I’ve got to make one thing clear before I actually review this film. This blog is supposed to be about my views on films, not religion and people’s beliefs. You’ve got to be careful when you make comments on anything to do with religion because it means so much to so many people. It isn’t my place to convince people that their religion is the wrong religion or to tell people that what they believe is foolish. I try to avoid arguments with people about their religion because I am quite ignorant to what a lot of religions are actually about and what their faith and belief’s are based on. In my opinion, you have to know a lot about the religion you are discrediting before you can tell someone that what they believe is wrong.
Luckily for Bill Maher, who made the documentary Religulous, he has done the research. When he confronts each person about their religion and their beliefs, he isn’t beginning his argument with “there is no proof.” You can tell that Maher actually knows these religions in enough depth that he can defend his right to question each person and do so in a mostly intelligent and respectful way. In my opinion he is never actually attacking the person’s reason for belief and faith but more what they actually believe and how that has influenced their lives and the lives of people around them.
Maher treads a thin line between comedy and documentary. He is a well-known comedian and his first instinct is to use humour to either present his argument or in some cases diffuse a particularly thorny situation. Unfortunately, at times, it does come across as disrespectful. I totally agree with Maher when he questions people’s reason and the ideas behind their faith, particularly when that person’s religion seems to be affecting other people’s lives, sometimes in a negative way. In other situations, this documentary manages to present a good, intelligent discussion about religion and gives people the chance to defend their belief and the stereotypes that surround it.
Sometimes though, Maher starts in a mocking style right from the beginning. I watched some interviews and felt like Bill had made up his mind before he’s even started, his first question sometimes being a loaded joke, something that will open the interviewees to ridicule from the beginning. I understand when Maher asks a question that ends in a ridiculous answer and uses humour to highlight that but at times I felt like saying “give the guy a chance, Bill.”
That being said, Bill Maher does give the impression and even states, that he understands why people follow religion and why faith is important. It is a shame that his interview technique sometimes does pander more to the comedy than the documentary because he actually has an important and serious message to convey. Maher believes that religion will cause the next, major world conflict and if you listen to what some of the people he interviews are saying, you can’t help but agree with him. Put the humour to one side and this film shows you the sometimes ridiculous, sometimes serious and even scary side of religion and that’s what makes this documentary so effective and so good.
Overall, Bill Maher presents an intelligent, well researched and well delivered look at some of the major religion’s in the world. Sometimes he goes too far in search of a cheap laugh at the expense of those he is documenting but most of the time you can see this is something he feels passionate about and he shows you how uplifting, inspirational but also frightening religion can actually be.
(1 – Awful, 2 – Average, 3 – Good, 4 – Great, 5! – Must See)