Monday, October 27, 2008

SG at the Movies: Religulous is Alright by Me

Last week, Mr. CVD and I went to see Religulous. I wanted to go earlier, but Mr. SG claims he hates Bill Maher and refused to go. That's fine, I don't think he would have appreciated it.

You all know how I love documentaries, espeically ones about religion, right? Well as much as I wanted to wholehearteldy endorse this film, I found myself irked at times. I think I, more than anyone, can appreciate poking holes in religious theory. I've been doing it for my entire life. I was that kid in catechism that always asked "why" far too many times. I was that teen in youth ministry that disagreed with planting politics into religious discussions. I am that adult who views religion as having both good and bad attributes. And normally, I am that writer who can appreciate poking fun at religion.

Alas, I yearned for more.

I did like parts of the film. Bill talking to the Catholic priest outside of the Vatican was a great scene, remenecent of my own views on Catholicism. Bill talking to the fake Jesus at the Holy Land themepark was also a great visual and logical treat. Bill asking truckers at the truck stop church about their beliefs in a candid discussion also gave me joy.

The problem is that these clips were few and far between. The movie's 101 minutes seemed disjointed from minute 2 forward. Often, I found the film to be scratching merely the surface of the idiocies contained in our beliefs, while trying to belie them at the same time. It can't be done. You can't challenge people for having faith in ridiculous things and just leave your argument at that. You have to do something more. Sure it's crazy to believe that a woman gave birth to a son without having had sex, but just saying it's crazy isn't really anything new. People have been saying that for years. Just criticizing peoples' beliefs brings nothing new to the conversation. It just makes us lapsed Catholics giggle. Which is precisely what this movie felt like for 75% of the time. The other 25% it felt as if the movie was trying to take aim at other religions (primarily Islam) just to compensate for the fact that it hit Christianity so hard in the beginning. I felt as if the arguments about Islamic extremism and whether the extreme nature is ingrained in the religious doctrine needed more depth, more development. Instead, I was left with another second-camera view of Bill and Company getting kicked out of yet another holy place.

I like Bill Maher. He can get on my nerves and he has beliefs of his own that are as ridiculous as the ones he condemns (PETA and their comparisons of meat eating and the Holocust, anyone?), but I felt as if the message and the man were stiffled in this film. While the film touched on the ridiculousness of certain beliefs, like evangelicals being able to cure homosexuality, or the jihadist beliefs in Islam, it never got further than introducing them. And that, in and of itself, is Religulous.



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