Yesterday I had the pleasure of reading Roger Ebert's eviscerating review of Ben Stein's film "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed." I hesitate to link people there, because while it does a fantastic job of pointing out the poor logic and deceptive tactics used in the film, it also carries a tone of condescension that is sure to turn off anyone who might have fallen trap to the film's dishonesty. Like most well-written screeds against the ideologies to which logic-minded people take issue, Mr. Ebert's is clearly intended to "preach to the choir," using language aimed at individuals sharing the opinions therein. Everything Mr. Ebert has to say is backed by logic and scientific evidence, but while saying it he sounds like a total asshole.
I think this one-sidedness is one of the many things keeping this ludicrous "debate" alive, ensuring that people on both sides of the issue keep fighting into the coming decades. I airquote "debate" in the previous sentence because the actual issue is extremely simple: Intelligent Design is not science, and thus doesn't belong in science classrooms. See, Science™ is a protocol devised to get to the bottom of things logically and rationally, limited to what can actually be observed and tested. That's it. No magic, no faith; just What You See is What You Get™. If you can't observe it, it can't be covered by science. If a theory cannot be backed up by testing and observation, it can't be called science.
Rather than putting effort into explaining to the layman that science is a protocol designed to attempt the determination of how things work, using ONLY WHAT CAN BE OBSERVED AND TESTED, proponents of science (who are by definition anti-ID -- not because of some hatred for religion, but because an Intelligent Designer CANNOT CURRENTLY BE OBSERVED OR TESTED FOR) feel the need to attack the misguided attempts by ID-proponents to attack the theory of evolution, and even science itself. Back and forth these attacks go, doing nothing but reaffirming what IDers already believe: that evolution is an attack on Christianity.
Unfortunately, I fear this is going to continue for a very long time. While I take issue with how the ID movement portrays science as "anti-religion," I have to admit that many of the outspoken folks trying to cry foul of Intelligent Design's methods, logic, and purpose happen to actually BE anti-religion folks, many of them of rather asshole-ish persuasion themselves. (I'm looking at you, Richard Dawkins.) I find this incredibly disheartening.
As of now, the opposition to the teaching of Intelligent Design in science classrooms is as follows: scientific theories are based upon the notion that observations and evidence overwhelmingly back them up. Intelligent Design theory posits no such testable, observable theories. All their time and energy is spent finding problems with portions of the evolution model, which, while actually pretty useful, is not the same thing as positing a theory of their own. The notion that everything was created by an intelligent force is a nice notion -- one which I happen to believe -- but it is not the same thing as a scientific theory. If you want to do science, then you have to do considerably more than just come up with a nice notion.
ID proponents (and Ben Stein's film) portray themselves as being "shut out" by science, that what they're doing is being ignored on the grounds that it attacks the accepted model, and that science is akin to persecution of religion. This simply isn't true. If the ID folks actually were to do the work involved in creating such a theory, doing the experimentation and observation necessary to back it up and get their work peer reviewed, it WOULD be accepted by science. Unfortunately, the main proponents of Intelligent Design Theory have no interest in doing that; they'd rather just fabricate controversy, pretending that the mean-old scientists just won't let them play because scientists hate Christians.
Sadly, it's far easier to rile up congregations and make them feel persecuted than to actually do the science they purport they're doing. By portraying evolution as anti-religion while claiming persecution at the hands of scientists, they've painted an inaccurate portrait of the "debate." People with no understanding at all of science now feel that their viewpoint ought be represented where it simply doesn't belong. This two-faced approach is nothing short of dishonest, and I personally feel that the level of dishonesty exhibited suggests that it's not just misguided, but also intentional.
I'm not sure What Jesus Would Do™, but I'm pretty darn confident that he wouldn't support lying to and misleading people in order to get them to believe the things he says.
Today while listening to an interview with John Hodgman, I heard the best explanation of The Church of Satan I've ever heard. (I frequently find myself trying to explain to people that Satanism really has nothing to do with Satan, which only ever has the effect of making people think that I'm a Satanist.)
In any case, the rest of the interview is fantastic as well, but the explanation of Satanism went like this:
"They do not worship Satan, per se. They're not a coven of witches in the dakota. You know what I mean?... who are trying to summon up spirits. It is more of a sort of, um, self-determination... anti-authoritarian cult. It's kind of like, uh, Ayn Randian Objectivism... with funny goat masks. It is a rejection of, sort of, what they consider to be hypocritical moralism of churches, and instead, they um... have sex with eachother."
Now if only I could explain Ayn Randian Objectivism to people. Everytime I try, it has the effect of making people think that I'm Ron Paul. Hmm, on second thought, maybe I'll just stick to explaining Satanism.
Anyway, I encourage you to check out the entire interview, if only to learn the context in which Satanism came up in a John Hodgman interview. (It's pretty funny.)
If, upon learning that there's an R-rated Christian horror film in theaters, you feel that you just HAVE to experience it for yourself, I very strongly suggest you fight the urge.
I didn't, and thus had the extreme displeasure of sitting through what is quite possibly the worst movie I've ever seen -- and I saw both MASTER OF DISGUISE and MIMIC while they were in cinemas. The film in question is HOUSE, a low-budget adaptation of Frank Peretti & Ted Dekker's novel that somehow got released to theaters.
