Two programs with strong religious connotations served as entertainment for the Adams household this weekend. The first was Bill Maher’s documentary, “Religulous”, (available for rental download from Amazon.com), and the second was “Bill Moyers Journal”, which this week was devoted to the religious expert and copious writer, Karen Armstrong.
These two offerings were as different as Pontius Pilate and Jesus Christ. Bill Maher was most enjoyable. He survived making this film without, apparently, being punched on the nose, or shot by obese, right-wing Republican, fundamentalist truck drivers – though once or twice it seemed he came too close for comfort.
Maher’s efforts came across, to me at least, as an attempt to ridicule religion as a bundle of old myths successfully repackaged by various conmen for the purpose of making big bucks out of the guileless and unwitting. Needless to say, as much of it was set in America, the film succeeded in achieving that aim beyond its wildest dreams.
In contrast, Karen Armstrong expressed the deepest respect for the historical roots of all mankind’s major religions, and talked at length of the “The Golden Rule” and how man has conveniently allowed his ego to obliterate it, both from his religion and his everyday life.
True compassion, she states, has been swept away in a tide of egotism and greed. The concept of “The Golden Rule”: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is the chain that binds all religions together. Unless we bring compassion for others back into our everyday lives, we, as a species, are dooming ourselves.
Unlike Bill Maher, who condemns religion for the ills of the world, Armstrong recognizes the beneficial roots from which all religions sprang, and accepts man as the perverter and corrupter of those benevolent universal truths, for the sole purpose of furthering the greed of his ego-driven self.
Both programs served as excellent entertainment, though Bill Moyers Journal went one step further by educating, as well as entertaining.
Karen Armstrong is one of the world’s great experts on the history of religions and their impact around the globe. She left me realizing that it’s not religion, whether Christian, Islam, Hindu, or whatever, that is to blame for the world’s ills, but those who purport to preach its tenets and communicate with its spirit, while growing fat from the contributions of its faithful, and drunk on the power of its conveniently corrupted messages.
This weekend’s episode of Bill Moyers Journal, featuring Karen Armstrong, is available both as a transcript and in video, from the link below. I heartily recommend it as compulsive viewing.
 “Bill Moyers Journal” March 13th 2009
Filed under: Holy weekend