From these negative reviews at Rotten Tomatoes, I knew ‘Religulous‘ was gonna be good:

“[Maher’s] scattershot and ad hominem attacks against many different forms of religious hypocrisy don’t add up to a coherent critique, and he’s not qualified to provide one.”

“One of the rules of satire is that you can’t mock things you don’t understand, and Religulous starts developing fault lines when it becomes clear that Maher’s view of religious faith is based on a sophomoric reading of the Scriptures.”

“In the end, for all its genuflections towards free inquiry and rational debate, Maher is as close-minded as any of the preachers he despises.”

*Classic* theist knee-jerks to questions/challenges from atheists– Youre MEAN! You dont UNDERSTAND how ELEGANT my faith is! Atheism is just like RELIGION!

Sweet. I had to go see this movie.

So me and a band of gritty, culture-war-wisened Oklahoma Atheists went to see ‘Religulous’ this weekend–

The theater was full. Not Harry-Potter-opening-night full, but full. In Oklahoma. Though ‘Religulous’ has an R rating (not a ‘bring the whole family!’ PG rating, like EXPELLED!), the audience ranged from groups of teenagers to elderly couples (one went to complain to the theater management to turn up the movie volume, heh! Thank you old lady!)

The movie itself was just great. I laughed, groaned, and laughed and groaned at the same time. Maher didnt spare anyone– Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Jews, Mormons, Scientologists, the Church of Cannabis… Wait, Hindus. I think he missed Hundus.

The interviews were super– Maher gave everyone enough rope to hang themselves just by asking questions. It was amazing how fast these people got violent in response to *questions*. There was even a throw-down between two True Christians (TM) at The Holy Land Experience, when they realized they disagreed on a key issue (can the Jews be saved?). My favorite moments were the interviews with Francis Collins (DO NOT WANT), a Vatican priest (not what you expect), and of course, Ken Ham. Ken was very pleased with his performance:

As Maher interviews Ken in his office later, Ken is able to answer Maher’s questions well and rationally–even on the nature of God. Ken turns the tables on Maher by asking him a question he can’t answer: “Bill, are you God?” Maher is left with no answer other than “no” and then silence. It is telling that he interviewed no one else with the theological grounding to defend the Christian faith.


Oh, the Muslims in this movie were fantastic! He interviewed a female Islamic politician in Denmark (progressive!), a Muslim rapper who defended free speech, and a generic ‘traditional’ Muslim. All three of these individuals could not say ‘Its wrong to kill someone for speaking out against Islam/Muhammad/whatever.’ It wasnt just the ‘traditional’ dude, it was the ‘progressive’ chick and ‘free speech’ rapper who couldnt say ‘Killing is wrong’. Umm humm. Disgusting.

Anyway, I think this movie will be more fun for people who dont live in Oklahoma (a nice freak-show for anyone who doesnt live with this insanity), but it was a wonderful bonding experience for us OKers. An hour-and-forty-minute safe haven.


  1. #1 Sili
    October 12, 2008

    Ah. I think I know who you’re talking about.

    A publicity stunt from the tiny leftwing (former communists of various shades who’ve now banded together). They almost didn’t make it in the last time because of this ‘politically correct’ debacle. Pretty hard to defend having a fervent believer representing a supposedly atheistic party.

    Did boost the xenophobes on the rightwing, though.

  2. #2 Flaky
    October 12, 2008

    “In the end, for all its genuflections towards free inquiry and rational debate, Maher is as close-minded as any of the preachers he despises.”
    From what I’ve seen (some Youtube clips of Maher’s show) I’d have to agree with that assessment. Even though I agree with Maher on a lot of things, he does seem to be a kind of ‘leftie’ O’Reilly. The strongest case point being his anti-vaccinationist leanings.

