For Maher, the problem with being both smart and funny is that the two often come into conflict; Religulous isn't a stupid movie by any means, and Maher shows himself in possession of a greater understanding of religion -- especially its historical particulars -- than most of those whom he encounters. Yet for all his bluster, he seems to lack confidence in the power of his own knowledge, for whenever smart and funny collide, funny wins out.
That's not to say he lands no blows. Indeed, Maher employs a well honed rhetorical strategy. Unlike so many of the loudest anti-religion voices, Maher does not argue that God clearly does not exist. No, instead of the fist-shaking, boisterous athiesm pedaled by the likes of Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett, Maher sells doubt. His product is not strident unbelief, but uncertainty -- a far easier and more powerful sell. All it requires is a skeptical mind.
Saturday, October 04, 2008
Peter Suderman reviews Bill Maher's new film, Religulous. An excerpt: