The People in Darkness


So far this has been an excellent decade for village explainers, that tribe that eternally strives to get the rest of us to understand, among other things, that if religion does not answer to logic and physical science, it does not deserve to exist—that it is, in fact, the root of most man-made evil. If the twentieth century, with its atheistic mass murderers, was a bad time for the explainers, 9/11 and the mutual devastations of Sunni and Shiites gave them a fresh claim on the public forum.

Religulous may make Bill Maher the best-known village explainer on the planet. Its opening scene clearly sums up the comedian’s fears about organized religion. In the Bible, he points out, it is God alone who can destroy the earth, but now, with powerful weapons in the hands of religious fanatics (and Maher might lump George W. Bush in with the worst of the president’s foes), those who believe in “the end of days” or other such apocalyptic notions may be able to fulfill such prophecies. Therefore, or so Maher says, he and his director, Larry Charles, traveled around the world with a camera crew for the sake of talking with, and understanding, those who are ridiculous enough to be religious.

Actually, Maher makes no attempt whatsoever to understand the grounds of religious belief. He simply seeks out (mostly) ridiculous people (creationists, some guy claiming to be the direct descendant of...

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About the Author

Richard Alleva has been reviewing movies for Commonweal since 1990.