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« on: August 30, 2008, 12:45:40 AM »

Bill Maher's Anti-Religion Movie

Friday , August 22, 2008
By Roger Friedman

Bill Maher's Anti-Religion Movie

“Religion is detrimental to the progress of society.” That’s my favorite quote from Bill Maher’s often brilliant, but often unfocused “documentary,” called “Religulous.” It opens in early October right after its debut at the Toronto Film Festival.

The articulate, quick-witted comedian sets out in this film — which was supposed to have been released last Easter — to prove that line is true. Directed by Larry Charles, the man who put "Borat" together so skillfully, "Religulous" is blatant about Maher’s feelings: religion is bad. All religions are bad. They are ruining everything.

If you go for that, then "Religulous" is for you. Unlike Michael Moore, whose controversial films at least allow stories to be told, Maher is not interested in other viewpoints. Rather, "Religulous" is a long Maher spiel that pauses only to underscore his own points.

At first the film is very funny as Maher gently mocks one organized religion after another. He questions just about everything in Catholicism, even though he was raised Catholic. (His mother is Jewish, but threw it all over for the father.) Everything from the Immaculate Conception to crucifixion re-enactments are covered. By the time “Religulous” is over, the faith-seekers in the audience will have scratched Catholic off their possibilities.

Not that the other major religious groups don’t come in for razzing, either. Maher is brutal to Orthodox Jews and just as nasty to Muslims. (He interviews gay Muslims in Amsterdam, a city where he also smokes a lot of pot and finds many easy laughs.) Mormons get it, and so do Scientologists, whom Maher mocks in London’s Hyde Park.

Maher sends up everything outrageous and unusual in religion, cherry-picking the fringe elements wherever he can find them. There’s no question that he’s serious in his endeavors, and for a while following him feels like it’s going to lead somewhere.

Alas, it doesn’t. Unlike "Borat," or even a Moore film, “Religulous” is a dead end. In the last quarter, the laughs peter out as we realize the exploration is pointless. The film concludes with a long, very not funny, tedious speech by Maher — in which he rails against religion — that should clear theaters before the credits start rolling.

“Religulous” is a tough call. Will audiences flock to theatres to see it? That depends on just how many atheists there are at the popcorn stand. Maher’s point, that the world would be a better place without any religions, that wars would be eliminated and there would be universal understanding, comes across simultaneously as utopian and cynical.

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« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2008, 09:24:23 PM »

When Hollywood Attacks - New Batch Of Films Strike At Christian Beliefs and Values

Prophecy New Watch

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Just when you thought the Da Vinci Code controversy was wearing off, several more high-profile Hollywood projects are reportedly in the works that will once again challenge some basic Christian precepts.

Johnny Depp is said to be producing and starring in a big-screen adaption of the graphic novel Rex Mundi, which tells the story of “descendants of Jesus” searching for the Holy Grail. Like Dan Brown’s best-selling novel and the Da Vinici Code film, the basic plot point revolves around Jesus having children. According to Christianity Today, the movie is an “alternate history” set in the 1930s in a world where Martin Luther was assassinated, and as a result, the reformation never happened and the inquisition was still highly active. Also like Dan Brown’s novels, secret societies (in this case the Templar Knights) are said to have a key roll in the film.

In another upcoming graphic novel-turned-action movie, Jenna Dewan is set to play a holy warrior who fights supernatural enemies. In Magdalena, Dewan’s character is a descendant of Mary Magdalene and Jesus, and is also part of a secret society charged with fighting evil. This is no kid’s story though—the Magdalena comics are dark stories.

Along with similarities in plot (secret societies, fighting evil, the supernatural), both of these films also suggest a proposition that most Christians find incredibility offensive—that Jesus fathered children.

And if that’s not enough controversy for you, Variety is reporting that Mark Ruffalo is set to direct a film about a faith healer called Sympathy for Delicious. Unlike the other two religious-based films, Delicious takes aim at the contemporary Church. The movie tells the story of a paralyzed man who discovers a mysterious ability to heal the sick, a Jesuit priest who tries to help him maintain a balanced perspective of his gift and a rock star who begins to exploit him.

And finally, there’s Religulous, the most blatantly ant-faith film in the mix. Hosted by the Politically Incorrect HBO personality Bill Maher, the documentary picks up where New Atheism best-sellers like God Is Not Great, The God Delusion and Letter to a Christian Nation left off—not only trying dispel the logic of believing in a higher power, but showcasing what they say is its detriment to humanity itself.

The movie isn’t just anti-Christian (though because of Christianity’s popularity it has become a center-point in the marketing materials for the film); it’s anti-faith—a direct challenge to everything Christians, and anyone who believes in God, thinks.

Unlike films that showcase values that are often contrary to Christian teachings, some of the releases in this new batch of movies coming out of Hollywood are in direct opposition to the foundations of what Christians believe. Recently, movies like The Da Vinci Code and Brokeback Mountain, have drawn protests from Christians for what has been perceived as their anti-Christian themes.

But should that be our reaction?

Do we view these types of films—which, ultimately are meant for entertainment (however unpleasant they may or may not be)—as attacks on our faith or opportunities to talk to people about what we really believe?

Whether the movies are more subversive fantasy stories that twist Christian history for the sake of an intriguing sub-plot or are abrasive and direct challenges to our faith like Religulous, they inevitability elicit a reaction from believers and non-believers alike. What exactly do we/they believe about that? Who is right about God? What does this mean for Christianity?

When it comes to actually choosing to spend money on seeing a movie, everyone has a choice. But, as the recent Hollywood line-up shows, in most cases these kinds of films are being made regardless of how they are received by Christians. So what should Christians’ reaction be when they are made?

Though many will view films that take on Christian values as an attacks on our faith, these types of movies also present an opportunity to engage in a dialogue about what we think about religion. After all, if there’s one thing that these types of films do, it’s getting people talking.

The book of James was written during a time when the early Church was facing intense persecution—and not just from culture resistance to the message of Christ. James opens his letter to the persecuted church with this passage:

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4, NIV).

James literally guarantees that our faith will be challenged. So why is it always a surprise when it happens?

It’s interesting how James follows up his statement. How should we react to trials and challenges to our faith? With wisdom. James continues in verse 5:

“If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” (James 1:5-6).

James makes it clear that we should ask for wisdom so that our faith is not shaken by the trials of the world.

If we seek true wisdom from the Lord, our reactions to movies (or even real-life situations for that matter) that challenge our faith won’t be raw emotional responses to the combative nature of their content; it’ll be genuine responses in love and wisdom. When moviegoers have questions after watching anti-religious films, we can answer them with the truth, not condemnation for asking.

It’s easy to get emotional in response to films that challenge what we believe; but in most cases, they are based in genuine questions and misunderstandings. If we become blinded by our anger at the "attacks" on our faith, we risk not understanding what those questions are really about, and we can miss a true opportunity to engage in a life-changing conversation about what Jesus is really about.

In those cases, we should all adhere to the advice of James. “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:19-20).
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