Sunday, April 19, 2009


Bill Maher, the comedian, takes his place among many to make his contribution to the criticism of religion by presenting Religulous. Rather than trying to be clever through the combination of "religion" and "ridiculous," Maher would have captured the totality of his point by aptly naming his documentary Ignorance: A Fool's Approach to Theology.

I have viewed many films, TV shows, and documentaries relating to religion and spiritual matters, but Religulous struck a nerve with me because this is the type of information that I see people blindly embracing as if it were full of facts. We'll come back to some of these errors in a moment.

Maher makes several statements throughout his presentation that provide the foundation of the points he is trying to make. Here are a few of them:

  • "Religion is detrimental to the progress of humanity"

  • "I am promoting doubt, that's my product; the other guys are selling certainty."

  • "How can smart people believe in things like a talking snake and the virgin birth?"

  • "Religion is a neurological disorder."

  • "The plain fact is: Religion must die for mankind to live."

  • "The only appropriate attitude about the big questions that is correct is doubt. Doubt is humble."

I found a VERY big discrepancy between this film's stated purpose and the content which pointed to a different purpose. As quoted above, he states that he is promoting doubt, but what he is actually doing is attacking, refuting, and, at most times, making a mockery of Christianity and those who say they are Christians and believe the Bible to be Truth. He says he is talking about all religions, but he spends over 80% of the movie bashing Christianity. I understand (not agree with) this approach, considering it has now become hip, cool, or trendy to criticize Christianity. Being a Christian myself, I am not surprised when I hear someone like Maher say the things he does. Why would a non-Christian believe in the foundational tenets of a belief system he does not adhere to? What does rattle me is when he speaks as if he has knowledge and authority on things he is obviously incorrect about, which I will touch on now.

Maher states that none of the gospel writers met Jesus. Hmmm. Let's see. It is true that not all of them met Jesus, but it is not true that none of them did. Yet, even the ones who did not meet Jesus had personal access to people who did. Matthew (also known as Levi in the gospels) was one of the twelve disciples (Mark 2;Luke 5). Mark (or John Mark) was a companion of Paul and Peter, so had access to their eyewitness testimony. Luke was a companion of Paul and would have spoken with him. (I believe that is very likely that Paul witnessed the trial and execution of Jesus, because he was a Pharisee at the time and was present for the stoning of Stephen in Acts 8:1. Paul also encountered the living Christ in Acts 9). According to scholars, John was most-likely written by John, one of the twelve disciples. Maher either did not do his research or has simply convinced himself of these errors. An important thing for Christians to pay attention to is the fact that standards for authenticity and accuracy are placed on the Bible that are not placed on any other ancient document. Every year hundreds of biographies are published that are based on the same type of eyewitness accounts as the gospels, yet they go unquestioned. Why is that? It is all about the nature of the content, not the accuracy of the accounts. If the Bible is based in fact and inspired by God, and I believe it is, it demands my attention and obedience. Maher, like millions of others, does not want to live for anything but self. Maher makes a big issue of the virgin birth by saying that only one gospel mentions it. Matthew and Luke both mention it, and Maher would benefit to know the importance of Luke choosing to include it. Maher says a good reporter would not miss something like a virgin birth. Well, the one gospel writer (Luke) that specifically says he did a thorough investigation of the facts chose to include it. That is just 2 examples of the ignorance oozing from this film. One more is up next.

No anti-Christian film would be complete without more promotion of homosexuality and an attempt to make anyone that disagrees with it look like an imbecile. Like all effective propoganda, he parades video clips of extremists, demonstrations with "God Hates Fags" signs and a lady saying that God Hates Them. Maher conveniently fails to mention that this approach is taken by a very small percentage of Christians. Let me note here that God does not hate homosexuals, but he does hate homosexuality as he does all sin, a point the minister tries to make in the film. In keeping with his ignorance, Maher promotes the false belief that homosexuals are born gay, which is simply a false claim and based on no reputable data, scientific included (Even if there was, it would not change anything, but that is another topic). Maher tries again to pretend he knows something about scripture when he says that "all the references against homosexuality are in the Old Testament. Jesus never mentioned it; why didn't he bring it up?" I agree that Jesus never mentioned it specifically, but why would he bring it up if he is speaking to people that already knew it was wrong? It was commonly understood as wrong so why spend unnecessary time on it. It is important to note, however, that when questioned about divorce, Jesus makes it clear in his reply that marriage is defined as male and female (read for yourself in Matthew 19). If there were other acceptable options (i.e. male-male or female-female), it seems to me that he probably would have mentioned it. Maher must have also forgotten about Romans 1:27 and 1 Corinthians 6:9 and the last time I looked , these were in the New Testament. The bottom line is this is just another part of his agenda.

