The Vancouver International Film Festival is rolling along now until October 13th. I am watching a small batch of features this year, perhaps a third of my usual movie binge from years past. There just don't seem to be a lot of films that are grabbing me this year and I have compulsively flipped through the program guide for the past 10 days looking for those hidden gems.
I am watching mostly documentaries since there seems to be no shortage of interesting topics, ranging from insomniacs and life-long hermaprodites, to the obligatory investigations into the current affairs in the Middle East and America's role in foreign affairs, war in Iraq, yadda yadda yadda.The Root of All Evil?
screened last night and stars famed evolutionary scientist, Richard Dawkins. The root of all evil, according to Dawkins, is organized religion... or religion period.
It is a relic of primitive times, bereft of rational ideas, based on the transmission of faith-based truths and outmoded traditions. Dawkins argues that religion discourages curiosity and critical thinking and in the process reinforces base prejudices and irrational discrimation. In short, religion is bad for humanity and it is taking us backwards not forwards.
My review: well, duh.
First of all, the documentary is excellent and I will just come right out and say I am biased. Ever since I survived my (failed) indoctrination into Christianity by my elder cousins, I've always been flummoxed at the power and prevalence of religion in people's lives. Religion: what is it good for? In the past, I've had fairly intelligent, articulate religious devotees attempt to browbeat me with non-arguments on the validity of religion, and their religion specifically. Well, it usually amounts to something like, "Oh, if you only studied Religion X, then you'd know there is so much more to it than you think". And I'm sure there is. But what about Religion Y and Religion Z? They are quite different from Religion X and they all contradict each other in various ways. Which one is the truth?
I bought my ticket for The Root...
feeling so glad an academic like Dawkins had the ballsacks to take the boots to religions of all stripes. The film's agenda is clear as day: religion is hurting the world and it is stronger than ever in the 21st century. Not surprisingly, Dawkins takes aim at the fundamentalists and that's where we get some of the heated, awkward and quite frankly terrifying interviews between Dawkins and various religious leaders.
Let it be said that Dawkins is an esteemed scientist and
British, so he is predictably arrogant and condescending through out the movie, from his narration to his clinical probing of his interview subjects. Dawkins takes a few lumps of his own during these theological/rational debates but not a one of these rabbis, pastors, evangelists or cleric can mount a convincing argument in the face of logical reasoning. Dawkins even takes aim at moderate believers, like those progressive priests that support gay marriage, for cherry picking the Bible and being fence sitters on essential issues between faith and reason.
Again, I really enjoyed this movie. It was almost pointless for me to even be at the theater, as it was another case of the movie preaching to the converted. Far better for someone who is actually experiencing confusion in their own faith or someone who is considering taking on a religion, to view this movie. I feel that the message is very important. Yet through it all, I also felt quite compassionate and sad for religion and its followers. The documentary conveniently ignores all the good
that comes from organized religion. The many forms of charity and community support offered by religion are not often things you see coming out of laboratories, universities or corporate think tanks. And for the people featured in the movie, religion IS THEIR LIFE. Their entire lives have been constructed around their faith and many of them hold authority positions, which means they also depend on it to feed and clothe themselves. Who is this crusty, arrogant Brit to trivialize their life's work, their passion?
And that's the sad part. Religion is reason proof
, which means you cannot convince someone out of it. You can do as Dawkins did and argue until you're blue in the face, but people will hold onto their beliefs. The belief in science, la dee da, is a form of religion if you really look at how knowledge has been udpated over the centuries. But at least science refreshes and updates and changes with the times. Religion? Just a teeny bit more resistant to changes, I'd say. Just a bit...