Netflixed Religulous

“Religulous” (Larry Charles)

Haven’t actually seen this yet…

Politically provocative talk show host Bill Maher skewers the current state of organized religion in this documentary that derives its title from a blend of the words “religion” and “ridiculous.” Making stops in Jerusalem, the Vatican and other holy destinations, Maher travels the world to talk to believers from a variety of faiths to find out why they’re so sure their religion is right — and why they’re so certain others are wrong. [Netflix: Religulous]

Bill Maher can sometimes be clever, when he isn’t being cruel and pretending to be ironic. However, there are few targets as juicy as humanity’s strange love affair with deities. Am looking forward to viewing this film – we had meant to see it in a theatre, but just never quite made it.

IMDb tidbit:

The film used the fake working title “A Spiritual Journey” in order to obtain interviews with religious leaders. They did not know that Bill Maher was involved in the film until he arrived for the interviews.

per Roger Ebert:

I’m going to try to review Bill Maher’s “Religulous” without getting into religion. Is that OK with everybody? Good. I don’t want to fan the flames of a holy war. The movie is about organized religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Mormonism, TV evangelism and even Scientology, with detours into pagan cults and ancient Egypt. Bill Maher, host, writer and debater, believes they are all crazy. He fears they could lead us prayerfully into mutual nuclear doom. He doesn’t get around to Hinduism or Buddhism, but he probably doesn’t approve of them, either.

This review is going to depend on one of my own deeply held beliefs: It’s not what the movie is about, it’s how it’s about it. This movie is about Bill Maher’s opinion of religion. He’s very smart, quick and funny, and I found the movie entertaining, although sometimes he’s a little mean to his targets. He visits holy places in Italy, Israel, Great Britain, Florida, Missouri and Utah, and talks with adherents of the religions he finds there, and others.

Or maybe “talks with” is not quite the right phrase. It’s more that he lines them up and shoots them down. He interrupts, talks over, slaps on subtitles, edits in movie and TV clips, and doesn’t play fair.

Even better.

Traditional marriage, Bible-style

For your Bible-related laugh of the day. Me? Happily unmarried1. I added a few links to the Brick Testament for further illustration of these concepts of traditional marriage, so celebrated by pricks such as Mike Huckabee. Click them, they’re Lego fun!

Seriously, wtf!

From gladkov at the Orange Satan:

A. Marriage in the United States shall consist of a union between one man and one or more women. (Gen 29:17-28; II Sam 3:2-5)

B. Marriage shall not impede a man’s right to take concubines in addition to his wife or wives. (II Sam 5:13; I Kings 11:3; II Chron 11:21)

C. A marriage shall be considered valid only if the wife is a virgin. If the wife is not a virgin, she shall be executed. (Deut 22:13-21)

D. Marriage of a believer and a non-believer shall be forbidden. (Gen 24:3; Num 25:1-9; Ezra 9:12; Neh 10:30)

E. Since marriage is for life, neither this Constitution nor the constitution of any State, nor any state or federal law, shall be construed to permit divorce. (Deut 22:19; Mark 10:9)

F. If a married man dies without children, his brother shall marry the widow. If he refuses to marry his brother’s widow or deliberately does not give her children, he shall pay a fine of one shoe and be otherwise punished in a manner to be determined by law. (Gen 38:6-10; Deut 25:5-10)

G. In lieu of marriage, if there are no acceptable men in your town, it is required that you get your dad drunk and have sex with him (even if he had previously offered you up as a sex toy to men young and old), tag-teaming with any sisters you may have. Of course, this rule applies only if you are female. (Gen 19:31-36)

[From Traditional marriage, Bible-style]

5,000 years, what?

What a tradition! Oy.

  1. though in a committed relationship []

The God Simulator

Being God for three minutes is fun, better than Queen for a Day anyway1. The God Simulator forces a deity to make several consciously faulty decisions to end up where we are today. Otherwise, you are just relaxing in boring bliss, as are we all. Wouldn’t want that.

Immaculate Conception

J’raxis·Com • The God Simulator
You are eternal, omnipotent God. For the past boring eternity, You have been sitting around in darkness twiddling Your thumbs wondering what the hell You are supposed to be doing and pondering where You came from and what Your purpose is and why You look like an angry old white man. Suddenly, You are hit with the desire to do something.

(via PZ)

  1. a repost from my old blog, but the God Simulator still works, and still cracks me up. []

A virtually undetectable penis

I don’t know, is that something you’d put on your resume1 ? Especially since it is your employer saying it about you?