Religulous, as expected, attacks Christianity on the basis of "science" which interestingly has become its own religion, so should come under the attack of Maher as well. Science, in the way it is being used in the current world to attempt to answer deep questions of origin, is Humanism in a lab coat holding a test tube over a Bunsen burner. When speaking with Ken Ham, the founder of the Creation Museum, Maher notes that the majority of scientists line up on the side opposing the creation account of Genesis. He says "there would have to be an enormous conspiracy between scientists of all disciplines and all different countries." Maher is on to something here and if he would like to pursue this hypothesis further, he might want to watch the documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.

I found many things lacking in this documentary, with the primary being the obvious absence of mainstream biblical evangelical scholars when discussing areas of theology. Maher knows that he would not be able to stand up under the scrutiny of Truth coming from the mouths of well educated Christians, people that would have an answer to his questions. Apart from Ken Ham, Maher has chosen people off the beaten path, people he could make look stupid (which he does through his mockery and insertion of subtitles during the interviews). Where are people like Ravi Zacharias and Stuart McAllister, intellectuals that regularly debate the truth of the gospel. There are countless others that could have provided stimulating conversation, but that is not what Maher wanted; he couldn't respond and would probably risk becoming a believer himself in the process.

What is bothersome to me regarding this film is the fact that people will watch this and actually believe it contains the Truth, when it actually pointing a direction that leads to destruction. People will actually forget that Bill Maher is a comedian.

One final note on the film. Maher ends with a statement that "the only appropriate attitude about the big questions [like what happens after we die] is doubt...and doubt is humble. The reason you don't know is because I don't know and you do not possess mental powers that I do not possess." It is ironic that if doubt is the only appropriate response and man must be humble, then why take 1 hour and 41 minutes to show how you are right and all religions are wrong. If you don't know, which Maher admits several times in his film, then it doesn't seem to be a posture of humility to me to say you do and there is only one response. Why is that more "tolerant" and humble than saying there is only one way to the Father? Watch the film, make your own decision. As for me, I think Religulous is ridiculous.


Lorien said...

I think you make several valid points. I want to disagree with you on the issue of homosexuality. It's true that the Bible gives no account of Jesus mentioning or discussing homosexuality, but I think it is unfair to assume that just because Jesus didn't talk about it means that Jesus assumed that everyone already understood it to be a sin. Murder, violence against others, corruption of religion-- all of these would be considered sins, and Jesus spends a great deal of time talking about them. If everyone already knew that to hurt another person would be to commit a sin, as would probably be safe to assume, then wouldn't it follow that Jesus would skip over that part too?

I think that the main message of Jesus comes when He specifically talks about the "Old Laws," the laws that everyone had been following, or attempting to follow to the letter-- and by doing so, they were alienating and hurting others. (For example, Jesus asks us to cast the first stone, or take a look at our own lives before we condemn others. Even if you believe that homosexuality is a sin, there is no reason to believe that one sin can be greater than another. Jesus said that even thinking about committing a sin is a as bad as following through.) Instead Jesus calls for us to throw out the old laws, and He gives us a new law to remember and uphold: Love. Love Thy Neighbor.

This is the most important message from our God and Christ. I find it so hard to walk through life as a Christian sometimes because it IS popular to make fun of and hate Christian ideology. Before I became a Christian, I wanted nothing to do with a religion that seemed to promote hatred. As a Christian, I must set an example of the Christ I profess to believe in. I must love everyone as Jesus would love them-- even when it is very hard to do.

Anonymous said...

First of all, Lorien's last statement, "I must love everyone as Jesus would love them....even when it is very hard to do" is a statement that holds the key to pleasing the Lord most of all. But in defense of Jon's comments on Bill Maher's attitude concerning christians and biblical truth, I would have to agree with Jon. I think by Jon even mentioning homosexuality as a sin is being misunderstood that he hates homosexuals. By reading Jon's comments, I couldn't disagree more. It's one thing to point a finger at an individual, and it's another thing completely to share the word of God.

Lorien said...

