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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Nov. 5, 2008 / 7 Mar-Cheshvan 5769

‘Religulous’: Bad title, even worse movie

By Bruce Weinstein


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A Jew who grew up in the Bible Belt, attended a Quaker college, and trained at a Catholic graduate school, considers Bill Maher's supposedly serious exploration of rationality and religion



http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Bill Maher's "Religulous" is a perfect example of how not to make a good documentary.


A self-confessed agnostic, Maher sets out on a worldwide trek to understand how people can place their faith in something as seemingly irrational as religious belief. At least, this is what he claims his mission is.


It doesn't long, however, to see that what Maher is really after is to make fun of just about everyone he interviews, and to use the formal elements of filmmaking, especially editing and music, to show himself to be a morally superior human being. What a missed opportunity.


Artists are not exempt from the ethical obligations to tell the truth and to treat others with respect that apply to everyone else. What makes "Religulous" so troubling both from an artistic and an ethical perspective is that it flagrantly violates the latter responsibility and has almost no regard for the former.


Maher selects as his subjects not the mainstream faithful but oddballs, kooks, and weirdos who represent a minuscule number of like-minded believers. He takes on an anti-Zionist rabbi, a Dutch man whose religion is based on the virtues of marijuana, and a Latino who claims to be Jesus Christ 2.0.


What these nut jobs are doing in a documentary that purports to be a serious exploration of rationality and religion is hard to fathom. Maher may want you to come away from these interviews thinking, "Boy, these religious people are real lunatics," but all you get is the sour feeling that Maher is using delusional people for entertainment value. By taking cheap shots in the name of philosophical inquiry, Maher abuses his privilege as a documentary filmmaker and reveals himself to be more petty, smug, and self-righteous than those he thinks he is exposing. (Is it really news that some whack jobs use religion to justify any bizarre point of view they can come up with?)


But what's really wrong about "Religulous" is that Maher spends no time examining the good works of religion and religious people.


Maher seems to think that a religious tradition is nothing more than a set of beliefs, but it's actually much more than that. Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism (totally ignored by the film, incidentally), and, yes, Islam are rich cultures that are as much about community, social justice, and service as they are about doctrine and prayer. Yes, there are bigots out there who twist the noble messages of the great religious traditions to fit their own evil ends, but this is the fault of individual human beings, not the traditions themselves.


As a Jew who grew up in the Bible Belt, attended a Quaker college (Swarthmore), and trained at a Catholic graduate school (Georgetown), I have been blessed to know a wide range of kind, loving people who guide their lives by the moral teachings of religion and who have brought a lot of joy to others through their religious devotion. I know I'm not the only person who feels this way, but none of the film's 100 minutes acknowledges any of this. (Also conspicuously absent are two of the best things about religious traditions: the music and the food.)


The truly ridiculous revelation in "Religulous" is not that a lot of people around the world have beliefs that don't stand up to scientific scrutiny but that a gifted comedian sought to use his considerable skills merely to make a laughing stock out of an institution that has contributed something of value to the world.


It may be irrational to place one's faith in the unknowable, but it's downright unethical to use the greatest art form ever created to make fun of people and believe you've spoken truth to power. Comics like to say that "Dying is easy; comedy is hard," but discovering meaningful truth is the hardest thing of all. With "Religulous," the only truth Bill Maher reveals is that he isn't as smart as he thinks he is.

Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in Washington and in the media consider "must reading." Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

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Bruce Weinstein, Ph.D., is a corporate consultant and public speaker known as The Ethics Guy.

© 2008, Bruce Weinstein, Ph.D. Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune News Service