  3. #3 rpenner
    October 12, 2008

    Well just as number of names on a petition is a falsely vivid demonstration of a position’s soundness yet is skewered by Project Steve, so box office revenue is also a weak indication of an idea’s success. But… (8 weeks, $7.7 million) (1.4 weeks (and counting), $5.1 million)

  4. #4 rpenner
    October 12, 2008

    Update — boy the internets move fast…. (1.7 weeks (and counting), $6.7 million)

  5. #5 Maytagman
    October 12, 2008

    We wanna’ make a “pilgrimage” to Creation Land so I can ride the triceratops. That saddle looked comfy ๐Ÿ˜‰

    On a side note, as my friends and I were standing in the concession line talking about Religulous before the film I caught an older gentlemen in a members only jacket with a big-ass flag pin on staring at me with a mixture of contempt and what I can only describe as fear. See, I had just come from an Obama rally where Bruce Springsteen played and had on an Obama-Biden t-shirt. Consequently, I was very much his idea of a godless liberal who is probably gay. (I work out and have long hair ergo I must like to bang dudes ๐Ÿ˜‰ It was like a halloween costume for the hinterlands

  6. #6 Matthew
    October 12, 2008

    I loved the offended man at the Temple of the Dome – I was expecting a diatribe against a non-Muslim being there, but he seemed to really just dislike his humor and didn’t think he was funny. Everyone is a critic.

    I’m also partial to any film that reminds the mainstream that the ex-gay phenomena is a sad joke.

  7. #7 rrt
    October 12, 2008

    I’m pretty sure the subtitles for the angry muslim at the dome were meant to be a joke, Matthew. A number of other similar jokes were made, some also with obviously fake subtitles, and they had that particular guy claiming that he was familiar with Maher’s TV shows, which I doubt he would be.

    Plenty of reviews rehashing the same ol’ classic excuses: You’re only picking on the extreme fringers, nobody really believes that stuff anymore, etc. But I noticed that Maher did address that issue directly and in much the same way Dawkins has, basically pointing out that there are more of these people than the “moderates” want to admit, that the “moderates” are often not so moderate as they themselves like to pretend, and that far too many of them are enabling the loonier theists by giving them entirely unearned deference.

    But I also wonder: Maybe they’re not just saying “you’re not being fair!” Maybe they’re starting to think, and are trying to feel out whether their modern non-literalist theologian isn’t also full of crap. Maybe they’re looking for us to poke the first hole. Of course, I think that would make a boring sequel.

  8. #8 Joshua Zelinsky
    October 12, 2008

    Eh, the movie was certainly amusing but he was at times sloppy and left himself open to responses that he didn’t need to. My own impression of the movie(discussed at my blog) was not as positive as yours.

  9. #9 Joshua Zelinsky
    October 12, 2008

    Also one other thing to note: I saw the movie in Boston which one would expect to be the ideal location for this sort of movie to succeed and sure enough the theater was packed.

  10. #10 Tyler DiPietro
    October 12, 2008

    I think Bill Maher is a pretty cool guy, eh denies the germ theory of disease and doesn’t afraid of anything.

  11. #11 Joshua Zelinsky
    October 12, 2008

    Tyler, that doesn’t make him a “cool guy” it just means that Maher is a general contrarian. Sometimes he happens to be correct (as he is generally with this movie). His attitudes about germs just indicates that he isn’t really a rationalist or even a skeptic at all; he’s a bit of an idiot.

  12. #12 Sili
    October 12, 2008


    Tyler is using a stupid internet meme that also got me in hot water when I used it on the crazy teacher Freshwater on Pharyngula. I’m sure Abbie appreciates it more.

  13. #13 Joshua Zelinsky
    October 12, 2008

    Sili, ugh and that was even one I had heard of before! I’ll go crawl back into my little hole with Ted Stevens.

  14. #14 Greg Laden
    October 12, 2008

    OMG Your Head’s On Fire!!!!

  15. #15 Tyler DiPietro
    October 12, 2008

    “Tyler is using a stupid internet meme that also got me in hot water when I used it on the crazy teacher Freshwater on Pharyngula.”

    That seems kind of out of character for PZ.

  16. #16 Stacy S.
    October 12, 2008

    It’s not playing anywhere within 50 miles of me. ๐Ÿ™

    ” There are no showtimes for this movie at the chosen location. Please choose a different location or a different movie.”

  17. #17 Joe
    October 12, 2008

    It’s not playing anywhere within 50 miles of me.