Lonely Zenith

The constantly offended assholes at the Parents Television Council have complained to the FCC about the brief, accidental nudity on last week’s Survivor Gabon episode, in which Marcus’ genitalia was briefly visible during a challenge.

Citing the the accidentally broadcast of Libra’s “fuck” on Big Brother 10, the PTC says in a press release that “CBS has once again decided to violate the public trust,” and calls the flash “shocking and purposeful.” Because seeing a human body part will forever destroy their souls and the souls of the precious, innocent children who happen to be Googling about penises, the PTC wants an apology and for CBS to hunt down the person who dared let this happen. People: It’s a penis, and it’s only shocking to those people who don’t get to see one regularly, either their own or someone else’s.

[From reality blurred + CBS calls Marcus’ penis “virtually undetectable”]

The Devil and Pope

Don’t the PTC folks have anything better to do? Rhetorical question, of course. And to think, if Sarah Palin becomes President (or even Vice President), the Christian Taliban will have a high ranking politician on their side, taking their phone calls, and expanding their hateful message.

  1. CBS lawyers responded “This was a completely unintentional, inadvertent and fleeting incident that was virtually undetectable when viewed in real time. In the first 24 hours after the broadcast, before freeze-frame images were widely posted online, we received one viewer comment from the 13 million who watched the telecast.” []

Palin and Six Thousand Year Old Earth

I would be very interested if Sarah Palin was asked, point blank, in the upcoming debate if she believes the Earth is 6,000 years old. If she has conviction of her beliefs, she shouldn’t lie in response just to obscure and deny her religion, but have the courage to actually say what she believes.

Dinosaur Invasion
[Dinosaur Invasion – click to embiggen, if you aren’t easily frightened]

ANCHORAGE — Soon after Sarah Palin was elected mayor of the foothill town of Wasilla, Alaska, she startled a local music teacher by insisting in casual conversation that men and dinosaurs coexisted on an Earth created 6,000 years ago — about 65 million years after scientists say most dinosaurs became extinct — the teacher said.

After conducting a college band and watching Palin deliver a commencement address to a small group of home-schooled students in June 1997, Wasilla resident Philip Munger said, he asked the young mayor about her religious beliefs.

Palin told him that “dinosaurs and humans walked the Earth at the same time,” Munger said. When he asked her about prehistoric fossils and tracks dating back millions of years, Palin said “she had seen pictures of human footprints inside the tracks,” recalled Munger, who teaches music at the University of Alaska in Anchorage and has regularly criticized Palin in recent years on his liberal political blog, called Progressive Alaska.

The idea of a “young Earth” — that God created the Earth about 6,000 years ago, and dinosaurs and humans coexisted early on — is a popular strain of creationism.

Though in her race for governor she called for faith-based “intelligent design” to be taught along with evolution in Alaska’s schools, Gov. Palin has not sought to require it, state educators say.

[From Palin treads carefully between fundamentalist beliefs and public policy – Los Angeles Times]

Palin has not sought yet, but she’s probably just biding her time.

Year of Living Biblically

“The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible” (A. J. Jacobs)

I had forgotten that I had pre-ordered this book a while ago, but it arrived via UPS today

The Year of Living Biblically is about my quest to live the ultimate biblical life. To follow every single rule in the Bible – as literally as possible. I obey the famous ones:
•The Ten Commandments
•Love thy neighbor
•Be fruitful and multiply

But also, the hundreds of oft-ignored ones.

•Do not wear clothes of mixed fibers.
•Do not shave your beard
•Stone adulterers
Why? Well, I grew up in a very secular home (I’m officially Jewish but I’m Jewish in the same way the Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant). I’d always assumed religion would just wither away and we’d live in a neo-Enlightenment world. I was, of course, spectacularly wrong. So was I missing something essential to being a human? Or was half the world deluded?

I decided to dive in headfirst. To try to experience the Bible myself and find out what’s good in it, and what’s maybe not so relevant to the 21st century.

The book that came out of the year has several layers.

-An exploration of some of the Bible’s startlingly relevant rules. I tried not to covet, gossip, or lie for a year. I’m a journalist in New York. This was not easy.

–An investigation of the rules that baffle the 21st century brain. How to justify the laws about stoning homosexuals? Or smashing idols? Or sacrificing oxen? And how do you follow those in modern-day Manhattan?

–A look at various fascinating religious groups. I embedded myself among several groups that take the Bible literally in their own way, from creationists to snake handlers, Hasidim to the Amish.

–A critique of fundamentalism. I became the ultra-fundamentalist. I found that fundamentalists may claim to take the Bible literally, but they actually just pick and choose certain rules to follow. By taking fundamentalism extreme, I found that literalism is not the best way to interpret the Bible.

