In his 2008 film “Religulous,” Bill Maher makes the argument that belief in God is ridiculous. The term “religulous” is a combination of the words “religion” and “ridiculous.” Maher’s main goal with the film seems to be to convince people that religion is responsible for most of the evil in the world, and that we would all be better off if religion was eradicated. The film begins with Maher in Israel, near the Valley of Megiddo, the location where the end-times Battle of Armageddon is prophesied in the Bible. Maher’s point is that religion, if it is not destroyed, will cause the destruction of the world.
In his assault on religion, Maher attacks Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Mormonism. His main target, though, is Christianity. Nearly half of the documentary is dedicated to attacking Christianity. Maher argues that there is no historical evidence that Jesus ever existed and that the main beliefs of Christianity are simply Christianized versions of other religious beliefs. Maher, of course, presents very one-sided views on these issues. Since these attacks have already been well-answered many times, we will only respond to them briefly. First, there is overwhelming historical evidence that a man named Jesus lived in Israel in the early 1st century A.D. There is more attestation to Jesus’ existence than nearly any other historical figure of that time period.
Second, all of the beliefs that Maher claims Christianity borrowed from other religions are, in fact, evidence of the opposite. There are no historical or religious documents which pre-date Christianity that contain beliefs that are identical, or even closely similar, to the beliefs of Christianity. All of the documents from these religions that contain beliefs that are similar to Christianity are dated to centuries after Christianity began. Maher makes the illogical assumption that the post-spread-of-Christianity beliefs of these religions are the same as the pre-spread-of-Christianity beliefs of these religions. History records that Christianity spread rapidly in the 1st through 5th centuries A.D. The other religions of that time copied Christian beliefs, attributing Christ-like characteristics to their own messiahs / founders, in an attempt to stop the spread of Christianity. Again, there is not a single ancient document that pre-dates the spread of Christianity which presents explicit Christian-like beliefs in other religions.
In addition to reusing these weak and invalid arguments, “Religulous” spends a great deal of time showing Maher making religious people look ridiculous. Whether it is an actor who plays Jesus at a Holy Land theme park, or a South American cult leader who claims to be Jesus, or tourists of biblical sites in Israel, Maher asks loaded questions, and the responses are clearly edited to make the person look as foolish as possible. “Religulous” gives very little time to anyone who can intelligently argue for God’s existence or defend the beliefs of Christianity. Instead, Maher interviews only individuals whom even most Christians would consider to be ridiculous.
Perhaps the only redeeming quality of Maher’s “Religulous” is the expose on Islam. Maher correctly notes how dangerous radical Islam is. The problem is that Maher seemingly attributes this same danger to anyone who believes in God. Maher’s goal was not to produce an honest and informative documentary on the dangers of religion. Rather, Maher’s goal was to make any and every religion appear to be ridiculous at best and dangerous at worst.
Maher claims to be an agnostic. He claims to not know whether God exists or if there is life after death. However, for someone who claims not to know, Maher dogmatically argues against any belief in God. Maher clearly believes that God does not exist. The core message of “Religulous” is that anyone with a brain should be able to come to the conclusion that God does not exist. Maher’s arrogance, disdain for people of faith, and condescension to anyone who does not agree with him is clearly seen throughout the film. Maher reveals himself to be precisely what he is attacking, a closed-minded bigot who thinks he has all the answers.
Psalm 14:1 declares, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” The word “fool” in this verse does not refer to intelligence. It is the Hebrew word that refers to a person without morals. Psalm 14:1 is saying that an immoral person denies the existence of God to remove any responsibility for the immoral and evil actions the person commits. Maher is an intelligent man. Morally speaking, though, Maher is a fool. In “Religulous,” Maher himself says that he rejects God because God has rules that interfere with his sex life. In the end, that is all that “Religulous” is, a sad attempt to attack religion in order to escape from God’s moral commands. Bill Maher clearly demonstrates the truth of Psalm 14:1, “The [moral] fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”