Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Losing My Religion

"Consider this / Consider this the hint of the century / Consider this"

Last week, I went to see Bill Maher's mockumentary Religulous. I call it that because Maher spent the entire movie mocking people for their faith. On the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Maher claimed that all he does in the movie is ask questions about religion, to try to stir up a national debate. He did indeed ask a lot of questions, but it's obvious that he already knows what answers he wants to hear. If he didn't agree with someone, he would interrupt while the person was in mid-sentence and immediately contradict their statements with facts well-researched by his interns.

I understand that he makes a living being politically incorrect, and he admits that his primary intention with this movie is to make people laugh. But watching him engage in verbal combat with people who are obviously not well-armed isn't funny, it's painful. Watching him make fun of born-again Christian truckers FROM THEIR CHAPEL'S PULPIT and knowing that the truckers don't realize he is making fun of them didn't prove how stupid the truckers were. It only proved what a jackhole Bill Maher is. It also proved that he is as fundamentalist in his beliefs as his subjects. He is just more savvy at making it look like he is "questioning".

The movie is not without its merits. It is funniest when Maher allows the interviewees to hang themselves with their own rope. Like when the uber-religious creationist Arkansas senator says, "You don't have to pass an IQ test to be a US Senator." The look on his face when he realizes what his statement implies is priceless.

I was surprised and impressed that two of the film's only voices of reason were Catholic priests. One was working as an astronomer for the Vatican[I KNOW, RIGHT?!] and the other just happened to be standing outside the Vatican and decides to just shoot the shit with Maher after Maher and his crew are kicked out of the holy city. Both priests say that the danger with religion lies in fundamentalism. If we all take the time to understand each other instead of immediately condemning one another when we disagree, the world would be a better place. I hope Bill Maher was really listening.

And I hope that those of you who live in California, or can at least vote in California like Dusty and I, will listen to another voice of reason. Father Geoff Farrow, a Catholic priest in Fresno, California, was recently suspended for refusing to follow a diocese directive encouraging his parishioners to vote to ban same-sex marriage in California. While he does not tell his readers directly how they should vote, Father Geoff writes that he is "morally compelled to vote 'NO' on Proposition 8". I'll let him have the last word:

"Think and consider the effects of your vote on others, especially minorities in our society who are sitting next to you in church, and at work. The act of casting a vote takes you a few minutes but it can cause other human beings untold happiness or sorrow for a lifetime. It can grant them hope and acceptance, or it can cause them to lose civil rights."

"Losing My Religion" by REM
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