Saturday, March 14, 2009


We watched Bill Mahrer’s "Religulous" last evening.

I know, I know, his film was, to say the least, controversial. Basically, he interviews a bunch of people about their views on religion, and then uses those interviews to make fun of their religious beliefs. It’s basically a series of hit and run incidents. This kind of a film always makes me wonder why the people being interviewed agree to the interviews. Why would they do that? Do they not understand who Bill Mahrer is?  Kind of like the White House Correspondents’ dinner show inviting Steven Colbert to be their featured speaker. Huh? Do any of you ever watch his show? And then, gasp, they’re shocked . . . shocked to hear him run down the current president. Their reaction tells you everything you needed to know about their competence as “journalists.”

Then we have other similar shows—remember 60 Minutes, that original hit and run “news” show?

But a program making fun of religion. Wow! That’s an entirely different kind of hit and run. Were I Mahrer, I would be worried about one of the big-time Islamic clerics issuing one of their many death fatwahs against him. They seem to have no sense of humor about themselves or their chosen profession. Making fun of them is sort of like making fun of the National Association of Mafia Hit-Men.

Still, however well or badly his performance, I had to marvel at how utterly inept were the people with whom he spoke, about this subject. Most seemed just dumbfounded (hmmm . . . an apt phrase in this instance). When challenged (Mahrer had done at least some homework for this assignment) most were unable to respond with anything like an intelligent reply. They mostly sputtered—perhaps he chose his subjects well for their inarticulateness.  Actually, the most intelligent responses came from some reformed clerics, one of whom was still a cleric. They explained away much of the bible stories as just “stories.” One went on to explain the great gap between when much of the bible material was written and the beginning of science. So (duh!) the people who wrote the bible stories were largely ignorant white males who simply didn’t understand most of what they heard, witnessed, or wrote about.

I was heartened by one statistic, also reported in this morning’s newspaper—the growth in people who claim no religion—the percentage has doubled in North Carolina over the past 20 years, and nationally, it stands at about 16% of the population.

The other interesting thing about the film was that it wasn’t really about God. He has no position about God, except to say, “I don’t know.” But the religious believers claim to know, and equate their religious beliefs with God. None seem capable of separating the two subjects--God and religion.

All interesting, even if the film was as anecdotal as most of the religious belief systems he ridiculed.

Oh, and on a final note, Mahrer never even mentioned Buddhism. Maybe they just don’t kill enough people in the name of their religion.

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