Mission Issues

Thinking and re-thinking missionary issues

Religulous – Why do you believe?

I recently read a short review on the controversial movie, Religulous. While knowing what the intention of Bill Maher was in making the movie, I nevertheless decided, on a friend’s recommendation, to have a look at it. In my opinion the movie failed both as a comedy and as a documentary critique of religion in general and specifically Christianity. Perhaps it is just that I believe that my interpretation of humour is more sophisticated, but I cannot find anything humourous in humiliating people, be they fundamentalist Christian, Creationist, Jews, Mormons or Muslims. And from the onset it was Bill’s intention to humiliate people. One of the ways he does this is by mainly choosing people with radical viewpoints to interview and shooting holes in their argumens. Not only that: He chooses people who believe something but who are incapable of defending their beliefs with rational arguments. Obviously the movie was edited so we will never know how many people were able to answer Bill with logical arguments on why they believe. Something else he does, which I found extremely irritating, is to interrupt the people he interviews. He asks them a question which they start to answer and before they have finished their sentences, he interrupts by making some kind of humiliating remark about what they had just said and thereby causing them, either to become angry (through which they lose the argument) or to become so flustered that, for the viewer, it seems that they have no argument at all. The only person shown in the movie that is able to withstand this onslaught is a Rabbi who keeps on telling Bill that he must keep quiet while he finishes what he started saying, up to the point when Bill stands up and says: “I’m outta here!”
As a documentary it also fails, merely because Bill is totally biassed. Furthermore, he uses arguments trying to prove how ridiculous the Christians are but which is based on myth. One exmple is that he says that the story of Jesus is based on the Horus myth. In all honesty, this is the first time that I have every heard of this claim and had I been a new believer and someone said to me that a book had been written in 1280 BC, called the Egyptian Book of the Dead in which a god with the name of Horus is described who is the son of the god Osiris, born to a virgin mother, baptised in a river by Anup the baptiser (who was later beheaded), that Horus was later tempted while alone in the desert, that he healed the sick and the blind, cast out demons, walked on water, raises Asar from the dead (which supposedly translates to Lazarus), had twelve disciples, was crucified, and after three days two women announced that Horus, the saviour of mankind, had been resurrected from the dead, then I would probably also have wondered whether my pastor had been telling me the truth about Jesus.
The point is that, not only is the story of Horus an Egyptian myth, but the way in which Bill Maher tells the story of Horus is also a myth. It’s easy enough to find the text of this myth on the internet. In the real Horus myth, he is not born of a virgin. Horus was never baptised. Horus had four followers. Although he did perform miracles in the myth, he never cast out demons nor raised El-Azarus (which refers to his father, Osiris) from the dead. There is no account that he walked on water. He was not crucified. Why, I asked myself, would Bill Maher make up these stories if he felt so strongly that the story of Jesus was false?
The movie, however, had one positive effect on me: If an open-minded unbeliever should ask me today why I believe, what would I answer that person? And I realised that the answer is not so simple. Perhaps I should refer back to an analogy that I used in a previous post: Why do I love my wife and why did I marry her? Not because I had sat down one day and analysed all my needs until I eventually decided that this woman would make the perfect wife! We decided to get married because a loving relationship had started between us and developed to such a point that we decided that we want to spend the rest of our lives together. How do you explain that to someone who has never been in love?
I can testify today about what my relationship with Jesus had done in my life. I can tell numerous stories of miracles that had happened that I can ascribe to the fact that we had prayed (or sometimes not even prayed) about matters and that we know for a fact that God had intervened in some miraculous way. But can I prove this? Probably not. Coming to faith is exactly what it says. To entrust your life to God through Jesus Christ is a step of faith. But as the relationship develops one realises increasingly what one had missed out on before.
What would I have done if Bill Maher had approached me for an interview about why I believe? Probably I would have started by asking him why he would like to know (to better understand his intentions and to force him to be honest about his intentions). Then I would have attempted to explain to him what it is that I as Christian believe (which he, of course, has the right to reject if he pleases but which makes no difference to the fact that I believe this). And I would have kindly asked him not to interrupt me while I’m speaking. Lastly I would have tried to give some indication of what difference my faith makes in my daily life.
But by that time, I think, he would have said: “I’m outta here!


Thursday, April 9, 2009 - Posted by | Building relations, Church, Evangelicals, Evangelism, Humour, Mission, Movie Review, Theology


  1. Very cool. Thanks for this post. I haven’t seen the movie yet – might not even bother, for all the reasons you mention here.

    Comment by Robaigh | Thursday, April 9, 2009 | Reply

  2. Thanks Robaigh, I appreciate your response.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Thursday, April 9, 2009 | Reply

  3. […] is the origin of the Jesus story. Only problem is, he need to lie to make his point. I read some thoughts on the Horus myth a few days ago, so I’ll skip that […]

    Pingback by Religulous: Bill, a Seeker? « my contemplations | Monday, April 13, 2009 | Reply

  4. I saw Bill Maher’s documentary. He almost had me convinced that Jesus was a carbon copy of Horus. Thanks to this post and others that I have read, I realize now that Bill Maher is as ridiculous as he judges others to be. He even puts on a disguise in one scene and pretends that his crew is filming a scientologist preaching to strangers in a park.

    Thanks for clearing that up for me.

    Comment by Joel | Wednesday, May 20, 2009 | Reply

  5. Thanks Joel. I’m glad that helped you in some way.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Wednesday, May 20, 2009 | Reply

  6. I started watching Religulous thinking it was a documentary. But it turned out into a comedy. No complaints, though. I enjoyed it IMMENSELY.

    About the Horus thing… Egyptian history is a lot more older than Christian history, so there are bound to be more areas of ambiguity, and granted, Bill would have taken some of the more protruding examples/ choices in making his point. For example, the belief that he was born out of a virgin… there is some ambiguity in the archeaological evidence there. Some scholars believe that’s what the legend said… Others are skeptical.

    In any case, check this bit out – http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_jcpa5b.htm

    The connection between the stories are stronger than you may think, but possibly not as absolute as Bill may have portrayed.

    Comment by hammy | Friday, June 26, 2009 | Reply

  7. Hammy, you need to read the Horus story itself if you want to compare it to the life of Jesus. And when you read the story you will find that what Bill said (and the same applies to the link you sent) is just not the truth.

    Comment by Arnau van Wyngaard | Friday, June 26, 2009 | Reply

  8. I believe you need to research things yourself. The Horus story is less true from what you say than what bill said. Bill was trying to prove a point and you missed it. Through faith I have had many miracles in Iraq and home, and I have never had Jesus in my life.

    Comment by Tyler Durden | Wednesday, February 9, 2011 | Reply

  9. Thanks very much for this material.So so inspiring.God bless you

    Comment by missionwithme | Monday, April 18, 2011 | Reply

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