Religion

"God is Dead. Except at the Box Office": Nick Gillespie at Time.com

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These days, God is dead everywhere except at movie theaters. But rest easy, America, that doesn't mean we're spiraling into an amoral abyss or a lawless society. Indeed, by most indicators of anti-social behavior, things have never been better.

Even as polls and church-attendance records show the U.S. is becoming a more secular, less pious country, current films such as Heaven is for Real (based on a best-selling account of a four-year-old boy's supposed trip to the afterlife) and Noah (based on the Old Testament's account of the Great Flood) have done boffo business.

Noah is closing in on $100 million, the line that separates mere hits from blockbusters, and Heaven is for Real easily bested Johnny Depp's poorly reviewed meditation on computer-enabled immortality, TranscendenceGod's Not Dead, a drama about a college freshman challenging his professor's atheism, is also performing strongly, and so is Son of God, the latest cinematic version of the life of Jesus.

Expect to see more Christian and religiously themed movies as a result…. Yet there's no reason to think that such movies will do anything to stanch the broad and ongoing decline in religiosity. And there's even less reason to worry about the trend toward a less godly country….

That's from my latest column up at Time, which includes data on the long-term decline of organized religion in the United States (which is still much more religious than most developed nations).

 Read the whole thing.

What do you think, readers? Does the recent success of religiously themed movies suggest a revival of Christianity in the United States? How does what might be called "soft spirituality" (e.g., New Age beliefs) fit into this discussion)? Or is the long-term decline in most markers of religious activity and belief (church membership, attendance, etc.) pretty much irreversible, especially among younger Americans? 

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  1. In the 1950’s and 60’s, my family’s church was busy explaining to the parishioners that they needed to stop giving money to Godless Hollywood and so people weren’t going to see The Ten Commandments or Ben Hur or any of these surprisingly good movies because of stuff like, I dunno, prejudices on the part of the pastors against the noir movies that came out years before.

    A better tactic, it seems to me, would be to tell the parish “it’s okay to see Ben Hur but not The Four Skulls of Jonathan Drake”.

    In any case, that seems like what they’re doing now. I imagine that when Hollywood realizes that Evangelicals like having their sensibilities flattered almost as much as Progressives do, they’ll start churning out crap that might actually make money.

    1. From about the 50s onward, my family’s church was busy explaining to the parishioners that they needed to stop giving money to Godless Hollywood because California.

      As a libertarian, I support their stance against both the state and State of California.

    2. Took till couple of months back to see what “Moses” said in the “Ten Commandments” at the burning bush. He uttered that he had “seen the face of God, which is the brotherhood of man”. Biblically speaking, that’s silly bull poop, but it was malicious to insert it there.

      Now I don’t know what’s in the other way-back ahem, “Christian” movies that I saw then.

      “Noah” has crazy stuff, for example.

      But God causes the wrath of man to praise him. Just like “evolutionary biologists” are one of the best sources for evidence against Darwinism, they spout it out thinking it supports their most sacred doctrine.

  2. I don’t know what the future holds, but society has freed a lot of people from going to Church only because they felt they needed to do so to impress others. The ones that are left are there because they want to be. That’s not a bad thing.

  3. Uggg, everyone in my Bible study thinks “God is Not Dead” is a great movie. They are all more evangelical types than my wife and I. From what I hear it is flat and simplistic, and the non-Christian characters are nothing but caricatures. In other words, its the usual low budget, painful to watch fare that epitomizes sermon style movies.

      1. Haha exactly.

    1. Well now “Trials and Tribulations”, you could have made the point that almost every single true believer in most of the Hollywood productions are themselves caricatures. Only occasionally they have a good Catholic, maybe, but the good Catholic they use always supports the current social themes and they’re not very Catholic except in ceremony. They’re okay with abortions, genital mutilation surgery, and fill in the blanks.

  4. “Millennials are far more likely than previous generations to view organized religion as intolerant, sexist, and homophobic. That attitude isn’t helped by…political candidates such as Ray Moore, who is running for lieutenant governor of South Carolina and calling for Christian parents to remove their children from public education (“Pharoah’s school system”).

    Yeah, look at those crazy fundies attacking our glorious public-school system!

    1. Isn’t ending public schools a pretty basic tenant of Libertarians? Maybe not all Librarians think that, but the ones that don’t certainly support vouchers.

      How in the hell can Nick write something like that? I don’t think he is stupid. So I don’t see how he could not understand the unintentional hilarity of a professed Libertarian saying that.

      Is Nick just that sloppy and didn’t think about what he was writing or is he just becoming a troll?

      1. Not to get too fundamentalist on anyone but;

        When men stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing. They believe in anything. – ascribed to Chesterton

        Between the surveillance state, the police state, the whimsically unethical Executive and legislature, and the relatively spineless state of corporate and cultural America I find it hard to believe that anyone, libertarian or not, can stand up and say “Yay secularism!”.

        Pot is legal and Gays can marry, I can certainly agree that we all owe thanks to Nick for doing his best to advance some freedoms for some Americans while taking massive losses elsewhere.

        1. I think people today are more prudish and judgmental than they were in the 50s. They are just prudish and judgement about different things. No one judges divorce anymore but society is wildly judgement about infedelity. A person can leave their spouse and condemn their kids to growing up in a broken home for the most self centered of reasons and be praised for “following their heart”. If the same person sticks it out and has a one night stand, they are evil liars who don’t have the guts to get a divorce.

          No one in the 1950s would have judged you for how you sorted your trash or if you smoked or what kind of foods you ate or any number of other things our current society obsesses about.

          The secular revolution didn’t stop people from being judgement and intolerant. In fact it may have made them more so.

        2. When men stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing. They believe in anything. – ascribed to Chesterton

          Between the surveillance state, the police state, the whimsically unethical Executive and legislature, and the relatively spineless state of corporate and cultural America I find it hard to believe that anyone, libertarian or not, can stand up and say “Yay secularism!”.

          This quote has always been foolish. Man ALWAYS believes in something. And what virtue is there to hold to one, IMO, unjustified belief system only because you might fall for another?

          Man will always be plagued by false notions. It’s part of his nature.

          1. Man will always be plagued by false notions. It’s part of his nature.

            Never was a greater truth uttered.

          2. Man will always be plagued by false notions. It’s part of his nature.

            Perhaps man will always have false notions, but it’s not his nature and it isn’t an excuse to justify stupidity.

            Man’s nature is to reason, as evident by the fact that we no longer live in caves, he only need to choose to do so

            1. Perhaps man will always have false notions, but it’s not his nature and it isn’t an excuse to justify stupidity.

              It certainly doesn’t justify stupidity but I think, by just about any definition the world over, a being that has been dispelled of all false notions violates the definition of man.

              Man’s nature is to reason, as evident by the fact that we no longer live in caves, he only need to choose to do so

              Belief develops in the human brain long before order, reason, and higher logic. If cognition is requisite to any achievement, belief is the first part.

            2. Man’s nature is to reason,

              You do realize that believing that man’s nature is to reason is the central justification for central planning and control and pretty much all of socialism and communism?

              The whole point of classical liberalism is the acknowledgement that man’s nature isn’t reasonable and therefore individual men can never be trusted with complete power over other men. If man’s nature was to reason, having top men wouldn’t be such a danger. Hell, who doesn’t want a philosopher king?

              1. You do realize that believing that man’s nature is to reason is the central justification for central planning and control and pretty much all of socialism and communism?

                Reasoning and forcing shit on people are not the same thing. It doesn’t follow that embracing rational thought means you need to or have the right to tell others how to live. You can be rational AND free. The two are not mutually exclusive.

                1. Reason is only as good as the assumptions you feed into it. I can make a rational case for all kinds of evil if I just make the right assumptions.

                  If man were reasonable not just in that he could think rationally but that he could somehow arrive at the right assumptions to reason from, we wouldn’t need nor want democracy or classical liberalism. The messy flawed nature of democracy will never equal the efficiency and justice of a real philosopher king in the form of a truly rational man who always made the right ethical assumptions in his reasoning. That is what progs think regulators are.

                  The reason why limited government is the only way to keep government from committing appalling evil is because man while capable of rational thinking is by his nature incapable of connecting that rational thinking to the right assumptions and information. He is effectively irrational and has can never have a claim to rule over other men absent their consent for that reason.

              2. The whole point of classical liberalism is the acknowledgement that man’s nature isn’t reasonable and therefore individual men can never be trusted with complete power over other men. If man’s nature was to reason, having top men wouldn’t be such a danger. Hell, who doesn’t want a philosopher king?

                This is not correct. Classical liberals were often proponents of Natural Law, which by definition accepted the capacity to reason as mans’ nature. It was through reason that the Natural Law theorists attempted to derive Natural Laws.

