Media Along the Path to Atheism

• 4 min read

As I was contemplating god and religion, several pieces of art / media accompanied my thoughts. Some of these are religious. Some are atheist. All were influential.

Contact (movie)

The topics of love, loss of a parent, and blunt discussion about the evidence of god’s existence make this one of my favorite movies of all time.

Great line: “If it’s just us, it seems like an awful waste of space.”

Ishmael by Daniel Quinn (fiction)

A fascinating novel that challenges assumptions instilled into children about humanity’s place in the universe. Atheist or not, this is a thought provoking allegory.

Great line: “There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with people. Given a story to enact that puts them in accord with the world, they will live in accord with the world. But given a story to enact that puts them at odds with the world, as yours does, they will live at odds with the world. Given a story to enact, in which they are the lords of the world, they will act as the lords of the world. And, given a story to enact in which the world is a foe to be conquered they will conquer it like a foe, and one day, inevitably, their foe will lie bleeding to death at their feet, as the world is now.”

Letting Go of God by Julia Sweeney (stage performance)

Saturday Night Live performer and cancer survivor Julia Sweeney discusses her Catholic upbringing and the life events that led her to believe that the universe can function on its own without a deity to preside over it.

Great line: “Julie, I just ignore the parts I don’t like. Why would go read the Bible, cover to cover, if you weren’t looking for reasons to get upset?”

The God Who Wasn’t There (documentary)

I’ve read the entire Bible, cover to cover, almost twice and I’ve studied large portions of the New Testament. It’s amazing how many christians have not done this, yet defend its contents. Far more useful than debating the Bible against its own contradictions is researching when and how the Bible and the church came together. This documentary explores the assumption christians make about the origins of their religion.

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins (non-fiction)

Great line: “There may be fairies at the bottom of the garden. There is no evidence for it, but you can’t prove that there aren’t any, so shouldn’t we be agnostic with respect to fairies?”

The Purpose Drive Life by Rick Warren (“non-fiction”)

If you suffer from common middle class disconnection from the world and cannot find a worthwhile mission for the privilege you were born into, this book will help you feel less guilty about your ignorance while providing more delusion that god wants you to live self centered for his benefit.

Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller (non-fiction)

Emo kid Don Miller went on a soul search, asked great questions, whined endlessly about his mental hangups, and stopped with “it’s not you, god, it’s me” before providing any great answers.

The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are by Robert Wright and Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and How They Shape the Human Species

These two books explain how morality is shaped by evolution. In short, behavior promoting repetition of genetic information is good and that which harms the species is evil.

Nothing Fails by Madonna (song)

Great line: “I’m not religious, but I feel so moved; makes me want to pray.”

God by John Lennon (song)

Great line: “God is a concept by which we measure our pain.”

Elijah by Rich Mullins (song)

Great line: “When I leave I want to go out like Elijah with a whirlwind to fuel my chariot of fire. And when I look back on the stars, well, it’ll be like a candlelight in Central Park and it won’t break my heart to say good bye.”

Irish Son by Brian McFadden (song)

Great line: “This is the city that raised me with the religion they gave me. Now I’m old enough to know my own mind. It was leaving that saved me. I’ve seen so much that has changed me. So just break with your past. Feed your own mind.”

The Republic of Heaven by Philip Pullman

While I have not yet read the His Dark Materials trilogy, I did see The Golden Compass and found The Republic of Heaven arguments by Pullman quite compelling.

“We’re used to the kingdom of heaven; but you can tell from the general thrust of the book that I’m of the devil’s party, like Milton. And I think it’s time we thought about a republic of heaven instead of the kingdom of heaven. The king is dead. That’s to say I believe that the king is dead. I’m an atheist. But we need heaven nonetheless, we need all the things that heaven meant, we need joy, we need a sense of meaning and purpose in our lives, we need a connection with the universe, we need all the things that the kingdom of heaven used to promise us but failed to deliver. And, furthermore, we need it in this world where we do exist-- not elsewhere, because there ain’t no elsewhere.”

[. . .]

“We mustn’t have another king. Worshipping the wrong thing is going to lead to trouble, so we have to have a republic, by which I mean that we ourselves in this world here in the physical universe where we know we live have got to make it as much like the traditional idea of heaven as we can. By which I mean it’s a place where we’re connected to other people by love and joy and delight in the universe and the physical world. And we have to use all the qualities we have-- our imagination, our intelligence, our scientific understanding, our appreciation of art, our love for each other and so on-- we have to work to use those things, to make the world a better place, which it sorely needs making.”

[. . .]

“I thought wasn’t it a good thing that Eve did, isn’t curiosity a valuable quality? Shouldn’t she be praised for risking this? It wasn’t, after all, that she was after money or gold or anything, she was after knowledge. What could possibly be wrong with that? …The physical world is our home, this is where we live, we’re not creatures from somewhere else or in exile. This is our home and we have to make our homes here and understand that we are physical too, we are material creatures, we are born and we will die.”