I've been trying to write this post for a couple weeks now, intending to summarize the film and give an idea of how truly awful it is, but it's just too awful. The film depicts a couple going through their own personal Hell, but I think the true intent of the film was to put ME through an hour and a half of Hell. I'm still not certain that Hell is a physical place, but I ain't takin' any chances... I almost didn't survive the screening, so an eternity of that is unfathomable. I'm catching up on back-tithings as we speak.
In any case, lest you're curious, this movie in no way deserved an R-rating. There's virtually no blood, no on-screen violence, and it's about as scary as a Very Special Episode of TV's BLOSSOM. The producers purportedly fought with the MPAA over the R-rating, but I find that highly suspect. I think instead that they asked Mabel to give it an R so as to trick hapless heathens into seeing it. Just now, while trying to find a copy of the poster of the film, I stumbled across Ted Dekker himself talking about the film, and I find that what he said completely backs up my impressions regarding the theatrical release of this film:
“This is still essentially the same story from the book. It’s the story of four lost souls entering their own hell, mistaking their one hope of rescue as something evil, and in the end either living or dying.
But the marketing has changed. The message is now going out to the millions who would never be caught dead watching a movie like ‘Left Behind,’ no pun intended. "
Indeed, it appears that some well-intentioned zealot put a lot of money into getting this stinker into theaters in order to turn some people's lives around. I'm all for trying to make people's lives better, but by tricking them into seeing a horrible movie?
Just got home from Bill Maher's "documentary" Religulous. Very enjoyable, but suffers from the same blight that seems to befall all theatrical "documentaries;" there's either no thesis to be found, or nothing in the meat of the film to support the stated thesis.
Much of the film does a really good job of pointing out all the silly little things that followers of various religions take for granted as being normaller than all the crazy stuff those other religions teach, largely in ways that even fervent proponents of said religions can take to heart without being too offended. Not to say that Bill Maher doesn't show off his usual level of douchebaggary, slyly making fun of people through irony to which they don't catch on. There's plenty of that in the film, some of it really funny. While adding to the enjoyment of the film, these awkward moments are often filled with pretty heavy-handed edits that really make me wonder what, exactly, it was that was really said/meant. Not sure whether what was depicted was real, but very sure that it was funny.
All in all, if one is looking for a Jackass / Da Ali G Show-style collection of disparate funny situations (possibly taken out of context) poking light-hearted fun at various tenets of the religious, one will not be disappointed with this film. This reviewer, however was left cold by both Maher's stated thesis (that religion is going to lead man to its doom) and the fact that he didn't actually use any of the film's screen time to support it. He opened and closed the film in Megiddo, talking about prophesy and mankind's inherent need to destroy itself, but everything in-between was the religious equivalent of fart jokes. Mormon underwear, Jihadist rappers, intergalactic overlords; really, the only "ha ha religion is so silly" element missing was the prophecies embedded in so-called Bible Code. But it sure was funny.
Next time, Bill, I'd suggest keeping it light-hearted; abandon your unsupported thesis and let us enjoy your religious fart jokes for what they are: really funny religious fart jokes.
For those looking for a more light-hearted, informational (and oddly more reverent) look at the various idiosyncrasies Earth's religions manifest, I'd heartily suggest checking out Australia's John Safran VS. God as well as Religulous. You won't be disappointed.
As one who loved Phillip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy, the noise Bill Donohue and the like were making over the film adaptation of "The Golden Compass" (far before they could ever have actually SEEN the film) really irritated me. This is a nice bit of satire, "turning the other cheek" -- if you will. I've not seen the film version of "Golden Compass" because I think it's not really a story well-suited to being a film, and that the liberties that'd have to be taken with the story could do nothing more than sadden me. Based on the film's terrible performance this weekend, I'd have to hazard a guess that I'm not the only one that felt that way. Or that Bill Donohue is more powerful than I'd prefer to give him credit for.
I can't vouch for the film, but Pullman's trilogy is really fantastic. Slightly "challenging," I suppose, if the idea of religion perpertrating evil offends thee, but I'm of the ilk that anything that causes one to think about what they believe is a good thing. I think the books are beautiful, and the hand-full of Christians that I know who've read them didn't seem to have any kind of problem with them. Despite how terrible the film looks, I urge anyone with even a passing interest in Young Adult Fiction to take a look at the novels.
The other day I mentioned the "Religious Right", and figured it deserved some clarification. As it is entirely possible that I am using this term differently than the rest of the planet, please allow me to explain my usage.
I don't have any problem with either the Religious or the Right, the problem lies in the 2 distinct -- yet similar -- groups of people who use one of those adjectives to further the agendas of the other.
Example one: the Republican Party falls firmly within the Right group. They play up the Religious side to get people who fall in the Religious group to vote for them. This is clearly evidenced by the huge amount of focus given to the topic of abortion -- a topic that really should have nothing to do with a presidency -- by the Republicans, thus ensuring that everyone against abortion know who they have to vote for. They have just used religion to further their political ideals.
Example two: James Dobson falls firmly within the Religious category. He routinely uses politics as the basis of his speaking out, thereby telling the Religious voters which Right candidates to vote for, thus "getting his way." He doesn't like something, so he does something about it by getting all the other people who don't like it -- in many cases because he himself said they shouldn't -- to vote for the guy who doesn't like whatever that thing is -- whether or not he has anything to do with that thing. He has now used politics to further his religious ideals.
It now occurs to me that this process is actually circular; if there were only one of these groups, very little would ever get done. Boy wouldn't that be nice.
Which one of these groups should we be working to get rid of in order to bring about the utopia I accidentally thought of?