As an addendum to my column
last week, which was fashioned as a guide to some worthy Internet distractions, I'd be remiss not to add mention of the micro site launched in support of Bill Maher's new film, Religulous (coming to theaters this October). Aside from some pretty funny posters, this is the first support for the movie I'd seen (i.e., no trailer, though Lions Gate has since released one, found at the end of this post), but from the content and tone of the site I think we get a good sense of what to expect. I don't think fans of Maher or Larry Charles- one of the minds behind Seinfeld and Borat, and the director of Religulous - will be disappointed. The site is alternately hilarious and bone-chillingly disturbing, proving just how badly certain groups need to be lampooned.
I've always been a big fan of Bill Maher's show: he's got that rare combination of intelligence and personality that seems to attract both liberals and conservatives alike. I can just as easily come out of his show having a good conversation with people I already readily agree with as I can with people on the other side of the political spectrum. For instance, I, a steadfast liberal, often watch the show with my roommate, who loves it despite having co-opted right-wing political views post-college. I think Maher's website can be enjoyed by an equally broad political coalition.
The site is called Disbeliefnet.com, and it's essentially a primer to the ridiculousness of organized religion, or, more accurately the ridiculousness of what some people believe and say in the name of "religion." The site is also peppered with banner ads for some of the more out-there religious groups: XXX Church (a real site), a group bent on "saving" California from homosexual marriage (real), and the Pentecostal Singles Network ("We love tongues."). I'm not shrewd enough to discern whether these are real advertisements or not (they say "advertisement" above the links, but I can't for the life of me figure out why "ChristYoga" would voluntarily give money to Maher's cohorts), but what I found nice about the site was that most of the content featured links to other pages, providing an air of objectivism that most parodies lack. In this way, Maher lets deserving parties indict themselves, while providing plenty of laughs.
Some of the website, though, is more alarming than humorous. Let's just say there is a difference between finding some gentle humor in Muslim-friendly women's swimsuits, and getting explicit evidence of some people's warped hatred, front and center. I'm sure by now most people have heard of the Westboro Baptist Church, based in Kansas, whose charming website is linked to by Disbeliefnet.com in the "Blasphemy Box" section. This is the group that really hates gay people, so much so that they've taken to picketing the funerals of American soldiers with clever signs like, "God Hates Your Tears," "9-11 Gift from God," and the like. These guys are just big into hating, it seems. Of course this is a tiny tiny minority of people, but in a way, Maher's site makes me realize how many people are completely at odds with the Bill Maher's (or even Jack Donaldson's) of the world. You see this in the world all the time, even in the simple fact that there are two opposed sides of the political spectrum. This is just a scarier reminder that no opinions and convictions are universal.
In short, I recommend checking out the website for a lot of the quick laughs, including the e-cards and a New Jersey take on The Last Supper. But I also recommend perusing it to see what kind of wackos are really out there, what they're screaming about, and why a Bill Maher-hosted documentary about world religion will be not just really funny, but really necessary.
Below is the trailer: