Showing posts with label Jesus. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jesus. Show all posts

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Film Review: The God Who Wasn’t There

I respect all artists, writers and film makers.  Producing a creative work is essentially an act of contrition because it can be loved, disliked, or ignored. The artist has little control over how their art will be perceived or whether their work will be taken seriously by critics or the general public.  So, I review The God Who Wasn’t There by Brian Flemming, a former Christian turned atheist, with great respect both for his vision and for the story he attempts to tell.
Basically, the film speculates as to whether the biblical Jesus actually ever existed.  Flemming looks at other creation and god myths which are similar to that of Jesus’ and finds striking parallels. He also questions the timeline as to when the story of Jesus and his teachings were put down in writing in the Gospels, which themselves offer conflicting stories of Jesus’ life and teachings.  Additionally, Flemming does some fine man –on- the- street interviews with people claiming to be believers who have little or no knowledge of the historical Jesus.
Clearly, the story of Jesus’ birth;  his deeds, his relationship to “god”, the story of his crucifixion and resurrection have been told as varying ways and in greater and lesser detail through the stories of more ancient gods who reigned previous to Jesus’ possible lifetime. 
By reading the stories of Dionysus, Buddha, Asclepius and Achilles, just to name a few, one cannot escape the idea that the biblical Jesus was just one in the pantheon of possible mythical God-kings of ancient times whose stories were told over multiple millenniums in support of hero worship of supernatural deities.   Flemming also points out that Christian theologists see these parallels as well, but they suggest that these earlier similar myths were made by the devil to confuse and tempt Christians away from Church teaching.
Additionally, Flemming rightly notes that the timing of the Gospels, most being written more than forty years after Jesus’ suggested lifetime, may have changed, were embellished or were rewritten and made up whole cloth to establish Christ and early Christians as true followers of god.  He notes that in the child’s game of telephone, a phrase can change in minutes between a few people over a short time. If one transfers this analogy to the Christ myth, one can assume embellishments were made to confirm the rationality of the irrational regarding Jesus’ own story.
The film also interviews several historians, atheists, philosophers and scholars who back-up Flemming’s thesis that Christ never really existed. Those interviewed include Sam Harris, Robert Price, and Alan Dundes, as well as many other folklorists and scholars.  The interviewees discuss the Christ myth, Christianity and Christian dogma in the context of philosophy, power, religious dogma and urban legend.
The film does a fine job making the case that Jesus, if he actually really did exist, was not the son of god.  That is, how could someone be the son of god since there isn’t a god in the first place?  The reasoning is clear, if there is no god, then one cannot be the son of nothing.  Therefore, Christianity and by extension all religions are forms of fallacy which deceive even if one’s particular faith is unshakable and honest.
I should note that there seemed to be a palpable anger to the entire film.  There appears to be a real hostility towards religion in general and god worship in particular. Sadly, and in my opinion, that anger is best displayed in the final scenes of the film when the director interviews his former religious school principal. 
Here, the conflicts within religion and religious teaching become painful to watch as this man, who thought he was going to just talk about his school is confronted with current atheist thinking and very pointed questions regarding religion by the film’s director.  The film at this point takes a page out of Michael Moore’s playbook and performs some “gotcha” movie journalism that made me slightly uncomfortable and I felt sort of bad for the principal.
I think a longer and more entertaining film on the subject of the fallacy of religion is Bill Maher’s Religulous.  Maher’s film interviews many religious leaders of all faiths. He asks them why they practice or preach some of the more ridiculous aspects of their religion or their faith in general, and they consistently have no real or positive answers.  Lastly, the film The Invention of Lying, by Ricky Gervais does a great and very subtle job of showing how religion, which is untrue at its roots, can comfort the gullible.
These films comedically show the danger of how lay people and clergy can use religion in intentional and unintentional ways to exert power over others socially and economically. The films also show how men (it usually is always men) manage communities, and individual and group thought and behavior using religious dogma to manifest control and make people feel bad for questioning any aspect of their faith.
Certainly, if one wants to be an atheist all one has to do is critically read any bible. Be it the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, the Koran, Bhagavad  Gita, or any religious text, to see in fact that there is no god and therefore religion and religious ritual are nothing but a waste of time however psychosocially comforting.  As a person without faith I can make and stand by this comment. For those with faith or who do believe in something, you are free to disagree with me.

My final advice.  See all three of these movies. From the more intense to the comical, each has something to say about god belief and organized religion.