy of the responses, and sometimes explicitly ridiculing the interviewee to his face. And not only to his face. Maher and Charles have been kind enough to include some of their banter as they travel from one interview to another, cracking a few extra jokes at the expense of the last inarticulate boob.

And that is what makes Religulous a perfect complement to the recent books by Harris, Dawkins, and Hitchens. Like these authors, Maher harbors so much contempt for religion that he would rather score easy points than explore the messy reality of humanity’s complicated–often sordid, but sometimes noble–religious impulses and experiences. That’s why Maher takes on simpletons and extremists instead of seeking out theologians and other thoughtful believers to explain and defend their beliefs. That’s also why moderate believers simply don’t exist in Maher’s America, which aside from the 16 percent of the country* that explicitly rejects institutional religion, seems to be populated only by fundamentalists awaiting (and perhaps even itching to hasten) the apocalypse. How else to explain the absurdly paranoid peroration with which he concludes the film? Over ominous music and images of mushroom clouds, Maher informs us that religious belief is a “neurological disorder” that must be eradicated for the sake of human survival. “Grow up or die,” he warns, as if those were our only options. […]

The problem with this argument is, of course, that

1. Most believers really don’t have anything resembling a sophisticated understanding for their religion and would be horrified if they knew what many of the mainstream theologians thought and

2. Having a somewhat sophisticated thought process doesn’t make what one believes true; after all I reject astrology even if I don’t know what the more sophisticated astrologers believe.

I see it this way (and I’ll take on Christianity as that is what surrounds me):

1. If you believe in a resurrected person, then you are delusional.

2. If you see the resurrection in some symbolic or “spiritual” sense, then you really have more of a spiritual mythology (e. g., a story which brings deep comfort and meaning) and what you practice really isn’t classical Christianity but rather a spiritual/ethical system which stems from it.

Religion can provide benefits (prayer, meditation to calm the emotions and mind), and things such as yoga can calm the body as well.

The culture war:

Evolved and Rational taunts the theists a bit; she points out that the argument “life has no purpose without a god” doesn’t hold water. She provides this graphic:

More taunting
On the Dawkins site: people refer to all of those books that attempt to rebut the points made by the new atheists as the “flea circus”. This is why I like the Dawkins site: they openly post articles that are hostile towards us; all comers. This is not a ‘bubble” site where the all (or even most!) of the articles agree with us.

After the 2008 election, I’ll probably start hanging out there a bit more.

Of course, an endorsement of a candidate by an atheist group will always be used by the political opposition. Hat tip to Science Avenger.


October 16, 2008 - Posted by | 2008 Election, creationism, politics, religion, swimming, training, Uncategorized


  1. I watched Dawkins documentary ‘root of all evil’ and I thoroughly enjoyed it – I think he examined some tough religious issues that need to be looked at in more depth (should of been even longer).

    Comment by societyvs | October 16, 2008 | Reply

  2. I’m concerned that politicians and religious authors are taking over all of the flea circuses when they obviously have few skills in flamboyant showmanship or manipulating an audience in believing in something that does not always exist.

    Comment by Flea Circus Research Library | October 16, 2008 | Reply

  3. […] Some Reviews of Religulous and why I care.. I wrote a review on the film Religulous a few days ago. […]

    Pingback by Some Reviews of Religulous and why I care.. « blueollie | October 18, 2008 | Reply

  4. […] The best I can hope for is a candidate that strongly respects a secular approach to government and for an advance in culture to where it becomes ok to question some of the kookier claims made by religion (which is one reason I liked the film Religulous) […]

    Pingback by Back to Politics… « blueollie | October 18, 2008 | Reply

  5. How sad that you cannot see the uniqueness of man among the creation.

    Comment by Tina | January 9, 2010 | Reply

    • How sad you remain the prisoner of primitive superstition.

      Comment by blueollie | January 9, 2010 | Reply

  6. “How sad you remain the prisoner of primitive superstition.”
    This from the guy who gains personal pleasure from portraying himself as a bigoted fool to the world within the Republican Faith Chat website? Some intellectuals would think of THAT as sad[Grin].

    Comment by John | January 13, 2010 | Reply

    • I KNOW that I am playing. Besides, there are lines I don’t cross even there.

      Comment by blueollie | January 13, 2010 | Reply

  7. Although I very rarely return to see what nonsense is afoot within the Republican Faith Chat website I have recognized that Blueollie, I was just playfully poking fun[smile].
    We have recently lost one our Atheist posters within the Truth Talk Live website. If you wish, you are welcome to come over and fill the void.

    Comment by John | January 14, 2010 | Reply

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