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I had seen this before and it had previously annoyed me. I didn’t like the way Bill Maher was as adamant that there is no God as the fundies interviewed in the show. I would have liked an evenly explored documentary and the pithy way he undermines his subjects was as insulting as the idiocy of sticking dogmatically to ones beliefs.

A belief is something that has been learned, from your parents or figures of authority from your life, it doesn’t make it true. God or No-God.

That’s what I felt the first time, but watching it again, slightly under duress, I was less offended by Him (Bill Maher), there is still too much of him there, a great journalist will ask the questions and move themselves out of the way. A great example of this would be Louis Theroux. Maher can be very funny at times but it is the timing, ironically, that doesn’t always work, the jokes may be funny but they are not always placed well. It’s a tricky one as during an interview, anything can happen, energies clash and sparks can fly, it’s all about the improvise, the true improvise, being present enough to know when to open your mouth and when to listen,, not always looking for the joke.

Halfway through the film we get to meet Father Reginald Foster, a Senior Vatican Priest, outside the Vatican and he may be the first interviewee that is talking sense. He comes across looking a bit like Carl Reiner and has a no-nonsense attitude.

Maher calls him Father Maverick and he refers to the part time catholics, amusingly as Cafeteria Catholics. I woud have liked to have seen many more direct subjects being interviewed and a lot less of the inarticulates.

The problem with a lot of the believers interviewed is that they are not versed well in language they lack clarity and the words to truly express themselves and herein lies the frustration, they can’t truly communicate their thoughts/beliefs.

Step on a man’s toes and he may forgive you but step on a man’s ideas……..

He doesn’t always give his subjects a chance to speak, take the Gay Muslims in Amsterdam for example, they didn’t say anything of interest apart from you go to jail for a year for being Gay in the one of their home countries. Now, on the day, maybe they didn’t say anything of interest and the editor made the scene with Maher’s comments the main feature. This is probably true as they may not have anything to say, but again the timing seems weird.

It comes round to the fact that politics has seeped into religion and that is the main concern. Look at most religions and they’re tenets and mainly about peace. Why is it that America preaches loyalty to God and Country? Could it be the votes?

Maher talks about doubt and asking questions yet ends the film with a very firm statement that the religious stories are nonsensical.

Religion is man-made, the tenets and teachings may have come from a higher source, I don’t know, the conundrum with religion is not the differences within the various philosophies between them but the differences in the humans who dogmatically stick to them. Agendas, personal pro(ph)it and staunch beliefs that cannot be questioned. This is an age-old system utilized to control the masses, it’s a case of “join our club and you’ll be saved.”

Sure, it gives many people comfort and that is wonderful, but the fundamentalism that exists in all religious organisations is where the conflict arises. There is no doubt that more people have been killed in God’s name by politicans and war-mongerers than any other causes.

“Religion is dangerous because it allows human beings who don’t have all the answers to think that they do.” True.

“Anyone who tells you that they know, they just know what happens to you when you die, I promise you, you don’t. How can I be so sure? Because I don’t know and you do not possess mental powers that I do not”

Is that not the same as saying “You don’t have belief, so you’ll never understand”?

Here is my main gripe with this documentary, Bill Maher’s certainty that it is all bullshit. He flips between saying he doesn’t know and then saying they are all idiots. Sure, most of them may be, but putting a documentary together asking the big questions about religion one should remain neutral and seek the answers from its subjects.

This documentary is entertainment rather than pure journalism. You can have comedy and journalism in the same room, but it has to be done maturely and with consideration.

Larry Charles directed this just after he made Borat then going on to make Bruno and his M.O. is obviously comedy, which is fine.
Laughing at the idiots is easy, I just wish that this could have been taken a bit more seriously.

2.5/5

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