Category: Atheism

Review of Mother!

Spoilers ahead

Darren Aronofsky and Christopher Nolan Continue to prove that they are the premier filmmakers of the 21st century. Dunkirk was most certainly Nolan’s most beautiful pure cinematic work to date. But Mother! is either Aronofsky’s greatest cinematic achievement or his first film failure. If it is a failure then it’s a very good failure. An interesting failure can do more for cinema than a moderate success. And if it is an artistic success it might be one of the greatest films ever made and certainly of the early 21st century.

Right now it’s been several days since I witnessed it and the feeling is still very fresh. I say witnessed because you don’t feel like you’re watching a film. You feel as if you are present at transpiring events. And not in a good way. In a traumatic way. It will be a much more enjoyable film when viewed at home. The images will be more decipherable and the constant shaky cam less disorienting. Of course that means the impact is reduced. But I don’t know if I want to be impacted by this film in that way again. It’s constant use of biblical and religious symbolism is rich and complex. And those who find the film compelling will spend countless hours discussing each and every piece of that symbolism for years to come. Currently the film is underperforming at the box office but it will develop a devoted cult following. Much like Blade Runner.

At this point I’m leaning towards the film being a masterpiece. That might just be the pretentious part of me that wants to be smarter than film critics, who currently are very split on this. But the film’s virtues are hard to deny. It is a completely uncompromising unrelenting artistic vision. Not once does it seem as if Aronofksy does not know exactly what he wanted in each and every shot. His collaboration with the great DP Matthew Libatique continues to produce visual magic. Even by limiting themselves to 16mm the film still looks better than the vast majority of theatrical releases. But shooting on film regardless of the mm lends credibility and beauty that digital lacks.

Mother! is unlike any film I have ever seen. It blends Hitchcock’s perverse voyeuristic dread with Lynch’s surrealism, Gilliam’s mania and Malick’s existentialism effortlessly. It is primarily a horror or dark fantasy film, which are the genres Aronofsky inhabits the most. This work has come from a deep part of his dark soul. A part that has been built upon a remarkably profound fear of religion and especially fanaticism.

Because ultimately this is a film about God’s indifference to his creation. God and humanity are essentially the monsters in this horror epic. Javier Bardem plays the character Him. A successful creative writer and a very self indulgent irresponsible person socially. He is emotionally distant from his wife, Jennifer Lawrence’s character named simply Mother, allowing strangers to live in their home. I did not realize that any of the characters even had names until the credits rolled. And all the names are simply descriptive nouns. Ed Harris is Man, Michelle Pfeiffer is Woman, other characters are named simply by what they do in a scene such as the Adulterer who attempts to “seduce” Mother into taking a walk with him. And truthfully none of these characters are actually characters. They are symbolic place holders. Exactly like the people in Jesus’ parables. One of the characters is even titled Good Samaritan.

Each beat of the “plot” comes from the Bible. It starts with a burned out house in a crispy wasteland. Him goes into his destroyed study and places a crystal into a holder on the shelf. This causes everything to be healed and restored. A new creation but not creatio ex nihilo. Mother is literally generated fully formed in her bed by this crystals’ power. But it’s unclear that Him is in fact supposed to be the god of the Bible until Man and Woman sneak into his office and break the crystal. After this he boards up the study saying this will keep them out for good. This is clearly the garden of Eden. When Mother says they should simply kick the trespassers out Him replies that they have no where else to go. Then the two sons of Man and Woman arrive and a fight ensues. Anyone who has ever attended Sunday school knows where this is headed. The Oldest Son kills the Younger Brother. So the older brother is clearly Cain. But they are arguing over their Father’s inheritance so the parable of the prodigal son is brought in as well.

And this is how the film is either genius or a complete disaster. Every single symbol actually represents multiple things. Mother is Gaia, Israel, and Mary the theotokos. Him is God, a prophet, Joseph, an existential poet, and maleness in general. This sort of nonsense does not work in propositional artforms like novels. But visual arts can simulate reality in more “objective” ways. In reality everything is multiple things. Every woman can potentially be a daughter, mother, sister, and wife. And most women are all four. But a character in a novel can really only be one thing at a time, whatever the author is currently calling that character to. A film is supposed to present a character rather than explaining that character. The viewer’s subjective experience of the character is limited to the viewer’s mind (a form of internal authorship or interpretation) but objectively the character is being presented as all the things that character truly is. This can work extremely well in climatic moments of normal films. When Oskar Schindler cries over the Jews he didn’t save or Captain Quint recounts the sinking of the USS Indianapolis the viewer has access to every piece of what has been revealed so far concerning that character’s humanity and experiences.

