Religulous (DVD)

It’s a little surprising that the religious right, usually front and center, picket signs and bull horns in hand at any movie even vaguely touching on Christianity, never bothered to turn out in force to picket Bill Maher’s wickedly funny, and powerful documentary on religion. Judging by the early rumblings against the soon-to-be-released sequel to the Da Vinci Code, it can’t be that they have finally learned that this is fantastic free publicity for the movies they revile.

Regardless, Religulous tackles not just Christianity, but Judaism, Islam, Scientology and a host of other fringe religious beliefs and manages to do so with common sense questions, indisputable facts and laugh out loud humor – a premise far more threatening to groups like the Moral Majority and the Catholic League than previous shunned movies like Dogma and The Last Temptation of Christ. Maher, working with director Larry Charles (who also directed Borat), interviews everyone from Muslim leaders in Amsterdam, where a filmmaker was killed for supposedly insulting the religion, to the man who plays Jesus at a Christian theme park in Orlando, as well as a U.S. Senator who doesn’t believe in evolution, the founder of the Creationism Museum, to chaplains at a truck stop church.

Throughout the series of uncomfortable, often hilarious and extremely insightful interviews it’s clear that many at the forefront of their religious movements base very little of their teachings around actual facts (it’s apparent that many of the people Maher comes across who claim to follow Christianity, have never actually read the Bible) and bristle at any discussion about their faith, regardless of how innocuous the question are. Maher doesn’t come across as confrontational or exploitive as filmmakers like Michael Moore, but simply sounds like a deeply funny, well-read person curious about why people believe what they believe. The son of a Jewish mother and Catholic father, Maher also draws a lot on his own experiences with religion throughout the film. For a country seemingly obsessed with church and God, it’s a shame more people didn’t see this movie when it first came out.

Rating: 9.5 out of 10

Religulous/ 2009 / Lionsgate / 101 Minutes / http://www.lionsgatedvd.com

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