Bill Maher’s Religulous

This weekend is the tenth anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York and two other attacks in the area. That event changed the course of history greatly, and its consequences continue to impact our lives, from heightened security for air travel, to the absence of trash bins in certain areas, to a shrill demonisation of Islam. While pragmatic measures might have been justifiable, the last was not. Moreover, it is seldom noticed that some who profess to be Christian go overboard as well.

Even lower under the media radar is that Hindu extremism also manifests in violence (typically against Muslims, occasionally against Christians), and it was stridently political Buddhism in Sri Lanka that was one of the factors precipitating the long civil war there.

To mark this dismal anniversary, I am sharing here a documentary Religulous by Bill Maher. It comes in five parts, each of about 20 minutes (with thanks to David Chein and Shawn Danker).

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

27 Responses to “Bill Maher’s Religulous”


  1. 1 RAR 10 September 2011 at 17:34

    I love this movie. But Bill would be more persuasive if he wasn’t so smug. He’s the most annoying person I agree with.

  2. 2 skponggolskponggol 10 September 2011 at 20:46

    Although religious extremism is bad, atheist extremism is even worse.

    Did Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong and Pol Pot believe in any religion ? Their crimes are worse than any of those bigoted religious fanatics in history.

    • 3 j 10 September 2011 at 23:45

      Hitler wasn’t an atheist.

      Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot’s crimes were motivated not by atheism, which is simply a lack of belief in deities, but by an ideology that is very similar to fanatical fundamental theism.

      Next please.

      • 4 yinbin 11 September 2011 at 08:38

        Yes indeed it is the reply that Ricard Dawkins gives to this uneducated question that he has been asked hundreds of times.

    • 5 yawningbread 10 September 2011 at 23:49

      What is wrong with this logic is that you are arbitrarily applying one criterion – religion. You could well have applied a different criterion and come to a completely different conclusion. For example, you could have argued: Weren’t Hitler, Mao Zedong and Pol Pot men? Since their crimes were worse than any women’s crimes in history, thus men are bad, women good.

      • 6 Poker Player 11 September 2011 at 00:06

        The correct criterion is dogmatism coupled with state-power. What Mao and Pol Pot have in common with Catholic inquisitors is exactly this. That’s why the only safe option for everyone is liberal secularism.

      • 7 Robox 11 September 2011 at 02:50

        Actually, the correct criterion is fascism, religious or otherwise.

        And no, atheism has never given rise to fascism.

    • 8 Gazebo 11 September 2011 at 15:09

      The following quotation from the Nobel prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg has become well known, but it is so devastatingly true that it is worth quoting again and again: “With or without [religion] you’d have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, it takes religion.”

  3. 9 Anonymous 10 September 2011 at 22:32

    love bill maher

  4. 10 Robox 11 September 2011 at 03:20

    “[9/11] changed the course of history greatly, and its consequences continue to impact our lives, from heightened security for air travel, to the absence of trash bins in certain areas, to a shrill demonisation of Islam. While pragmatic measures might have been justifiable, the last was not.”

    This is my own contribution towards helping to end the demonization of Islam and Muslims themselves. (When the “war against terror” was declared, one of the fronts that the war was meant to be fought on was the ideological one. But I have not seen enough intelligent and sensible statements being made in that direction.)

    I’ve read about a Sudanese Islamic scholar, Mahmoud Mohammed Taha, who had opined that the problem with the extremist – fascist – ideology called “Islamism” is really rooted in the failure to distinguish between:

    1. those rules that were devised to govern early Muslim communities; and,

    2. those rules that have enduring validity.

    Mahmoud Mohammed Taha was put to death by the Islamist government of the Sudan – now the government of North Sudan – for his beliefs.

    Yet, Mahmoud Mohammed Taha’s basic tenets are the most sensible thing I have ever heard in the ideological war against terror.

    As liberals and non-Muslims in a country that is not a majority Muslim one, I feel that we have an obligation to suggest Mahmoud Mohammed Taha’s beliefs to the wider community that includes both Muslims and non-Muslims. (I feel that this is actually a liberal position because from my observations, fascists and other conservatives commenting on Islam appear to be caught up in a “My fascism is better than your fascism” tussle and in that process, demonize Islam. To me both are fascism, and I don’t feel obliged to take sides when I recognize this phenomenon as it is played out: I’m a liberal and I have a different approach to this.)

    If non-Mulsims accept that Mahmoud Mohammed Taha’s beliefs have legitimacy – and we can be open to debating this – then we might help bring an end to the demonization of Islam and Muslims.

    If Muslims themselves accept that Mahmoud Mohammed Taha’s beliefs are legitimate, it might go a long way towards moderating the Islamism that has taken root in their communities by propogating his beliefs within Muslim communities. It would also go a long way towards eradicating the stigmatization of Islam and Muslims.

