Bill Maher, in the documentary “Religulous,” makes rather astonishing claims about religion. But then again, the negative or oppositional reactions which sprung forth from the film, or from the interviews conducted from believers, were not surprising at all. In essence, Bill Maher maintains that “faith means making a virtue out of not thinking,” and that “doubt” is in fact a better, and “humbler” virtue (Maher). Thus, the main essential point that the documentary makes is that “religion must die, for mankind to live” (Maher), which can be considered in the sense that mankind has to be critical, that is, to be able to have a rational and solid evidence or proof, to assert belief. Here it seems as if what Maher means by “to live” is for man to open his eyes to the true nature behind belief and disbelief, and not to “brag about faith” (Maher) but instead give rational recognition to that which he does not know, for in terms of religion nobody really knows everything. Thus, one must admit that there are things, especially about religion, that he cannot really know, and that he has the license to think critically before accepting beliefs, as much as he is entitled to not believing if the reasons or lack of them thereof, point to error.
In the documentary, Maher mentioned that non-believers must “get out of the closet.” By this he must have meant that their disbelief is just as valid as the various other beliefs around. Besides, there really is no telling whether or not which belief is indeed right or wrong, and whether not believing is indeed wrong. For, believing in what is not really known can be considered somewhat ludicrous, in terms of rational thinking. But then again, there is not anything which really proves that God does not exist either. In the documentary, Maher criticized religious traditions. Among those he criticized were the beliefs regarding “rapture” and “the end of the world” (Maher). He said that like God, man also has the power to destroy the planet, what with the weapons of mass destruction and all. He also referred to believers as “clinging” to beliefs and involving themselves in religious practices which he deems nothing but insane, such as the Christian tradition of “drinking the blood of Jesus” (Maher).
Maher also touched the matter of salvation, and said in a sort of debate with a former “Satan’s priest” who converted to Christ, that perhaps it was just because of fear of what could really happen in the afterlife that he decided to convert, because then he would be more sure that he would go to a better place. Maher also questioned the “virgin birth,” which he says was not given more attention, as it was a rather significant event. He also paralleled the belief in Jesus Christ to that of Santa Claus, stating that there really is not much difference between the two beliefs, that is, it is like believing in someone who does not really exist. He also referred to churches being too lavish such as the Vatican, claiming that it does not seem to be the type of edifice that would have upheld the simplicity of Jesus. Maher also questioned the multiple personas that Christians believe in, such as the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit, along with the angels and saints, saying that such a religion does not seem monotheistic at all. He also points out the glitches in term of prophecies, miracles, and the constant references made to “God and country” (Maher).
It might be safe to say that Maher made such criticisms based on several working assumptions. For instance, he assumes that religion is actually an “invisible product,” to which believers subscribe blindly, and involve themselves in practices that Maher believes do not really make much sense. He was also firm that religious beliefs lack evidence and he points out many incongruities, such as elements which are not stated in the Bible. He said that the story of Jesus have close similarities with older historical tales in Egypt and thus assumes that the Bible could be all made-up. Thus, he said that he hates self-fulfilling prophecies. He also works under the assumption that monotheistic religions should have only one God to worship, thus he questions the references to a multitude of other worshipful personas. Furthermore, he works under the assumption that there is no reconciling religion and nationalism, because being a Christian is different from being a nationalistic country fellow, as was believed by revered personas in the arena of politics, such as Thomas Jefferson. He also assumes that there are no miracles, and that there are only coincidences. Thus, here Maher leans more to materialism, in that matter is the only reality and God does not exist. He exhibits this inclination particularly in the part in the documentary where he interviewed a former Jew who claims he has encountered many miracles. Maher asked him to cite one, and he shared his experience about the miracle with the rain. Maher maintained that it cannot be considered a miracle because it does rain, and that if it rained frogs, then that would disprove the point.
However, whatever the argument, there will always be two sides to every coin. As was asserted previously, for one to not believe cannot be considered automatically wrong, but for one to believe, for whatever reason, cannot be considered entirely wrong either. The Kalam Cosmological Argument, which was developed from Moorish Spain, employs logical reasoning in asserting the existence of God. According to this argument, if x began, then it can only mean that x was caused. Likewise, as the universe began, then it must also have been caused. To consider a deductive argument valid, the premises must be true, and as the argument goes, everything in existence has a cause. The universe, at some point, must have begun to exist. Thus, something must have caused the universe to exist. This does not necessarily mean that there was a purpose for its existence as purpose is different from cause, in that for something to cause something else, there need not necessarily be a meaningful reason. Science, for that matter, concerns itself with causes. It studies evidences or lack thereof every time. Science is objective, and is always based in the third person. But then again, the first person must also be explained, along with their corresponding existence in the world of matter. According to Dualism, a person is both body and soul. A human being possesses a body but he is not a body.
In order to rationally point out the existence of the Divine to a nonbeliever using the Kalam Cosmological Argument, the reasons which would affirm that the first premise is true must first be asserted. Science essentially assumes that things do not just exist; rather, they come into existence, and more importantly, they come into existence due to a particular cause. Thus, that which is caused defines or identifies the effect. There are also reasons to believe that the second premise, on the other hand, is also true. First, the big bang is scientifically maintained to be true. But if the big bang took place within the universe, then what could have been the reason for it, as originally, the big bang must have been when the universe actually came into existence. But then again, philosophically, an actual infinite series cannot possibly be formed by consecutive appendages. Considering the paper route example, for instance, if it was required for one to throw an infinite number of papers to get to the last house, it would be impossible to get there, because the houses along the paper route map become moments in time. Moreover, if a librarian says that to get a particular book you must have read an infinite number of books already, it would be impossible to get that certain book. Another example would be if one goes to a hotel to book a room, and the hotel manager says the infinite number of rooms are all already occupied, and offers that he can put the customer in room one, but only until he has moved the occupant of room one to room two and the occupant of room two to room three, and so forth, then the customer will never get the room.
Past can only be finite or infinite. When it comes to physical phenomena, one phenomenon precipitates the other and to trace all the events would be to get to the very first phenomenon which caused the rest through chain reaction. A first event would be more realistic than one which never began and just perpetuated. If an infinite number of phenomena took place before anything existed, then nothing could ever have existed. In accordance with the definition of the word infinite itself, an infinite series cannot ever be completed. And since we exist and are aware of a particular moment in time such as right now, then there should have been a beginning. Scientific explanations which are comprised by significant, specific, and applicable initial physical conditions and natural laws can be used all together to make sense of an event and to identify its cause. Such is a causal explanation. However, aside from a causal explanation, there is also the personal causal explanation which is a combination of an agent, power, incentives, and intelligence. Considering these four elements, then the question regarding the cause points to a question of who. Thus, as there can only be either a personal causal explanation or a scientific causal explanation regarding the beginning of the universe, and there is not really any known initial condition of the very first event, we may only subscribe to a personal causal explanation, that is, the existence of an force acting intentionally and with power upon the universe.
Maher, Bill. “Religulous.” 01 October 2008. Online video clip. Topdocumentaryfilms.com. Accessed on 05 June 2009. < http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/religulous/ >