Absolutely. It's clear that Jon doesn't "hate gays." But I do want to say that so many in the GLBT community have felt pushed away from the Christian community, and I cannot help but wonder if that is in keeping with Christ's teachings. Wouldn't the same Christ who walked with lepers, children, widows, whores, beggars, and tax collectors-- people completely ostracized in His day-- wouldn't he today choose to walk beside a person who identifies as gay? Jesus did not seek out the righteous. He walked with those who were struggling in their faith, those who were ridiculed by others.

"In keeping with his ignorance, Maher promotes the false belief that homosexuals are born gay, which is simply a false claim and based on no reputable data, scientific included (Even if there was, it would not change anything, but that is another topic)." -Jon Gilbert

I would encourage you to do a little more research on this claim. It seems that you are accusing Maher of something simply because you disagree with him. I frankly don't care if you think sexuality is something you are born with or not, but I find it poor logic to assume that everyone shares your opinion.

I wonder, if a gay person cannot be born a homosexual, then at what age does a person choose sexuality? Did you make a conscious decision to be straight? It does not make sense to me why someone would choose a sexuality that immediately puts him in a targeted position for others to spew hatred upon him. I would not choose to be gay knowing that such a decision would cause me to lose friendships, be called a sinner, have other Christians tell me that I will burn in Hell, risk losing my job, risk never being able to marry or have children or visit my life partner in the hospital. Wouldn't it be easier to be straight? The answer is yes-- unless you are not straight. If you are gay, it is one of the hardest things in the world to lie to yourself and everyone else by pretending to be someone you are not. Which is the greater sin? And does it matter?

The point is to love and forgive.

In the meantime, here are some scientific studies that I found just by doing a Google search. Surely if you wanted to, it would be easy to find a plethora of scientific research, and there would likely be some "reputable" findings.

We're not going to convince each other on such a divisive issue-- but I wanted to tell you why this issue is so important to me. Thanks, Uncle Jon!

Anonymous said...

Homosexuality is a very controversial subject when it comes to the secualar world. But as a christian, I truly believe it is a sin and that a person is not born with it. Just like someone who murders and has more of a tendency to murder because of the his up bringing is no excuse before God......or an alcoholic who drinks all his life. Are we going to say it's a desease or do we call it a sin as the bible does? In both cases, both parties choose to live their lives to satisfy themselves. We are all sinners and need the redeeming Grace of God. What I strongly disagree with is ANY person desperately trying to find scripture in the bible to condone or justify their life style which is sinful. If we believe a homosexual is born with that particular sin, then we can make all kinds of excuses as to why we commit certain sins in the first place. The bible makes it so clear that we are all sinners, and no one sin is set apart as having more importance than the next sin. We struggle every day with all sorts of sins which we ourselves choose to do. Whether it's lying, gossiping, hating others, drunkeness, and etc. Homosexuality is just another sin we have chosen to do for our own pleasure. But God makes it clear that a life syle of some of these sins (when you practice them over and over daily) is a sign that you do not belong to Him. The whole purpose of Christ dying on the cross was to forgive us our sins. The power of the Holy Spirit changes our old life of sin into a new life that will glorify God. I don't care what sin is prevelent in a person's life, if that person chooses to continue to practice that sin habitually, he needs to question whether he even belongs to the Lord. The Holy Spirit gives us the power to overcome our war with sin and it should be evident in our lives that our actions prove this. We will commit sins until the day we die. We will never be perfect until we have our resurected bodies. The world dictates to us how Satan would love for us to live our lives. If we are not grounded in the Word of God, it is sooooo very easy to fall into sin and to be persuaded that our life style is acceptable to God. I'm talking about all kinds of life styles, not just homosexuality. Satan plays such a major role in this world and his plan is to dupe the masses into believing it's ok to mix your life with actions and words that are 100% contrary to what God would have us say and do. Again, loving God first, then others, is the highest priviledge a christian can practice while living on this earth! We should also be able to exress ourselves (as christians) on this blog site without disdain for one another. We each give an opinion of what we believe to be the truth, but that shouldn't divide anyone on this site if we love one another!

Lorien said...

I hope you know, Anonymous, that I wasn't offended. We clearly disagree on this issue, and that's fine. I find some of your words offensive-- comparing homosexuality to murder, for example-- but I hope that I didn't come across as angry or rude.

I am a Christian. I am also an advocate for gay rights. I know that the Bible can be interpreted to say/mean pretty much whatever anyone wants it to mean-- and in some ways that can be a blessing. I hope that my beliefs will not cause my family to push me away from my religion. Even though we disagree completely on some very important issues, I would never make assumptions about your faith.

I hope everyone is having an enjoyable week.