    • 11 Poker Player 12 September 2011 at 00:28

      “As liberals and non-Muslims in a country that is not a majority Muslim one, I feel that we have an obligation to suggest Mahmoud Mohammed Taha’s beliefs to the wider community that includes both Muslims and non-Muslims. ”

      I am not sure why liberal non-Muslims should have any more obligations than say, liberal non-Hindus or liberal non-Buddhists.

  5. 12 paranoid2000sg@yahoo.com.sg 11 September 2011 at 07:26

    If you like “Religulous” you may want to check out Richard Dawkin’s 2-part series “Root of All Evil?” You can find it on Youtube

  6. 13 Anonymous 11 September 2011 at 08:58

    “Although religious extremism is bad, atheist extremism is even worse.”

    Men have gone to war in the name of Religion, but none have gone to war in the name of Atheism.

    “Did Hitler, Stalin, Mao Zedong and Pol Pot believe in any religion ? Their crimes are worse than any of those bigoted religious fanatics in history.”

    Sure their crimes were horrific, but they were not committed due to atheism; they were committed due to whatever ideology they were subscribing to at that time.

    • 14 Poker Player 12 September 2011 at 00:15

      “Sure their crimes were horrific, but they were not committed due to atheism; they were committed due to whatever ideology they were subscribing to at that time.”

      If you want over the top, get a load of this:

      1 Samuel 15:3
      Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.

      Can you imagine…topping even genocide – babies and livestock!

      And for completeness bone up on Midianite virgins.

  7. 15 Cher Yiing 11 September 2011 at 10:02

    The greatest evil is committed when someone believes that they are doing good – that they are righteous and there is no other way. Certainty is the greatest evil and religion and fundamental political belief are manifestations of this, that people will exploit to commit the most heinous of acts.

    My favorite author Steven Erikson puts it in a most amusing way:
    “Desire for goodness…leads to earnestness. Earnestness in turn leads to sanctimonious self righteousness, which breeds intolerance, upon which harsh judgment quickly follows, yielding dire punishment, inflicting general terror and paranoia, eventually culminating in revolt…and thus, the end of civilisation”

    Or as I quote the phrase coined by my second favorite author, R. Scott Bakker, these guys all think they’ve won the Magical Belief Lottery (note that ‘Belief’ does not always equate religion)

    I personally prefer to live by the motto of uncertainty:

    “Oh spare me now the speckled fists
    This princeps’ purge and prattle
    I live in mists and seething cloud
    And the breaths of the unseen
    Give warmth and comfort to better
    The bleakest days to come
    And I will carry on in my
    Uncertainty, cowl’d in a peace
    Such as you could not imagine”
    – A Life in Mists

    • 16 Anonymously Annoyed 12 September 2011 at 03:31

      Thanks Cher Yiing, you put the point across beautifully and I couldn’t agree more with you. Any kind of “certainty” that posits one set of belief as being inherently superior to another and which therefore, necessitates the elimination of the other is dangerous. And yes, I absolutely agree that a belief need not be religious for it to be dangerous.

      On a more personal note, the documentary was a thoroughly enjoyable one. Five years ago, I swore never to waste another minute of my life on prayer. I haven’t looked back since, and have never been happier.🙂

    • 17 walkie talkie 12 September 2011 at 09:58

      Some persons are able to held on very firmly to their convictions while at the same time have great respect and empathy for others to have the space to live out convictions very different from theirs.

      So a false notion of certainty itself needs not be harmful as long as it is a certainty accompanied by respect and empathy for others who have different convictions/thinking.

    • 18 Anders 12 September 2011 at 12:10

      On the other hand, not everything is a matter of opinion, where we can say that all views are as good as others. Neither is it always wrong to take a firm stand and propagate that.

      That genocide is a horrible crime, is not really a matter of opinion.

      Neither can we say that the morality of discriminating against gays is a matter of opinion and that we should give equal weight to both sides of the “debate” (which essentially is how the Singapore government argues in the defence of 377a).

      So, I think it’s not completely right to say that certainty and belief in your righteousness is necessarily bad. We do have to look at the arguments themselves and take a moral stand, there is no getting around that. I’d rather say that most problems occur when humanity, clear thinking and our ability to make a well informed moral choice, is somehow bypassed or given up to some higher authority.

      • 19 Poker Player 12 September 2011 at 16:02

        “On the other hand, not everything is a matter of opinion”

        True, but unfortunately everything is a matter of starting premisses. Eating meat when you have a choice not to is completely no-arguments-needed absolutely immoral – if you are a goat.

        In 1000 AD, you can do to Sodomites what Israelites were commanded to do to Amalekites. Your premisses were different then. Hell, there was no one to argue the opposite.