    Hmmm, I have 3 theaters in 5 miles, and 7 in 10 miles. Have you thought of moving?


  18. #18 Nemo
    October 12, 2008

    Religulous starts developing fault lines when it becomes clear that Maher’s view of religious faith is based on a sophomoric reading of the Scriptures.

    Just like the views of the vast majority of believers… the ones who even bother to read, that is.

  19. #19 SteveWH
    October 12, 2008

    I saw it this weekend as well. I enjoyed it, but wasn’t particularly impressed, and won’t be rushing to see it again.

    I think that the major stumbling block for many people who watch it will be to think that it’s either satire or a documentary. It’s neither. It’s not meant to get you thinking about religion – it’s meant to get you thinking against religion. The fact that he doesn’t bring in any “sophisticated” theology or sociology of religion isn’t a mistake or weakness. The occasional sloppiness of the interviews, the crudeness of the questions, the often bad and distracting editing, isn’t poor movie making – it’s the point of the movie.

    Religion is not something worth taking seriously, and so a serious documentary would be counter-productive. Religion is to be mocked and ridiculed. And those jokes at its expense aren’t even worth wasting much sophistication on.

    He’s not trying to win converts; he’s trying to energize the already converted. Thinking about this movie is the wrong response, and will ultimately be misguided. I think that the proper response is, “Fuck yeah!” That itself is pretty ironic.

  20. #20 J. J. Ramsey
    October 12, 2008

    There are some issues. Maher credulously repeats the quote mine of John Adams saying “This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.” The stuff about the parallels between Jesus and pagan deities looks like it was from Acharya S, or the Internet urban legends spawned by her. I know at the very least that everything he said about Mithras was bogus, and the claim that Horus was born of a virgin is a downright howler. I’d love to see what Maher’s sources are on this matter. (Maybe the same as Brian Flemming’s. :p)

    Still, aside from some not entirely unexpected credulity on Maher’s part, Religulous was not too bad. I’d disagree about the part on how “[I]t was amazing how fast these people got violent in response to *questions*.” I don’t remember the interviews getting that ugly, and IIRC, the “throw-down” was heated conversation, not a physical fight. If anything, the claims that Maher just picked on the worst of the religious are exaggerated. A lot of the people that Maher interviewed were decent people, and not even particularly dumb. Wrong, of course, but not religion’s bottom of the barrel.

  21. #21 Scott
    October 12, 2008

    I think that the most important point of this article is the review given by Rotten Tomatoes. It shows that the editor of this online rag believes support for his/her ‘defend religion at all costs’ point of view is strong enough to justify this fundamentalist rant.

    Two things…

    The MAJORITY of people in Western countries outside of the US are not actively religious at a minimum and militantly atheist at the max.

    Americans need to remember that there is a world outside of their country and that it is quite different to theirs.

  22. #22 clinteas
    October 13, 2008

    As usual with these movies,no date set for screenings in Australia,but lets hope for a nice american with a digicam…:-)

    Im very happy to hear about the high attendance numbers over there,with full theatres and all.
    As to Maher’s thoughts on anti-vax etc.,Im willing to compartmentalize in his case,he’s just too important as a voice to call religious delusions what they are.

  23. #23 konrad_arflane
    October 13, 2008

    “The MAJORITY of people in Western countries outside of the US are not actively religious at a minimum and militantly atheist at the max.”

    I have a hard time thinking of a country that would qualify as “militantly atheist” (hint: “militantly” doesn’t just mean “strongly”, and “atheist” doesn’t mean “secular”). Maybe Turkey at a stretch, but is that “Western”?

    Oh, and out of local-interest curiosity, who was the female Danish Muslim politician? I’m guessing Asmaa Abdol-Hamid (and calling her progressive is perhaps a stretch, at least in the area of religion – economic policy is another matter), but I could be wrong. I’m fairly certain you could find a Danish Muslim politician who’d say that killing people for criticizing Islam is wrong, though. If nothing else, Naser Khader would probably be happy for any opportunity to further show how different from those other Muslims he really is. Also, I have a hard time imagining Kamal Qureishi would be okay with killing. OTOH, I don’t know if either of those two consider themselves believers anymore.

