I've not seen "Religilous" so I cannot comment about the movie. But, many years ago, (I can't remember when) I read an interview with him in a magazine. What stuck out to me the most was (and I'm paraphrasing here) his being upset that mankind couldn't come up with a "philosophical" system of morality but instead had to rely on the divine revelation of God in His Ten Commandments. Thus, Maher's beef isn't so much with God as it is with mankind's inability to have a just society by its own power.
I just watched the movie last night, and it was actually a lot tamer than I imagined. Some reviews made it sound like the movie was this horrible, evil, anti religuous brainwashing event....(sort of like all the anti-Dan Brown websites talk about Brown's book/movies). In reality, the movie wasn't really like that, and I felt that Maher at times was sincerely looking for good answers to his questions. Of course he is a cynic and a comedian, and indeed, a "rationalist" so that honest seeking is often counterbalanced by that side of him, but I didn't feel like he set out to "only" bash religion.
The interview he did with the Catholic priest/astronomer was interesting, and I wish they'd have shown more of it. Like others have said, I love to see him do a 2 or 3 hour discussion with a real theologian, someone on the level of Schmemman who can speak to the "modern" world and kind of lay out the faults of the Church over the centuries and yet, still have faith. I don't reckon Maher has ever had too many discussions like that in his life, and mostly has been exposed to "the Flinstones is an historical documentary" type Christians.
However, having said that, Maher is falling into the same trap as others of Christianity (and I am referring to the various confessions) and judges Christ's Church by its followers, imperfect as we are.
That's true, and yet, Jesus did say "by their fruits you will know them". And by that standard, Christianity doesn't hold up very well on many levels. (but not on all)
It's one thing to understand the concept of the Church militant/triumphant, and the Church is full of sinners, etc...on an intellectual level, but it's an entirely different thing to come face to face with the harsh reality of it.
Honestly I can no longer make that argument to myself, or to others, whether they be non Orthodox or non Christian, because the argument has been made basically since Augustine and at least for those of us who are by nature skeptical individuals, it rings hollow. And I think that's what Maher's beef is, that on the practical level, some of the worst evils have been done in the name of Christ. Basically his followers do exactly the opposite of what he taught, so how can the church be what it claims?
However, that is one of the things that rings true about Christianity to me, as weird as it might sound. The teachings of Christ are so beyond what human's could come up with on their own, and the proof of this is that even when they stare us in the face, we still contradict what we claim to believe...this kind of gives support of at least some divine reasoning behind the teachings of Christ.
The one scene where Maher says something about religion just being an excuse for the guys in charge to gain power and wear costumes, then a montage of images flashes across the screen, a few of them with Orthodox patriarchs, in full "costume" with crowns, and all...and again, there is a bit of truth to that. While I "get" the symbolism and all, it does look pretty absurd to the outside observer that we have Bishops dressing like Byzantine-Roman Emperors. I mean, it's not like Saint Peter, or Saint Thomas the Apostle dressed like that, and yet they still retained their full status of their office. (I thought I was told Eastern Patriarchs didn't start dressing like that until after the fall of Constantinople so it may be fairly "modern" in Church history terms)
Anyways, I thought the movie was pretty good, made some pretty good points, and a few bad points, (like the whole "pagan savior god horus" thing, which I think is an outdated theory on the origins of Christianity), and it had some pretty funny moments. In the end, I think it's a conversation starter, and that is what it is intended to be. Truthfully the Church (or faith) that cannot take a critical look at itself is probably just afraid at what it will see. But then, isn't that kind of the point of Christianity? To take a look at ourselves, even our dark impulses and passions and try to clean up our act? I think so, and so despite on how many points I agree with Maher's POV, I still maintain faith (as weak as it is) and hope one day he'll be able to do so as well.