            3. Perhaps man will always have false notions, but it’s not his nature and it isn’t an excuse to justify stupidity.

              It is PART of his nature, because man’s capacity to reason is not perfect.

            4. Man’s nature is to reason

              Yes, but like most things in life – this has both positive and negative sides.

              Positive sides – innovation, greater life expectancy, more comfortable life, etc, etc, etc.

              On the negative side – man’s desire to reason and seek patterns, makes man like almost any idea at all, over nothing. IE – man sees patterns where they don’t exist.

              For instance – one Mayan to another: “Hey – did you notice that when we killed those guys we had a great crop? Well…. that got me to thinking you see….”.

              & as such, while man’s nature might be reason, man will also always be plagued by false notions unless & until we reach some point in the distant future where we truly do know everything.

              But I seriously doubt that will ever happen and even if it does – man is also capable of willingly preventing themselves from learning what others’ know if they so choose (Amish?).

              IE – man will always be plagued by false notions. It’s part of his nature towards reason and pattern recognition that makes this true.

          3. And what virtue is there to hold to one, IMO, unjustified belief system only because you might fall for another?

            Wouldn’t that/those be the virtues that are defined in and compose the system?

            As opposed to secularism/atheism which defines itself as being beholden to or not strictly bound by no virtues?

            Man will always be plagued by false notions. It’s part of his nature.

            I 100% agree. I would further say that, in contemporary history, the people I see most often (falsely) displacing that plague from themselves are secularists.

            1. Grr…. EDIT: “as not being beholden to or not strictly bound by a rigid set of virtues?”

            2. As opposed to secularism/atheism which defines itself as being beholden to or not strictly bound by no virtues?

              I don’t think that’s true. Secularism and atheism are only defined by what they are not.

              1. I don’t think that’s true. Secularism and atheism are only defined by what they are not.

                Exactly. It is nonsense perpetuated by the religious that secularists/atheists don’t accept the concepts of right and wrong. Ayn Rand made it an integral component of her philosophy.

                1. It is nonsense perpetuated by the religious that secularists/atheists don’t accept the concepts of right and wrong. Ayn Rand made it an integral component of her philosophy.

                  Yep – religion for centuries has gotten a lot of things right – don’t lie, cheat, steal, etc.

                  It has even been boiled down to this axiom:

                  Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself

                  Though recently updated in various places in society to be read:

                  Do unto others as they wish to have done unto them

                  Which likely works here for most people – as I think a lot of us enjoy a more direct “you’re wrong” approach, than the average member of society… but I digress.

                  My main point is NAP, the non-aggression principle, is a recitation of the “do unto others” principle. As John Galt stated:

                  I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.

                  Of course religion goes further into charitable works and such & I don’t mean to discount those great works by suggesting Christianity is just like NAP (nor suggest people who believe in NAP & not g-d dislike/oppose charities).

                  Only that at the heart of NAP is “do unto others”.

                  Disclaimer: while NAP is very similiar to “do unto others” the reasoning to get to those ideas differs from each other in very significant ways. I just don’t think this fact discounts the continuity with these moral ideas.

        3. When men stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing. They believe in anything. – ascribed to Chesterton

          I think that people have an innate need to believe in something greater than themselves, and religion, up to a point at least, still serves a very useful purpose even today. It gives people something other than government and other institutions of man to believe in.

          Or as Father Mackey put it in South Park: “when they have no mythology to live their lives by, they just start spewing a bunch of crap out of their mouths.”

        4. When people believe in God, they believe all kinds of crazy and ridiculous shit too. I’m not saying that necessarily applies to you, but religiosity is certainly no protection against the sorts of things you mention.

          And from the perspective of someone who doesn’t start out believing in God, belief in God is no less arbitrary than belief in the state or magic crystals or astrology.

          1. When people believe in God, they believe all kinds of crazy and ridiculous shit too. I’m not saying that necessarily applies to you, but religiosity is certainly no protection against the sorts of things you mention.

            I’ve found that, in general, “people believe in all kinds of crazy and ridiculous shit…” whether they believe in a god or not. Most people follow what I call folk religion. It’s not taught in any theology and certainly doesn’t appear in any scripture. But the beliefs are universal. One prime example is the belief that ancestors are up above looking out for us. This is not in any judeo-christian scripture but you will find that many westerners assume it to be true.

            These beliefs are not only common, they sometimes seem innate, as if they were part of Jung’s collective unconscious. If this is true, then God exists because most believe in a god.

            IOW, some of the “crazy and ridiculous shit” that we believe in exists in some fashion in the human psyche but doesn’t make good sense when translated from the unconscious into the reasonable conscious. We should try to understand it, not merely claim it doesn’t exist.

            1. We should try to understand it, not merely claim it doesn’t exist.

              You’re conflating a belief in g-d with a belief that many people believe in g-d, as there is no reason that knowing many people do believe in g-d means g-d exists.

              It’s patently false to claim otherwise, just as it would be false to claim that when 100% of the human race believed the world was flat, then the world must be flat.

              & if anyone chose to not believe that, they were fools for not understanding the innate belief in humans and how that must translate into reality.

              Sorry – but to pull out a hackneyed euphemism – that dog don’t hunt.

        5. Chesteron had the bad luck of coming of age just before the influx of Zen and eastern thought and the (serious) rise of neoplatonism in large part due to Jung. I don’t know that he ever seriously engaged experiential religion in the way that, say, Lewis did at the end of his life.

          Believing in weird things–and the traditional Abrahamic faiths are just as crazy as Scientology in terms of raw doctrine–does have an anxiolytic benefit, but the idea that you either have to believe in the literal truth of mythology–the Guy in the Sky cosmology held by ancient Sumerians who didn’t even know how to make steel–or be a materialist “bright” isn’t the case.

          And all secularism in the public sphere means is that government doesn’t flex its muscle in favor of or against a particular group, in this case religious. That limitation on state power is distinct from the wing of the atheism movement that gets schadenfreude from poking religious people, and it’s something that libertarians should be able to get behind.

      2. Millennials are far more likely than previous generations to view organized religion as intolerant, sexist, and homophobic. That attitude isn’t helped by…political candidates such as Ray Moore…

        John, Nick was talking about the attitudes of millennials about religion, not about the attitudes of libertarians. The article is from Time, not exactly a solidly libertarian audience.

        1. So Nick is saying mellenials are morons who think anyone who wants to opt out of the public school system is intolerant?

          I don’t think so.

          1. So Nick is saying mellenials are morons who think anyone who wants to opt out of the public school system is intolerant?

            That would be accurate, so I wouldn’t exactly fault him for it.

          2. I don’t think they have to be morons to believe that. Just culturally conditioned. And a lot of people do believe that. A lot of people really do believe that public schools are the foundation of modern civilization and are really attached to the idea that they are good and important. It’s nuts given the evidence, but people do believe that.

            1. So that’s one area that the yutes believe what their elders tell them. The Libertarian Moment is upon us!

              1. Of course it’s not. I’d still rather people write books about it and try to convince people and be a little optimistic rather than giving up and just saying “we’re fucked”.

                1. You Know Who Else thought it was better to be optimistic and to convince people regardless of facts?

                  1. Your mom?

                    I meant convince people about libertarian ideas.

    2. I really did not expect the sentence to end with just “remove their children from public education”. I foolishly thought it would have something to do with intolerance, sexism, or homophobia.

    3. They’ve grown strong, or at least grown larger, supping at the teats of American public education. While they mostly may not love it, they also revile the notion of some kids enjoying better education than others. The idea that most students would benefit from the fruits of competition wouldn’t cross their minds.

      1. Are you talking about the fundies or the yutes in that post?

    4. Maybe the people that write such things should consider that the home-schooled have been among the top winners in spelling bees, geography bees, math competitions, and the mostly-home-schooled law students at Patrick Henry College have won first place in moot court competitions in the US and even in the UK using UK law!

      The old mythical stereotype of the dumb backward Christian doesn’t work for scientists (since it’s all downhill after creationist Isaac Newton), or today, since the home-schooled consistently have scored higher on average than others on the same tests, and by the way, Christian and religious school students have shown better scores than those from public schools. And that’s with public schools’ scores aided by situations where the home-schoolers had to go into public schools, and boost the public school scores.

  5. “Does the recent success of religiously themed movies suggest a revival of Christianity in the United States?”

    I don’t have the slightest idea.

    “How does what might be called “soft spirituality” (e.g., New Age beliefs) fit into this discussion)?”

    *If* Christianity keeps declining, I don’t think it will be replaced by libertarian rationalism. It’s going to be replaced by New Agism and the kind of “rational skepticism” that freaks out when Richard Dawkins propositions a woman.

    1. …freaks out for the wrong reason.

