Western religions attacked in film "Religulous"

Tue Sep 9, 2008 12:03pm EDT
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By Cameron French

TORONTO (Reuters) - You won't find the word "religulous" in a dictionary but it's a good bet it will be on protest signs when the documentary of that name, a jab-in-the-eye at Western religion, hits movie theaters in October.

The title melds the words "religious" and "ridiculous" and the film, the brainchild of humorist Bill Maher and "Borat" director Larry Charles, pulls no punches in its attack on organized religions and their cultural impact.

"Just to question why is faith good, I think is a question never contemplated by most people" in the United States, Maher told Reuters at the Toronto International Film Festival, where the documentary debuted this week.

He and Charles said their goals are modest -- make people laugh first and generate discussion second -- and Maher added the movie culminates his 15 years of poking fun at religion in talk shows "Politically Incorrect" and "Real Time."

Born to a Jewish mother but raised Catholic, Maher counts himself among a minority of Americans who claim no religious affiliation.

"What I'm constantly saying is I'm preaching the doctrine of 'I don't know.' That's what I'm selling," he said.

With Charles behind the camera, Maher questions unsuspecting Christians, Jews and Muslims on their beliefs, at sites ranging from religious theme parks in Florida, to the Vatican and Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

Eastern religions, such as Buddhism and Hinduism, are not addressed, due to the time constraints of a movie and the lack of relevance to U.S. audiences, the filmmakers said.   Continued...

<p>Documentary film "Religulous" narrator Bill Maher and director Larry Charles (R) pose for a portrait during the 33rd Toronto International Film Festival September 7, 2008. REUTERS/Mark Blinch</p>