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Wednesday, October 1, 2008

News Release: Religulous: Maher Mockery of Muslims May Backfire

In Religulous, due to be released in 500 theaters this week, comedian Bill Maher travels to numerous religious sites, such as Jerusalem, the Vatican, and Salt Lake City, interviewing believers from a variety of backgrounds, including Jews for Jesus, Christians, and Muslims.

Best-selling author and TV co-host Ray Comfort said, "I don’t blame Bill Maher for mocking religion. Manmade religion has left a trail of destruction throughout history--from the Roman Catholic Inquisition, its famous Crusades against Islam, and pedophile priests, to hypocritical Protestant ministers and money-hungry televangelists. I can see why he took the trouble to make the movie. In one sense, it’s overdue."

However, the author said that although the film is bound to be popular in the U.S., it may badly backfire on Maher. Comfort said that in 2007 he befriended the atheist who received national attention for encouraging other atheists to post videos of themselves blaspheming God. "I emailed him explaining that Muslims translate the name 'God' as 'Allah,' and suggested that he rethink what he was doing. Muslims killed a number of people for merely publishing cartoons of their prophet Mohammad. I also reminded him that author Salmon Rushdie is still hiding in fear of his life for his Satanic Verses. All it would take is a report on Arab television that Americans were making videos blaspheming Allah and saying, 'And I am not afraid,' to stir a response. After I sent that email, the blasphemy challenge seemed to disappear very quickly."

Comfort warns that Hollywood has gotten away with mockery of Christianity, but many Muslims aren’t so tolerant. "How will they react to a movie that critics describe as 'a blasphemous detonation of all things holy'? Even Maher’s casual jesting with his Jesus could be offensive to Muslims, who believe Jesus was a prophet. Imagine if the movie catches the attention of Arab news, which reports, 'American Comedian Mocks Allah in Popular Movie.' Already, the International Herald Tribune’s lead article was titled "Maher vs. God." The movie’s website www.lionsgate.com/religulous/ links to a site that has a Muslim symbol with the word 'Bastard' beside it. While that site has a sense of anonymity, the famous comedian doesn't, as his face is easily recognizable. I wouldn’t want to be in Maher's shoes, or even in the seat of a theater that upsets Muslims. We are living in volatile times. We don’t need this sort of thing right now--religious intolerance. I seriously suggest that he postpone the release date, and do a little last-minute editing."

The Canadian Press said that Maher "dissects organized religion, but he's doing it in his laceratingly funny, typically sardonic way . . . But Maher undermines his arguments at the end when the tone turns sharply serious: He tries to make a connection between religion and all the wars and violence in the world, and he does it with the same kind of certitude he just got done condemning others for having."

Comfort added that he also believes Maher is straining at gnats and swallowing a camel with his movie. "He is speaking the truth when he talks of religion’s trail of destruction. But religion comes in second when it comes to committing atrocities down through the ages. Atheistic communism is number one. It is responsible for more than 100 million deaths. The problem isn’t religion or atheism. It’s human nature. That's what needs to change."

Comfort is the author of Hollywood Be Thy Name (Bridge-Logos), which looks at Hollywood’s history of blasphemy and why it is so out of step with mainstream America. It explains why movies such as Religulous wouldn’t have made it to the box office before the 1950s, and what it was in 1962 that opened the floodgates to unrestrained blasphemy.

Contact: T. Ramos: tramos@livingwaters.com