      1. If Dawkins is out picking up women, can I have his wife warm my bed?

        1. Lalla Ward? The selection of Time Ladies isn’t very big and there are still better choices, IMO.

          1. She can always time-travel so that there will be several of her at once.

          2. Yeah, I’d go with the first Romana myself.

  6. Does the recent success of religiously themed movies suggest a revival of Christianity in the United States?

    Let me answer that question by posing another: Does the recent success of vampire themed movies suggest a revival of Asetianism in the United States?

  7. Given that “Noah” wasn’t Christian in the strict sense, but Gnostic, I wouldn’t throw that one into the mix.

    1. I don’t know a single religious person who went to see Noah. From what I understand it was not a particularly religious movie and certainly didn’t deal with the Noah story in the bible in any serious way.

      Noah was just a fantasy movie with two big stars. That said, the Bible is great literature. They have been basing plays, poems, movies, novels and such on it pretty much for all of time. It is a great source of drama. Hollywood is pretty stupid to ignore it as source material.

      1. I saw it ( with my even less religious than me friend). It’s definitely got some religious elements (the creator talks to Noah in his dreams, angels are real, etc), but it’s not preachy or anything. Noah isn’t shown as this wonderful, perfect man either. Your characterization as “just a fantasy movie with two big stars” is actually pretty accurate, though I might say more than 2.

      2. I don’t know a single religious person who went to see Noah. From what I understand it was not a particularly religious movie and certainly didn’t deal with the Noah story in the bible in any serious way.

        I don’t know anything about the movie, but I hate it because Glenn Beck told me to, even though he never saw it either.

        1. You might not realize this but there are these things called movie reviews. They often discuss the plot of the movie and evaluate how good or bad the movie is. They are not always perfect. If you read several of them you can get a feel for what a movie is about and whether it is any good or not.

          I did that with Noah. And as result I found out that the plot adds all sorts of elements that have nothing to do with the actual biblical story. They also pointed out how the dialog wasn’t very good and there were several holes and inconsistencies in the story line.

          Reading these things allowed me to make the reasonable conclusion that it wasn’t a particularly biblical movie and that probably wasn’t very good either.

          I need to remind myself sometimes that a few of the people on this board are like you and kind of slow. I thought it went without saying that there were these amazing things called movie reviews. My apologies for not realizing that. No thanks necessary for the information. You don’t have to listen to Glenn Beck anymore to get your movie information. Isn’t that great?

          How do you listen to him? Is he on the radio? Publish a newsletter? Have his own public access channel?

          1. Yeah and in the case of the Noah movie, a lot of the “reviews” going around are by people who haven’t actually seen it, but want the movie to do bad for political or financial reasons.

            1. I am pretty sure the guys that write for the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal who review movies for a living actually watch the movies they review.

              Again, try getting your news from somewhere besides Glenn Beck. Mix in a newspaper once in a while.

              1. Mix in a newspaper once in a while.

                No need to go to extremes. Kurt Loder reviewed it here at Reason.

                1. Kurt Loder is a shitty movie reviewer.

              2. Except the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal both gave the movie positive reviews, as did most main stream critics.

                1. Sure they did. That doesn’t mean I can’t make my own conclusion about the movies based on what I read there.

        2. Yeah, you weren’t there at creation to see that either, but you trust lots of people to tell you about it that didn’t see it either.

          That’s my answer according to “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own conceit” -Proverbs 26:5

      3. I got snagged into going to see “Noah.” It stated with the words “In the beginning, there was nothing.” It went downhill from there. The only reason I stayed awake was because I spent ten bucks to see it, and I wanted to see just how bad it would get.

        1. was it as bad as Howard the Duck?

          1. I don’t know. I ducked out of seeing that one after reading a couple reviews.

    2. It was also just a really enjoyable movie, and had a very novel take on the character of Noah.

      1. Speaking of godless religious movies, I’m still annoyed that Troy skipped the gods. If you’ve read The Iliad, you know that’s like Star Wars without the Force, or Jesus Christ Superstar without Jesus.

        1. If only that was the biggest problem with that movie…

          1. It had other flaws, but without the gods as one of the focal points of the story (the other being Achilles’ wrath, which they kept), it had no chance.

          2. I like the fact that you can see an airplane flying overhead in one of the shots.

            1. That was Apollo and his chariot.

        2. Which version of Troy? The Brad Pitt one? Because I’m more annoyed that Bloom was in it than anything.

          1. Yeah, that was stupid. He’s stupid.

          2. do you know who else played a archer in a hollywood fiction/fantasy movie?

            1. Every successful actor ever?

    3. Why anyone would expect a “Christian” anything from Darren Aronofsky is beyond me.

      1. Well, there was the Hasidic Jewish math conspiracy in Pi…

        1. That movie was annoying.

  8. David Foot said: “two thirds of everything is demographics”. As the Baby Boomers get older and more conservative, there’s a niche market opening up for religious-themed entertainment — and Hollywood will exploit it to the fullest.

    1. As the Baby Boomers get older and more conservative worried

      FTFY

  9. It’s got more to do with the fact that the Bible is probably the book most replete with instantly identifiable stories that everyone has heard a million times, in this country anyway, so they’re pretty safe bets for a Hollywood that is so creatively bankrupt it is rebooting comic book superhero franchises less than 5 years after the last sequel from the last reboot of the same comic book superhero franchise.

    1. ^^THIS^^

      Not everyone in the 50s was a holy roller. The Ten Commandments and the other biblical epics made huge bank because they were great stories.

      1. The Ten Commandments and the other biblical epics made huge bank because they were great stories.

        Exactly. It’s not suggesting a revival so much as it is filling a niche in the market. Irrespective of one’s religious beliefs, Bible-oriented movies in particular make for compelling narratives because of their epic themes and memorable characters(Quo Vadis, IMO, is one of the best from the studio era, and there’s also Jay Robinson’s manic performances in The Robe and Demetrius and the Gladiators), AND the producers don’t even have to pay for the rights in order to make the films.

        The box office is pretty clear that Christians will turn out for these movies due to both personal interest and social networking within their churches if the movie is good enough–it’s just that modern Hollywood has been so steeped in promoting irony, nihilism, and cultural subversion over the last 40 years or so that it’s difficult for studios to approach the material on its own terms, despite the fact that biblical stories are just as open about showing humanity’s flaws as any contemporary film.

        1. If you make an explicitly Christian movie, you have a guaranteed audience who will pay to see it, even if it is a bad movie. If you manage to make a good Christian movie that non Christians will also want to see, you will make a fortune.

          It is funny. Hollywood constantly churns out idiotic sequels and comic book movies on the excuse that “it costs so much to make a movie you can only make one if it has a brand and built in audience”. Yet, they refuse to make movies aimed at Christians, who are a huge virtually guaranteed audience here and overseas.

          The Passion was a gothic horror show made in dead languages that made over $500 million dollars at the box office. Hollywood is so provential, bigoted and stupid, they would rather lose money than appeal to an audience they hate.

          1. I was pissed at Gibson, because I always wanted to produce a movie about Roman times in classical Latin (and Greek, where appropriate). Stole my thunder, the rat bastard.

            1. Technically you’re still in the clear – they did The Passion mostly in best-guess Aramaic.

              1. Yeah, but it takes the surprise value out of the gimmick. Fucking crazy quasi-Australian.

            2. I am really pissed his movie about Judah Macabee got canned. Tell me that wouldn’t have been a kick ass movie. Sadly, I think he is too old now to make it.

              1. I am really pissed his movie about Judah Macabee got canned. Tell me that wouldn’t have been a kick ass movie.

                If the screenplay had been commissioned to anyone other than Joe Ezsterhas, it probably would have been made. Asking him to write it was a huge mistake. Why one earth would you ask one of the most unprofessional writers in Hollywood, one known more for doing pulp noir films, no less, to do a historical epic?

              2. I hear Jude Apatow is doing a Maccabees movie.

                Just thought I’d see how far I could spread that rumor before I admit I was kidding.

            3. I’m sure you have plenty of other authentic personal stories you could tell.

          2. The Passion was a gothic horror show made in dead languages snuff film that made over $500 million dollars at the box office.

            FTFY.

            1. So was Sin City, but look how many critics creamed their pants over that one.

              1. Sin City was a shitty movie, but I wouldn’t classify it as a “snuff film.” The violence and gore was too stylized. If it had been filmed to look realistic, then maybe.

                1. Sin City was a good movie. The Passion was….fucking disturbing.

                  1. I would hope so!

        2. Biblical movies have the same problem as comic book movies: they come with an insanely rabid fanbase that will never be happy because any movie that appeals to a wider audience will by necessity not be a perfect recreation of their beloved comic.

          The problem with biblical movies is that the rabid fanbase is a significant fraction of society rather than a tiny clique.

          1. LOTR had the same problem. And indeed, many LOTR fans were insanely unhappy with the movies. Yet, they paid to see them, which is if you are the studio the entire point.

            The existence of a huge rabid fan base is a feature not a problem.

