Maher scrupulously avoids any honest examination of his own spiritual state or pursuit of happiness. At one point, he interacts with his mother and derisively recalls his Catholic upbringing, but there’s no hint as to whether his anti-religious path has led him to enlightenment and satisfaction or merely to bitter loneliness. Since Maher has established himself as a famous and rich comedian, we’re obviously meant to assume that he’s achieved some sort of happiness or fulfillment. But he never reflects on his own lack of a wife, children or family, or his comments elsewhere about his enthusiastic indulgence in drugs and hookers. A bit of honest self-examination might have helped shape a far richer, more provocative film, by undermining Maher’s pose of smug superiority in encountering religious people whose lives, by conventional standards, count as far more “together” and rewarding than his disconnected and decadent celebrity existence.
As a politically correct documentary, “Religulous” demonstrates far more skillful editing and writing than any of Michael Moore’s over-praised screeds, and delivers moments of outrageous and even inventive humor. Even those of us strongly committed to our faith traditions will find laughter impossible to resist at many points in the film. Nevertheless, its snide tone never rises above childish or, more accurately, adolescent contempt, and Maher’s running commentary never even hints at the benefits for believers that keep religion such a potent force throughout the United States. Maher’s concluding fire-and-brimstone sermon (there is no other phrase) flatly declares that the world would find itself greatly and profoundly improved if every form of faith simply disappeared and humanity learned to live in the pure, cold, blinding sunlight of materialist reason.
To follow up on that concept, perhaps Maher’s next project could feature visits to those favored areas of the planet where religion has already vanished, thanks to the efforts of enlightened and determined leaders. North Korea or Cuba might provide ideal places to begin such a tour, and we can only wish Bill Maher luck in negotiating permission from such benevolent and religion-free governments.
Read the entire review HERE.