Tuesday, March 9, 2010

100 Best

For movie buffs Moviefone lists the 100 best explorations of spiritual or religious themes of all time.

The films don't have to be explicitly religious to make the cut, nor do they have to be made with religious intent. Some of the films are made by atheists. I've only seen about ten of the films on the list myself so I can't judge their choices, but I do heartily agree with the inclusion of several of them. The Ingmar Bergman films, Seventh Seal and Winter Light, certainly deserve to be on it (I would have added The Silence), and I also agree that The Apostle and Man for All Seasons merit inclusion, but I'm really puzzled about the omission of Bella, Lord of the Rings, the Passion of the Christ, and, for that matter, Franco Zeffirelli's Jesus of Nazareth. I also would have added The Hiding Place, and perhaps Namesake, Arranged, and End of the Spear.

On the other hand, I wasn't a big fan of Bergman's Wild Strawberries or Babette's Feast, though I'm probably in the minority on this one, and I have to object, too, to the inclusion of Au Revoir Les Infants which I found disappointing.

Anyway, you can check the list out for yourself here.


Peter and Christopher

The Mail Online features a poignant, even lovely, piece by Peter Hitchens on his conversion from atheism and his lifelong feud with his brother, Christopher. Many readers will recognize Christopher Hitchens as the brilliant journalist who also has made it his mission to wage a personal jihad against all theistic religious belief. After publication of his book, God Is Not Great, Christopher embarked upon a tour of the United States debating various spokespersons of the Christian faith on the question, Does God Exist. In one of those debates in 2008 he and his brother Peter crossed swords in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Peter's account of their relationship is sad, although it does contain a somewhat happy ending.

In the course of his essay Peter offers some very insightful observations about the weaknesses of the atheist's belief system. After explaining his own long journey back to God he remarks that:

Why is there such a fury against religion now? Because religion is the one reliable force that stands in the way of the power of the strong over the weak. The one reliable force that forms the foundation of the concept of the rule of law.

The one reliable force that restrains the hand of the man of power. In an age of power worship, the Christian religion has become the principal obstacle to the desire of earthly utopians for absolute power.

He also emphasizes a point that we have made numerous times here on Viewpoint:

He [his brother] often assumes that moral truths are self-evident, attributing purpose to the universe and swerving dangerously round the problem of conscience - which surely cannot be conscience if he is right since the idea of conscience depends on it being implanted by God. If there is no God then your moral qualms might just as easily be the result of indigestion.

Yet Christopher is astonishingly unable to grasp that these assumptions are problems for his argument. This inability closes his mind to a great part of the debate, and so makes his atheist faith insuperable for as long as he himself chooses to accept it.

One of the problems atheists have is the unbelievers' assertion that it is possible to determine what is right and what is wrong without God. They have a fundamental inability to concede that to be effectively absolute a moral code needs to be beyond human power to alter. On this misunderstanding is based my brother Christopher's supposed conundrum about whether there is any good deed that could be done only by a religious person, and not done by a Godless one. Like all such questions, this contains another question: what is good, and who is to decide what is good?

Left to himself, Man can in a matter of minutes justify the incineration of populated cities; the deportation, slaughter, disease and starvation of inconvenient people and the mass murder of the unborn.

I have heard people who believe themselves to be good, defend all these things, and convince themselves as well as others. Quite often the same people will condemn similar actions committed by different countries, often with great vigor.

For a moral code to be effective, it must be attributed to, and vested in, a non-human source. It must be beyond the power of humanity to change it to suit itself.

Its most powerful expression is summed up in the words 'Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends'.

The huge differences which can be observed between Christian societies and all others, even in the twilit afterglow of Christianity, originate in this specific injunction.

Peter Hitchens gives us an interesting, honest, very human account of alienation and redemption. It's well worth the few minutes it takes to read.