          2. Biblical movies have the same problem as comic book movies: they come with an insanely rabid fanbase that will never be happy because any movie that appeals to a wider audience will by necessity not be a perfect recreation of their beloved comic.

            Maybe, but that hasn’t stopped studios from making truckloads of money on comic book movies. For all the bitching and crying that comes from nerds whenever the movies don’t match up to their expectations, they still plunk down their $10-15 for a ticket time after time after time.

            The problem with creating biblical movies isn’t the rabid fanbase, it’s the fact that Hollywood has a lot of trouble approaching the material without trying to figure out a cynical or subversive angle to portray, because that’s been their default cultural stance for decades now.

            1. Exactly. The problem with the “subversive” approach is that it is generally boring. It is much more interesting to tell any religious tail by taking it on its own terms and at least being ambiguous about the super natural elements. A few years ago they made a couple of movies about Joan of Arc. They could have been great movies. They both ended up being just okay because both movies took the approach that Joan had to be just a nut. It made the movies pretty mundane because it was just about a lunatic in 15th Century France.

              They would have been much more interesting movies if they had been at least more ambiguous about the super natural element. It doesn’t matter if you believe in God. A story about a woman accomplishing totally inexplicable things perhaps with the help of a super natural power is a hell of a lot more interesting drama than a story about a crazy person.

              1. I have not seen the whole film, but I liked this scene:

                http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZtQEXW0lVts

              2. I’m pretty sure Joan (and most of the saints known for visions and such) was just nuts. But I agree completely about the movie. Don’t try to be all clever and historical. Tell the great story that tradition gives us. There are plenty of movies about crazy people.

  10. I finally found a church I can happily attend. I recently had a great discussion with my pastor about how religion is not a necessary condition for morality, and how atheists can be just as “moral” or more so than believers. This is in a small, conservative village. (I think the pastor, a retired lawyer, disguises her “radical” beliefs quite well. But those who have ears, hear.)

    1. “Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it.” Romans 2:14

      So yeah, people know right from wrong within them already. It’s whether they choose to do right or choose to do wrong. Even the Romans at times had a pretty good system of justice that offered more due process than the Jews who condemned Jesus.

  11. Gee, I’ve been an atheist for over thirty years now but still enjoy a good biblical epic. Ben Hur is a classic. The story – and the moral lessons – of Jesus are frankly interesting to me, even though I have no belief in the big guy in the sky. Perhaps it is a remnant of that Calvinism pushed into my brain at an early age.

    1. I dated a Jewish girl who loved Jesus Christ Superstar and The Last Temptation of Christ.

      1. That’s not completely ironic though, since Christians hated those movies and viewed them as subversive deconstructionism wrt to the life of Jesus.

        1. Certainly the latter, though I’ve heard fewer complaints about the former. The musical caught crap initially for involving demonic rock music.

          1. I know many, many Christians who love JCS. I like it myself.

            1. I’ve always liked it. People forget how big a hit the music was–when I was a wee lad in the early 70s, I heard the title song on the radio quite a bit.

              1. Yeah, I never cared for the movie. But I still have the original Broadway soundtrack on my iPod.

                1. +1 Good Morning Starshine

                2. Have you seen the 2000 TV version? I think it is FAR superior to the 1973 film version:

                  http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0275434/

          2. When I was a kid one of my classmates from church appeared in a local production of Jesus Christ Superstar and there was much pearl clutching. Some Christians were fine with it though.

            1. I think I’ve told this story before, but when I lived in Chicago, a DJ was talking about a tour of Jesus Christ Superstar coming to town and noted that the original Jesus and Judas were going to be in it. I’m 99% sure he didn’t realize the alternative meaning to that statement (he meant Ted Neeley and Carl Anderson).

              1. Lol. Imagine what an autographed playbill from that would have netted…

                1. I actually had to pull over, I was laughing so hard. Too bad it wasn’t the original Jesus–Chicago could use some divine intervention, to be honest.

              2. Jesus is reborn and recast.

                1. Baldrick: Well, not very well — at the last moment, the baby playing Jesus died!

                  Ebenezer: Oh, dear! This high infant-mortality rate is a real devil when it comes to staging quality children’s theatre. What did you do?

                  Baldrick: Got another Jesus.

                  Ebenezer: Oh, thank goodness. …and his name?

                  Baldrick: `Spot’. There weren’t any more children, so we had to settle for a dog instead.

                  Ebenezer: Oh, dear… I’m not convinced that Christianity would have established its firm grip over the hearts and minds of mankind if all Jesus had ever said was “Woof.”

    2. My (very small) Sunday School class, led by our pastor’s husband (a law professor), is now studying the New Testament from a historical, linguistic and cultural perspective almost totally separate from any religious implications. It’s fascinating, fascinating stuff. We kind of have to do it behind closed doors, so as not to antagonize the hoi polloi.

      1. You Ohio State people and your superfluous “the.”

        Whether you’re Christian or not, the gospels are clearly a part of western culture–very deeply rooted.

      2. One of my high school literature classes did a couple of weeks on the Bible, mostly Old Testament though.

        1. Western art, including literature, is full of biblical influences and allusions, so it’s hard to ignore all of that stuff.

  12. The title to Nick’s article shows just how much “progress” has been made in the American culture war that is reverent to only certain approved groups. Let me know when he has the temerity to write an article titled “Gays are Dead.”

    1. There’s a joke to be made about “Divine” powers, but I’m too lazy to parse it out.

      1. Also, God is a lot less touchy than some gays. He really doesn’t care if you say shit about him.

        1. He really doesn’t care if you say shit about him.

          That’s the advantage of having the ability to make final judgement over someone’s soul. You don’t have to get all pissy when someone talks shit. They’ll get their’s sooner or later.

        2. He really doesn’t care if you say shit about him.

          Uhhh, ok.

          You must have missed the Exodus 20:3-7 and Mark 3:29. God is actually pretty testy about people talking shit about him, like to the point of having a personality problem.

          I mean you can be forgiven for murder, but deny the Holy Spirit and well, you’re just fucked. And let’s not forget all the times he made the Israelites miserable for not kissing his ass just right, that’s like half the Old Testament (more if you count the Apocrypha).

          1. “I mean you can be forgiven for murder, but deny the Holy Spirit and well, you’re just fucked.”

            One of the many reasons I’m agnostic, and certainly don’t buy “the story” (i.e.the bible). Any God that would suffer the sin of vanity as to discount how good a person might be and singly condemn him or her for not believing the unprovable is not a god worth believing in.

    2. Was there a famous philosopher who said “Gays are dead”?

      If not, I think you are missing something.

    3. We’ll you never know. Whenever I read a Gillespie article, I always imagine it being read with Paul Lynde’s voice…

  13. The giant Christian boner for that Mel Gibson torture porn movie tells me we could all stand to take a look at our culture from the outside as if we were aliens. “The sacred symbol for these people is a torture-murder device. They pretend to cannibalize their man-god. What strange creatures.”

    1. Wow. The aliens are just as unable to grasp nuance as is Tony. Whoda thunk it?

      1. Plus he’s unoriginal.

        I don’t know who said it first, but I’ve heard that comment at least 10 times before. Tony is the first person that tried to pass it off as his own, though.

        1. He’s unorginal, but makes up for it by being a mandacious sack of shit.

    2. Tony just because you are atheist doesn’t mean you should be an idiot. You might try understanding the objects of your hate sometime. It will be really hard, but it will at least get people to laugh at you less.

      1. Adults should not have imaginary friends.

        And if you want to be a part of a death cult that worships torture and practices fake cannibalism, knock yourself out, but you can hardly expect outsiders to see this as normal behavior.

        1. Considering the apocalyptic doomsday cult you belong to, that is toppest lel.

          1. Come on PM. Believing that the sea level is going to rise and huge hurricanes and droughts are going to befall us to punish mankind for his sinful use of fossil fuels and decadent capitalist lifestyle is science. That is the consensus, you racist Tea Bagging bastard!!

            1. The sea level is already rising. Science isn’t optional, you fool.

              1. Sure it is. Just ignore that giant antarctic ice flow and the fact that the Maldives were supposed to have disappeared by 2005 or whatever.

                You are just funny Tony. You are the most profoundly ignorant and dogmatic person on earth. But you make up for it by being really angry.

                1. Every single one of your lame bullshit anti-GW fake factoids has been debunked on this list. As a curious, empirically minded, thoughtful person, I have no doubt you’ll pore over it with great interest.

              2. Compared to? By what degree? And to what effect?

                Oh, THAT science… yeah, that’s optional.

        2. LOLOL

          Come on Tony, Obama is your imaginary friend. Why do deny other people theirs?

          You are a moron Tony. You are simply unworthy of rational debate. I would pity you but you wouldn’t understand it. Instead, I will just laugh.

