Religulous, Ridiculous, and Righteous

I finally watched Religulous by Bill Maher – and here is what I thought: 

(a) I liked it – that’s my kind of comedy blended with a subject I think needs to laugh – religion 

(b) Some people believe in God – but are not very studious concerning it. I figure, like any subject we would study, that if you spend 15 years on something – you should gain a lot of knowledge about it…if not…how hard are you trying? Religion seems to ‘tease’ people into thinking they have it all ‘figured out’…and that needs to change. 

(c) Religion can be very weird at times – no doubts on that…from the books to the beliefs to the concepts developed from dogma. I think people in all kinds of faiths need to question some of the ridiculous things they believe – and temper that with common sense. 

(d) Maher is one of those people that thinks no matter what strand of faith you are (fundie or liberal) you are part of the problem…apparently having no faith is the only way for some people (how tolerant of them). I think this logic is bad logic. 

Why is it bad logic? Because at its core it is claiming to be reasonably unreasonable. The blame is that religion is the problem around the world and causing good people to do bad things…and if we can get rid of religion ‘poof’ life gets better (more people thinking reasonable). That’s also faith though – but that’s not my problem. 

The real problem is – its flawed logic. No matter what strand of ideology and belief set I get into – I find my villains and my saints. From religion, to politics, to lawyers, to medical school, to business, to atheism, to teachers, etc. Should I hate politics because of someone like Hitler or Stalin? Should I like politics because of someone like Gandhi or Mandela? Should I hate the professions of lawyers because some are bankrolled by crime syndicates or like it because it some do legal aid and do pro bono work? Do I hate doctors because 40 are convicted of charges of sexual molestation or do I seek the advice of doctors because they are curing my ills? Do I hate science because of its ability to create atomic energy or like it because of its innovation? 

And we want to blame religion for society’s ills? I think the real problem is humanity and it ability to choose and perceive – and how those tools are used by us. Religion offers explanations and theology around such issues – but only because the core point is concern for the ‘person’. I do not fail to recognize – that whatever a human touches or invents they also make good and evil – welcome to the tree…wanna piece of fruit?

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10 thoughts on “Religulous, Ridiculous, and Righteous

  1. Maher is a fundie in his own corner. The only way to have an impact on a person like that is to kill them with kindness, which is to show rather than tell them your faith. He is not much interested in real debate as he has it all figured out.

    As for your quote: “Religion seems to ‘tease’ people into thinking they have it all ‘figured out’…and that needs to change. ”

    The only person who has it all figured out is God. The best we can do is seek out His wisdom as humbly as possible.

  2. I don’t think we need look at the exceptional individuals of any side to determine if we should approve or disapprove of an entity. Especially when we can see its general effect on people.

    We don’t need look a Stalin or Hitler to see the excesses and deficiencies of politics — the question is…do you see these excesses and deficiencies in the general system?

    An interesting redirection is to redirect it to humanity…but then you have to realize that the systems created by humanity, if they do not have checks and balances, will be just as flawed as humanity. Does organized religion have such a check or balance? No, not really. Perhaps spirituality, unorganized religion, and liberal religion fare a bit better under scrutiny, but I think what people like Maher or Dawkins or anyone is criticizing when they criticize faith is it’s resistance to change — after all, it need not fit with the changing current of society, common knowledge about the natural world, etc.,

    Re Jim J in 1:
    The problem is…if religious people en masse integrated kindness better in their lives so that it became generally indicative of what religion was about (because, for better or for worse, religion has a bad advertising problem now in which it is not associated with these things), then it would be minor victory with a loss as well. For people who “have it all figured it out,” as you say, they would think it’s great that religious people are kinder, meeker, etc., but that wouldn’t make them view the religion better. They’d say things like, “Now, couldn’t we have all this kindness without religion?”

  3. I really like Maher, but I do think when it comes to religion, he mistakes symptom for cause. Religion can merely be the vehicle for our dysfunction. We could come up with many reasons to destroy one another if that is what is in our heart.

  4. I have yet to see Religulous. and I can’t wait! I have read Dawkins, Sam Harris, and I am currently reading Chris Hitchens and why god is not great. They all have one fundamental problem, Christians. Now don’t get me wrong, they speak bad about other religions but not to the extent they speak about Christianity. Why? I think you nailed it when you said:

    “Religion (or Christianity for my argument) seems to ‘tease’ people into thinking they have it all ‘figured out’…and that needs to change.” – svs
    and when

    “….when they criticize faith is it’s resistance to change” andrew

    Christianity doesn’t like change. I heard someone say in a church once, “If god wanted us to play football, then Jesus would have played it.” Wow, talk about ignorant and totally not relevant to anything. But I digress.

    yes there is resistance, but does that make Christianity or religion flawed? No. not to me. Some people need structure, boundaries and rules. Religion provides that. Other people do not need the social structure of a religion, and that is fine too.

    Let people have their faith and their doubt. Life is really a matter of tolerating one another until we all die.

  5. but does that make Christianity or religion flawed? No. not to me. Some people need structure, boundaries and rules. Religion provides that. Other people do not need the social structure of a religion, and that is fine too. (Wilfred)

    Mahers beef is not religion per se. Its the fact that most devout people think everyone else needs to follow their set of rules or structure. The problem is that they think they are right. If the Fundies in the states didnt try to get Christianity to be taught as science in schools, do you think dawkins and the boys would sell any books? At its core, no religion is there to find the actual truth, its there to espouse its own version of the truth, that is why they are so resistant to change.