So if Mother! succeeds it is because the symbolism is powerful and evocative. If it is a failure the weight of the symbols was too much for the film’s legs to bear. After having seen the film only once I think it succeeds. Mostly due to Lawrence’s performance and Aronofsky’s writing of her performance. Each beat and reaction from Lawrence fits perfectly to the audience’s expectations.

Similar to the filming of his other most artistically divisive film, The Fountain, the director is in a relationship with the female lead. Whatever positive or negative effect that has is in no way obvious but both films portray neglected spouses married to geniuses. Whether Aronofsky sees this consciously doesn’t matter all that much but he clearly relates to this theme. Hopefully his romantic partners do not. Ultimately all his films are about obsession that leads to isolation. And after tackling washed up athletes, drug addicts, scientists, and ballerinas Aronofsky finally turns his focus on divine love. The love of God for his creation winds up being his most terrifying story so far.

A cynical Christian could chok this up to his version of secular Judaism. But I think this film represents a very honest fear. To quote the great philosopher Michael Palin God is “so absolutely huge” ( that it’s easy to think he would probably be indifferent to us. And this has tended to be what people thought about divine beings. Judaism and Christianity are the exception to this. But man knows he is tiny. And if you are unsure about who or what God is it is easy to think that he must be scary. That he must be indifferent and selfish. That he creates for his own sake and not ours. And if Mother! means anything it is that life “is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” I cannot think of anything more horrifying than that.


The Greatest American Films Part 3: #9 Oskar the Grouch

(I did not realize that I still had 2 blogs active on the old Blogger format, this is a post from about 7 years ago that I found on there, I’m going to rip a few of those old posts and place them here then deactivate my old blog, I can’t say I still stand by this post in particular but maybe I will finally finish my series analyzing each of these films)

For my second entry in my list of the Ten Greatest American Films I have chosen Schindler’s List.

I knew that no one would be enthusiastic about my inclusion of Nolan’s Batman movies in my top ten list. They haven’t exactly had a lot of time to show their greatness. I believe that within the next few decades these two movies (and possibly a third or fourth depending on whether or not Nolan and Bale can make the magic work again) will be considered some of the finest films ever made. Their significance in the genre of superhero/comic book films cannot be overestimated. But the fact is these films really aren’t comic book movies at all.

I remember reading all the reviews on Rotten Tomatoes hoping that The Dark Knight would at least score above Spider-Man 2 (which it sort of did, the overall review is 95% and the top critics review is 93% for The Dark Knight, but for Spider-Man 2 it was the opposite). While I think the second outing for Peter Parker was a wonderful film and a fine comic book adaptation it has its feet firmly planted in the mind of Stan Lee. It is a moving comic book. But both of Nolan’s films have been first and foremost viewed as true movies. The first movie will probably never be as highly regarded as I think it should be. Begins was one of the most intimate portrayals of a man I have ever seen. It displayed great tragedy and great heroism all within a human being whose life spanned the globe. It also works on many levels, an excellent action/adventure, an original crime/thriller, an unrequited love story. The first film gave us an inspirational line that quite honestly trumps the advice Uncle Ben gave to Peter before he died: It’s not who I am underneath but what I do that defines me. This isn’t a truth that can only be applied to superheroes. This is for all of us.

While reading the reviews for The Dark Knight I began to realize something, while there are many things you could possibly criticize either of these films for none of the criticisms that were being used were valid. They were simply put preferential disturbances. One negative reviewer of the film said the film was too serious. I believe he actually said something like “for crying out loud this is Batman, not Hamlet.” While another reviewer said in praise of the film “there’s some Hamlet in this Batman.” Most people would think that attributing similarities to what maybe the greatest play in the English language a good thing. Some reviewers commented that the film was too dark; it’s tone oppressive and depressing. But to accurately portray evil one must be confronted with its true face. Batman and Commissioner Gordon shine all the brighter as the film’s heroes because of the great darkness they are forced to fight against. Another critique that was common of the first movie and was carried over by some to the second film was that the martial arts were hard to see. Sometimes this sort of critique is valid, but not when it adds to the intention and mood of the film as it has with Nolan’s Batman. Batman’s fighting style is brutal, economic and far from beautiful. These films were misunderstood by the few people who gave it negative reviews.