          1. Obama is imaginary?

            It’s so cute watching you peasants mimic the behavior of your intellectual betters. Sort of like a cockatoo.

            1. Obama isn’t imaginary, just your personal relationship with him as your lord and savior. Jesus was actually a guy in the ancient middle east, too.

        3. I would have a lot more respect for you if you had the balls to post something similar in the forums located at this site.

        4. It’s pretty hard to characterize Christianity as a “death cult” when its central figure is most revered for failing to stay dead. Or as a friend put it in his sermon this Easter, “his friends buried him, but they didn’t do a very good job.”

          And there is a vast difference between “worshiping torture” and appreciating someone enduring torture for a good reason. It’s fine to criticize–and the modern church has certainly earned a lot of criticism–but it works better if you give the object of your criticism the respect of actually understanding it before you attack it.

          1. Saying Christians worship torture is like saying the Civil Rights movement worshiped prison because they put so much stock in the Letters from a Birmingham Jail.

            Tony is gifted at completely missing the point of things he deems the other.

        5. You think you’re being smart, but you’re really showing profound ignorance.

          The cross is the oldest symbol known to human beings. It signifies decision (crossroads), life itself (tree of life), and the dual nature of humanness (horizontal for earth, vertical for heaven/divinity/reason). Christianity added the symbolism of the reboot, wherein a person puts off the old self and arises to the new (mercy and justice).

          As a westerner you already benefit from the societal advances that have developed these past two millennia thanks to Christian philosophy. But you pretend to be above it all as if you are smarter. Your ruse is just silliness to those who know a little more history than the life of secularism.

      2. Yeah, as an atheist, let me say: fuck off, evangelical atheists; you guys are every bit as annoying as evangelical Christians, and usually just as bigoted.

        1. I think the evangelicals on each side deserve each other.

        2. But so much smarter.

          1. You only think you’re smart. You’re obnoxious.

            1. You only think you’re smart.

              But his mommy tells him so all the time! She wouldn’t lie to him would she?

              1. She’s got to butter him up because she doesn’t want him to let her die in the street.

                1. she doesn’t want him to let her die in the street.

                  That’s what the governemnt is for. She would only die in the street if us EVUL libertarians ever get real political power. Because that’s what we want: old people dieing in the streets and children starving to death. Because no one would care for the elderly or feed children if it weren’t for the government.

                  In fact, the only reason people are able to wipe their own ass is because central planners tell toilet paper manufacturers how much TP to make. Afterall, nothing ever gets accomplished without central planning (see below).

                2. She does it so he doesn’t line her against the wall with the other objects of his hate.

          2. Anybody who believes in central planning is dumber than a Creationist.

            1. Funny coming from people who love a book about an architect.

              1. Funny coming from people who love a book about an architect.

                Dipshit, I already said I’m an atheist. English, motherfucker, do you speak it?

                1. It was a weak-ass Fountainhead reference, that doesn’t even make sense.

                  1. Oh, I assumed carpenter = architect. Even lamer, considering I haven’t read any of Rand’s novels. Try again with fewer fallacies.

                    1. What do you call the notion that central planning is always bad? Because it seems ridiculous at first glance. How do you accomplish anything?

                    2. What do you call the notion that central planning is always bad? Because it seems ridiculous at first glance. How do you accomplish anything?

                      LOL! See, he just can’t figure out how anything can be accomplished without violence. I told you: dumber than a Creationist.

                    3. What do you call the notion that central planning is always bad? Because it seems ridiculous at first glance. How do you accomplish anything?

                      Only a fucking idiot, such as yourself, would believe the accomplishment of anything requires government.

            2. Come on Jordan, we will get it right, we just need to get the right people in charge.

              And no creationist thinks that means that they should control every aspect of your life. I will take the creationists all day and twice on Sunday.

              1. We need the uber-architect Top Man demi-god central planner who in incorruptible and never sleeps.

            3. Anybody who believes in central planning is dumber than a Creationist.

              By far.

              1. And even if the creationist is as dumb, he is a lot less dangerous than the central planner. When is the last time a creationist said that God creating the earth in seven days meant you had to turn your guns over to the government or get a special permit to open a business?

                1. Even militant Christians are less dangerous. The Progressive Crusades of the 20th century killed a hell of a lot more people than the Christian Crusades.

                  1. It’s also arguable that not everyone who participated in the Crusades was a Christian. But everyone involved in Progressive crusades is a prog.

                2. And even if the creationist is as dumb, he is a lot less dangerous than the central planner.

                  Oh, I’d say there were quite a few people throughout history who’d come down on the side that religion is more dangerous. But your point is taken.

                  1. Religion is more than just “creationism”. Beyond that, people in general are dangerous. They just differ in their justifications for doing so. Currently, the dangerous people in the world tend to use central planning as their justification. In the past, they used religion more often, since central planning had not quite been perfected.

                    1. Religion and central planning are hardly mutually exclusive.

          3. If you’re the baseline… no, not so much.

    3. Why would you think aliens wouldn’t have equally ridiculous beliefs?

  14. I think there are 3 segments here:
    1.) Big money fantasy film with cool special effects.
    2.) Movies that treat religion and people’s cultural mythology respectfully.
    3.) Movies that treat someone else’s religion/cultural heritage disrespectfully

    1+2 = Ka-Ching

  15. I’d say it is less a revival of Christianity than simply a handful of movies that portray the subject matter in a respectable, non-sneering way. The demand was more or less always there, now there’s some supply, too. I think it says more about “Hollywood” than Christians.

  16. Everything old is new again. Hollywood used to make Christian themed movies all the time, like “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” “Moses,” “Ben-Hur,” and ~90% of Charlton Heston’s remaining movies.

    It’s just a fad that will pass in time. Then they’ll be back to “Saw 268” or “Popular Comic Book Movie That the Screenwriters Apparently Used as Toilet Paper #763.”

    1. We need to take these cycling genres and combine them. I suggest the story of Jesus told in a Western setting. No, not Pale Rider.

        1. Is that a western? Doesn’t look like a western.

          1. You know, despite the Pale Rider reference, somehow I was reading “Western” as in the philosophical tradition and thinking you meant, like, modern “Western” country.

            1. I meant movie genres that come and go. Westerns, gladiator movies, that sort of thing.

              1. No I get it now, and I should have got it before.

              2. Westerns, gladiator movies, that sort of thing.

                “Joey, do you like gladiator movies?”

                1. I was going to say “Roman,” but that read funny.

      1. That’s called the Book of Mormon.

        1. Hmmm, you may be on to something.

        2. They could make some pretty sweet movies out of those stories, too.

          1. Jesus is resurrected in Arizona where he fights with/converts Apaches. Yeah, I’d watch.

            1. like Wovoka (Jack Wilson)?

      2. Jesus as a cyborg from the future?

    2. And how many “Great Awakenings” have there been? Religiosity comes and goes too.

  17. I consider myself Christian, but every other “Christian” I know calls me “not very religious” because I loved The Last Temptation of Christ (tho the book is better, naturally). Why would I want to spend my Sundays around people like that? A style show? Nice enough people, more or less, but not my scene. *puts a DVD in computer and kicks back*

    1. I wouldn’t mind hanging out and discussing such things. Churches never seem to be much about that. Mostly they are social clubs and places for petty people to come and make various petty personal grievances political.

      It is funny to listen to some perpetually aggrieved petty tyrant like Tony rage against churches. If only Tony understood that churches, and especially the lay people who run them, are filled with angry petty tyrants just like him. He would fit right in.

      1. Mostly they are social clubs and places for petty people to come and make various petty personal grievances political.

        THIS. Holy shit, you have no idea how perfectly you described the church I grew up in.

      2. A couple years back the wife and I tried out some local churches, just so the kid can grow up with some community and religious moral teachings. Thing is, they’re just like you said. Full of spiteful people who try to exercise power over others through petty rumors and other nasty shit. Then there’s the singing. All that blasted singing. Can’t stand the shit. For kids that’s one thing, but adults? No thanks.

        1. My wife drags me to church a couple of times. The music drives me insane. There is a huge cannon of legitimately great religious music out there. None of it has been, written in the last 100 years. Every church and every church music director is obsessed with being “current”. So they don’t play the actual good stuff. They forever play this modern shit that sounds like Jesus Christ Superstar sung by Up with People. It is just fucking horrible.

          1. A peeve of mine is when they take orchestral numbers, like movie soundtracks, and then sing to them. The words are forever etched into your brain. I cannot hear the Chariots of Fire theme without freaking “Give glory to God church, give glory to God” running through my head. Talk about poisoning the well.

            1. That is worse than the shit I am subjected too. I mean there was like 200 years where all of the best composers spent a good part of their time composing church music to pay the bills. There were some people church music directors might have heard of like Bach and Mozart and Handel. Yet, instead of using that they take something some idiot with a guitar and a tambourine wrote right after he found Jesus in rehab in 70s. UGH!!

