“Religulous” is splendacular!

âÄúReligulousâÄù Directed by: Larry Charles Starring: Bill Maher Rated: R Showing at: Area theaters Bill Maher has been politically incorrect. Bill Maher has kept it real. Bill Maher has even fought off Piranha Women. Now the comedian-turned-pundit-turned-activist has channeled his efforts into deconstructing the last great social taboo: Religion. From Mormons to Muslims, Maher takes measured stabs at a variety of world faiths. The vehicle for his denigration is called âÄúReligulous,âÄù a portmanteau that is fun to say and stresses MaherâÄôs belief in the absurdity of organized religion. In the documentary, Maher travels the world under the guise of investigator, exploring the psyche of the devout. In reality, he has an agenda, and that is to challenge the precepts of religion that are irrelevant in todayâÄôs society. For Maher, that means all of them. To drive the point, Maher exhibits a handful of notable interviewees, including a formerly gay man who now helps others âÄúpray the gay away,âÄù the founder of the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum and Jesus Christ himself (well, a guy that plays him at a Christian theme park). It isnâÄôt hard for Maher to make the fundamentalist factions of modern religion look ridiculous. Even a particularly brainless interviewee, whose primary religious conviction is that smoking pot is cool, works toward MaherâÄôs end, as he manages to liken the manâÄôs beliefs to âÄúmore seriousâÄù religions. But the film isnâÄôt solely a condemnation of the fringe. Maher, who has been criticized in the past for his comments on Catholicism, pokes fun at the religion, but actually makes it look comparably progressive. This is a result of two super-rad Vatican priests that dispel the notion that evolution is incompatible with Christianity. In addition, Maher makes a strong argument against religionâÄôs place in mainstream American society. MaherâÄôs a smart guy; he knows the religious legions will not be dissuaded by a silly documentary, so his goal can be seen as less of a condemnation and more of a call to arms. He is making an attempt to stir the atheistic masses out of apathy and into political action. The film states that atheists comprise a larger part of the U.S. population than Jews, blacks, gays and NRA members. While all the above demographics are successful in political activism and lobbying, the stigma surrounding atheism deters many from speaking out. MaherâÄôs most important point may be in regards to American politicians. Anyone who hasnâÄôt been living in a hole for the last several years knows what an important role religion has played in this election, from Barack ObamaâÄôs crazy ex-pastor to Gov. Sarah PalinâÄôs belief in creationism. In addition, many politicians have become increasingly vocal about this countryâÄôs founding as a Christian nation. To counter this idea, Maher quotes some guy named Thomas Jefferson , who went as far as saying, âÄúChristianity is the most perverted system that ever shone on man.âÄù MaherâÄôs most convincing argument for the removal of religion from politics comes not from quotes of dead founding fathers, but rather from a sitting politician. U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor , one of 100 in this country, not only believes that the end of the world is near, but goes on to state, quite candidly, that âÄúyou donâÄôt have to take an IQ test to be in the Senate.âÄù This man is by no means an extremist or a Bible-thumping radical. Hell, heâÄôs a Democrat. Maher questions how one can effectively run a government when they think the world might end tomorrow, something everyone should ask in the upcoming election. Despite the heavy themes, and a very disturbing ending, âÄúReligulousâÄù is ultimately a pretty lighthearted comedy. MaherâÄôs insights are clever enough to evoke critical thought and funny enough to entertain for an hour and a half. Those looking to affirm their disbelief will be pleasantly engrossed, while those looking to rage at the lack of respect will probably be dismayed. The film is not particularly insulting; if you take offense to the film, you either need thicker skin or stronger faith. Just remember that your God is the best and that will mollify you.