For what these two Batman movies do to us as viewers is what all truly great movies should do in some sense. To wake us from our slumber. Great art always reflects the good, the true, and the beautiful. Great films are supposed to honestly tell us who we are and why we are here. The accidental aspects of Christology that appear in the film aside we are presented with real problems in a real world, solved not by superheroes but real people willing to make sacrifices. Many people believe that we shouldn’t base our beliefs on films. Roger Ebert once said that it was wrong to let a movie change your mind about something like a moral or political stance, because films are entirely emotional experiences. This statement is problematic for several reasons. The first is that all truly great films should be responsible enough to portray that which is true and right to the best of their ability so that if the film does persuade someone of something it should be a benefit to their worldview not detrimental. Another problem with this statement is that Ebert really displays his ignorance of philosophy, especially epistemology. Many of our beliefs are based upon faculties which are inherently non rational. My belief that I am typing on a computer right now is based on my experiential relation to the external world. I’m not saying we should believe everything we see and read but simply that if a film makes you feel something differently and believe something differently than you did before that can very well be a good thing. Stories change people’s lives everyday. They keep us going, they keep us happy. Film is important to our culture. We should take film seriously.

Schindler’s List maybe the most deadly serious film ever made. In a nutshell it is the story of a loser who manages to save 1,200 Jews from the holocaust in spite of the fact that he was a war profiteer.

Any film that deals with the holocaust is a serious film but this film tries to portray the true nature of Nazi racism and in many ways the true outcome of hate. In the midst of this comes a man who is completely unremarkable in every way. He is unfaithful to his wife, he is a terrible business man, he doesn’t have very much money, he is a shameless self promoter. He has no other desire for the war effort than to make money off of it. But we see in his pitiful little heart a great love blossom. If there was nothing else to say about this movie that would be enough. It is a story of change, unlike any I have ever seen.

But in terms of pure cinema this film is a masterpiece. For this film tells its story with colors and images. That’s right. Color is one of the most important elements of this black and white film. To see what I mean simply look at the poster. The image of Oskar’s hand grabbing the little girl’s hand clothed in red is one of the most remarkable I have ever seen, and in this image the entirety of the film is encapsulated. For it is the scene where the little girl appears that is the turning point of the entire film. Oskar is enjoying himself. Enjoying his war profiteering, benefiting from the pain of others. He is seducing young jewish girls who work for him. He is slime. But on the day that the Krakow Ghetto is evacuated by the Nazi’s and the Jews are forced to move into the concentration camp he sees amidst all the violence an innocent little girl wearing red. She has no one to help her. Oskar sees this. Nobody else sees this but Oskar. And he knows. He knows this black and white world he’s been living in, this dreary existence has something good in it, something innocent. At that moment he is confronted with the truth, the bare naked reality of the world he has been living in and feeding off. And for the rest of the film he starts to care for these people. He starts to defend them, to treat them with dignity. He loves them and eventually goes to any and all lengths to save 1,200 Jews from the Nazi regime. And in what is probably the most touching part of the entire film he breaks down crying that he didn’t do enough. He weeps over the one or two more Jews he could have saved. And then at the end we see the truth of the inscription on Oskar’s ring as all the survivor’s of the List and their children come forth to place stones on Oskar’s grave.

There are other color moments in the picture that clearly indicate to us what the film means. The film is bookended by two all color segments. The Jews before the holocaust preparing for the Sabbath and the Schindler Jews after the holocaust venerating Oskar’s grave. Then there is the colored flames of the candles at the end of the film indicating the beginning of the Sabbath and the renewal of hope. The black and white actually represents the holocaust and the color represents better times. Spielberg wanted to shoot the film in black and white because he wanted it to look like the actual footage that is available of that terrible time. He wanted to portray the actual holocaust as it truly was. A dreary dark time.

This film is about a man who was not a good man. He was selfish and unkind. But when the opportunity presented itself he proved that within him there was a dignity, a goodness, an ability to help those that cannot help themselves. He proved that man can be good and sometimes it takes the worst circumstances to see him at his best. And now I will leave you with the words engraved on Oskar’s ring:

“It’s Hebrew, it’s from the Talmud. It says, “Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire.”

Dick Carrier is Fake News

Dick Carrier is a materialist dogmatist who produces Ad Hoc research.

I am sort of making an Ad Hominem argument here…but that’s only a fallacy if a) character is irrelevant to the question at hand and b) it is alone.

Here is a fallacious ad hominem 

1) Trump is a mysoginist

2) Trump wants to build a wall between the US & Mexico

C: Building a wall between the US and Mexico is evil

Or even this

1) Trump is a racist

2) repeat of previous premise 2

C: repeat of previous conclusion 

The second argument is more relevant but still ultimately fallacious.

