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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Case Against the Case Against Religulous

I have previously published my criticism of Religulous for its inappropriate use of Founders' quotes to support their secular, even anti-religious (and anti-Clerical) views. Beliefnet seems to think the misuse of those quotes is an adequate case against Religulous:
In the beginning of the movie, he offers this quote from our second president, John Adams: "This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it." Wow. That certainly provides stunning support for Maher's thesis. Did Adams really mean that?
He goes on to show it in its true context, which does not support the view of Adams being anti-religious. This is the only point in Steven Waldman's "The Case Against Religulous."

While I share in the criticism of using these quotes (I think it is the result of laziness rather than dishonesty), I question it as the basis of a case against the film.

He notes that the out-of-context quotes provides "stunning support for Maher's thesis." What exactly is Maher's thesis? I watched the film and it most certainly was not that the Founders were anti-religious. If Maher's thesis were that the Founders were anti-religious, and that that is the point of the film, then the criticism of this quote is indeed a strong basis for a case against Religulous.

The anti-Christian views of the Founders were a minor point later in the film where he quotes Frankling, Adams, and Jefferson. My criticism stems from the misleading nature of the quotes, not the message itself. But even if the Founders were devout Christians (which they weren't), how does this incorrect argument for a minor point amount to a discrediting of the film?

It doesn't.


Steven Waldman said...

I agree that taking quotes out of context would be a bit of sleight critique. I apologize for the confusion. I've been offering the critique serially -- one post at a time. So here's a list of the full arguments (and I have a few more coming)

DisComforting Ignorance said...

Hey Steven,

Hopefully you're subscribed to the follow-up replies here.

I tried your link and found the listing of articles; however, whenever I click through to any one of them all I get is a blank screen. I'm interested in reading and commenting on the rest of your articles on the subject.

- JT