–A spiritual journey. As an agnostic, I’d never seriously explored such things as sacredness and revelation.

–A memoir of my family’s eccentric religious history, including my ex-uncle Gil, who has been, among other things, a Hindu cult leader, an evangelical Christian and an Orthodox Jew.

[From A.J. Jacobs – The Year of Living Biblically]

Perfect reading for the plane, methinks.

The Amazon blurb:

Jacobs, a New York Jewish agnostic, decides to follow the laws and rules of the Bible, beginning with the Old Testament, for one year. (He actually adds some bonus days and makes it a 381-day year.) He starts by growing a beard and we are with him through every itchy moment. Jacobs is borderline OCD, at least as he describes himself; obsessing over possible dangers to his son, germs, literal interpretation of Bible verses, etc. He enlists the aid of counselors along the way; Jewish rabbis, Christians of every stripe, friends and neighbors.

In an open-minded way he also visits with atheists, Evangelicals Concerned (a gay group), Jerry Falwell, snake handlers, Red Letter Christians–those who adhere to the red letters in the Bible, those words spoken by Jesus Himself, and even takes a trip to Israel and meets Samaritans. Through it all, he keeps a healthy skepticism, but continues to pray and is open to the flowering of real faith. Jacobs is a knowledge junky, to be sure. He enjoys the lore he picks up along the way as much as any other aspect of his experiment. One of the ongoing schticks is his meeting with the shatnez tester, Mr. Berkowitz. He is the one who determines whether or not your clothes are made of mixed fibers, in keeping with the Biblical injunction not to wear wool and linen together. The two become friends and prayer partners, in only one of the unexpected results of this year.

In the end, he says, “I’m now a reverent agnostic. Which isn’t an oxymoron, I swear. I now believe that whether or not there’s a God, there is such a thing as sacredness. Life is sacred.” Not a bad outcome.

An interview with the author here including this Q/A:

You found that following biblical rules dovetailed with your tendency toward obsessive compulsive disorder. If somebody who doesn’t have OCD did the same experiment, would they end up with it?

I think you have to be a little obsessive to do the experiment in the first place. So the question is probably unanswerable. It was fascinating, though, to see the overlap between OCD and religious rituals – an overlap Freud talked about. I actually found it comforting. Why should I come up with my own idiosyncratic rituals, when the Bible has ones that my ancestors have practiced for thousands of years?

Sarah Palin Is NOT The Mother of Trig

Looks like Ms. Palin has some ‘splaining to do…

Sarah Palin was not pregnant with child.

Her sixteen year-old daughter was.

Checking with the Anchorage High School that Bristol Palin attended, reporters were given word that her family had taken Bristol out of school due to contracting infectious mononucleosis. The amount of time Bristol was absent shifts from five to eight months.

Mono can last anywhere from two weeks to three months, but an eight month infection is a freak oddity. Yet it remains a common excuse given by girls in private & Catholic schools around the nation when pregnancy comes into play. Not the first time, not the last time.

[Click to see photographic evidence Daily Kos: Sarah Palin Is NOT The Mother [Photos+Video]]

In a perfect world, news like this deception by Sarah Palin would not matter one iota, but Republican “family values” hypocrites need to be called out on their hypocrisy so they can leave the rest of us hypocrites the frack alone. Also, knowing what we know about the conservative faux-Christian Republicans, you would think John McCain would exercise good judgement, and properly investigate Governor Palin for any such indiscretions before announcing her as the VP. The real John McCain is too impulsive to be President.

People like to think the vetting process is secure, and completed months ahead of time, but ABC News has reported otherwise, painting a picture of a quick vetting process for Sarah by a small, but secretive group of McCain’s legal staff. A proper vetting process under those circumstances would only go so far, and the true media vetting process has just begun.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that this story was never properly researched. Palin was never on the National scene for more than a few minutes at a time, and local reporting only goes so far on a governor with an 80% approval rating. However, the motivation to cover daughter’s pregnancy aligns with her political standings. She valiantly did not perform an abortion, but fell into the fundamentalist way of thinking, and covered up for the illicit (but natural) action’s of her daughter.

There could be calls below to delete this information. Calls that this type of information is muckraking and ‘below us’. The truth is not below any progressive, nor any citizen of the world that is one heartbeat away from having Palin as leader of the free world. We simply ask that she be forthright, honest, and not waste our time with such juvenile games that anyone with eyes can see as fabrication.

Bristol Palin rightfully should be able to embrace her child in public as her own, with no shame, and no quarter. And a mother should be just as accepting.

