Maher takes a stab at religion

Connor Gerdes

If Bill Maher made Religilous (a portmanteau of religion and ridiculous) in another time, he would no doubt be tied to a stake and engulfed in flames. It’s funny, and Maher knows it too. He sets out seeking the answer (aptly set to The Who’s “The Seeker,”) to his question: why does humanity cling to organized religion?

Maher, comedian and host of “Real Time,” is aided by director Larry Charles, of Borat fame, who together take audiences on a trip around the world, from a truckers’ chapel, to the Vatican, to a theme park in Orlando dubbed “the Holy Land Experience,” to holy places in the Middle East.

The bulk of the film is comprised of interviews with some incredible people: a man who plays Jesus at a theme park, another clad in a gold, expensive suit who claims to be the second coming of Jesus, Orthodox Jews who create workarounds for the Sabbath day, and even owners of a Muslim gay-bar in Amsterdam.

The movie will undoubtedly offend anyone who takes his religion seriously, but will likely have him howling when Maher shifts to another. Oh man, get a load of what those Scientologists believe ––an alien named Xenu controls the galaxy? How ridiculous.

While Maher does take cheap shots, if all it takes to ridicule someone is to restate the tenets of their religion, so be it. In one interview, Maher speaks with a once gay man gone straight by the power of the Lord who states that all gay people are unhappy. “Really?” says Maher, “Some of them seem positively thrilled.” Then the magic of editing comes in: flashing images of gay pride parades. Maher also mentions that Jesus never spoke against homosexuality. Their interview ends as the men embrace and Maher leaves him with a rather fitting joke about homophobia. Other places need no explanation, like a creationist museum that’s main exhibit features dinosaurs with saddles.

Maher isn’t afraid to show himself stumped either. When asking theme-park Jesus about how the Trinity isn’t polytheistic, he poetically likens it to the three forms water can take on: ice, steam, and liquid. Of course, the next scene reflecting on the encounter has Maher mocking him again, saying “you had me at ice cube.”

The movie really hits its stride with its message when Maher interviews Mark Pryor, the creationist senator from Arkansas. “The scientific community is divided,” he says of evolution, and later adds after a humiliating exchange, “you don’t have to pass an IQ test to be in the Senate.”

The end is rather unfortunate and almost hypocritical, with Maher becoming preacher. Dropping the comedy act and showing pictures of Armageddon, he states that anyone who believes in the rapture in an age where mankind is powerful enough to destroy the world should not be the one making decisions.