  6. On the other hand, if the Fundies in the states didn’t try to get Christianity to be taught as science in school, dawkins and the rest wouldn’t need to sell any books on those subjects.

    They’d just sell science books like they normally do (Dawkins, beyond his atheistic proselytizing [that’s all you can really call it], actually has job in biology).

  7. I am reading “The Fidelity of Betrayal” by Peter Rollins. Something I read last night is pertinent to the discussion. “Within the church as much as within the academy, we have been deeply influenced by the idea that for something so be true, it must show itself in the world, opening itself up to contemplation in some way. Truth, including religious truth, is thus related to the world of objects, to the world of facts.” Rollins is talking in this section of the book about how our notion of truth, even within the church, is perhaps falsely focussed around those things which can be proven. Dawkins, Hitchens, Dennet, and probably Maher although I confess that I have much less exposure to him, all follow a train of Logical Positivism in their thinking, rejecting as meaningless things that cannot be evaluated in this way. I am coming to understand that I am closing myself off to a lot of truth all over the place if that is the way I am going to approach the world and faith.

  8. Andrew,
    You’re big into “kindness”, and that’s not bad in itself. However, kindness isn’t love. I like the saying, “God loves us the way we are, but loves us too much to keep us the way we are.” I’ve watched a relative try and be a father figure to his son’s best friend. But there’s no discipline and definitely no Bible wisdom going to this boy. He is just being kind-hearted to him. The result, he just gets worse.

    On the other hand, if the Fundies in the states didn’t try to get Christianity to be taught as science in school

    You should read Thomas S. Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and a bit more on ID vs. Evolution. ID is winning in the same way that Einstein overtook Newtonian physics, and Newton overtook Aristotlean physics because it works where Darwin’s theory doesn’t.

    JT–Mahers beef is not religion per se. Its the fact that most devout people think everyone else needs to follow their set of rules or structure.

    Hmmm, so they respond by forcing us to accept same-sex marriage, abortion, government-run charity, being told what we can and cannot eat, whether we can have guns or not, and forcing their brand of public education on our children, etc. etc.

    No one has it better figured out than the devout secularist. Us Christians doubt ourselves and trust in God. The secularist doubts God and trusts only in himself. It seems the devout secularist is the default arbiter……….and the most dangerous fundamentalist.

    Such ideas might be safe in Canada where there are more moose than people, but not here in the states.

  9. The problem is that love is something that humans bring to the table. It isn’t something that an arbitrary God does (because this leads to arbitrary examples of hatred instead, all in the name of that heavenly love). I’ve watched fathers try to be father figures to their *own* sons and shun them for the pettiest Biblical things. Regardless of if these people are being good Christians or good Christians or you agree with their position, *they* feel motivated by this Godly love. And the consequences are disastrous. That’s what Maher and Dawkins, etc., are talking about.

    We can bring justice to people without having arbitrary and outmoded systems of this justice.

    The…problem…with ID is that it’s characteristically untestable. So I don’t see how it can “win” over evolution…Even if it were true, it is unscientific precisely because it is unfalsifiable, whereas scientific hypotheses and theories are falsifiable (and thus CAN be revolutionized and changed). The comparison of Einstein over Newton isn’t relatable because…both Einstein and Newton were making testable (and falsifiable) ideas that conformed to physical phenomenon that were therefore scientific. I mean, “Darwin’s theory” is nothing like the current state of evolution research precisely because science does improve upon itself.

    This is a big advantage of science in general over religion. Religion resists this kind of change.

    Here’s the kind of thing: religion need not perform same-sex marriages in its own religion. There are certain things that religions have to do if they want to be agents of the state (since the state *should not discriminate*), but as private entities we’ve had more than enough instances of religions conducting themselves in whatever discriminatory manner they will.

    I mean, you have an unfair characterization of the gap between secularist and theist. “Whether we can have guns or not” is not a secularist vs. theist problem. Whether we should have public school and what that curriculum should be is not a theist vs. secularist problem (although, I guess what would be a secularist vs. theist problem is this: do we want our children to be learning some kind of traditional moral code in school…or do we want them to be preparing them to be competitive workers in the world? When you teach them ID, the simple fact is that it makes the US even less competitive in science than we’ve been in the past. I don’t know if you like the US losing its edge in science or if you don’t feel that stuff is important, but I’d think it has some benefits for our economy.)

    What we can or cannot eat also isn’t a proper distinction between secularists and theists. Whether we should have “government-run charity” also isn’t.

    I mean, try to see it from the other side: you say that you Christians “doubt yourselves and trust in God.” A God that people cannot see, who selectively shows himself and seems to have contradictory messages…a God who people interpret in different ways (whether in Christianity or outside). And you propose that people trust this figure, this secret, hiding figure, rather than trust in the people that we deal with every day and care for. And you place this God at ends with people. It would be different if God were a people-person kind of God. But in reality, he doesn’t seem to consistently advocate things with the best consequences for people…people who follow him seem to do a good thing of raising guilt and unhappiness.

    I mean, you have all of these fears for the country, but I don’t know if you realize it, but Christianity is still the majority religion in America, and it is still the majority force in America. People barely would vote for a Mormon, and they wouldn’t even consider voting for a secularist. If you want to scapegoat people for the ills of the nation, you probably shouldn’t look at a minority element that has only recently found its voice.

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