“Religulous” — a film call to atheist arms
Comedian and talk-show host Bill Maher has issued the latest “call to atheist arms” in his recently released documentary “Religulous.”
He wants his fellow non-believers and doubters to “come out of the closet” to counter what he views as religion’s dangerous influence on the world. To do so, he preaches to the converted in “Religulous”, a scathing documentary that skewers Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
The film is part of the “neo-atheist” backlash to the rising influence of religion in public life, following a path recently blazed by a trio of best-selling books by Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. Dawkins, a renowned Oxford biologist, has also presented a documentary critical of religion called “Root of all Evil?” on British television.
The Maher film obviously aims to entertain — the audience at the viewing I attended in a suburb north of Dallas laughed almost non-stop through the whole show and a colleague of mine in Arizona reported the same at one he attended. You can see our report here.
But Maher clearly has a political purpose in mind just weeks ahead of the Nov. 4 presidential election between Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain. The latter picked conservative Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin , a staunch conservative Christian, as his running mate to energize an evangelical base which Maher regards as scary.
Maher notes that America’s religiously unaffiliated population is 16 percent, a number drawn from Pew surveys. He pointedly says this is a larger percentage of the population than several other influential lobby groups such as the National Rifle Association. Hence his call for doubters to “come out of the closet” — a call that other atheist groups and bloggers have been making in recent months.
For an example of this, see The Out Campaign.
America’s rates of religiosity are far higher than those found in most other developed countries. Some vocal non-believers believe peer and social pressure prevents others from expressing their doubt.
Maher sees this religiosity as a clear and present danger in a world bristling with nuclear and bio-chemical weapons. He doles out the blame all around, rapping the “End of Times” views of some conservative Christians but also radical Islam and militant Zionism.
What do you think? Is religion a “danger”? And will fellow non-believers heed Maher’s call and start emerging from the closet? Or is “disbelief” a difficult concept to rally around?