Thursday, 15 October 2009

The Invention of Religion

Ricky Gervais Ricky Gervais’ new movie The Invention of Lying opened in the US and UK last week.

Centred around a world where no-one lies, the man who discovers lying is king. And Gervais takes it to its logical conclusion and has his protagonist invent religion.

Sadly we’ll have to wait another month to see it here in Australia, but if the outrage it’s generating in the religious press is anything to go by, it should be a blast.

This petulant rant by one Marc T. Newman is typical of the response it’s getting.

While I doubt that many people will ultimately see the film, those who do will be struck by a very significant question: What if the existence of God is a lie? Despite the conclusions offered by the film, people must wrestle with the question on their own. But it is interesting that The Invention of Lying cannot even consistently commit to its own argument.

Newman’s argument is simply that the underlying morality of the film is meaningless without God, and therefore it’s contradictory.

If there really is no transcendent order imposed by God on human behavior, if there is no coming judgment where all will give account for their actions, then morality is nothing more than a fiction created by the powerful within a culture.

That’s right kids, without the man in the sky wielding a big stick we’d all be raping and killing each other. This attitude would be amusing if it weren’t so irritatingly common.

If anything, this article illustrates Gervais’ point beautifully. The movie is about the possibility that religion is just an elaborate hoax. You’d have to admit that’s at least plausible. And this weak little defence is the best Newman can offer? That’s telling, is it not?

The thing is that Newman, like so many of his brethren, is utterly unwilling to consider the possibility that his religion is a sham.

His worldview is so wrapped up with the core assumption that there’s an externally-imposed morality that to suggest any other possibility is to tear the very soul from his universe.

No wonder these guys find evolution so scary. After all, it can be easily used to show that morality comes from within, not from without.


Dave ~ said...

Irritatingly common? Yup. It's basically what Bill O'Reilly said to Richard Dawkins. Uhuh, because the Christian US is all just peace love and mung beans dude.

I was looking forward to the movie, not knowing about the religious aspects, now it sounds like a winner.

I agree with what you're saying about Newman Matt, but I think there is something at the very core of these type of arguments. It's fear. They fear the fact that what they believe in is fundamentally flawed and CAN NOT stand up to scientific reason and evidence and they Fear (capital F) that if they don't pursue criticisms of religion like the rabid dogs they are, then all is lost. They're fighting the inevitable. Atheism has only been out in the open a hundred years or so, it's going to take a while for people to catch up. Believing in talking snakes and the lies told from the pulpit can only last so long.

Matt said...

I've been thinking about that.
It certainly looks like fear from this side of the divide but ... I wonder how the believer sees it?