Obama The Antichrist

Way to stay classy, John McCain. Get out the evangelicals’ vote any way possible, even by duplicitous means.

An Internet ad launched last week by the McCain presidential campaign has attracted more than one million hits by appearing to mock Barack Obama for presenting himself as a kind of prophetic figure.

The ad has also generated criticism from Democrats and religious scholars who see a hidden message linking Sen. Obama to the apocalyptic Biblical figure of the antichrist.

[From McCain Web Ad Is Accused Of Linking Obama to Antichrist –]


The End Times, a New Testament reference to the period surrounding the return of Christ, were popularized in recent years by the “Left Behind” series of books that sold more than 63 million copies. The Rev. Tim LaHaye, co-author of the series, said in an interview that he recognized allusions to his work in the ad but comparisons between Sen. Obama and the antichrist are incorrect.

“The antichrist isn’t going to be an American, so it can’t possibly be Obama. The Bible makes it clear he will be from an obscure place, like Romania,” the 82-year-old author said.

or like the Panama Canal…

The ad has provoked a growing debate on the Internet over whether it is playing with apocalyptic themes. Those ideas are chiefly shared by fundamentalist Protestants and some other evangelical Christians. Among their expectations: the ascension of a false prophet, a one-world government and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

Critiques of the ad started surfacing earlier this week when Eric Sapp, a Democratic operative, circulated the first of two memos pointing out images that he believed linked Sen. Obama to the antichrist.

“Short of 666, they used every single symbol of the antichrist in this ad,” said Mr. Sapp, who advises Democrats on reaching out to faith communities. “There are way too many things to just be coincidence.”

Dog whistle politics, in other words. Though, I doubt very much if conservative evangelicals were ever going to vote for Obama, no matter what.

In some swing states with concentrated pockets of fundamentalists and evangelical Christians, like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado and Virginia, the ads could have particular impact. Suggestions that Sen. Obama is the antichrist have been circulating for months in Bible-study meetings in towns like Chillicothe, Ohio, where congregants compare his remarks and his biography with verses from the Bible.

Stewart Hoover, director of the Center for Media, Religion and Culture at the University of Colorado at Boulder, said the references to the antichrist in the McCain ad were “not all that subtle” for anyone familiar with “apocalyptic popular culture.” Some images in the ad very closely resemble the cover art and type font used in the latest “Left Behind” novel. The title of the ad, “The One,” also echoes the series; the antichrist figure in the books, Nicolae Carpathia, sets up “the One World Religion.”

The best God joke ever

I’ve been reciting an Emo Phillips one liner for years1, happy to know he’s the author of this God joke too.

This morning I received thrilling news: a joke I wrote more than 20 years ago has been voted the funniest religious joke of all time! In case you’ve missed it, here it is:
Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, “Don’t do it!” He said, “Nobody loves me.” I said, “God loves you. Do you believe in God?”

He said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you a Christian or a Jew?” He said, “A Christian.” I said, “Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?” He said, “Protestant.” I said, “Me, too! What franchise?” He said, “Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?” He said, “Northern Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?”

He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist.” I said, “Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region.” I said, “Me, too!”

Northern Conservative†Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?” He said, “Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912.” I said, “Die, heretic!” And I pushed him over.

Two things, however, have slightly tarnished my thrill.

First, the website that conducted the poll, Ship of Fools, did not attribute me as the author. Arghhhhh! Sure, it has been quite a while since I performed it. And true, I’m not on TV all the time like some comedians I could name if I watched TV all the time. But come on, guys! The slightest Google search! But back in the day … ah, my friends! That joke and I astounded the world! Everywhere I played, in the largest of British theatres, the audiences clamoured for it! I told it not once but twice on British television. A few years ago it was voted by my peers as one of the top 75 jokes of all time. It has been anthologized in several joke books, most recently in Italian; the translator gave me a copy a few weeks ago after one of my shows. He pointed the joke out, without telling me which it was … but I immediately recognised my old friend by the word “ponte”.

Second, I learned why Ship of Fools was running the poll … to shed light on the possible effect if the British government goes ahead with its intention to outlaw “offensive” religious jokes. Such a law would be a bad idea, for the simple reason that jokes are how we humans avoid violence. Jokes are our safety-release mechanism. Sure they can sometimes be offensive. So can burps. But if you ban them even worse results happen. And believe me, if someone tells a joke that truly offends, he or she will be punished for it. That’s one area for sure where the government can take it easy and relax.

[From The best God joke ever – and it’s mine! | | Arts]

And yes, blog acting weird still, it’s not just you. Patience, my friends.

  1. “I was walking down the street; something caught my eye… and dragged it fifteen feet.” []

links for 2008-06-03