Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Ledge

My friend Matt calls our attention to a film titled The Ledge just released last weekend. The movie explicitly endorses atheism and is an attempt to portray disbelief in a positive light. According to CNN's Belief Blog, The Ledge is "a story of religion, love and revenge that pits a conservative Christian husband against an atheist who has seduced the religious man’s Christian wife."

I suppose seducing another man's wife may pass for positive light among some, but let's not dwell on that. The film is written and directed by Matthew Chapman, an outspoken atheist who says that it's Hollywood’s first offering to feature an openly atheist hero in a story about religious conflict.

According to the article at the link,
Chapman's mission is to help create a more positive image for atheism, which he says is often misunderstood and maligned, for audiences who may otherwise not be exposed to it.

“My hope was to make an emotional appeal,” Chapman says. He hopes it’s a “Brokeback Mountain” moment for nonbelievers.
This is understandable. An appeal to peoples' emotions to persuade them to accept atheism is bound to be much more efficacious than appealing to their reason since there simply are no good rational arguments for atheism. Perhaps the following assertion, in which Chapman displays an wincingly inadequate understanding of what religious faith is, indicates why Chapman is wise to stick to emotional, rather than rational, appeals:
"This suspicion about people whose only crime is not believing in things until they're proven seems weird," Chapman said. "To me, there is something much more terrifying about voting for someone who accepts things on faith without any evidence whatsoever."
In the first place, no one, believer nor unbeliever, demands proof for epistemic justification, and for Chapman to assert that they do is to reveal a disappointing shallowness in his grasp of how and why people believe.

Secondly, it's just ludicrous to imply that Christians believe "without any evidence whatsoever". The evidence for the existence of God, for example, is very strong and the evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus is also strong enough to impress anyone who's not a priori opposed to the possibility of such an event. I'm somewhat surprised that a man who has undertaken to make a movie on the subject is apparently oblivious to this evidence.

The CNN article, which has a lot of other interesting material on the film, closes with this:
Chapman wants to open a conversation about people who don’t believe in God. Whether filmgoers will see his portrayal of Christianity as insulting is yet to be seen.
I hope that in the course of this conversation someone will think to ask those who don't believe to explain how atheism offers a superior view of the world than does Christianity. Which worldview, the Christian or the atheistic, offers the best explanation for the deep yearning people have for meaning in their life, for the universal desire for justice, for our conviction that selflessness is morally superior to selfishness, or for our belief that human beings have dignity, worth and inherent human rights.

None of these yearnings, desires, or beliefs make any sense on the supposition that atheism is true.

There's no room in an atheistic worldview for belief in an ultimate meaning to life, there's no foundation for moral obligation or moral judgment, and there's no reason to think that justice will, or could, ever prevail. Nor is there anything upon which to base a belief in human dignity or human rights. There's not even a good argument for believing that human reason is trustworthy, and there's certainly no basis for hope that any of these circumstances could ever be otherwise.

But don't take my word for it - although I do commend to you this paper in which I develop the argument at greater length - rather listen to what two of the most prominent of the "New Atheists", Will Provine of Cornell and Richard Dawkins of Oxford, have to say on the matter. Here's Provine:
"There are no Gods, no purposes, and [thus] no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will."
And Dawkins:
"The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference."
Given that atheism offers us such a bleak view of life I wish Mr. Chapman good luck with his emotional appeal and his attempt to portray atheism in a positive light. I'm afraid, though, that to the extent that he's honest about atheism he'll only depress those in his audience most disposed to his point of view.

Double Standards

For those who savor irony: Israel has been roundly condemned by the world community for building a wall to keep Palestinian terrorists from infiltrating the country and killing civilians. International observers have loudly complained that this wall works a hardship on the Palestinian people, and no doubt it does.

Now comes word, however, that the Palestinians are building a wall of their own to keep out terrorists seeking to infiltrate Gaza from Libya and Egypt.

The following is excerpted from a debkafile report:
While complaining to the world about the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of the Gaza Strip, four days ago, Hamas began building fortifications to block the territory's western boundary with Egyptian Sinai, debkafile's military sources report. Hamas is said to be anxious to ward off the spillover of post-revolutionary chaos from Egypt and Sinai into the Gaza Strip and curtail the new influx of fighters and smugglers from Libya and Sinai Bedouin affiliated with al Qaeda. These groups have gone into the smuggling tunnel business on their own and are causing mayhem.

Our sources report that a work force, building materials and equipment are working overtime to throw up a fortified earthworks barrier 10-12 meters high and 14 kilometers long, running from the Rafah crossing up to the Mediterranean 50 meters inside Gaza territory. The side facing Egypt is densely cloaked with barbed wire to stop climbers. Earthmoving equipment is flattening its top surface, presumably for watchtowers.

A bizarre situation has developed: While Hamas continues its smuggling operations underground, illicitly importing munitions, rockets and explosives for terrorist use, on the surface, it is putting in place a mechanism for blockading its own border.
Do you suppose the world will be as outraged by the construction of this barrier to block the flow of terrorists into Gaza as it was over the Israeli wall designed to block the flow of terrorists into Israel, or do you think that's a silly question?