Steven Waldman

Steven Waldman

Religulous, Bill Maher and (Dis)beliefnet

Just saw a screening of Religulous. I’ll write more in a separate post but in general it was funny, offensive, slippery, and more challenging than I expected.
By the way, I’m proud to say that Beliefnet itself is a direct butt of Maher’s humor, in the form of a website called Isn’t caustic parody the greatest form of flattery? (Or was that imitation?)
I’ve been asked why Beliefnet is running ads for an anti-religion movie. First, we run ads for all sorts of things we don’t endorse, though this may be the first time we’ve run ads for a movie that’s mocked us.
More important, we have great confidence in the power of faith and the sincerity of believers. In the movie he casts believers as being a) against free speech b) humorless and c) idiots.
Let’s show him that he’s wrong on all counts. If you see the movie, please come here, Movie Mom, Idol Chatter, or to our forums – a hot discussion is already going on here — not only discuss it but also to speak about what faith or spirituality means in your life. Tell us how faith, or your spiritual practice, has made you a better person or your world a better place. If you hate the movie (as many of you will), prove Maher wrong.

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posted September 26, 2008 at 6:21 pm

OK, first as to who sponsors this site. I have less problem with ads for Religulous than I do for “All My Children” or many of the other programs and products that fill the margins – and often infiltrate the articles themselves. At least “Religulous” has something to do with religion.
Now, as to getting a nod from Maher – kudos! There is a certain credibility to being sited even if only in parody.
Next, as to taking shots at the film- well, no CSI will be able to track bullet striations to my cpu/barrel. I have a feeling I may agree with him more than disagree. My greatest concern is that he commits the sin that so many well-intentioned religious projects commit in spades – boredom. If it is funny it will be so because of the seeds of truth in each hit. If those seeds are as big as coconuts and get lobbed so that someone feels beaned, well, I hope they take the laughter to heart and learn as well as wince.
I want to bookmark disbeliefnet right next to B’net and “Ship of Fools” my other favorite (ir)religious site.

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posted September 26, 2008 at 8:44 pm

It’s great to hear you have a sense of humor about someone poking fun at you. Also non-believers read beliefnet, so your advertisers will reach us. Although I am more likely to rent the film than see it in the theater.
jestrfyl, thanks for the pointer to ship of fools I’ll have a look.

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Unsympathetic reader

posted September 27, 2008 at 8:26 am

I will say this: Disbeliefnet has far fewer of the annoying pop-up and ‘skip this ad’ ads that are about to chase me off this site for good.

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posted September 29, 2008 at 4:29 am

Personally, I am really excited to see this movie. This evening I was also made aware of a documentary that will be coming out around the same time. Ben Stein will be one of the narrators of the film, which is anti-evolution. I forgot what it’s titled, but do a search on IMDB under Ben Stein and something should come up.
Anyway, I hope everyone goes and sees this film. Even if you don’t agree, it will help people understand that agnostics and atheists are not bad people. In fact, some of the most ethical people I know are atheists.
Lately I have been reading that a new type of culture war has begun. I am beginning to think it’s true.

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John Doe

posted September 29, 2008 at 2:35 pm

“Tell us how faith, or your spiritual practice, has made you a better person or your world a better place.”
Name a single thing that an atheist can’t do to make himself a better person or his world a better place.
You can not.
This point makes religion useless and your quoted argument invalid.

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posted September 30, 2008 at 5:25 pm

I saw Bill Maher on a TV talk show today and from just the clip I might spend my buck and go see it…or wait and rent it. But I will see it.
Must check out Unbeliefnet. Later.

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posted September 30, 2008 at 9:53 pm

I’m not sure we can “prove Maher wrong”, but we can “convince” people that he’s wrong.
My faith has put me in contact with The Transcendent*, and made me a better, more mindful person. I even appreciate atheism better, knowing that there are many out there who are sincere in their decisions about such matters, and atheism has made great contributions to civilization.
That said, let it also be said that atheism holds no superior position relative to morals, behavior, or even reason. Hopefully, they will have the intellectual honesty to admit such.
But let’s face it – there are an AWFUL lot of theists who act like idiots, and haven’t really given their faith or it’s doctrines a moment’s real thought. :) Atheists like Maher remind us of such.
Or he’s just a jerk who’ll burn in the sulphuric fires of hell for all eternity. Nuthin’ personal. :)
*I’m a Christian, specifically.

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posted September 30, 2008 at 10:48 pm

Films (or diatribes) like these only speak to the “choir”. If that’s what Maher is after then I suppose he’s successful, but if he wants to get theists to consider his views, he’s wasting time.
Maher is good at insulting people and throwing sharp barbs, but ultimately, he alienates people.

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Rev. Gail Burger

posted October 1, 2008 at 9:38 am

I heard Bill Maher and Larry Charles on Terry Gross’ “Fresh Air” last evening. I will go see the movie, but at the moment it occurs to me that Bill and Larry are “literalist” disbelievers. As Terry Gross pointed out to them, they leave no room for believers whose grasp on and dedication to their religion is not irrational, but beyond rational. We know God exists from our experience and the experience of others whom we trust (including the writers of Scripture). I also think that Bill and Larry’s experience with religion is very superficial – I wonder if, as adults, they’ve ever even “been to church.”

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posted October 1, 2008 at 1:22 pm

i heard the interview on fresh air as well, and i was surprised that their “rationalist” take on science vs. religion didn’t take into account the wonders that quantum physics would present for a “rational” world. it seems that even in the realm of the scientific they are a bit behind the times themselves.
clips from the movie looked kinda funny and really just seemed like expressions of my own inner doubt and questioning. nothing shocking. atheistic “religions” have done damage, too. pol pot. stalin. etc.

