Sunday, May 30, 2010

"The Invention of Lying"'s Benevolent Message About God

Having heard everything from brilliance to boring thrown at "The Invention of Lying," I could not have gone into this movie with any fewer expectations. All I knew before watching is that the concept seemed cool. The central core of the movie, which the studios seemed to have been afraid to market, is actually about religion. Say what you want about Ricky Gervais being an atheist, but unlike some other douche bags who seem to think their atheism makes them better than believers -- cough cough Richard Dawkins cough cough -- Gervais believes, as I do, that religion isn't a bad thing.

I have tried most of my life not to reconcile my beliefs, but to vocalize them in a way that both atheists and believers can understand. Gervais has finally done it for me. There is a belief among believers that us atheists think believers to be a bunch of idiots who are either suffering from a delusion or who are just easily manipulated by powerful people. In my case, that is simply not true. Let's take those one at a time.

Although I believe that belief in God diminishes my spirit, millions of others believe differently. The one commonality in most religion, philosophy, and science is that the ultimate goal should be to increase happiness. If believing in God makes a person happy, he should embrace that belief with every fiber of his being. The comfort and safety that has been described to me seems like a hell of a thing, and I can't imagine calling a force that positive bad. Belief in God motivates people on a grand scale to reach outside themselves and work for the betterment of mankind. The counter-examples, such as religion-fueld racism, even war, are just outliers. Assholes are assholes, some of those assholes just like to envoke the Lord to make them feel better about being assholes. There, I used asshole 4 times in a sentence that defends the Lord's flock. Suck it.

I don't think believers are deluded. I just think they have found something supernatural that makes their lives make sense, and power to anyone whose life makes sense, even a little.

The manipulation issue is a bit stickier. This is where I think "The Invention of Lying" really nails the point home. Faith without a shred of evidence is a beautiful thing. The sense of community religion brings is a beautiful thing. Blind faith and mindless devotion to religious doctrine is the most dangerous force known to mankind. As I said above, the majority of believers are good people with enough sense to follow their instinctual moral compass. The problem, though, is most religious doctrine is not purely religious, it's political in nature. I wish, and seemingly so does Ricky Gervais, every religious person would take some time and really look into where their religious texts and ideas come from.

The Bible as we know it was compiled by a council commissioned by Constantine, and in the centuries since the Council of Nicea the books not included in the Bible have been actively censored. Why is that? Does God fear writings of any kind, even those that might contradict him? No, but man does.

Evangelism is based on a truly altruistic idea that belief in God is the only true key to heaven, and it is their duty to pray for everyone to find God before death. A friend told me he prays for my atheistic ass. A Campus Crusade for Christ kid at my school told me as an analogy that if we were all homeless, and we all had AIDS, but he had the cure for AIDS, he'd make it his duty to share the cure with everyone he can. That is a truly benevolent sentiment, except for the fact that he likens my differing belief structure to fucking AIDS. If these people truly looked into the history of their religion, they'd see startling episodes, like Spanish conquistadors ordering the native cultures at sword-point to accept Christ as their savior or die. Evangelism, while benevolent at its heart, was created in order to increase the number of Christians, and therefore the Church's political power.

That is the line "The Invention of Lying" walks. It states the faith has the power to bring the world comfort and happiness with a power no other force can achieve. It also says that faith without scholarship and questioning is dangerous. To the majority of believers out there who just live your lives, I'm sorry an essay like this even needs to be put in words. To everyone else, to those who use God as justification for bigotry, hate, violence, even simply condescension, take a moment to ask yourself (I know, it's scary) whose words you're actually following. Are they God's words , or are they the words of the assholes who came before you passed off as God's words? Hopefully your faith is strong enough to withstand a little self-doubt every once and a while.

And if this still doesn't make sense, just go rent "The Invention of Lying."



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