Friday, June 13, 2008

Now That's Religulous!

In the June/July issue of Interview magazine, comedian Bill Maher discusses his forthcoming movie, Religulous, a globe-trotting examination of what people believe, why they believe it, and the mess it's all made.

Maher: . . . Of course, I think one reason why this movie has resonance now, or maybe Americans are finally coming to a point where they're accepting of religious criticism, is because George Bush is the first president who really put religion so front-and-center. He's the most Christ-y president we've ever had-and he is, not uncoincidentally, the biggest disaster we've ever had. I think even people who are religious don't like it shoved down their throat. I think people kind of get it on a certain level, that this is an antiscience administration, and we're living in a time where we can't afford to be antiscience-for environmental reasons, for educational reasons.

David Steiberg: So did you get the humor in the film? Because when people are earnest, they're funny.

BM: I said from the beginning: We don't really have to make fun of religion-it makes fun of itself. When you see all of the evidence marshaled together like it is in this film, and you see how ridiculous this stuff is . . . If you came into the theater believing in the talking snake, it's kind of hard to leave the theater still believing in the talking snake.

DS: Right. You can't do better than that. So where did you go?

BM: We went to Jerusalem first, and then we went to London and Amsterdam and Vatican City, then we started on the American leg and went through the Southeast, and then Salt Lake City, Boston, New York.

DS: Had you ever been to Israel?

BM: No, that was my first time.

DS: Forgetting about the film, what effect did Jerusalem have on you?

BM: I think what I came away with was the idea that the Jews, although less warlike than the Christians and the Muslims, are no less crazy. I mean, I used to call Jerusalem "the funny-hat capital of the world." Everybody in that town is wearing a funny hat, a funny outfit, doing funny things. But I especially wanted to go to Jerusalem. I wanted to make the point-and I think we do in the movie-that although the media constantly portrays Jerusalem as the spiritual capital of the world that's somehow coincidentally home to the three great religions, that's all complete bullshit. The reason why the three religions are there is because the city was conquered by each. The reason why, for example, the sacred Al-Aqsa Mosque is right on top of the Temple Mount is because religions conquered each other, and it was a lot easier just to hang a new sign on top that says UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT than it was to build a new temple. That's how temples became churches, and churches became mosques. In the movie I say, it sort of reminded me of how, when I was a comedian starting out in the '80s, very often you'd be in a comedy club that you could tell was a disco in the '70s, because the disco ball was still hanging there. In the '90s they became strip clubs. Now they're Starbuckses.

Amen to that.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Jews less war like? ok, maybe before the creation of the state of Israel; but with the illegal occupation, war with Lebonon, pre-emptive strikes here & there, etc etc etc. they seem to be catching up to the other 'war-like' religions - don't you think?