May 21, 2007

There is No God - Part II

Well, if Dawkins sucks (I'm planning on getting a hold of The God Delusion, Dawkins at least seems the person who actually gets better from experience), Who am I willing to bring up for atheist spokesbody?

I quite like to think satirists do a good job. Nothing could be more painful that someone quite intellectually reducing your entire silly-little-belief-system-that-gives-you-meaning-for-life to a grand joke. I'm sure any deity observing that show was just sitting back with some nachos saying "Oh, it's so funny... it's so funny 'cos it's true... oh Joe Pesci... I think I peed my pants... hahaha".

But while jokes work as good rhetoric, they don't win battles. If we rely on humour too much, it sort of gets blurred what is serious and what's not. As Dawkins drives home, the pain that religion brings to this world is anything but funny.

ABC followed up last night's dish (possibly coincidentally) with a new documentary by Andrew Denton, a popular Australian media figure, entitled "God on My Side". I couldn't get a hold of any actual clips, but here is an SBS taster. I really wish I could find his appearance on Rove[live], it might give some of the godless some hope. It certainly gave me a bit of hope. With my mother as a local chaplain, some murmurs about bring ID downunder, and letters to the editor with the insane notion that Australian money has "In God We Trust" on it (evangelical Christians seem a bit slack on plagarism, or checking the relevance of their sources for their demographic - I think its a "universal truth" thing) - it's nice to see that at least are media and it's personalities aren't totally bonkers yet.

All Denton has to do is briefly flash a bumper sticker that says "Evolution is not Science" and the entire audience of Rove McManus' talkshow is in laughter. Now, I can't imagine a similar scene on Oprah, or even Leno or Letterman. The bumpersticker was just one of the many items Denton picked up while filming "God on My Side" a fairly non-critical expose on the 63rd National Religious Broadcasters Convention in Dallas, Texas. The item he actually had to show was an allegedly realistic representation of the ark, Denton's question was "Where is all the poo?" (He says "mess" in Texas) The Christian's answer was that their were chutes hidden in the drawing, again this drew big laughs here.

"Non-critical"? What kind of expose is non-critical. Denton is pretty simple in his production. He doesn't pull too many hard hits. He just asks questions, and sometimes throws in a couple of small punchlines - some of the evangelicals get it an laugh, others don't, and a couple don't even realise it was a joke and answer in complete seriousness. The best example is when Denton is told that ancient man was pretty intelligent, after all the Bible says Adam named all the animals. Denton cheekily asks "So where did he come up with aardvark?" and the Christian is a bit taken aback, but quickly straightens up and maybe out of pride, defensiveness, or maybe he was trying to have a bit of fun too, but he sounds a bit too serious for the latter and says "Well, err, you see here. It was late in the day and Adam was... [fade to scene]" Some people need to learn to say "I don't know the answer to that one", it is not the same thing as saying you win (another thing some people could learn).

Most of the film is asking questions like that. Simple harmless questions about what these particular Christians believe, as the documentary progresses the questions get more serious. We move away from "How many people do you reach with this message?", "What do you think of the Benny Hinn image?" to more serious and doctrine exposing questions "Are we in end times?", "Should USA unequivocally support Israel?", "Does it bother you that President Bush says God tells him what to do?", "What makes you right when all you say is the Bible is the word of God, Muslims say the same about the Koran?".

Denton starts of "God on My Side" with the goal of exposing the Christian ("our side") polar opposite to modern fundemental Islam: while being a good documentary on American fundamentalism... it fails on this stated original goal. The evangelicals at NRB convention aren't effigy burning rabbles... they might ultimately come down to the same not "I'm right. You're wrong. I'd wish you change, but if you don't you are going to die and live in agony. Oh and God Loves You." Maybe that is his point.

But hey I guess you can tell, I'm not easily satisfied. And I'm not finished.
I forgot to add one bit about
God on My Side. The absolute biggest cack up was an evangelical sculptor who tried to convince Denton that the sparkling on Denton's hands when he held them up to the light was not sweat, but a scientifically unidentifiable element that was shining undeniable proof of God's love for him. Someone had to have fed this guy this bullshit, noone can have enough intelligence to make that bullshit up and believe it. Denton calmly mentioned that it might be sweat, but then couldn't help giggling as this poor guy pulled out the "Scientist have tested this shiny stuff" line...

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