Monday, October 5, 2009

The Invention of Lying

Here are excerpts of a review of a new movie hostile to Christianity called The Invention of Lying:

If you saw Ricky Gervais's delightful romantic comedy "Ghost Town" last year and were looking forward to his new comedy, "The Invention of Lying," be warned. The movie is a full-on attack on religion in general and Christianity in particular. It might be the most blatantly, one-sidedly atheist movie ever released by a major studio, in this case Warner Bros.

Gervais delights in what a faith-based society would call blasphemy, setting up an imaginary world in which no one ever lies. Except his character, who spreads what Gervais obviously sees as the biggest lie of all: Belief in God.

Gervais's character is the first man ever to think of lying. In order to comfort the dying, he randomly hits on the idea of telling them that they will go to a better place and enjoy an afterlife. Citizens who automatically believe what they're told (since no one, even advertisers, has ever told an untruth) start to spread the word, and soon Gervais is doing a gruesomely unfunny parody of Moses and the Ten Commandments. Except his rules are ten lies written on pizza boxes.

Gervais sighs and winces as he spins his absurd made-up stories to the ignorant peoples of the world: There is a "Man in the Sky," he says, who is looking down at all of us and is responsible for everything that happens. Yes, he explains to one woman, he gave your mom cancer - but he's also responsible for curing her. The people aren't happy that "The Man in the Sky" is behind all human suffering. "F- The Man in the Sky!" cries one citizen, and the crowd begins to get angry. A magazine cover exclaims, "Man in the Sky Kills 40,000 in Tsunami!" But Gervais's character insists that whatever damage the Man in the Sky causes, he eventually makes up for it all in the end by providing a beautiful mansion for everyone after they die, at least for those who don't commit three or more immoral acts, and by making it so that everyone can reunite with their loved ones in the next life. Later in the movie, Gervais will be outfitted like Jesus. The movie doesn't have a joke to offer at this point; it just thinks it's funny to show Gervais in long hair and a bedsheet. At the end, in a church, a minister is seen wearing a cross, so apparently somehow the Gervais character also came up with the Crucifixion story.

Gervais is an atheist, which is fine, but his mean-spiritedness (even before the atheism theme enters the movie, is sour and misanthropic) and the film's reduction of all religion to an episode of crowd hysteria are not going to be warmly received. Except maybe by critics.

I'm sure the movie will be lots of laughs for the same sort of people who guffawed at David Letterman's revelations that he'd been cheating on his family with some of his staffers. I'm sure the same folks who find jokes that mention moose hunting and Sarah Palin in the same sentence will hoot wildly and slap their knees at Gervais' humor. For those, though, whose intelligence has not been diluted by generations of incest the movie sounds more like something concocted by a bunch of seventh grade boys.


Pew Survey on Abortion

A recent survey on Americans' attitudes about abortion by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press has come up with some interesting results:

Polls conducted in 2009 have found fewer Americans expressing support for abortion than in previous years. In Pew Research Center polls in 2007 and 2008, supporters of legal abortion clearly outnumbered opponents; now Americans are evenly divided on the question, and there have been modest increases in the numbers who favor reducing abortions or making them harder to obtain. Less support for abortion is evident among most demographic and political groups.

The latest Pew Research Center survey also reveals that the abortion debate has receded in importance, especially among liberals. At the same time, opposition to abortion has grown more firm among conservatives, who have become less supportive of finding a middle ground on the issue and more certain of the correctness of their own views on abortion.

Another interesting finding (among many) is this:

The poll finds that four-in-ten Americans are unaware of Obama's position on the abortion issue. Conservative Republicans, however, are more likely than any other group to know Obama's position, with 75% correctly identifying him as "pro-choice" rather than "pro-life."

It seems to consistently surprise people to be told that the President is the most radically pro-choice individual ever to serve in that office. They are often incredulous when it is pointed out to them that he twice voted while in the Illinois state senate to allow babies born alive after a failed abortion attempt to be left to die.

The number of people who feel there should be more protections granted to the unborn is also growing:

The latest (August 2009) Pew Research Center survey also finds that four-in-ten Americans (41%) now favor making it more difficult for a woman to get an abortion, up six points from 2007 (35%) and the highest level of support in Pew Research Center surveys for increased restrictions since 1987. However, those who favor making it more difficult to obtain an abortion are still outnumbered by those who oppose making it more difficult (50% vs. 41%).

Support for putting up barriers to abortion varies substantially across political and religious groups. Fully 65% of conservative Republicans want to make abortions harder to get, but just 39% of independents and 19% of liberal Democrats say the same. Almost two-thirds of white evangelical Protestants (64%) back greater restrictions on abortion, but fewer than half as many white mainline Protestants (27%) and the religiously unaffiliated (23%) say the same. Catholics fall in between, with 44% in support of more restrictions on abortion.

There's much more at the link.



The President is getting criticism from the left and derision from the right after his failed attempt to persuade the International Olympic Committee to grant the 2016 Olympics to Chicago.

The criticism from the left centers around the failure of the administration to really do their homework by learning in advance where Chicago actually stood in the minds of the IOC. His advisors and others wasted the President's time and risked his prestige in pushing him to go to Copenhagen only to have him rebuffed, and although the sting of the defeat will diminish, the debacle adds to the perception that this administration is fundamentally incompetent.

The derision from the right centers around the haughty presumption that led the administration to think that the President and First Lady could simply blow into town and sweep the IOC off their feet like they have done with Europeans in the past. I think the scorn that some of the talk radio people are heaping on the President for his flop seems shrill, strident, childish, and nit-picky, but I do think they have a point that it was unseemly of Mrs. Obama to claim that she was making "a sacrifice" to go to Copenhagen.

They also have a point that since the President has been bad-mouthing the U.S. ever since he first arrived in Washington, he can hardly expect now to convince the IOC that his city and his country are really not so bad after all. Even so, so much of the gloating on the right sounds as though some of these talkers care more that Obama look bad than that the U.S. be awarded the games.

This is just wrongheaded. The President did the right thing in campaigning on behalf of Chicago, even if he did ultimately fail, and all Americans should be disappointed that he didn't succeed. If he had persuaded the IOC to grant the Olympics to Chicago it could have been an economic blessing for a city that badly needs the help (what the city government would have done with the wealth that would flow into the city is a different question, of course). I commend him for going to Copenhagen and fighting for the games. Now I hope he'll continue to fight for and affirm his pride in the country at large just like he did for Chicago. I just hope he does it a lot more effectively.