Is Maher like Mathis?

We were all annoyed at Expelled.  Mark Mathis, producer, lied to get interviews, they mispreresented themselves, and overall played dirty.

We all want to see Religulous.  Bill Maher looks scathing and hilarious.


However, it seems Maher has more in common with Mathis then we might like to admit.

On how he got people to talk to him: “It was simple: We never, ever, used my name. We never told anybody it was me who was going to do the interviews. We even had a fake title for the film. We called it ‘A Spiritual Journey.’ It didn’t work everywhere. We went to Salk Lake City, but no one would let us film there at all.”

On the element of surprise: “Larry Charles’ theory is–just keep going till they throw you out. I guess he learned that on ‘Borat.’ The crew would set up and at the last second, when the cameras were already rolling, I would show up. So either they’d be seen on camera leaving the interview and lose face or they’d have to talk to me. It was like–‘And now here’s … Bill!’ You could usually see the troubled looks on their faces. At the Holy Land theme park, the PR woman freaked out and finally told us to leave. She was definitely not a happy camper.”

On his encounter with Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor, who tells Maher he believes the biblical account that Earth was created 5,200 years ago: “He’s not going to be happy with this movie. I suspect he’s going to say that the editing is not favorable to him [laughs]. And he’s not completely wrong about that. But we didn’t make anything up. When I told him I was worried about people [with such literal interpretations of the Bible] running the country, he’s the one who says, ‘Well, you don’t have to pass an IQ test to be in the Senate.’ “

One difference that remains is the extent to which interviews were cherry-picked in the two movies, and whether or not Maher expells any stars from the premieres (unlikely).

So The Friendly Atheist asks us:

So, does Religulous get a free pass from atheists because this movie is on our side? Are we condoning the methods used to make the film because they show religious belief at its kookiest?

Or will we come out and admit the tactics used to make this movie were no different from those of the despicable Ben Stein and his crew, lowering us to their level?

I think there are a couple a difference between Mathis and Maher’s movies.

First, Expelled was (supposed to be) a serious documentary, Maher is a comedian talking to the craziest people he can find to expose that (no surprise) they are crazy.

Second, if you are trying to get quotes from atheists that science is keeping religion out, then although it is easiest to get the quotes by misrepresenting yourself it’s dishones.  Whereas if you are making a comedy purely for the sake of making fun of people (which in itself may be questionably moral), then it seems more justifiable to use shock interviews.

Finally, did anyone (besides the college guys who looked like idiots) really criticize Borat for misrepresenting people?  It was a comedy and did what it aimed to do.  Religulous is more the same as Borat than it is Expelled.

So I will say I was disappointed that Maher stooped to this level to make his movie, I will go see it however (I would have seen Expelled if I hadn’t heard it was so boring) but purely for a laugh.

I’ll leave you with this bit from a follow-up in the LA Times.

I found it a little suspicious that Maher confronted all sorts of people in the film, but never lost an argument.  Wasn’t the deck stacked? “I’m not going to lie–the deck was stacked,” Maher said. “Let’s face it, when it comes to religion, there is no convincing argument. If you believe in the Bible in a way where you think you can live to be 900 years old and turn your wife into a pillar of salt, you’re going to lose any logical debate. Your story just falls apart.”