So, last night, we set out to find a funny movie. We had seen "Burn After Reading", and so we went to see Bill Maher's "Religulous."
And, it did have more than a few LOL moments. If you've watched Maher at all, you know that he has no personal use for organized religion, and in these interviews, he finds ample people who are willing to make "religulous comments." He surely brings out what a friend at the movie theater called the "shadow side" of organized religion.
But, ultimately, by the end of the movie I was angry. Maher seems totally ignorant of historical exegetical criticism of the Bible or that people can value the Bible without being a literalist. His lack of knowledge about Scripture is writ large throughout the movie.
But, much more dismaying is that he is either completely ignorant of, or just chose not to show, either the existence of a progressive religious voice or any of the positive work organized religion does in the world. No reference to religious leadership in social movements, like ending slavery or the civil rights movement -- or anti-poverty efforts today -- or a single interview with any of the wonderful diverse religious leaders I am privileged to know and work with for social justice.
The end result is the viewer is left with the idea that Religious = Fundamentalism and that the only other possible response is secular. The movie plays into the idea held by far too many on the right that the religious right is the only legitimate religious voice in the public square -- and by far too many on the left that there is no value in organized religion or faith.
Several years ago, I coined the term "religiophobia" to characterize progressive people with an irrational fear of organized religion (like homophobia is an irrational fear of gay people or gynephobia is an irrational fear of women.) This movie is full of it.