“It is intellectually slovenly to demean religion based on what goes wrong in secular society,” writes N.Y. Press critic Armond White. “Bill Maher‘s one-sided view never looks deep enough to respect other people’s views. Robert Bresson‘s Diary of a Country Priest hit greatness in its mysteriously ambivalent repentance scene. And Christopher Durang‘s classic play, Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You, conveyed the anguish of a lifetime spent in moral contemplation.
“Neither art nor philosophy, Religulous highlights Maher’s sourpuss for nearly two hours of flimsy barroom rhetoric. ‘Religion must die for man to live,’ he summarizes. Maher became a theology expert around the time Jon Stewart became a political analyst; it’s a hoodwink akin to the moment the Reagan administration registered ketchup as a vegetable in public school cafeterias.”
There’s nothing slovenly about applying rational thought to absurd religious mythology, which is all that Maher’s doing. What is missing in Religulous, I feel, is an acknowledgement by Maher that most of the great thinkers of the last 1000 years have gone into the mystic, sensing in one way or another a certain cosmic order or universal design. Albert Einstein spoke of this, and he wasn’t exactly given to Christian superstition. You can’t just say that widely shared notions of some kind of celestial harmony within and without are nothing. You can’t just wave them off.