          2. Do they play “In the Garden of Eden?”

            1. Only on the Simpsons.

            2. I remember making out to that hymn…

          3. They forever play this modern shit that sounds like Jesus Christ Superstar sung by Up with People. It is just fucking horrible.

            Speaking as someone who ran the $250k worth of pro audio and video production equipment at a 4,000 member mega church on a weekly basis for 6 years, I can confirm that this in fact correct.

            1. Beyond all of the great classical stuff, the Protestant spirituals that came out of the 19th Century are great too. They gave us black gospel and white country music and are one of the bedrocks upon which American popular music is built. You think they will sing those? Hell no.

              And then they wonder why no one but Ned Flanders ever shows up.

              1. Modern Catholic service music is the worst. It’s like religious 60’s folk music.

              2. My favorite part was when the pastor delivered his annual sermon on greed and admonished all of the congregants who purchased new cars instead of used ones for their lack of thrift… speaking to them through a $600 wireless low-profile over-the-ear mic so as not to block his pretty face being beamed to the back row by a pair of $5,000 production studio quality cameras tied into a $5,000 video processing computer connected to a couple of jumbotrons, standing on a stage with $50k worth of lighting and cabling, terminating at a $10,000 Allen & Heath 48 channel mixing board and a $8,000 digital lighting console.

                1. This is what pisses me off about when pastors talking about thrift. Where pray tell does this guy think used cars come from?

                  I realized the day my pastor went on a tear, that the best thing I could do for the world was bias my activities and spending patterns into things which required human input.

                  Don’t buy the machine made suit at the men’s wearhouse, get the suit made in Rochester from a salesmen who helps me pick a bolt of fabric on the discontinue shelf of fabric. I fed a lot of people that day, AND I got a new custom made suit for a pretty good price. Instead of making after church lunch, go to the local restaurant where the guys are proud of their food. Biasing my actions towards the consumptive with a further bias towards a greater labor component. I get satisfaction from knowing that when I buy something, there is the whole web of people that won’t be standing in a food kitchen line that night.

                  1. This is one of those places that hipsters and their insufferableness are right.

          4. My biggest peave when my wife and I would go to “contemporary worship” at my little brothers church was that every song sounded like they wanted Jesus to be their lover. Every. Single. One.

            1. South Park covered that.

              1. And did a fantastic job of it too.

              2. South Park covered that.

                That was more in reference to CCM, which is a whole other beast. Although there is occasional overlap.

            2. Capitalizing the gender pronouns in any given soft rock song from 1975-2000 will get you close enough for government work.

          5. I agree on the contemporary music being mostly awful. Not all churches have it though. Actually, the Easter service at my church this year had live sacred choral music.
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36Y_ztEW1NE
            Some of the most beautiful music ever written, imo.

          6. There are so many good hymns, I don’t get this contemporary shit either. Obviously, I am not religious, but I grew up going to church and didn’t hate everything about it (especially being the bell ringer for several years and getting to hang out in the bell tower). They used to use the good old Pilgram Hymnal which had all the great old English and German and American hymns. Then they added some new bullshit which is just irritating and I haven’t attended church for a long time.

            I’m obviously not who churches want to target, but from my perspective, the good thing about church is the traditions and connection to something old. Up to date, contemporary church just seems tacky.

      3. that’s what drove me away from the church – the pettiness… and frankly, the creepiness of some of the more fervent believers.

        And Carl Sagan.

      4. Churches never seem to be much about that. Mostly they are social clubs and places for petty people to come and make various petty personal grievances political

        Yup. There are some out there fulfilling their original mission, but they’re few and far between — unfortunately.

      5. Mostly they are social clubs and places for petty people to come and make various petty personal grievances political.

        IOW, they’re a social club for “Church Ladies.” Where do you think Dana Carvey got the idea for that character? It was from the women at his church he attended as a kid.

        1. Totally. Every person I know who regularly attends church, found that skit hysterical. It was just too true not to be funny.

        2. Why do Men Hate Going to Church?

          http://churchformen.com/men-an…..to-church/

    2. Careful, WLC. I thought I’d never go to church again until I recently got sucked in by a pastor who actually thinks a lot like I do. If you don’t watch yourself you’ll end up like me and lose your Sunday mornings.

      1. Citizen,

        I keep my eyes and ears open for anything encouraging; I do have some interesting discussions here and there.

        1. My wife started taking the kids just to give them some exposure. She said, “you should really check out this pastor” and I was like, “yeah, yeah, whatever” for about a year. And then my wife helped get this alternative adult bible study started with help from the pastor’s hubby, and then I got sucked in. It has really cut back on my Saturday night drinking, God damn it!

  18. The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur were bloody awful movies with ham acting and wooden staging.

    The Ten Commandments is has fun visual effect (for it’s time). If it happens to be on and there is nothing else to do, I try to tune in for the 10 plagues and the parting of the Red Sea.

    The chariot race in Ben Hur is the only good part. It runs about 1 hour 15 minutes before the end.

    The rest of the Bible Spectaculars from the 1950s and 1960s are bloody awful with no redeeming features.

    1. “We keep you alive to serve this ship. Row well and live.”

    2. They were great movies. And yes, it was ham acting. That is what made them fun. They took themselves seriously. In an age of endless hipster fucking irony, I find that refreshing.

      1. endless hipster fucking irony

        Please end.

    3. The Ten Commandments and Ben Hur were bloody awful movies with ham acting and wooden staging.

      The worst thing you can legitimately say about Ben-Hur is that the plot is a rip-off of The Count of Monte Cristo.

      The Ten Commandments is fucking awesome. Watching Heston and Brynner go toe-to-toe on scenery chewing is what makes it such a great viewing experience.

      1. Ben Hur the book is really good. The author was a civil war general who got unfairly blamed for cowardice at Chicamauga. He dealt with the guilt and stigma of that by spending his life researching and traveling the middle east writing Ben Hur. The book contains a lot of very historically accurate details about 1st Century Judiah and Rome.

        1. I think you mean Shiloh. Wallace wasn’t at Chicamauga.

          1. Yes. My mistake.

    4. No. These films feature an acting style heavily influenced by the stage.

      It would be incredibly provincial to declare that acting style “bad” just because you may personally have a preference for 70’s-style cinema verite acting.

      It’s like arguing that a newspaper column is better writing than Aesop’s fables because the newspaper column is “more realistic”. It begs the question right out of the gate.

      The Ben Hur script is fucking amazing.

      1. That is a great point fluffy. I hadn’t thought about the stage aspect of it.

        1. Frankly, you could almost say that there was a specific genre of filmmaking that applied the melodramatic conventions of stage productions to religious-themed topics:

          Ben Hur
          The Robe
          Quo Vadis

          Hell, even something like A Man for All Seasons (naturally enough, since it was an adaptation).

          It was so strong a convention that it spilled over, and the visual and acting styles from it became prevalent in any film set in Ancient Rome. Do you think Kubrick just couldn’t figure out a way to get good work from Olivier and Douglas, and sent them out there to “overact” and be “hams”? He knew exactly what he was doing, within the convention of the form. Does anyone think that Guinness just forgot how to act when they shot The Fall of the Roman Empire? Of course not.

          1. I will give you another non biblical example; A Lion in Winter. That movie is fantastic example of the kind of acting you are talking about. I know a lot of people who hate it for the same reasons Aresen hates the Ten Commandments. I, in contrast, love that movie.

            And I am thinking that O”Toole and Hepburn and a very young Anthony Hopkins knew how to act. You are right, it was the form.

    5. So has anyone seen the silent versions of Ben-Hur and the Ten Commandment both of those films were far more sermonizing and didactic then their talkie remakes. The silent Ben-Hur had a quite a few (Technicolor!) scenes of Jesus which the remake cut out.

      Also I’m amused that Ayn Rand was an extra in the King of Kings and met Frank O’Connor there. And that the idea for the Fountainhead came from her involvement with a film for Demille company called Skyscraper

      1. I always thought that having Jesus never be visible in the Heston version was incredibly powerful.

        It seemed to argue that the redemptive power of the Golden Rule was so great that even just a tangential brush with it, for just a moment, utterly transformed the protagonist’s life.

        1. Yes. It is the same reason why Star Wars was better before you ever saw and got to know the emperor. One of the more iron clad conventions of good drama is that ultimate power or the root of the problem the protagonist is dealing with is best left off screen and seen only through its effects. If Jesus had been visible, his portrayal could never have lived up to the audiences expectations. Not showing him allowed the audience to imagine it and thus allowed the scene to meet everyone’s expectations.

          Reimagine that scene and put Jesus on screen and give him a talking part. Could it have been anything but mundane and disappointing?

