Bill Maher, a man who I firmly believe is moving comedy forward by sucking it dry of all funniness, has a new film coming out in which he engages religious people all over the world on the subject of whether or not what they believe is ridiculous.
Director Larry Charles (also directed Borat) describes the project:
What do you believe, why do you believe it, and why do you need to believe it? Can we be good without God? Is religion a calling or a mental illness? Were Jesus, Moses and Mohammed prophets and visionaries, or crackpot nut cases who today would be put away? Is religion an obsessive-compulsive disorder?
Comedian, acerbic commentator, raconteur, skeptic, seeker Bill Maher and I set off in search of answers to these questions in a raunchy, rude, irreverent, outrageous, and shocking nonfiction film about the greatest fiction ever told.
I have long been disappointed by the exemplars of atheism and agnosticism in our society. Some of the most famous doubters are complete douches. Maher on the other hand is firm in his beliefs and, though he has at times been rather dismissive of people of faith, he’s not unable to have a real conversation and he seems capable of seeing people of faith as human beings.
My friend Seamus O’Rourke and I had an interesting conversation about documentaries the other day. We agreed that for the most part they give people the impression that they’re watching something truthful and on the level, when most of them have obvious biases they’re not owning up to.
I think that the approach that Maher is taking here, however, is obviously not a documentary. We do need a new genre term for these personality driven non-fiction films, but I like this approach because Maher is so far out in front of it that it can’t be mistaken for anything other than something, which may or may not be interesting, that a comedian is doing.