Religulous

 
Provocative comedy/documentary examines faith.
  • Review Date: October 1, 2008
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release Year: 2008
  • Running Time: 101 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The entire film is a discussion of religion in the modern world, with Bill Maher travelling the globe to talk with religious leaders of all faiths. Maher says he believes that "religion is detrimental to the progress of humanity." Maher examines religiously motivated violence, prejudice, and sexism, as well as abuses of power by religious authorities. The film also states Maher's belief (shared by authors like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris) that, in an age of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, the conflicts and commands driven by religious extremism are no longer something that "rational" people can allow to go unchallenged. Jokes are made about Catholic, Islamic, Mormon, Scientologist, and Jewish stereotypes and cultural ideas.

Violence

Violent images of suicide bombings, warfare, the 9-11 attacks, the explosion of the Hindenburg, and more; discussion of murders committed in the name of religion; armed marchers brandish guns and grenades; violent imagery (including extensive blood) as part of a theme park performance depicting the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Discussion of rape, weapons of mass destruction, torture, the Holocaust, Armageddon, and holy war. News images of a murder victim's body.

Sex

Discussion of Catholic Church sex scandals; discussion of prostitution; three brief clips from adult-themed films with implied sexuality and nude female breasts. Discussion of masturbation, birth control, sexual acts, marital and pre-marital sex, and homosexuality. An English landmark -- a cliff carving depicting a naked man -- is shown.

Language

Very strong language throughout, including "s--t," "bulls--t," "blow job," "pissed," "f--k," "hell," "damn," "balls," "p---y," " vagina," "ass," "a--hole," and more.

Consumerism

Lots of clips from other films and TV shows are used for comedic or artistic effect or discussed for their cultural significance; the list includes Superbad, Scarface, Oprah, Planet of the Apes, Lawrence of Arabia, The Tonight Show, CNN, Fox News, The Flintstones, Hell Town, Star Wars: Episode I, Saturday Night Live, The Ten Commandments, Jason and the Argonauts, and many more. Brands mentioned include Starbucks, Craigslist, and more.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Drug abuse is discussed, with "diet pills," "ludes," "speed," "crank," and others mentioned; Maher interviews a believer in "Cantheism," which involves using marijuana as a religious sacrament; marijuana is smoked on screen, with clear demonstrations of how it blunts mental acuity and memory.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this provocative documentary about religion in the modern world is meant for adults. Star Bill Maher makes no claims to impartiality; he's unwavering in his belief that humans can't possibly know if there's a god and that religions are man-made power structures designed to absolve or encourage anti-social or immoral behavior. Maher looks at all faiths -- Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Scientology, and more -- and proceeds to articulate and analyze what he sees as their historical and logical failings. There's lots of strong language, some nudity (in film clips), and extensive discussion of hot-button issues involving sex, power, violence, and more.

What's the story?

In RELIGULOUS, stand-up comic/political commentator Bill Maher travels the world to talk about the topic of religious faith in the modern world -- and to ask if religious faith is, in fact, incompatible with the modern world. Directed by Larry Charles (Borat), Religulous follows Maher as he asks blunt, pointed questions of people of faith to challenge their ideas and beliefs, discussing his own personal journey from faith to disbelief along the way. Religulous is hardly a one-man show, nor is it a conventional documentary; Charles loops in film clips, commercials, and behind-the-scenes moments to create a random, raucous journey through the ideas of both religion and atheism.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Religulous is bolder and blunter than most documentaries; at the same time, there's no pretense of impartiality on Maher or Charles' part, and some of the movie's subjects -- like a Florida pastor who claims to be the literal second coming of Christ or a resident of Amsterdam who's founded a church based on using marijuana to enter transcendent states and better divine the will of God -- provide Maher with more than enough rope to hang themselves with every time they open their mouths to talk about their ideas. Regardless of how you feel about religion and belief, it's easy to agree that the film seems to dwell a little heavily on these extreme cases, but Maher seems to delight in showing these folks on the fringes. You could, of course, argue that Maher's simply trying to demonstrate that all religions are extreme cases -- but a little of Maher's tactics go a long way.

But while you're watching the film, you may be laughing too hard to think deeply about Maher's agenda -- his razor-sharp sense of timing has been honed by years on the stand-up circuit, and he's well equipped to go for the jugular and the funnybone at the same time. And some of the segments -- like a tour of a Creation Museum or a visit to a Florida theme park called "The Holy Land Experience" -- are as funny as they are confrontational. Charles also contributes; just as in Borat, there are even brilliant subtitle gags in Religulous, and as the film's mood switches from silly to serious, Charles makes sure that the shifts are smooth. Religulous also doesn't try to argue people of faith out of their beliefs, but instead encourages nonbelievers to step up and speak out. Religulous is guaranteed to be controversial, but Maher and Charles' efforts also ensure that there's more than just hype behind their film.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the film's take on religion. Do you agree with Maher? Why or why not? Do you think the media is the appropriate place to discuss issues related to religion? What do you think Maher's intent was in making this movie? Does he succeed? Families can also discuss the film's uneasy mix of sociology and slapstick -- does the film gain an audience by being funny, at the risk of failing to make a real point?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:October 1, 2008
DVD release date:February 17, 2009
Cast:Bill Maher, Francis Collins, Steve Burg
Director:Larry Charles
Studio:Lionsgate
Genre:Documentary
Run time:101 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:some language and sexual material.

This review of Religulous was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 17 years old Written byBestPicture1996 June 21, 2013
age 17+
 

"Religulous" doesn't answer too many questions, just affirms doubts

Content-wise, it's best for high-schoolers struggling with the concept of religion, though Maher, in that smug attitude of his, is hilarious but completely one-sided. Any argument the religious people bring up he shoots down with hardly a refutation. That said he does show the ignorance of some of the zealots. If I had to go with labels, I'd consider myself agnostic, so naturally I sided with Maher more than the interviewees, so I may have liked it more than some. Content-wise: CSM is wrong in the language, there's only some really strong stuff scattered here and there, but there's a bizarre pornographic/sacrilegious image thrown in there that makes this purely 17+.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Parent Written byhello kids June 20, 2012
age 10+
 

The only reason

The only reason it is a high rating is because it dares to question religion.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 13 years old Written byYeah. February 27, 2011
age 13+
 

Check my page for other great recommendations.

I'm not here to give a review because if it shows up on my page its a 5 star movie and so therefore you know what i think about it.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

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