Friday, October 17, 2008

Boyd and Kimball on "Religulous"

As you may have heard, Bill Maher has made a movie bashing religion that is now out. I have not seen the movie myself (not yet anyway), but several good thinkers and church leaders have. I thought I'd share some of their thoughts and posts.

Dan Kimball wrote the first response I read about it here. Dan says:

The film was really well done, and it went by very fast. Bill Maher is trying to show how "religion" in general is messed up and even very damaging (which it can be). He tries to make his point in a very, very humorous way. But it also was very predictable in what it covered. I have either listened to or read most of the arguments he made in the film, so what was in the film itself wasn't really new information.

But Bill raised good and legitimate questions but he didn't get good answers from the people he interviewed (again, at least how they edited the film). People in the theater laughed (including me) at how the responses generally came across from Christians to his questions.

He does have some criticisms about the film, however.

Although it was a humorous film, and although it raised great questions which need to be asked - it only showed a very one-sided perspective. Thus, to me it was a poor film journalistically as it misrepresented Christianity by only showing the extremes of it.

Greg Boyd also wrote a review of the film here.

I also have to say that I found myself in agreement with much of Maher’s commentary. While many Christians seem to feel the need to defend religion – at least the Christian religion – from the sort of criticism Maher raises, I think its imperative for followers of Jesus to side with these sorts of criticisms. For the undeniable truth is that religion – including the Christian religion — is often irrational and extremely dangerous.

Fortunately, the kingdom Jesus inaugurated has got nothing to do with religion. Indeed, Jesus’ main opposition came from the guardians of religion, and religion continues to be a main obstacle to the advancement of his kingdom. (For more on this, see my Repenting of Religion). If Maher’s documentary does anything to help people get free of religion, it’s done humanity and the kingdom a great service, in my opinion.

In critique, Greg says:

First, Religulous is utterly devoid of nuances and objectivity. Maher lumps all religion in the same silly and dangerous bucket while never bothering to tell his audience what he means by the term “religion.” One gets the impression that humanity can be divided up into two well defined groups: on the one side you have rational humane people who have no religious beliefs and who simply want to make the world a better place; on the other side you have irrational misanthropic people who have “religious” beliefs and who inhibit progress and threaten the world.

and later...

This brings me to my second, more specific, criticism. Maher provides absolutely no evidence to support his remarkable claim that the Jesus story is a variation of the Horus myth. To his credit, Maher did interview Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome project, about the Gospels (the only educated “religious” person included in the documentary by the way). But Francis Collins is unfortunately an expert in biology, not biblical history. It’s hardly fair to call on him to give a robust defense of the historicity of the Gospels or refutation of the Horus-Jesus theory. (Yet, for all we know, he provided one that was edited out).

The truth is that there are many compelling reasons to conclude that the Gospels are substantially rooted in history, not legend or myth. Paul Eddy and I provide these reasons and argue against all the major Jesus-legend or Jesus-myth theories in The Jesus Legend (Baker, 2007) and (in a much more popular format) in Lord or Legend? (Baker, 2007). Had Maher seriously interacted with this material his documentary would have been much more informative. But it also would have undermined the objective of the film, which was to entertain audiences by making all religion (including faith in Jesus) look silly and dangerous.

What do you think? Have any of you seen the movie? Other than these two blog reviews (on blogs I read regularly) I haven't heard much about it. Has there been a surge against it by the religious right?

1 comment:

Chip Burkitt said...

I don't feel any need to see a movie that mocks religion. It's not because I can't take criticism. It's because I don't consider criticism a form of entertainment. I like entertaining movies, which is why I generally prefer classics. Somehow, I don't think "Religulous" will ever attain classic status.