I’ve been thinking a bit about the movie Religulous since I saw it last night and I wanted to post my thoughts on it in case anyone comes out of it confused. Religulous is not designed to be a religious conversion movie. If you expect to drag your Christian friends to a showing and have the scales fall from their eyes, you will be sorely disappointed. Make no mistake about it, Religulous was not designed to make Christians uncomfortable, it was designed to make Atheists uncomfortable.
Round and round the Atheist blogs, the message is the same. Maher is smug, smarmy and wholly incompentent. He doesn’t have a competent grasp of the key arguments of atheism, he isn’t a particularly good debater. In fact, his arguments are riddled with fallacies and flaws. In short, he’s not good enough to be an atheist.
But the simple question the movie asks is why do we need brilliant, educated, calm, charming people to spearhead atheism? Why do we set the bar so high? Why do we seek out ever increasingly sophisticated arguments and argue with so much patience and cede so much respect to the religious? Why can’t it be just some schmuck going “A talking snake? Really?”
Because when Atheists stop ceding religious beliefs the respect they give to no other form of belief, that’s what it boils down to. What the movie was trying to say was that it’s you who are the problem. You, the ones that say such an ignorant smarmy bastard isn’t allowed to be the face of atheism. That the atheist agenda has to be run like a high priesthood managed by a slick PR team.
Maher showed the world what the other face of atheism could be. To stop arguing religion on their terms and to start arguing it on ours. To stop battling their strongest arguments as if that had any hope of converting them but to resort to simple ridicule because such beliefs are not even worth thinking of a smart argument against. When the other side is bringing to the table big fishes and bushes and talking snakes, do you really need to bone up on the intricacies of carbon dating in order to defeat them?
Personally, I disliked the movie. I thought the Michael Moore style editing was odious and Maher, like most non-religious people, seriously underestimates the profound impact of a genuine religious experience. But that doesn’t stop me from appreciating what they were trying to do. Religulous was designed to be uncomfortable to atheists because it’s completely non-threatening to religious people.