"Religion is just an opinion. It's your opinion, and it's no more sacred than my opinion about anything else."

Bill Maher is prepared to be public enemy no. 1 to the world's devout. "I think I've been that for about 15 years," the host of HBO's 'Real Time With Bill Maher' tells us. That very well may be, but expect the war of holy words to really blow up (no pun intended) when Maher's rabble-rousing documentary 'Religulous' hits theaters nationwide.

Directed by Larry Charles, the man behind the 2006 smash hit 'Borat,' 'Religulous' follows Maher on a "spiritual journey" across the globe as he interviews subjects as diverse as an actor playing Jesus Christ at a Christian amusement park, gay Muslims, an anti-Zionist rabbi and a U.S. senator who admits, "You don't have to take an IQ test to run for Senate." If you found Borat's wrestling match with a 300-pound naked man offensive, wait until you hear what Maher has to say about the Old Testament. Moviefone talked to the world's most outspoken agnostic for more insight into his controversial shtick.


Bill Maher Talks Religulous

    Bill Maher is prepared to be public enemy no. 1 to the world's devout. "I think I've been that for about 15 years," the host of HBO's 'Real Time With Bill Maher' tells us. That may be, but expect the war of holy words to really heat up when Maher's documentary 'Religulous' (directed by 'Borat,' helmer Larry Charles) hits theaters nationwide.

    Moviefone talked to the world's most outspoken agnostic for more insight into his controversial shtick. -- Kevin Polowy

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    1.Have you been surprised by any of the reactions you've gotten to the film?

    I think the biggest surprise we found out making the movie was that religious people don't know much about religion. I know more about religion than they do. It's amazing; they don't really study it. You know people can quote the bible, but they haven't read it. They don't know what's in it. They can't even name the Ten Commandments. They're like, "You know, uh, don't kill and don't make statues, uh Sleepy, Grumpy, Dopey." They don't know.



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    2.Is it fair to say that you're essentially asking people to denounce their religion?

    "Asking" is a strong word. First of all, I'm just trying to make people laugh ... I understand that when you make people laugh, you trigger something in them that says "Maybe that's true" ... laughter is an involuntary response. I'm not on a crusade here. I just thought that this was the last taboo subject. It always bothers me when people say, "You can't talk about this." It just makes me want to talk about it, and I was a little tired of the situation in this country -- if someone said the word "faith," it ... closes off the debate. "That's my faith." OK, we can't talk anymore about that because it might be insulting. But religion is just an opinion. It's your opinion, and it's no more sacred than my opinion about anything else. Just because you say it is, I don't have to buy into that.



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    3.It's doubtful that church groups are going to be organizing trips to go see this ...

    Yeah, but we've shown this to lots of religious people and they like it, because first of all it's about a subject they care about, religion. It's also not a condescending movie, it's not making fun of people, it's not pointing fingers. I'm just asking questions. I admit I'm asking questions, which I think I get ridiculous, funny answers to because there really are no good answers to the questions I'm asking. It's just amazing that religious people have never been confronted with these basic questions before. Like "Why doesn't God just obliterate the devil? He is God. He is all-powerful. Why make a game of this?" There's no real answer to that.



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    4.How do you respond to criticisms that you're merely mocking or ridiculing religion in the movie?

    I don't think I'm mocking religion. I think religion makes fun of itself. I don't think I have to. I'm asking these questions, and the answers that people give are ridiculous. You know, an analogy you could make would be to the Sarah Palin interviews. Was Charlie Gibson mocking Sarah Palin by asking her about the Bush Doctrine? Because I heard that argument: "It's a gotcha' question." Well, it's a "gotcha question" if she was running for Miss America. It's not a "gotcha question" if she's running for the Vice Presidency of the United States. Am I mocking them by asking them these questions? Well, considering that this country has been run by a faith-based administration, I think these questions should be asked. And if the answers come out ridiculous, then I didn't put them in that situation.


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    5.Not to simplify things, but what would you say are your biggest beefs with organized religions?

    Well let's see, they're responsible for most of the wars we've ever had. The Crusades, the oppression of women, the oppression of minorities, exorcisms, killing witches, honor killings, suicide bombings, having sex with children, keeping women in the beekeeper suits, you know ... where does it end? Most of the rest of the industrialized, grown-up Western democracies have thrown these old myths out the window. Even Italy, where the pope lives, is over 50 percent atheistic. England is like 70 percent or 80 percent. All the Western European countries, they grew up. I don't think I'm the bad guy for asking my country to grow up too.



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    6.What do you think are the upsides to religion?

    Oh, now you've stumped me [hums the 'Jeopardy' theme]. Well, of course no one can deny that religion has been responsible for a lot of charity work and so forth, feeding the poor, soup kitchens, missionary work. But I would say to that one, all those things can be accomplished without religion. You know Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie go around the world doing good deeds and never seem to have the need to bring Jesus into it. Millions of people have done the same thing. And the other thing is that people say "I get comfort from religion." Well yes, but it comes at a terrible price.



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    7.There's also the argument that it instills morals and behavioral codes in people.

    But it doesn't. It's not about morality generally. I mean, Christianity is not about morality primarily. They'll tell you right to your face. If you ask "what is this religion primarily about?" "Salvation, personal salvation." It's about believing in something so fervently, without question, that when you die, you get your ass saved in the next world. That's not morality. That's not selflessness. That's selfish. "I'm doing it to save my ass in heaven." Even the Ten Commandments, did you ever look at that list? Is that the list of the 10 most awful crimes? If we're going to make a list today, would you leave on the list "don't swear," "don't work on Sundays," "don't covet your neighbor's wife," "don't build statues to other gods," and leave off torture, incest, rape, child abuse? So this idea that it's a bunch of morality is a bunch of bull.


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