  8. 20 walkie talkie 12 September 2011 at 09:47

    Referring to the quote provided by Gazebo that “But for good people to do evil things, it takes religion”

    The above statement is inaccurate and biased. A more accurate way to put it will be:

    “For good people to do evil things, it takes disrespectful & unsympathetic ideologies.”

    Ideologies can be religious or non-religious. Communism is one example of the latter.

    [a side note: atheism can have the potential to develop into a violent form of atheism just as religions contains the potential (many has turned into actuality) to develop into violent forms of religions. Some religions contain more ingredients to make it easy to develop into violent versions.]

    And to add on:

    1. Evil people doing good things: it is easier to happen when these evil people are religious. (i.e. doing good things out of a selfish intention)

    2. Evil people doing evil things: it is easier to happen when these evil people are atheists. (i.e. doing evil things out of evil intention)

    3. Good people doing evil things: it is easeir to happen when these people are serious believers of ideologies (i.e. doing evil things out of a good intention – a case of mistaken beliefs leading to mistaken actions – a little similar to paternalistic parents)

    4. Good people doing good things: it is easier to happen when the people has a liberal education to instill in them mutual-respect, mutual-empathy (which includes the understanding component and the compassion component), mutual-love (implies pro-active action and not just compassion). Liberal education can occur within or without (outside) religious or non-religious ideologies.

  9. 21 Poker Player 12 September 2011 at 12:35

    If you can’t sit through an entire feature length movie, try 10 minutes:

  10. 23 tk 12 September 2011 at 13:58

    I can’t agree with the first part of your “pragmatic measures might have been justifiable” thesis I’m afraid Alex. I hope you haven’t formed that impression from the endlessly reprinted pictures of burning towers, graphically disturbing MRT platform videos and the nice feel the rent-a-cops get to indulge in at the airport?

    To justify the US75 billion / year on “homeland defence” spending, the US would need to be preventing 1,667 “Times Square style” attacks every year. (http://www.slate.com/id/2303169/)

    That spend, which is now over 1 trillion since 2001, is clearly not cost-effective. Especially when you consider the country is already in a 14 trillion dollar hole…

    Now I’m not saying Singapore is necessarily over-reacting in the same manner, but the recent hysteria over some train paintings doesn’t bode well….

  11. 24 ThePasserby 12 September 2011 at 15:10

    This documentary (I’ve seen the first part only), seems more like an extended comic routine than a sincere study of the subject matter. It is entertaining, but not rigourous. It touches only the on surface of issues he tries to explore, and without much preparation on his part. For example, in his interview with the individual who asked to be addressed as “Doctor”, Maher really should have been more prepared, especially on the point about Jesus and wealth.

    His conversation with the scientist who is also a Christian reminds me of a German young lady I knew who’s devoutly Christian but was also taught some basics of modern New Testament research. She knew about the term “Synoptic Gospels” ( to refer to Mark, Matthew and Luke) and understands the Two-Source Hypothesis ( that posits that Matthew and Luke were written based on Mark and the hypothetical document Q). If an ordinary German devout Christian girl knows about theories that would make fundamentalist Christians uncomfortable, it is a shame that the scientist doesn’t.

    Personally, I feel that the study of religions is a serious one, simply because of the volatile emotions they evoke. A film like this enlightens no one, least of all the religious people he mocks. The viewer, if religious, doesn’t take away any helpful lessons from the film and likely remains even more entrenched in his beliefs; while the agnostic goes away learning nothing new about the religions beyond the stereotypical images that he’s already formed anyway.

    An entertaining film, but that’s all it is.

  12. 25 Cher Yiing 13 September 2011 at 00:39

    And in some of these comments, we reveal our cognitive bias and that we are all subject, to one degree on another, the belief that we have won the Magical Belief Lottery.

    And I am just as subject to cognitive failures as everyone else.

    My point is this – if you argue that you are obviously and certainly right because you have found the true liberal humanist philosophy, you are falling into the same trap as the religious fanatics or the Nazis / Fascists.

    Try reading this website:
    http://youarenotsosmart.com

    Yes, in life, we must act based on a decision – but from only a probabilistic, and not a certain, perspective. I agree with many liberal, humanist viewpoints, but insofar as I think these most likely represent the best way of human conduct at this current point in time. But is it the only way?

  13. 26 tk 13 September 2011 at 22:49

    oh goody! comedy vids!

    gimme 2 fire-breathin hoors, any day o the week…

    and staying on the virgin theme… though this should also appeal to the gay folks in the room,

    and finally, although the catholic child rape scandal hasn’t hit these shores, he’s a song for the papists.

  14. 27 Anon r14g 22 August 2012 at 19:40

    I’m impressed, I have to admit. Seldom do I encounter a blog that’s both equally educative and amusing, and let me tell you, you’ve hit the nail on the head. The problem is an issue that not enough folks are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy I found this in my hunt for something relating to this.


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