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Bruce Costa

posted October 1, 2008 at 3:14 pm

I enjoy Bill Maher’s weekly podcast. Now that he’s on HBO, he needn’t worry about saying things that offend, so he can point out the ridiculous. But he is no gateway. Indeed, he preaches only to the choir, and often sounds as offensive as his Fox News-like counterparts, causing alienation.
Given the choice, I’m part of his choir. As an atheist myself, I’m not expecting the film to be enlightening. I’m not even expecting it to present a credible argument. Advance press seems to present its purpose as making religious people look ridiculous, which may or may not do anyone any good, given its inherently objectionable approach.
So, it’s simply a film for “our side,” the likes of which I can think of none.

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posted October 6, 2008 at 7:15 pm

“So, it’s simply a film for “our side,” the likes of which I can think of none.”
May I submit The Contender? At least I think that was the name of the film–Joan Allen is an atheist Vice President framed in a scandal. She makes quite the speech at the end, about how the Capitol Building is her church, a very secular-rousing speech.
Just a thought.

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Ron Koons

posted October 7, 2008 at 3:58 pm

I would love to confront Bill Maher on his view of what he calls religion. I lived his life not too long ago and I know more about people like him then he knows of himself. Put it mildly; living for self fulfilment. The amount of research I put into becoming a Christian by accident makes Mahers intentional research of religion look like he’s still in kindergarten.
He’d end up coming to the Cross,
Ron from Jersey

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Some Guy

posted June 11, 2009 at 2:06 pm

Religulous is the best movie I have ever seen! If these “christians” actually acted like god said, then war would never have ever even been created, the “COEXIST” bumper sticker would sense in places other than California, and people would use some common sense. As Angie, from Canada’s Worst Handyman would say, “Some people are actually diagnosed as having no common sense”. It’s just a shame that all those people had to be the ones with the nukes.

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posted June 20, 2010 at 7:21 am

Religion brings the masses together and is the backbone to most peoples beliefs in how they live their lives, what they are to see and hear, etc
When the Church of England started taking out books from the bible one book they decided to toss is a book called Tobit.
The two books of Maccabees in the vulgate are important books that King James wished to have removed.
Maccabees is a detailed historical account that can be proved using historical data. It expands on who are descendants of Abraham (peoples like the Spartans) and early relationships between Israel and Rome.
English Royalty is known for having heavy Illuminati connections. Many English Kings were Masons.
Can we really trust any secular monarch?
Is it so insane to think that an English King and his Archbishop may have had ulterior motives?
Maybe you will study about King James I of England and find some very surprising things about him.
Maybe you can make connections between the agendas of the Church of England and the New World Order.
Jerome was a modest early Christian priest with many beautiful writings giving praise to the Awesome One of Israel.
He gathered the scripture and organized it (I believe with Divine guidance) for the faithful of the early church.
I don’t like the idea of secular Illuminati supported monarchs picking and choosing what they like from the original “bible”….
Leveticus 20:26 – Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I YHWH am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine.
why do we have to be born again if we are to be gods children ?
that’s like saying we have to be recreated because something is wrong
(my first bible was a king james bible but wasn’t king james from england where they have the most masons and Illuminati, etc?)
ArchbishopDanette M. Scott
@ Alan I must let you know that on the day of Pentecost, regardless of what country, race, color or creed anyone was from, they praised and worshipped God and spoke in unknown tongues.
Also be advised that your question is valid for any believer, due the fact that man has perverted the Gospel to suit their own selfish needs and to distort the truth.
which ends up causing these types of questions, that cause doubt. Doubt is a fear in which the heathens of this earth will tend to feed the people that have a belief system regardless of the denomination, religion, sect or occult.
The darkness that has plagued the world and misleadings of spiritual leaders, have raised an eyebrow to all who say they belief in a higher power which is God. If the basic history of the worlds existence proves that a foundation was here before man could examine or scientifically explain, then I must say that it didn’t happen by osmosis.
Further more Alan I must say that you have a valid argument because of what man has done, but I will tell you this, we will never be able to give an account for Jesus because we weren’t there, but our understanding in depth will arise through our relationship with the Holy Spirit.
Be advised that when trouble arises God seems to be called upon regardless of who you are.
Alan I have been in many circles throught my travels and exposed to just about every religion during my internships.
There are misleading facts in every last one of the denominations, religions, sects or occults
Just as we have our own voice of reason, common sense, or stupid is what stupid does mentality, we have our own lives, and what we choose to do with free will and choice dictates our futures.
We could and can be ruled as in the Roman days and a political system that doesn’t allow you to even have freedom of choice or speech.
Alan I must also say that this is in simplicity without fancy words to prove a point. I validate your questions and feel as though it is an eye opener to those who seek to know the truth, but God is all knowing, all seeing, all hearing, all loving, and ready to help anyone who chooses to confess with their mouth that HE IS LORD and not man. If you read the Bible OT/NT we will find accounts of our very existence today and life situations that are applicable.
We will always agree to disagree which is just a humanistic way of trying to win a vote in society as well as a pat on the back.
So Alan Faith is the substance of things hope for, and the evidence of things not seen. So whether or not the Bible is correct or incorrect, we still have a right to follow what makes one whole in mind, body and soul.
Wholeness is due in part to achieving your dreams in an imperfect world, but winning a soul to Christ make it perfect.
So Alan when that unexplainable feeling that comes over you in church, is it a chill or the Holy Spirit?
When this happens, is it a life changing, mind altering experience that changes your attitude about life and others?
Do you run and want to tell somebody of your experience?

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