  19. I went looking for a panel in a comic book on Nietzsche I once saw that had a very buff and pissed-off Jesus get down off the cross and whip FWN’s ass for the “God is Dead” statement. Just so you know, GIS of “Illustrated Nietzche” turns up a surprising amount of late 50s-early 60s nude shots.

  20. “How does what might be called “soft spirituality” (e.g., New Age beliefs) fit into this discussion)?”

    My impression is that New Age beliefs don’t have the cache they once did.

    There may be a lot more yoga around, but crystals, past life regression, gurus, channeling, etc., that stuff is more likely to be greeted as a joke now.

    It might be a result of Scientology being mocked so broadly, and other New Age type movements just suffered some collateral damage, but I’ve got a better theory.

    Baby boomers wanted an alternative to Christianity, but religion is an evolutionary adaptation, and they still needed to scratch that religious itch, so they started turning to New Age beliefs. Since then, many of them have found something better than New Age–they found progressive politics.

    Progressive politics has a list of common beliefs, which gives their adherents a sense of community, like religion does, and it also gives their lives as sense of purpose. Progressive politics requires you to advocate making public sacrifices for the greater good, like religion often does, too, and to join their church, all you need to do is accept Barack Obama as your personal savior!

    1. Back in 1990, I lived in Boulder, CO. There was a store on Pearl St. that sold crystals – Every ‘effin day a group of New Agers would gather outside with hands out toward the display window to gather the crystal power.

      Like a jerk that I am, I would push through the crowd, making them move out of the way.

      1. I was one of those annoying guys who would buy a single clove cigarette at Penny Lane and smoke it while playing a game of chess and drinking a cup of coffee. A quick google says they’re no longer in business. Drag. They had good coffee.

        1. heh – I drank coffee there too while smoking clove cigarettes. If I remember correctly, there were pennies placed in the concrete before the front door.

          1. Now it’s a felony to import clove cigarettes, and I believe it’s also against the law to sell single cigarette. Not to mention it being a crime to smoke indoors.
            I wonder if they made it illegal to provide free chess yet.

  21. Anyone else watch The Americans?

    Is it just me, or is Phillip succumbing to the wooing of the pastor?
    What happens when Elizabeth finds out? Will she kill the guy?

    1. I’m a “Vikings” guy. Those motherfuckers are badass. Lots of violence, every week. And it’s a not-so-bad soap opera, of course, that I think is well acted.

      “Americans” looks interesting, so think Ima catch up on it on the On Demand over a weekend or holiday.

      Enjoy!

  22. The U.S. is still a very religious nation, and the most numerous immigrants are solidly Catholic. it will probably take 50-100 years before the majority of Americans are atheists.

    1. I doubt even then. Where are the atheists going to come from? There is no large population of atheists who are going to immigrate. Moreover, people’s religious views are pretty closely correlated to that of their parents and atheists have fewer children than religious people.

      The math will never work out for atheists to be the majority. There will always be atheists but they will never be a majority in a country that accepts large numbers of immigrants and has a high birth rate.

      1. Where are the atheists going to come from?

        Reason and rationality.

          1. Well, if that’s the case, I concede. We must put a stop to atheism.

        1. Yeah, because no reasonable person was ever anything but an atheist.

          Yes, atheism will always offer an easy way to feel smug. It is, however, not the only way to feel smug and the number of people who value feeling smug is limited.

          Don’t worry though, it will always be available to you, at least as long as we have the 1st Amendment.

          1. The number of people who value feeling smug is the most inexhaustible resource in the world, rivaling sunshine.

          2. Where are the atheists going to come from? There is no large population of atheists who are going to immigrate.

            Yes, the only way to get atheists is to import them…

            …and I’m the smug one.

            Yeah, because no reasonable person was ever anything but an atheist. people believe in magic. FIFY

            1. You assume everyone if given a chance to think about it will become atheists. If you don’t understand how smug that is, you make up for your smugness by being completely un selfaware.

              1. You assume everyone if given a chance to think about it will become atheists.

                Thank you for putting words in my mouth, John. Please point to where I said ANY SUCH thing.

                You are, once again, talking out of your ass. Most (2/3) atheists are former believers. They aren’t raised that way.

            2. Speaking as an atheist, this is why atheists usually don’t gain much traction among the religious, because they frequently come off as smug, self-absorbed, self-righteous fuckwits.

      2. I think that what will happen is that we will have practical atheism under the guise of nominal Christianity.

        People will, for a very long time to come, put up Christmas trees and take their kids to Easter Egg hunts (hell, even I do those things) and when questioned about their religion will say, “Well, yeah, sure, I’m a Christian.”

        But it will be an increasingly bloodless Christianity that has less and less impact on the way people live their lives. It will be a formal Christianity without meaning – the way the early Roman Emperors still appointed all the magistrates for the vanished Republic.

        1. That is certainly what has happened in Europe. That is not however what is happening in the rest of the world.

          If the US didn’t have immigration, didn’t have such a long and vibrant culture of evangelicalism, what you describe is exactly what would happen. Indeed, that is what has happened in Europe, where they don’t have a lot of immigration and much of what they get is Islamic and they don’t have much of an evangelical culture.

          The US will be different because there is no sign of its existing evangelical culture getting weaker and it continues to draw immigrants from Latin America and Africa and even now China where Christianity is thriving.

          1. In Europe they’ve kept all of the cultural institutions of Christianity without having a clue how they got there and now attribute them to enlightened, humanistic, rational atheism. They turned the entire continent into a Pauline early-Christian commune and forgot why the statues and spires were there.

            1. Interestingly the few places in Europe that are not like that are former communist countries like Poland. Oddly, fifty years of state mandated atheism seems to have strengthened their commitment to religion.

              1. It did the same thing in Russia, too.

                In fact, people like Putin find the Church remarkably useful, which is precisely why Pussy Riot did their gig there.

        2. Also, you never know what people are going to do. Anyone living in 1900 would have never guess how irreligious Europe would become. People in the US have been predicting the death of religion in America for 40 years now. Yet, it never seems to happen. Religion has been driven from our major institutions and mass culture but still thrives outside of it.

          The last place I would have ever thought that would have large numbers of Christan converts is China. Yet, China is going to be the largest Christian country in the world in a few years. The same is true of Africa. There wouldn’t be a Catholic Church right now if not for the flood of priests coming out of Africa.

          It is easy to think that because culture is one way now it will forever be that way or become more so. Indeed, US mass culture may do that. Who knows. But there is nothing to say that it will. If you know how to guess the actions and passions and various fads and manias that strike human populations, you are hell of a lot more preceptive than anyone else probably in history.

          1. Anyone living in 1900 would have never guess how irreligious Europe would become. People in the US have been predicting the death of religion in America for 40 years now.

            As I have argued before, religious belief in the modern US is such a shadow of its former self that we can’t even really contemplate what it was like. People still self-identify as strongly religious, but without any real inkling of what that means.

            To me, Muslim suicide bombers demonstrate “strong” religious belief.

            When Nietzsche wrote “God is dead”, he didn’t mean that atheism would triumph. He meant that the animating spirit provided by religion – one that in Europe had formerly driven men to creation and destruction, madness and ecstasy, murder and conquest and “strong works”, was gone. He meant that “I am so sure about what God wants me to do that I am going to slaughter all of these Jews and heretics!” had been replaced by “Yeah, we started going to church because, you know, we think it will be good for the kids…” And the latter is simply not classifiable as the same human experience as the former. Even if we keep the same word and call them both “religion”.

            1. As I have argued before, religious belief in the modern US is such a shadow of its former self that we can’t even really contemplate what it was like.

              I don’t agree with that. I am fully aware of what it was like and how it exists today depends on where you are. There are a lot of tremendously devout people in this country. Millions and millions of them. They and the institutions they inhabit have just been banished from main stream culture.

              I think you are confusing mass culture with the population. And frankly mass culture wasn’t as religious in 1900 as you think it was. There has always been an enormous secular tradition in this country and Christianity has always had a strong streak of aversion to such.

              It is easy to think that the millions of people who go to church every Sunday in this country are all just soft believers who go to hang out or whatever. And indeed, a lot of them are. A lot of them, however, are not. Love them or hate them you are kidding yourself if you think that religion is dead in this country. It may be dead on TV and at the movies but it sure as hell isn’t dead in the country itself.

            2. I suspect that when Christians were so animated by religion, it was mostly in times of crisis.

              During the Spanish Inquisition, during the plague, etc.

              Even in American history, the abolitionists were considered wild-eyed radicals and mostly ignored for decades. How well did John Brown go over? Once the war was over, people went back to a much softer Christianity.

              The extreme religion you’re talking about was mostly in times of crisis before. Your average citizen at any point in history was not a devout inquisitor, and that doesn’t mean they weren’t true believers.

