Friday, August 06, 2004


Recently, I’ve come across three movies which I recall from my youth and middle ages that sum up what it means to be modern human animal: Chinatown, Dr. Strangelove, and 400 Blows.

“Chinatown” ends in the failure of all moral conditions to deal with modern dilemmas. Everything “decent” fails in that movie and the “bad guy” triumphs. In “Dr. Strangelove”, the end of humanity is presaged by bushman-like chest thumping American behavior. The movie clearly anticipates Bushmania by decades, Bush being the Chill Wills character who rides the atom bomb down, waving his ten gallon hate and yelling Texas whoops and hollers.

But “400 Blows” is more subtle, French, and I like it best of that three. When the escaping delinquent boy runs out onto the beach and stop action freezes his slender form facing freedom and moral ambiguity, we’re left with the image of a human animal taking full responsibility for his own destiny. To take moral responsibility into our own hands is to face the moral ambiguity which is the true state of the evolved animal in the modern world. Truly courageous peoples will be required to accept this destiny which a godlike evolution places upon us. The morally ambiguous view took on power in the last half of the 20th Century. How can we have let the bushmen among us take us back to the view from their African veldt?


I’ve already mentioned the cresting wave of Moslem fundamentalism which threatens to subvert democracy in Iraq. See “the bombing of Christian churches” in the August second world newspapers.

Another Bush foul up less spoken of is the subverting of democratic reforms and religious moderation in Iran where we face many dangers. Bush’s cowboy actions in Iraq and the world have undermined the reform movement in Iran, returning power to the mullahs and weakening the reformers’ position. Now Iran is toying with atomic weapon technology and America can’t afford to fight a two front war so all we can do is wag a hollow stick at them while speaking loudly. Goodness sakes! We need us a president with the power for nuanced thinking, not a religious fundamentalist who sneaked into the White House.


I’m constantly amused by discussions with religious people who turn a blind eye to reality and disappear into denial. In more than one of my discussions, the issue of Bible scholarship has come up.

One interesting book called “The Elusive Messiah: a philosophical overview of the quest for the historical Jesus” by Raymond Martin (Buy It!) delves into the conflicting arguments of Bible scholars and demonstrates the difficulty of arriving at a definitive view. Martin reviews the major scholarly positions on the authenticity of the Jesus narrative in the Bible. In the end, he summarizes by saying that the various positions eventually depend upon what documents the scholar accepts which support one view or the other.

Fair enough? Yet, when I point out that even my view (as well as their fundamentalist view) must, therefore, be hedged around by the relativity of the evidence and by our decision as to which scholars to believe, the Bible thumper even refuses to believe that scholars exist who might question his dogmatism.

I’ve experienced the weirdest sorts of mental side leaps when I confront a fundamentalist with the existence of Christian scholars who doubt the authenticity of the Bible view of the world. I can understand a Bible thumper refusing to accept my idea that god doesn’t exist, but how can he deny the existence of dissenting scholarly views about the Jesus narratives? All he’s got to do is walk to a library shelf and look up the wide ranging discussion between scholars about the authenticity of the Jesus narratives. You’d think we could at least agree that authoritative dissent exists, but a fundamentalist Christian seems unable to admit dissent into his world view. They seem to want to ignore that such views by Christians even exist. They become mental contortionists whose squirming is discomforting to a realist like myself.

"I'm not afraid to die. I just don't want to be there when it happens." —Woody Allen

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