Bill Maher's new film Religulous sees the unflappably egomaniacal Maher traveling the country interviewing people about their faith, in order to: (A) point out the errors of logic, fact, and history inherent to their worldview, and (B) make fun of them. The film is at its heart a rejection of the concept of religious tolerance, less an intellectual argument (though Maher certainly relies on the scientific and historical records to make his points) than a sustained comedic expression of frustration.
For atheists accustomed to the one-way street of religious acceptance (on which I will respect your right to believe what you want to believe, and you will attempt to limit my access to birth control), there is something refreshing about this. Maher's aim in making the film seems less to convert than to simply give voice (albeit a very mean one) to the something like 14 percent of the population who don't identify as religious—who maybe even share Maher's hard-line position that religious beliefs are essentially legitimized mental illness. Whether he's interviewing a state senator, truckers at a roadside chapel, or the man who plays Jesus at a biblical theme park, Maher is never less than withering in his assessment of the dangerous fairy tale that is religious faith, saving particular ire for religious leaders who profit off the gullibility of their congregations.
The film suffers from two things: a lack of focus, and an abundance of Maher. Catholics, Mormons, Scientologists, Muslims, and even ex-gays—all fall under Maher's lens. And even though the perennially smug Maher presents himself as indiscriminate in his takedowns, his own biases are evident: He gets trigger happy with Muslims, painting Islam as a violent, bloodthirsty religion, and gives Jews a pass entirely. He also gets a little too New World Order of Rationalism at the end of the film, arguing that technology has evolved faster than our ability to use it effectively, blaming religion (natch) for that evolutionary failure, and suggesting that it's time to intervene before the "self-fulfilling prophecy" built into an apocalyptic religious worldview mushroom-clouds us all away. Which is fine. I'm just not letting a smug fucking bastard like Bill Maher design my new world order, no matter how right he is.