My argument against Dick Carrier is this 

P1: DC is a dogmatic materialist 

P2: DC is a Darwinist 

P3: P1 & P2 are incompatible with Christianity 

C: therefore DC’s anti Christian scholarship is ad hoc

This doesn’t make his work false it just makes it ignorable, and it’s one of the main reasons his stuff gets panned by Christians. I don’t expect people who believe the sorts of things that Dick Carrier believes to take Christian apologists seriously because he’s an atheist apologist. I don’t take Dick Dawkins seriously because like the first Dick I mentioned this second Dick is a stunning example of confirmation bias.

I would take this pair of Dicks seriously if I cared about anything they actually are experts in…but fortunately for me they are incompetent on all the stuff I care about.

For evidence of DC’s ad hoc views listen to “Unbelievable? Dec. 16, 2016. Was Hitler Anti-Christian?”

He’s like a young earth creationist trying to prove that Darwin recounted Darwinism on his death bed. It’s quite sad. I think the best way to argue with Dicks like these is just to let them make their arguments…they have to make the conclusions they make because of their beliefs in P1 & P2.

I suppose the same could be said of Christians…but if these Dicks (not Christian dicks, the first Dicks I was talking about) are right…who cares? If these Dicks are right then killing Downs Syndrome infants is moral…if these Dicks are right…then nothing matters…so who cares? Their views are ad hoc for the sake of apathy! Well…it’s hard to take these Dicks too seriously…because let’s face it…they’re dicks. And if Jesus was who he said he was then actually quite a bit matters…really everything matters. That doesn’t make anything true or false, it just makes one serious and the other meaningless.

If you listen to that podcast you’ll find that DC’s whole point in trying to prove Hitler was a Christian (which he utterly fails to do, he barely even attempts to) is that he’s anti Trump. That’s pretty much it. He knows that if he says Hitler = Christian enough some idiots will believe him and then he connects American Christianity (that is nothing like the “Postive Christian” sect DC claims Hitler held to) to Trump and the idiots go “Ahhh! A clue Sherlock!” And somehow that convoluted piece of junk reasoning makes the case against both Trump & Christianity and promotes his real agenda of spreading P1 & P2. This is beyond stupid. This is pure ad hoc emotion.

If you disagree with Trump then argue against Trump. But do it with legal reasons or moral ones. Don’t do it with emotion.

If anything the fact that Evangelicals voted for Trump shows that he’s deeply dissimilar to Hitler because Evangelicals are anti Islam, very Zionist, and anti infanticide. Evangelicals voted for Trump because of all the reasons they think Hitler was evil, in other words they voted for Trump for the same reasons they wouldn’t have voted for Hitler.

In any case Dicks like Carrier are evil. They need to be stood up. Not with fists but with words.

Did Jesus exist?

Yes he did. If you deny this then you must also deny the existence of Alexander the Great, King Leonidas, any of the Caesars…pretty much everything before video. Which makes denying the existence of Jesus not just factually incorrect but also plain stupid. Yeah that’s right: stupid. Richard Carrier, Robert Price, etc are all stupid. Not unintelligent, they clearly have good brains but they have chosen to warp their minds to a point far beyond polite disagreement. There is no civil space for this question, it doesn’t need to be tolerated. It’s proponents need to be tolerated and treated civilly just like holocaust deniers, but also just like holocaust deniers we do not need to be polite to this idea. It needs to be addressed for the sake of the poor people who are duped by it but the idea itself is remarkably idiotic. 


Proof of no God?

So the poorly educated and angry person I used to argue with has really hit a low. I’m starting to think this person may be mentally disabled or ill. I’m being serious about that. If that’s not an accurate assessment then they at least are choosing to be ignorant, because it’s not possible to believe things thus stupid through normal cognitive processes. Either this person has something wrong with them or they are choosing to recurve themselves.

Latest claim:

“Atheism is settled science – there is no god, there are no gods, there is nothing on that matter to discuss, give all that nonsense a rest, and get down to the real urgent matters of cognitive distress – and the litany is intact, stronger than ever, all defined by the depraved working of our supersystem.”

Science has nothing to say to whether or not there is or is not a god or gods. Any scientist who would make a claim this strong is simply an intellectual joke. This is a deeply idiosyncratic claim, only someone who is  mentally disabled or who chooses to. E evil can claim such a ridiculous thing. How would science disprove God? But measuring him? “Oh we looked and we couldn’t find him so we know he doesn’t exist. In fact we know nothing we don’t know about doesn’t exist.” That sounds stupid because it is. You could be agnostic based on “science” but not atheistic. Atheism is always based in philosophy (or emotion) but never science (in its modern definition).

