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American political comedian Bill Maher presents this documentary, which takes a bitingly satirical look at the concepts behind the world's major religions - including Christianity, Islam, Scientology and Mormonism - and draws attention to the various problems religion has caused around the world. Maher travels around the world, visiting locations including the Wailing Wall and America's Bible Belt, interviewing religious leaders and followers as he goes.
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Subtitle: English Hard of Hearing (Feature Only)
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It`s fairly obvious that the editing is a bit naughty and that Bill encourages people to dig their own grave, but it`s also apparent that no amount of editing or airtime could allow some opinions to sound sane. With the exception of the one "rebel" priest in the Vatican, the subjects are presented saying a lot of silly things. A "museum" featuring dinosaurs living next to cavemen is pretty quirky, and it wouldn`t be worth the breath used in debating the point with the curator, except that he is taking $30million dollars of state funds to build it. Pretty much everyone "just knows" that they are right...and to conquer Maher`s doubt more is needed than blind faith. As a study of the lengths people go to to demonstrate their commitment to their faith it can be revelatory, to a strong atheist such as myself. But the Jewish Holocaust denier is surely just plain disturbing, whether you have a faith or not; be warned.
I hope this film adds something to the debate, but if it is to be truly effective I guess it needs to be screened in schools, churches, synagogues, mosques and so on, worldwide, rather than the likely audience of intelligent agnostics and atheists. If I might be critical, I would say that I can`t help but feel that Maher`s dramatically delivered conclusion doesn`t quite sit with the message he set out to deliver - that the only sensible position regarding a belief in the existence or not of god is one of doubt. He argues quite strongly for a position much more extreme than that in my view; I don`t think "doubt" is the message of the last few minutes, more like something along the lines of banning all religion for the good of mankind. Still, worth watching - whatever your persuasion.
By tackling a serious subject in a humorous manner, he runs the risk of being thought of as disrespectful - blasphemous even - and if you're sensitive about your beliefs, you won't like this film at all. However, if you have a developed sense of the ridiculous you should find this very funny at times (well worth the discounted price quoted at the time of writing).
Bill talks to many different religious people and figures and tries gently to get them to address the inconsistencies behind their beliefs - with some very funny moments.
It's an easy target in a way - first of all, find someone who will admit to believing the story about Jonah and the whale for example, and then cross-examine them about the logic behind this belief. Of course it'll seem a bit absurd, and it frequently does. It's a pity that he doesn't examine any Buddhists, Taoists, Seikhs and so forth, and on reflection it's a slight weakness.
This doesn't pretend to be a balanced overview of both sides of the argument - Bill himself says that surely it's more honest to say that you don't know about what happens after death, rather than to say that you definitely do. This documentary is important simply because it dares to openly question religious statements of fact, and it's been a long time coming! The Jewish faith, being the one that controls a lot of the money in Hollywood, gets off a bit lightly, but maybe that's simply because they wouldn't have allowed it to be made if they'd questioned a few more Rabbis closely...
The tone gets more ominous towards the end (which is also when the Muslim faith comes under the spotlight), and it ends with a stark warning that unless atheists stand up and become a bit more proactive about getting their opinions represented, then we are likely to end up with nuclear catastrophe.
Ultimately it won't make any difference though - no-one ever changed their mind on an internet forum debate on religion, and I doubt anyone will experience a Road to or from Damascus moment watching this either. So switch off the is there/isn't there part of the brain when you watch this if you have to and appreciate some sublime moments of comedic paradise instead.
The only extra on the DVD is the original cinematic trailer - but there's no need for any, really.
Recommended. There's some great spontaneous laugh out loud moments in these interviews - I'll be searching out more of Bill's work, that's for sure.
There are 2 main points of the film:
1) If you believe in a religion with a talking snake in it, people will make fun of you.
2) If people who believe in Armageddon run the world, we may find that prophecy is self fulfilling.
It is okay for people to have an invisible friend named Jesus, it is another to make fun of them for it. I think Maher could have made his point in a more respectful manner.
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