Have you heard the news? According to the Los Angeles Times, “Religion doesn’t make kids more generous or altruistic, study finds.” The Guardian chose a more negative headline: “Religious children are meaner than their secular counterparts, study finds.”
Could this possibly be true? What study is this? How was it designed? Who ran the experiment? When something this counter-intuitive makes headlines, my brain immediately starts flashing a “caution” sign. In this case, my brain was right. There are a number of issues that make me cry “foul!”
Religion and politics are the two topics a genteel person is not supposed to discuss with company. I assume that’s because we usually have strong opinions on both of these topics and a civilized discussion can rapidly disintegrate into an all-out war, with normally well-mannered guests popping up from behind the sofas to lob verbal grenades at one another.
However, an article on CNN’s website caught my attention—and it deals with both religion and politics:
According to a poll released [last week] by the Public [Religion] Research Institute and Religion News Service, most Americans (56%) say it is somewhat or very important for a presidential candidate to have strong religious beliefs.
I have to agree. I want my president to have the fear of God deep down in his or her soul! However, the news report goes on to say:
Jeremy, my son-in-law, reviewed “Religulous” on his Facebook page. I thought he presented some important points, and asked for permission to reprint his article here. The article is long, but I wanted to leave it in Jeremy’s “voice” rather than edit it for length.
Few things in life create more social tension than prying into people’s religious beliefs, particularly when the prying is done on camera. The 2008 Larry Charles/Bill Maher movie, “Religulous” does just that, and certainly takes no prisoners. The movie, for those who don’t know, is a comedy-documentary in which the host, Maher, travels to various places around the world to interview people from different religions (although the movie predominantly focuses on Christianity) so he can ask them questions about their beliefs, and why they believe what they do. Maher takes a very cynical and sarcastic approach in performing this task, often leaving his victims deeply offended, which subsequently provides (or is supposed to provide) its comical aspect. Ultimately, Maher reaches the extraordinarily philosophical conclusion that all religion is bad and people who believe in any kind of religion are morons. As this is a major area of interest in my life, I decided I should watch the movie and see if Maher could change my mind.