Religulous – a little disappointing

I finally watched Religulous tonight and I’m glad I didn’t go to watch it in the theatres.  As much as I like Bill Maher and his show on HBO, I found this movie lacking any kind of depth.  I’ve watched him do stand-up in Philadelphia and this movie reminded me a little too much of his comedy routine.  Maybe that was his reason for making this documentary but I was a little disappointed with the outcome.  The movie consisted primarily of two types of scenes: Maher interviewing people and Maher talking into a camera while being driven in a car.

When he interviewed people, he would often try really hard to make fun of them and their beliefs instead of trying to understand and seriously critique their points of view.  Often, he interviewed Middle-Easterners and Europeans and they didn’t quite get his American brand of humor and tended to give him blank stares.  When he was talking into a camera while being driven, there was this weird voice in the background either asking him questions or agreeing with him.  It annoyed me trying to keep up with what this voice was saying.  Again, this is strange because his show on HBO is very polished.

Bill Maher had the opportunity to truly represent the 16 million people he says are non-religious.  A better job at making this an informative, critical, and thought-provoking documentary would’ve gone a long way in making non-religious people feel safe(r) in a country that has, for as long as I’ve known it, been considered a Christian nation by its leaders.

Jesus Camp

Jesus Camp: I watched this documentry last night.  I’m writing these thoughts without reading any other reviews of the movie, save the snippets that come up on the Netflix website and the movie’s Wikipedia site that I pulled up to find the director’s name, etc.  I’d seen trailers for the movie some years ago, but was unable to find more details about it at that time.  I’m glad I got the chance to watch it.

The movie provides an overview of a “bible-camp” that Evangelical Christians in Missouri attend.  The camp is focussed on childern in the 7-12 year range.  The movie itself focusses on 3 or 4 kids and their journey from being introduced to the camp, attending it, and their impressions and actions after it.  The movie alternates between scenes of the childern at camp and other places and an admittedly Christian radio talk show host who can not fathom the creation of the next generation of Jesus’s army.  Significantly more time is spent on the children than on the radio talk show host and there is no other negetive commentry on the former.  It is a surprisingly balanced view on the the reasons why parents send their kids to such camps and the reason people run such camps.  However, the filming of the movie (angles, length of shots, etc) itself does cast a somewhat negative light on the premise of the documentary.

As an observer and viewer, some things in the movie frighten me and other things impress me.  Firstly, I’m concerned by the age of the children being indoctrinated.  Getting them this young means they really never get the chance to learn any other point of view.  Secondly, having such firm beliefs implanted from such a young age probably makes one more likely to be an extremist later in life.  I have no proof of this, but don’t middle-eastern extremists get started similarly.  Thirdly, the rationale of the parents camp authorities for why they run this camp is “because they’re doing it too”.  Finally, the “trance” the children seem to be in at various times through out the film frighten me.  They are shown to be in tears for what they claim are reasons that even I can not comprehend.  What impresses about the kids is their cohereance and ability to string together well thought out sentences about why they’re doing the things they are doing.  Now I dont know if they’ve just been so thoroughly brainwashed that this is all they know, or they’re really capable of thought that I think is atypical of children of that age.

Overall, a recommended watch.