  24. #24 Joshua Zelinsky
    October 13, 2008

    Konrad, I didn’t catch her last name but the first name was Fatima.

  25. #25 SC
    October 13, 2008

    I couldn’t remember either, but my quick Google search says Fatima Elatik.

  26. #26 konrad_arflane
    October 13, 2008



    Hm. The most prominent google hit is Fatima Shah, who a) left politics in 2004 (after some not-so-wise public comments about Muslims marrying outside their faith) and b) was a local councilmember in a Copenhagen suburb at the height of her career. She was also a member of the Social Democratic party, which is just barely left of center these days, so calling her “progressive” is pushing it (though I suppose anything from center-right onwards here would be seen as “progressive in the US)- especially considering her views on religion.

    Seems to me like Mr. Maher went digging pretty deep to find someone he could somewhat reasonably call a “progressive Muslim”, but who at the same time could be expected to say something stupid on camera. This is the kind of thing that (to me, anyway) severely undercuts the message he’s trying to send. There are several more prominent Muslim politicians in Denmark, including female and truly progressive ones like, say, Sara ึzlem Cekic. Picking a disgraced, pseudo-progressive and (especially from a US perspective) completely obscure person like Shah (well, if it is indeed her) is the sort of thing we’d usually call cherry-picking, if done by the other side.

  27. #27 konrad_arflane
    October 13, 2008

    Elatik you say? If that’s indeed the case, my above comments are void. And shame, shame and shame again on ERV for confusing Denmark with the Netherlands. ๐Ÿ™

  28. #28 SC
    October 13, 2008

    Elatik you say? If that’s indeed the case, my above comments are void. And shame, shame and shame again on ERV for confusing Denmark with the Netherlands. ๐Ÿ™

    Yes, it was the Netherlands. I hadn’t noticed that she said Denmark. For shame, ERV. ๐Ÿ™‚

  29. #29 Joshua Zelinsky
    October 13, 2008

    In fairness to ERV that section of the film had a fair number of people going by fairly quickly and he was jumping back and forth from clips with the different people. So it would be easy to get confused.

    I can’t help but notice a similarity here to Expelled although it is common in a lot of documentaries: they quickly flash up on the screen who someone is and then don’t put it back on ever again even when they return to that person. Reminders aren’t such a bad thing.

  30. #30 Sili
    October 15, 2008


    It wasn’t PeeZed. It was another commenter who didn’t ‘get it’. No hard feelings – there’s a time and a place for these things, I’m sure.

    Thank you, Konrad for being less vague than me. Just goes to show how little I follow politics this side of the water. I couldn’t recall the name(s).

  31. #31 Chris (in Columbus)
    October 16, 2008

    I didn’t think it was awesome, but I didn’t think it was terrible. Bill comes off just as close-minded as the religious nuts! I understand why–cause religion is wacky–but, still, when trying to prove a point don’t act so cocky.

    As far as a documentary, I think it sucked. As far as a comedy, it was HILARIOUS! I don’t think the marketers were saying it’s a documentary, but that’s the idea I had in mind. Instead, I laughed a lot, and learned a little.

  32. #32 Alan C. (in Panhandle Florida)
    October 18, 2008

    Amazing! ERV, you got to actually see ‘Religulous’? In Oklahoma? Checked the listings locally today, and the most controversial film screening was ‘W’. Expelled played in most theaters in this area last spring/summer. Hmm. (OBTW: this area banned ‘Last Temptation of Christ’ back in the day by mutual agreement of local theater operators fearing threatened religious backlash. I’ve a guy at work who won’t look at a movie with Willem Defoe because of his portrayal of Christ in LT of C, even though he never saw the movie!) Oh well, sorry Bill Maher; but there’s always DVD sales.

  33. #33 Rich
    October 19, 2008

    He was quite kind, really – he only really advances the agnostic position. And none of us ‘know’, if we’re being intellectually honest.

  34. #34 rpenner
    November 21, 2008

    New Chart:
    ‘RELIGULOUS’ VS. ‘EXPELLED’ Box Office Showdown.

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