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Pseudolectual, Bill Maher’s Pseudo Intellectualism

Perhaps what was most disturbing to me about Religulous was it’s incredible ability to make religious people look fanatically irrational and uneducated.  The majority of the film was Bill Maher debating/ridiculing relatively uneducated lay people who wouldn’t likely have any ability to defend their faith intellectually.  (The only exception to this was Ken Ham, in which case they masterfully edited the interview to make him look speechless or mad at everything Maher said).  

Maher’s first engagement with real Christians in the moive takes place in the back of a Tractor Trailer as Maher begins “just asking questions” after a church service for truck drivers.  I don’t want to be guilty of stereotyping myself, but my guess is that Bill Maher understands that most truck drivers don’t have Ph.D’s or Master Degrees in Divinity or Philosophy.  They certainly don’t have a reputation for being intellectual.  And of course, the truck drivers are disturbed and offended by his “questions” (at least one gentleman had sense enough to know that Maher was mocking them and not asking sincere questions, so he walked out).  

As you might imagine, Maher didn’t have much “luck” with getting any serious intellectual challenge from the truck drivers.  The hallmark of pseudo intellectualism is to go on the attack against the weakest defenders of an intellectual position rather than challenging the most able of their defenders.  This always makes you look smart and the opponent dumb.  Consequently, uncritical thinkers (i.e. the majority of Americans) are likely to associate your position with intellectual superiority and your prey’s position with intellectual vulnerability.  This is the most dominant element of Maher’s documentary.

Why didn’t Bill Maher interview credible scientist’s like Michael Behe or tenured professors at the University of Berkley like Philip Johnson or the intellectual elitists from the evangelical camp such as D.A. Carson or William Lane Craig?  

For Maher’s ridicule to be cross examined by Christians who are his intellectual equal would probably not make for good anti-Religious propaganda, but it would make his criticism’s more credible if they were to stand up against such cross examination.  

In the meantime … the pseduo intellectualism of Maher’s movie will greatly influence how Religious people–especially Christians and Muslims–are seen in the public eye.



  1. A Train says:

    Great series of posts. I wish you could broadcast arguments like these on national TV or radio. Religulous is a brand or an attempt at branding religious people. Branding in any case causes consumers to make assumptions. The reason consumers are comfortable with their assumptions is because they have not tasted or have had a negative experience with the alternative. i.e. You may assume that my Apple Computer is a better, faster, cooler product than the technically equivalent PC, but that assumption is based either on your lack of experience with such a PC or past negative experiences with PC’s. The point is a question of cause. What is the cause of Apple’s rise and PC’s decline? The communication that causes consumers to assume about Apple or the lack of communication from PC companies that opened the door to competition. Ultimately, my sadness over Religulous is not so much the shameful practices of Bill Maher, or the lack of critical thinking among Americans but rather the invisibility of the TRUE CHURCH that has allowed movies like Religulous to come across as credible and those who watch it to be comfortable with their assumptions.

  2. theophilogue says:

    A Train

    Great point. If only Christians had enough money and marketing genius to create alternative films that would be of the same quality and rhetorical effect.

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