watch it

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The God Who Wasn’t There, a new documentary directed by a former Christian, “irreverently lays out the case that Jesus Christ never existed” says Newsweek. The film includes interviews with Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, and many others.

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You’re probably more aware of this one; Entertainment Weekly called comedian Bill Maher’s Religulous “a blasphemous detonation of all things holy and scriptural.”

A few friendly wagers:

While watching these trailers, at least ten of you inwardly bristled and began running through your mental filing cabinet of apologetic arguments. (Bonus points if “liar, lunatic or Lord” crossed your mind.)

At least seven of you thought something like, “Maher protests too much about the foolishness of religion. It’s like he’s trying to push away what he knows in his heart must be true.”

Most of you felt angry, offended, or embarrassed.

None of you rushed to add these films to your Netflix queue.

I’m really not picking on you—after a long day of work who wants to watch two hours of someone mocking your most cherished beliefs? Even though Maher does occasionally make me laugh out loud (“no one powerful enough to cause nuclear war should be overly eager for the Rapture”), neither movie will offer a relaxing and fun experience for those of us who believe in Christ.

But we need to watch them anyway. Because here’s another bet: at some point you have purchased a Christian book—The Case for Christ, perhaps, or Mere Christianity, or Keller’s Reason for God—and foisted it on your skeptic friend/neighbor/coworker/relative. You knew if they would just read it with an open heart it would change everything. You imagined them studying it, maybe with a highlighter, and coming to realize the foolishness of their doubts and disbelief. You glowed with the thrill of evangelism.

Did you ever consider how your friend or family member felt about that book?

My guess is they read part of it (if they opened it at all) or skimmed a few chapters so they could fake their way through a conversation with you later. They may have considered buying you a copy of The God Delusion. Despite your good intentions, they probably resented your gift as much as you resent Religulous.

Which is ironic, because ultimately the movie is less an attack on God than “the vain, deluded things human beings say and do in His name,” EW writes. American evangelicals’ tendency to stubbornly lecture instead of calmly listen invites the very critiques in these movies. Watching one of them won’t immediately change that, but thoughtfully attempting to understand the frustrations and doubts of unbelievers can. There are worse places to start than an open DVD drive and a closed mouth.