Bill Maher is preaching to the choir with â€œReligulous,â€ a documentary that dissects organized religion, but heâ€™s doing it in his laceratingly funny, typically sardonic way.
The comic has touched on this topic often in his standup act and on his HBO talk show â€œReal Time With Bill Maher,â€ but here he uses his formidable debating skills to go on a full, focused attack. Pretty much no one emerges unscathed (except those who practice Eastern religions, for some reason).
Although Maherâ€™s mother was Jewish, he was raised in the Catholicism of his fatherâ€™s side of the family; now he calls himself a rationalist, and thinks the idea that we all came from a garden with a talking snake is a fairy tale for overgrown children and crazies.
If youâ€™re an atheist or an agnostic, youâ€™ll be completely on board and happy to tag along with Maher as he travels the globe asking people about their faith â€” everywhere from Jerusalem to the Vatican to Amsterdam, where he finds not only the Cannabis Ministry but also a Muslim gay bar (with two people in it). At a makeshift truckersâ€™ chapel in Raleigh, N.C., the drivers put their hands on his shoulders and pray in a circle that heâ€™ll find the Lord (good luck with all that); at the shlocky Holy Land Experience theme park in Orlando, Fla., Maher interviews the actor playing Jesus, a hippie who wears a headset microphone to perform on stage.
If youâ€™re a true believer, though, youâ€™ll probably be offended â€” and some of his subjects become visibly agitated with him on camera. Maher is surely smart enough to realize that his movie will convert no one, but he seems to get off on the thrill of the challenge nonetheless.
â€œReligulousâ€ comes from director Larry Charles, who teamed up with Sacha Baron Cohen for â€œBorat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan,â€ and it has a structure reminiscent of that 2006 comedy as well as similarly uproarious laughs. The ones on the receiving end of Maherâ€™s Socratic-style questioning are often humorless â€” they donâ€™t get that heâ€™s toying with them â€” which makes the results even more absurdly amusing. The more Maher probes, the more hypocrisies he exposes.