But this poor soul goes on to betray their atheism by referring to distress. Distress is an emotion, a thing that it is like to be like. In other words they claim something immaterial and ethical right after claiming that God doesn’t exist. If mental states exist (like distress) and if it is wrong for people to be in such a painful mental state then materialism at least is false. Maybe God doesn’t exist but he can’t be logically excluded if you believe in oughts and minds. But this poor soul acts on their emotions only. They don’t reflect, they don’t understand how foolish they are. They could choose to be better but they are deeply arrogant and remarkably unvirtuous. They simply don’t care about truth. They care about how they feel and that’s it. No thought is given to reason or logic. They attend to their emotional need to express whatever feelings they are feeling as indicative of truth. It’s sad and evil. More importantly it’s the exact opposite of the cult of science that they worship at. It is anti fact. It is anti everything except their emotions.

Here’s more:

“Climate catastrophe lies just beyond polite conversation, but it is up on the Top Ten list of that litany, and currently going gangbusters in the reduction of sea ice in both the Arctic and the Antarctic. WordPress should be able to provide a safe haven for the mass of fairly knowledgeable humans to pen climate catastrophe freakouts, but this one harbinged doom is not the only destroyer of the reality of a better and inhabitable social world. The supersystem is infected by common invasions of corruption and irrational violence that constitute the working operations of anti-human social institutions. Economic inequality has many historical and on-going causes, but it too imperils the very hopes of poor and non-privileged people that there is any rational way for them to escape the crushing burdens of udner-employment and debt peonage. The global wars of empire are in a technowar phase of staggering reach and ill effect, killing the poor peoples of the oil- and energy-resource desert oases of thhe condemned Middle East. The prisons and shanty-towns and refugee confinements of the greater world are not minor irritations to the glory of a rich global regime of corporate capitalism, but are its dominant mode of living.”

The truth or falsity of any of these claims is irrelevant because this person has no basis for believing in right and wrong. That claim to be a nihilist. They claim to be a materialist. That means they believe there is no right or wrong. So income inequality (despite the fact that we have less income inequality worldwide than we ever have before) isn’t right or wrong for the nihilist…it just is. That’s irrational. It’s insane to claim there are no morals and then be morally outraged. That’s stupid. It makes no sense at all. Really only Christians should be concerned with climate change. Because only Christians have a clear vision that this planet matters. In fact it matters eternally. Because like ourselves when Jesus returns to rule the world he will resurrect this planet from its shameful state and turn it into our eternal home. And you might think that would mean we can treat it as shitty as we want because God will save it anyway but Paul makes the opposite claim in 1 Corinthians saying that the deeds done in the body are not in vain because of the resurrection! So this foolish person speaks out of both sides of their mouth and in the end only condemns themself. Their moral outrage is the purest form of bull shit.

And here:

“With these and other interconnected sources of social horror part of our rational and emotional bases of knowledge and thought, what goes into the practice of living? Simple denial that there is going to be anything wrong in our own sun-selected lives? Self-maintaining words of endemic happiness and supreme adaptability? The words that others say or type or depict are not necessarily reflective of their interior mental monologues. They could proclaim indifference, or some faithiest and bizarre trust in a “loving” and care-taking deity, all the birds-on-a-wire warbling and pontificating overlaid upon the internal reality of a brain in daily psychic freakout over the evident mounting crises outside the door and computer screen.”

This doesn’t really make sense at all. They seem to be displaying the freak out they are describing. But any reference to psychic, rational, or emotional anything denies their materialistic viewpoint. What they describe is a mental state not a physical one and therefore their world view is false. They destroy themself.

And finally:

“No, “things are not going to be all right.” Neither are these end times, or imminent doom. Humans are built to be heroes, supremely crafty and untrustworthy survival artists, stepping through the muck and mire to keep another dawn coming. This pop-tech western interregnum was fairly strange and mostly antithetical to that basic nature of humanity, but we are encountering a much more threatened social world than any parent or professor or Nobel Laureate or literary pantheonista could ever have forecast. That was not within their powers, but it will be within ours, as we get set for four of the most stupid years any empire has yet endured on its way down to decreptitude.”

Yeah things will be alright. They literally become a liberal prophet of Armageddon in this final paragraph. Maybe this person isn’t mentally ill maybe they just haven’t turned 21 yet. Maybe they don’t realize that 8 years of Obama isn’t the way things have always been. Maybe they are just a product of this time and it’s worship of fake moral outrage and the veneer of scientific credibility. Whatever the case their internal state is weak at best and they need to grow up. We don’t all need to agree on everything but I think everyone should be able to agree that dreck like this is far too common. Somewhere along the line this person should have become educated but instead they wereindoctrinated. It’s just sad.