I saw Religulous, the new Bill Maher documentary on Religion, last night at a packed theater in Sacramento.
Bill Maher starts the film off in a "Trucker's Church" and it seems he will indeed take the snooty "Smart guy makes fun of the stupid people" approach that I was loath to waste much time with.
But he is compassionate with the men in the church. He tries to have a very sincere conversation, of course with his sense of humor in place, and then he allows them to pray over him. He establishes that the every day religious people are not his enemy, even if he find fault with their thought process.
Then he jumps to talking with a human genome scientist who is Christian and establishes that yes there are smart religious people.
From here, he mostly visits with people that he wishes to ridicule but they're not the stupid people or the smart believer, they're the people who are getting rich off of selling faith or who are embroiled in religious conflict and violence. These are people you like seeing ridiculed.
But Maher doesn't give them a fair chance to speak, he makes rebuttals in the editing room that his interviewees have no chance to respond to. So, for the most part this is like illustrated stand up comedy. But it is GREAT comedy. Maher makes strong points and does so hilariously.
And some of his guests, particularly an older Catholic Priest (I may have his honorific wrong) who is the funniest most charming person in the whole flick, steal the spotlight at times.
Maher does not stray from the big three religions and considering how many Hindus there are in the world and their role, both good and bad in the world's religious conflicts I thought this was an unfortunate omission. Not to mention the Bahai (my favorite target for ridicule) Buddhists, etc. I know he couldn't cover them all but I would have touched on these before Scientology which is one of the few "other" religions he lays into.
At movies end, Maher makes it clear that he is in the "No hope for human kind so long as religion remains" camp with a an impassioned speech in a dramatic location. Unfortunately it seems not to have occurred to him or the filmmakers that this is the scene where Maher's humanity was most needed. The camera angle and the bright sun and Maher's dark small eyes leave him looking like a demon from Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
I saw a movie that says many things I've heard before but am glad to see being broadcast to wide audience and I laughed my ass off.