America’s corrosive culture wars, in which evangelical Christians are never far from the front line, are about to be reignited by a Borat-style take on organised religion.

A new ‘documentary’ by the man behind Borat – and made using the same hit-and-run techniques – will open in New York at the beginning of next month. Provocatively titled Religulous (think ‘religious’ and ‘ridiculous’), it will mock the beliefs of the world’s major religions, recruiting unwitting assistance from the ranks of the faithful.

The project has already inspired protests at its premiere at the Toronto film festival earlier this month, and US satirist Bill Maher and director Larry Charles have been accused of misleading participants. Maher has conceded that several sleights of hand were necessary to persuade people to perform. ‘It was simple: We never, ever, used my name. We never told anybody it was me who was going to do the interviews. We even had a fake title for the film. We called it A Spiritual Journey. It didn’t work everywhere. We went to Salt Lake City, but no one would let us film there at all.’

Unlike Borat, which simply sought to satirise, both Charles and Maher – former host of the talk show Politically Incorrect for Comedy Central – have made clear that, while they were looking for comic potential from their engagements with believers, their ultimate aim was not to poke gentle fun but to demolish.

Employing the same robust approach as Supersize Me and Bowling For Columbine, Religulous sees Maher challenge his interview subjects over their knowledge of the literal historic facts of their religions.

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