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In its premise, Bill goes through a journey across the U.S. and other parts of the world talking to people, while looking for the answer to this question: Why do people accept the fantastic stories and teachings that religions preach? As is evidenced by the title of the movie, though (a Portmanteau of "religion" and "ridiculous"), Bill Maher already has some opinions on the matter that he'd like to pass on to the audience.
See also Jesus Camp for a similar religious documentary produced around the same timeframe.
This film contains examples of:
- A God Am I: Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda, who claims to be the resurrected Jesus Christ, is interviewed in the film.
- Artistic License Religion: Everything said abut Mithras and Horus.
- Belief Makes You Stupid: The basic thesis.
- Book Ends: The film opens with Bill standing on Megido, Israel, noting that, according to Christian beliefs, at that spot Jesus will return and end the world; the closing scene has Bill in the same place making a reflection on the dangers of believing something that looks forward to the end of the world, and how irrationality could provoke our own Armageddon.
- Chewbacca Defense: The interview with Ken Ham and a few other examples.
- Church Militant: Bill isn't too fond of these types.
- Completely Missing the Point:
- During his interview with the head of the Creationist organization Answers in Genesis, Ken Ham:
Ken: God is all knowing, all powerful, He works in mysterious ways.
Bill: But isn't that a cop-out?
Ken: He is God. Are you God?
- A better example:
Bill: Jonah living inside of the whale... and their answer, unfailingly, is: "the Bible doesn't say whale, it says big fish." Oh yeah, big fish... now THAT makes sense! I'm sorry, I was obsessing on that was a whale! It's a big fish. Of course you can live for three days in a big fish. A tuna. A tuna. They do it all the time in Japan. They have tuna spas. You go for three days, they pamper you, oils... you come out of that tuna, feeling... fantastic.
- This exchange, to a certain extent:
- Constantly Curious: Bill's (apparent) tactic when interviewing; see Refuge in Audacity.
- The Fundamentalist: A few.
- Heteronormative Crusader: John Westcott from Exchange Ministries (an organization that tries to "cure" gays), is interviewed in the film.
- Ho Yay: At the end of the aforementioned interview with John Westcott. Serves as a Crowning Moment of Funny also.
- Hypocritical Humor: When filming in the Dome of the Rock, Bill asks his guide if Islam discriminates against women, the guide denies this and then points that women have their own corner in which they can pray.
- Poe's Law: Bill disguises himself and starts preaching the actual tenets of Scientology at the Speaker's Corner in London's Hyde Park. Naturally, most people laugh at him and call him crazy, unaware that those were Scientologists' real beliefs.
- It's even funnier because that park was used by nutjobs to preach outlandish beliefs, and even then, the real beliefs of Scientology looked crazier by comparison.
- Manipulative Editing: A number of interviews Bill Maher conducted were later revealed to involve this, as several sources reported:
- Bill did this to Francis Collins, the Christian scientist who headed the Human Genome Project. Bill Maher deliberately misled Collins into accepting an interview on the premise that it would be about his book, The Language of God (which deals with science and faith). Instead, Bill Maher confronted Collins with questions on topics unrelated to his book--topics he admitted that he's not an expert on (such as the historicity of the Gospels). Maher then used select clips to make Collins appear dumbstruck before these "tough questions."
- Two other scientists, Dean Hamer and Andrew Newberg, were also victims of selective editing, as this article in Seed Magazine shows.
- Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Invoked by Bill at the end of the film with the demand that the audience "grow up or die."
- Precision F-Strike: "You see so many nice people trying to make it about something good and yet it turns into not just corrupt, but, like, fucking little kids corrupt."
- Quote Mine: Some of Bill's interviews are heavily edited or conducted on misleading premises. See Manipulative Editing above.
- Bill Maher quotes John Adams as saying "This best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it." In reality, Adams meant the complete opposite, as the context (from a letter to Thomas Jefferson back in 1817) shows.
- He even shows one priest actually saying that the angel eschatology is nonsense and that there is no such thing as Hell.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Father George Coyne, PhD, who works at the Vatican's Observatory, is directly presented as this. He points out that the Bible was written 2-4 thousand years before what we know as Science was ever developed, so any suggestions that the Bible is a scientific text is dubious at best. To hammer the point home, Bill interlaces this segment with segments of Ken Ham, leader of "Answers in Genesis," a religious group that claims that the Bible is meant to be taken literally and is an accurate history of the Earth.
- Refuge in Audacity: Bill certainly has a lot of nerve to confront devoted believers, some of them understandably are seen fuming during the interviews, in one instance he is actually thrown out of a Mormon temple. He was also thrown out of the Vatican before he could even really get started filming much of anything there. It's hard to say how much of this is genuine, though, given the amount of selective editing.
- Religion of Evil: The film attempts to portray Islam above all as this.
- Stealth Insult: Bill makes this several times in his interviews, the one that takes the cake is the aforementioned interview with Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda.
- Surprisingly Similar Stories: Invoked by Bill to point out the similarities between the stories of Jesus and other deities like Mithra, Bacchus, Horus and many more. Of course, there's a slight problem in that the stories of Mithra, Horus, Bacchus and many more are not really like what Bill Maher thinks.
- Who Writes This Crap?: His reaction while reviewing the beliefs of several religions, like Mormonism and Scientology.
- You Keep Using That Word: During an interview with a United States Senator who believes in creationism, he uses the word "indigous", which the subtitles note isn't really a word (he was probably thinking of "indigenous").