Monday, July 20, 2015

it's all fantasy

I was going to talk about wolf stew today. That will wait; I'll save it for later in the week when I've run out of things to say about The Grey.

Instead religion...

(There is a thing about wolf stew in relation to this film, by the way, a behind-the-scenes controversy. But...)

Religion...

(First, I spent today at Knott's Berry Farm. It started raining while we were there, and we still managed another couple rides. Point being, it has been a long day. But, I'm not particularly tired--it's well after 10pm as The Grey begins. Rather, I'm a little energized from treading old ground on Facebook. See, I used to debate politics on there all the time, long drawn out arguments with people I knew wouldn't be changed by what I said. But, I did it anyway. I like the idea of speaking up when you think something right. I don't do it enough these days... at least, on Facebook. I link to articles without comment, I offer brief posts about topics that matter far more than my wordcount might suggest. I don't rant and rave like I used to.

Well, that's not fair to this blog, is it?

I rant and rave here every day. It's not always political, not always "important" but I do have a place to put my words when I have them.

I don't expect it to change the world. Or even change any of you reading. But I do it anyway.

This blog is offered up for your entertainment, and maybe your enlightenment. But, ultimately, this blog is for me. (You got that, future, thesis-writing me?) I get to vomit out portions of my brain onto this (these) screen(s) and I get to use this space to (re)imagine my self, to (re)create my self.

But anyway, tonight, I got into a debate on Facebook. Just like old times, one of my old Facebook sparring partners. It was about...)

Religion.

The Grey offers up an easy metaphor for the struggle of life. The metaphorical wolves come for us all eventually, and no matter if we get along with our brothers (or sisters, though this film is quite masculine) or fight with them about what we should be doing, we will ultimately die anyway.

In the end, Ottway turns to God, demanding. "Do something," he says. "Do something." Then, he gets into a bit of profanity (the movie has a lot).

You phony prick fraudulent motherfucker. Do something! Come on! Prove it! Fuck faith! Earn it! Show me something real! I need it now, not later! Now! Show me and I'll believe in you until the day I die. I swear. I'm calling on you. I'm calling on you!

Then, he's got a nice "fuck you, Jobu, I'll do it myself" moment and he moves on, heads into his last fight (presumably, but that is a discussion for another day) alone. Without God.

Shane Morris, at Breakpoint (the website is subtitled "Changing Lives, Minds and Communities through Jesus Christ" since Breakpoint didn't make it obvious this is a Christian website), refers to this scene as "retread[ing] the standard atheist syllogism: God doesn't answer to my beck and call, therefore He doesn't exist (and I hate him)."

Minor nitpick: the film doesn't suggest that Ottway hates God. He just doesn't need him. Around the campfire, he tells the others, "I wish I could believe in that stuff. This is real--the cold. [Breathes out] That's real--the air in my lungs. Those bastards out there in the dark, stalking us... It's this world that I'm worried about, Talbot. Not the next." In the reality of the film, there are wolves stalking these men. Faith will not save them.

Major nitpick: this "standard atheist syllogism" has a point, and is far more complicated than "God doesn't answer my beck and call, therefore He doesn't exist..." It should be something more like "God doesn't offer up any evidence that He exists, therefore He doesn't exist." Or "God not only doesn't answer to my beck and call, but also answers no one else's, ever, and as far as evidence suggests, never has. There are no miracles, and everything can be explained without Him--in the future if not already--therefore He doesn't exist." Or "Life is full of chaos and pain and those who purport to speak for God and act on His teachings are responsible for much of it, if not (indirectly) all of it, therefore He doesn't exist." Or something else far less simplistic than "God doesn't answer my beck and call, therefore He doesn't exist."

Now, Ottway may come to his end without God, but he begins the film in a very dark place, on the verge of committing suicide. He is already without God. But, like pretty much any one of us, he would probably prefer a world in which there's a Creator and there is order and, though things may look bad--and, on cue, there, the remaining four men just came to the cliff--they can get better (in the next life if not this one).

(I've got to wonder, what point is these men's struggle with the wolves? Assume a world with God, with order, and there's got to be a point. Generally, I go for the idea that bad things are allowed to happen because good things have more value that way. But, these men die. And no one will ever know what they went through. They will be presumed to have died in the plane crash. The events after the crash will matter to no one at all...

Except us. This story is for us. This story's importance is only as a story. The events don't matter within the story. No one is saving the world. Hell, no one is saving anybody. This is a group of men struggling to survive and failing, as we will all eventually do. Morris tells us that "the real thrust of this story was about neither feisty critters nor foul language. It was atheism." Except this film is not telling us that there is no God. That is implicit. It might be telling us that He is ineffectual, that He cannot save us. But, the film no more insists that He does not exist any more than reality insists that He does.)

Fox Mulder poster aside, it would be nice to have religion, to have God. But Ottway doesn't. I don't.

Fortunately for me, my world is not so bad, not such a life and death struggle, not the "chaos and pain" referred to above. At least not currently.

3 comments:

  1. Like yourself, I tend to avoid online debates on such matters, but given the gentlemanly tone of your blog I feel called upon to reply.

    I think the question comes down a standard of evidence. Morris was obviously being somewhat facetious when he referred to the 'standard atheist syllogism", but I think that might be more reasonably translated into a claim that atheists and sceptics demand an unreasonable standard of evidence when it comes to God "offering up evidence that he exists". God is not going to offer coercive evidence, or perform under laboratory conditions, or submit to empirical studies on the efficacy of prayer-- any more than a director or screenwriter is going to spell out the meaning and theme of the film in captions.

    But I do think the evidence, compelling if not coercive, is there if you look (and we really should look, since nothing is more important). Miracles happen and have happened-- the miracle of the sun at Fatima, the stigmata and bilocations of Padre Pio, the Turin Shroud, incorruptible bodies of the saints, and any number of others. One can always offer an alternative explanation, of course-- the nature of causality is that it can never be proved. The same applies to prayer and whether it is answered or not.

    There are also, of course, philosophical arguments for the existence of God (such as Aquinas's Five Ways), which I believe are sound, when they are not reduced to caricatures as they so frequently are. These are not dependent on scientific investigation one way or the other. I think this what St. Paul meant when he said: "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse."

    I haven't seen the movie, incidentally. I don't really like outdoors movies or adventure movies or movies with little dialogue.

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    1. my problems, simply because i don't need another debate right now--are three here:

      1. offering no coercive evidence means we must go on faith. faith doesn't do it for me

      2. that miracles have alternative explanations means to me, they are not miracles

      3. aquina's five ways do not hold up under logical scrutiny, especially when one takes into account modern scientific discoveries

      but, thank you for a well thought out response. the people i've got real issue with sometimes are the ones who respond simply and think an argument stands on its own without explication

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    2. You're welcome, and I totally understand your not wanting another debate right now. We could slug it out forever, after all. I spend a lot of time embroiled in this debate already and I stepped forth this time dutifully rather than eagerly.

      More generally, I tend to avoid commenting on religious, political and social matters on this blog, since I'm coming from such a different perspective to your own, and I don't want to sour the atmosphere. And I do appreciate the tone of civility when you write about viewpoints with which you disagree. That, to me, is the true spirit of liberalism.

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