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In Obama’s inaugural
address, he stated that America is a nation of all religions, including the
non-believers. Perhaps, one of the satirists who was elated to be incorporated
was Bill Maher. As he claims in Religulous, a small yet hidden minority of about
sixteen percent of the Americans perceive themselves as not being religious.

Arguably, it is a profane and gleefully blasphemous film that supports
science’s validity and dominance over faith. By claiming that about sixteen
percent are irreligious, he assaults religious dogma and the components that
religion is founded on. Maher’s primary objective is to highlight that religion
is beneficial for the progress of humanity. By highlighting this significance,
he exposes the dangers associated with religious beliefs. Despite his essential
targets being the dominant religious groups, he also focuses on minority groups
that may be termed as cults. The common aspect, according to Maher, is that
these cults adhere to irrational perceptions without solid proof, and emphasize
on private conviction. Maher tries to depict his documentary as independent in
discussing the Judeo-Christian theology. Contrarily, the documentary is full of
biased techniques that have been implemented to make sure that the audience is
influenced to secede into his bias against atheism.

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            The
documentary makes an essential and useful argument opposing the rationality of
religion. Despite being useful, it is done dishonestly. It pits the ordinary
citizen against Maher who is among the anti-religious scientists whose agenda
is to fulfill a specific political and social narrative efficiently. For
example, Maher consistently infers that, for the audience’s benefit, religion
is insignificant since its origins cannot be proven. Since it is improbable, it
cannot be used as the foundation or core tenet for human life. However, the
primary problem with Maher is the failure to acknowledge the other theories
provided about religion. By mainly using the origin argument to make religion
appear valueless, he fails to examine the issue in a holistic and balanced way.

The lack of a stable approach makes some of his arguments fallacious. For
instance, in one of the instances, he deploys the straw-man-argument to suggest
that Christians loathe homosexuals. Because of their hate, he condemns them for
the hatred (Charles, West, and Maher). It is an instance of making a
stipulation, defining it and then ripping it down. Also, he uses the Ad Hominem
fallacy to attack people of faith in all interviews. When they do not agree
with his stances, he uses sarcasm to attack them or suggests that they are
wrong because of their ignorance. To the audience, he makes it clear that any
interviewee who does not agree with his arguments is simple-minded. 

            Maher
also efficiently uses the technique of half-truths to influence his audience to
believe that religion is trivial. He makes statements and compels the viewer to
perceive them as facts. For example, he states that the only evidence provided
by Christians about the existence of Jesus Christ is the Gospel. He further points
out that it is only anchored in self-serving documents which are not only
biased but also unreliable. In this argument, he fails to acknowledge that
Roman historians, who were non-Christians, recorded the trial as well as the
crucifixion of Jesus. It is a half-truth since he fails to recognize the
contributions made by non-Christians. One of the critical practical fallacious
arguments he makes is a generalization. He consistently condemns organized
religion by condemning the immoral actions of Christians throughout history.

Some of the actions he talks about are corrupt ministers, priests who molest
children, as well as the religious inquisitions (Evans 219). Despite these
arguments being compelling from face-value, one could deploy the same logic to
condemn his convictions. A Christian can argue that because Mao and Stalin were
atheists, atheism is the major contributor to the most massive atrocities in
world history. The argument may even be more valid than the ones made by Maher.

However, it could be an inaccurate representation of world atrocities. It is a
technique geared at manipulating the audience without ethical consideration.

            The
film’s director also uses editing techniques efficiently to support Maher’s
arguments. For instance, in one of the cases, the director incorporates
four-to-six second clips showing interviewees who are seated in a motionless
and apparently unengaged in the interview. The segments seem to be lighting
tests, but they are positioned after questions have been asked by Maher. It is
an attempt to make them appear as confused or stupefied. Similarly, various
cartoons and images incorporated in the documentary follow the opinions made by
multiple people of faith. It is an attempt to disrupt the attention of the
viewer as well as mock their views. The materials in the interviews, cartoons,
and images appear to have been curtailed to explicitly cast the religious
individuals negatively. It gives the impression that these people are
threatened by the worldviews held by Maher. Whereas one may argue that this
technique is useful in delivering his message, the content of the message is
not accurate. The efficient deployment of editing techniques is mainly an act
of manipulation to convince the audience to agree with his thesis.

            Furthermore, the documentary efficiently
uses the rhetorical appeals as a way of persuading the audience through pathos,
ethos, and logos. Logos is evoked through the persuasive argument that because
of the unavailability of empirical evidence, theological pursuits are
insignificant and delusional. He highlights that the New Testament is not in
tandem with the Old Testament. Various authors suggest that this is false since
both testaments resonate with each other (Evans 224) Also, he suggests that the
disparate viewpoints between the New Testament and Gospels as credible proof of
inaccuracy. Many people that he interviewed could not defend the facts he
presents. In some cases, they are depicted as making inane retorts that Maher
capitalizes on. His ethos is mainly described as any aspects that opposed his
subject matter. For example, Maher interviewed the Arkansas senator. When the
senator could not provide defense for his faith with logic, Maher said:
“well, you don’t have to pass an IQ test to get into the Senate.” It
suggested that the senator, like other people of faith, was unable to defend
his support for religion. The pathos he arouses changes in the film from a warm
atmosphere to a joyful derision. The atmosphere changes depending on the
interviewee’s opinions.

            Overall,
the documentary uses numerous techniques to support his thesis that science is
stronger than science in many aspects. His main aim was to show that religion
is essential for humanity’s progress, but these religious beliefs are erroneous
because they do not have an origin. The use of fallacies, half-truths,
rhetorical appeals and editing techniques enables him to influence the audience
to agree with his opinions. Despite being presented as an objective perception
about religion, it has numerous cherry-picked arguments, sarcastic ideas and
fallacious arguments that have been used to ensure that the audience to infer
that the philosophy of Judeo-Christians is insignificant and invaluable. The
film’s overall impact will mainly be influenced by the opinion of those
watching. The devoutly religious yet not analytical may find it insulting. The
objective may discover it as dishonest, and biased. Finally, the audience with
ideological predisposition atheism may find it as reaffirming and entertaining.  

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