How is a reasonably intelligent person supposed to bridge the gap between Religulous (Lionsgate, 10.3), the Bill Maher-Larry Charles doc that portrays religions as a source of endless worldwide idiocy, ignorance and acrimony (a view I personally embrace), and the spectacle of today’s civil forum discussion (5 to 7 pm) at the Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, between John McCain, Barack Obama and pastor Rick Warren?

The answer is to put aside the miraculous dream of a world without religions and settle into the idea that Obama could (a) diminish the idea among some evangelicals that he is a Manchurian Candidate Muslim anti-christ, and (b) that, being by all statements and appearances a more sincere and devout Christian than McCain, Obama could manage to siphon off enough evangelical votes to help alter the final tally in certain swing states.
Warren “is an anti-abortion Southern Baptist who is nonetheless part of a shift away from the religious right’s strict focus on abortion and marriage,” one summary states. “The environment, poverty and education have also become pressing concerns, especially for younger evangelicals.
“Warren is best known for building Saddleback Church into a 23,000-member megachurch in Lake Forest, Calif., and for writing the multimillion-selling book The Purpose-Driven Life.
“But he and his wife, Kay, are also leading advocates for HIV/AIDS victims worldwide. They have invested enormous resources in their PEACE Plan, now under way in Rwanda, which aims to combat corruption, illiteracy and other social problems through church partnerships with government and business.