        3. Religion is an evolutionary adaptation. No culture survived into the historic record without it.

          The questions to ask are: What advantages did religion confer, and have those advantages gone away?

          Providing people with a sense of community, hope in the face of disaster, and a means to deal with anxiety about death are still advantages.

          Providing a framework for people to pass ethical values on to their progeny isn’t without advantages, as well.

          Christianity has proven to be remarkably adaptable over the last 2,000 years, and I suspect Christianity will go away about the same time as the advantages of that particular religion are no longer effective.

          When that happens, people will replace it with something else. They might even call it “atheism”, but it will still be scratching the same old evolutionary itches.

          1. I think that a lot of the advantages that religion conferred to civilizations was the ability to use it to centralize power. Ancient monarchs pretty much all claimed to be gods or damn close to it. Pretty much all of the major religions today, and of the past, have been the basis of empires.

          2. It always amazes me how so many atheists don’t understand atheism much less religion. Atheism is primarily the province of well off people living in relatively just societies. The reason for this is that religion, by telling people life on this earth doesn’t matter, provides an answer to the one question atheism doesn’t, the pointless and unjust life.

            There is an old saying that there are no atheists in foxholes. That is completely untrue. There are lots of atheists in foxholes. The reason is that atheism provides and answer to the prospect of death; live a good life here. Dying in a foxhole fighting in what you consider a just cause can be a good life.

            While you find atheists in foxholes, you generally don’t find them in prisons. It is one thing to take solace in this life when you are living a long and fruitful or short and meaningful life. It is quite another thing to find meaning in that when you have done something horrible and will live your entire life in a cage or worse you haven’t done anything and will live there anyway or if you are facing a life of grinding poverty and early death. Then finding meaning and solace in just this life gets a bit harder. For people in that position the message of “this life doesn’t matter” will always appeal to more people than “this life is all there is”.

            1. “It always amazes me how so many atheists don’t understand atheism much less religion.”

              It always surprises me how few atheists seem to understand that religion is an evolutionary adaptation like language.

              You can’t talk about how stupid creationists are out of one side of your mouth and then completely ignore evolution when it comes to the subject of religion.

              Social adaptations. They’re part of evolution. Fish swim in schools for a reason. Homo Sapiens developed the adaptations of language and religion–for reasons.

              1. We are effectively saying the same thing with different words. I am saying that people will always look for meaning in their lives. The abyss is not so easily dismissed as western atheists think it is.

                You are just saying “evolution dictates that people will naturally look for meaning in their lives”. Call it human nature or evolutionary adaptation or whatever you want, the results are the same.

  23. I actually think at some point – after The Fall, probably – is when religion will “come back”. Because I think it’s in Man’s Nature? to be “religious” and/or “spiritual”, and hard times tend to make him moreso (no atheists in a foxhole, etc. etc.).

    We’ll see. As for me and my house…we will worship The Jacket…

  24. The biggest thing to allow people to reject religion is the internet. Because of the internet I was able to come into contact with lots of different ideas I had never encountered with my family or peers. I imagine things like The Atheist Experience on youtube do quite a bit by themselves.

  25. Religious fervor in the US tends to be cyclical. The 20s were not a particularly religious time in America compared to the 50s, nor was the time preceding the Second Great Awakening.

    How that will affect politics? Who knows. Estonia, one of the most libertarian countries in the world, is also one of the most irreligious. OTOH, in Western Europe and the US lower levels of religious participation correlate strongly with a greater attachment to the social-democratic state.

    I don’t think the state of blockbusters is really indicative of the level of religious fervor in the country.

    1. OTOH, in Western Europe and the US lower levels of religious participation correlate strongly with a greater attachment to the social-democratic state.

      That cuts both ways–the welfare state erodes social ties, which leads to less social religiosity and less need to form relationships within a church or synagogue, which in turn leads to greater reliance on the state. Nasty feedback loop, even by socdem standards.

      1. I think that the welfare state is more of the cause than the effect of less religiosity. Lots of places in Europe (especially Catholic ones) were still pretty religious when they got their whole social democracy thing going.

  26. Whoa, Gillespie is writing for Time Magazine now? Not a good sign, that’s for sure.

  27. The is such thing as God though:

    Take your cell phone m gpsm and Google and you have God.

    QUESTION’S for God:

    1. where am I? Where am I going?
    2. Who is the 23rd President?
    3. Where can Johns and working girls get a decent Back alley.

  28. Yet there’s no reason to think that such movies will do anything to stanch the broad and ongoing decline in religiosity.

    Religiousness is a human characteristic. It will be around even were all the world’s official religions to die out. Human beings will always find something to be religious about. So the important question is not whether religiosity remains, but whether a given religiousness makes a person or society better or worse.

    1. That is not to say that everybody is religious about something, correct? I don’t believe I have a religious bone in my body, about anything.

      1. Two thoughts:

        1) I believe everyone has at least a small amount of religiosity in them — even if they only use it to curse. The phrase “God damn it” to someone who is fully atheist would be a waste of breath because there is no god to grant the requested cursing of “it.”

        2) If — as Ken says above — religiosity is an evolutionary adaptation, then it can be referred to in pseudo-genetic terms. The gene for religious belief is dominant because over the millenia it has proven beneficial to the species and specimens with the gene have generally prospered better than those without. The recessive counterpart — lack of religious belief — is still out there, it is simply rarer on the world stage than the dominant gene.

  29. There is not a significant revival of Christianity due to Hollywood. It’s corporate exploitation for profit. Religious fanatics, serious worshippers, zealots, and obsessive do-gooders will always spend money to see a religious myth re-enacted in order to feel good about themselves and get their boost of piety; even if it’s false. Take the recent “Noah” movie based on the Old Testament. It is a dark & nasty tale about divine retribution about Jews and all other creatures being nearly wiped from the Earth. Christians flood the theaters to watch and then expound on the “realism” and “accuracy!” Really?

    1. Ahh, bullshit.

      Noah was a flop with Christians. And corporate exploitation? Really? The only reason evangelical Christianity exists is because of corporations exploiting people? Dumb. That’s it, just dumb.

  30. As Lord Kelvin said, if you do not quantity a phenomenon, you do not understand it. Boxofficemojo.com provides the numbers, and there is no absolute number that is significant, because if you spend enough on marketing, you will get sales by default. It is the revenue to expenses that matters, and they vary widely. Noah’s budget was $125M. You can add at least another $100M for marketing. Since the theater take of the revenues averages about half, Noah would therefore have to make $450M to break even. Worldwide, it is at about $300M. After the DVD is released, pay-per-view, and other post-theater activity, it will likely break even. However, the profit will not be high.

    The budget for Heaven is for Real was $12M. Marketing is probably in the range of $40M, so breakeven is about $100M. It will probably get there, but again, it will not be a major money maker, and it is perceived as a supernatural movie, which helps pick up revenue from other-than-Christians.

    God’s Not Dead is a little different. It took in $50M on a $2M budget. Its marketing was probably minimal, so it will make a profit. Nevertheless, $50M amounts to a niche audience.

  31. Duh, church and religion are not the same thing. Americans have simply taken antinomianism to new heights.

  32. In regards to Noah. I really wouldn’t say a movie made by an athiest that barely touches on anything in the bible yet pushes a modern agenda (environmentalism) is a religious movie. More of an attempt to hijack the bible and confuse even more the laymen out there who’ve never read it what’s in it.

    Also, I really wouldn’t catagorize a movie as a block buster for making it past the $100 million mark these days. Inflation has hit the box office big time. Where I live the cost of a matinee and evening show has nearly doubled in the last 5 years. $100 million 5+ years ago, impressive. $100 million today? Not bad, but not a blockbuster.

    As for is the increasing secularity a trend that’s irreversable? Doubtful in the long run, but maybe.

    Religion is still as strong as ever really. It’s just that some have moved from worshiping God, Allah, etc to worshiping the Atom, western psychology, etc.

  33. Nick, you missed the phenomenon of great numbers of Christians dropping out of the churches altogether and instead fellowshipping in the great numbers of “parachurch” ministries, like soup kitchens and works that help the poor, and in home-based meetings and Bible studies.

    90% of Americans still believe in God, too, so it’s not exactly dead yet. Prosperity and faith-based money from government buying off their relevance has hurt it.

    http://trutherator.wordpress.c…..-is-risen/

    But as the penetration of the Biblical message in China and North Korea shows, the message that Jesus is risen and you can live truly free from guilt (instead of living in denial of it) and the rest of Biblical faith is in growth around the world. It is telling that Christians (the persons of Bible faith) are under attack in regimes worldwide both atheist and non-Christian. Oh yeah, and by the new “Christian”-labeled Inquisition here. And oh yeah, the Pure Doctrine judicial system that says faith has no place in education.

    A Gideon’s band is preferable anyway.

    The rest of my reply is at my blog http://www.trutherator.wordpress.com.

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