Maher's Religulous : More Borat Atheism
Matthew C. Nisbet, Ph.D. is Associate Professor of Communication Studies, Public Policy, and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University. Nisbet studies the role of communication and advocacy in policymaking and public affairs, focusing on debates over over climate change, energy, and sustainability. Among awards and recognition, Nisbet has been a Visiting Shorenstein Fellow on Press, Politics, and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, a Health Policy Investigator at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and a Google Science Communication Fellow. In 2011, the editors at the journal Nature recommended Nisbet's research as “essential reading for anyone with a passing interest in the climate change debate,” and the New Republic highlighted his work as a “fascinating dissection of the shortcomings of climate activism."
Bill Maher's mockumentary Religulous opens in theaters on Friday. Judging by Maher's media interviews, it's more of the same type of sophomoric ridicule that has been so self-defeating to the atheist movement and that I have written about at this blog and in recent articles. Watch the trailer of the film, directed by the high minded genius who brought us Borat.
As this NY Times review describes, Maher chooses the easiest of targets to interview in his film, such as an amusement park Jesus. In the process, Maher makes fun of fundamentalist religion while seldom addressing the moderate dimensions that many Americans find so meaningful.
Maher's claim, like Dawkins and others, is that the goal of his film is consciousness raising among agnostics and rationalists, lending them the strength to speak out against religion. But if Maher's and Dawkins' rants become the model for our own Borat-like conversations with friends and neighbors, as atheists we are likely to be scoring a lot of self-inflicted wounds.
I discuss the impact of the New Atheist movement in this recent video interview with Big Think.