Thursday, May 8, 2014

On Oh God! as a Work of Deism

I am an Atheist who loved the first Oh God! Movie – the second one being mostly shit and the third one being all-right.  This might seem like an odd statement to those unacquainted with the film, but I appreciate it first for its virtue in writing, secondly for the quality of its message, and thirdly specifically – though I realize that this is tied to what the movie is conveying overall – that it is a work of Deism in almost every regard, not Christianity.
Because I’ll be getting deep into Anti-theist material deeply into the second movie, I’ll start this one just by saying the non-ideological things I like about this movie which in-part extends to the series as a whole.  I enjoyed George Burn’s take on God.  Loving, wry, infinitely kind but in a quiet way, he really does convey in a believable way what a beneficent deity who is either unwilling or unable to delve into human affairs would be like.  The movie is surprisingly funny – something you’d never get from an evangelical film – though I’m one of the few people on this planet that enjoys puns and clever use of language.  The film has a charm that’s difficult to detail on paper and should be witnessed directly.
I particularly like how John Denver’s character (who for a time my mother was obsessed with so it’s nice to see him play a charming role) starts out as a non-believer and a thoroughly decent person; and not only this, but remains ultimately the same person though he has spoken with God.  Showing that ethics is ultimately secular and is derived either from moral sentiment or reason; religion need not apply.  Also though he is thoroughly honest with all who he interacts with, he doesn’t begin proselytizing to his children or begin instructing them in Young-Earth Creationism.  He doesn’t want everyone to start worshipping God or “giving their lives” over to him, but to relay the message that he apparently created the world in a fashion that allows us to live in harmony and bounty.
Though there is of course many elements I could bring up that would contradict this, ultimately with the advancement of technology and Man’s understanding of Psychology and other sciences I would agree that the world can be made into a workable place where justice, freedom and opportunity exist for all.  However, God’s ethics, though not immoral in this film, are incredibly basic and he doesn’t for example criticize the Capitalists or religious who ensure the world is “unworkable” for the rest of us.  Though he does criticize greed indirectly when he is slightly amazed at someone charging ten dollars for a steak – weren’t those the days? – and espouses an Environmentalist ethic when he chastises what Man has done to the planet that he currently needs to sustain his existence – and though this is surely the main concern in stewardship of the Earth, treating most life with a certain respect I think is moral divorced from utilitarian concerns.
Also there is a subtle but wise air of Existentialism and Man defining himself through his own actions throughout the film.  God says that our lives mean as much as we give purpose to them essentially, and this is exactly what Existentialism – a for the most-part “Atheist philosophy” – has as one of its core elements.  God doesn’t say that we exist to worship him, or that we’re innately sinful and need to be saved; just that we aren’t treating each other or the planet well and should re-examine our lives: something that every philosopher on the planet has said for the most part.  He hasn’t “come-back” to fulfill prophecies or anything to do with scripture; just to remind us that we have a certain degree of control over our lives and the planet and we can choose to cherish and maintain this beautiful and fascinating world we are destroying through ignorance and pursuit of profits.
God lacks the ability of clairvoyance which of course undoes Revelation and Man’s ultimate destiny while on this planet.  I found it profoundly intelligent to have God unable to tell the future, and a sign of maturity to make the God of the film a limited God, rather than the all-wise, all-powerful, longest slonged being that you hear Christians salivating about as they imagine sucking his member in the clouds.  Crass I know, but at-times simplicity has to be met with the same lack of sophistication as long as it’s honest.  Though of course since our Universe seems – asides from quantum indeterminacy – to operate according to Physical Law that if God was truly all-knowing and not only in the sense of knowing all present or past facts but the knowledge of how the system of existence operates which one would assume considering this creator, well, created it.
Though the God performs miracles, he doesn’t rely on them for anything other than convincing people (mostly John Denver) that he is more-than just a man.  In his mind what Christians and Muslims believe to be holy and evidence for their religions are nothing more than cheap-parlor tricks necessary with the public perception of God being what it is.  He even explicitly claims to dislike miracles because it upsets the natural balance; which is something a Deistic God would say if it communicated with a human being.  This God is the anti-thesis of the God morons who scream “Let Jesus take the wheel!” believe in and instead believes that we need to run the Earth on our own – assumingly using science and logic, not faith or doctrine – and Christian Conservatives praying for rain should join-up with the Aztecs or whoever the Indians were doing rain dances for.  And speaking how this isn’t a move complimentary of Conservative values, God wondering why he ever thought we needed shame of the human body is certainly one that prudish Catholics and Evangelicals would call “Progressive indoctrination of the young” or some other nonsense.  Hey, Fox News called The Lorax a “Communist” movie – as if that was a bad thing – almost as if they didn’t know that Dr. Seuss was a huge Environmentalist; which surprises me because I thought most would just start be getting to the reading level of Dr. Seuss in middle-age.
His explicit disregard of religion is the best portion of the movie ideologically.  He even despises it in-regards to Televangelists such as Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson seen in the character who is a clear representation of “mega churches” who prey on the desperate and suffering even more-than modern religions do conventionally; though if you look at the history of religion – when they had more influence and power to turn people into desperate fools – you see that religion typically has preyed on the sick and desperate to survive.
I found it interesting that God mentioned to John Denver that people don’t dream in-color, because of course many people now do and growing up I was confused whenever I heard any reference to dreaming in black-and-white.  Though I haven’t opened any books or read anything in my dreams – that I can recall, besides some very basic sentences – so I don’t know what to say of that other indication that one is dreaming.  Overall I am skeptical of Rene Descartes and other philosophers such as Hume who just assumes we can tell the difference between dreaming and sleeping.  Some people easily can, just as some people who remember much of many of their dreams while most forget most of all of them.  This of course has to do with certain portions of the brain; it’s claimed that those who can remember their dreams are also those who are highly imaginative.  Dreams are a spectrum derived from differing brain function that we shouldn’t try to universalize.  Nor should we use it in philosophy to justify a distinction between fabrications and reality.  For at-times the brain is completely unable to distinguish between hallucination and reality and this is why science requires both our senses and our cognitive faculties – and for numerous other reasons as-well – to comprehend what something really is and how it functions as it does.
The only major flaw apart from not being more elaborative of ethics in the movie is his supposed lack of evidence actually being further evidence of his existence.  What I’m alluding to specifically is his voice not appearing on the voice recorder or even his words appearing on a piece of paper.  If he really wanted us to leave room for doubt he would have his physical reactions to things to be precisely as if he was a mortal man which he very-well could be while in the form of one.  Though in this sense discrediting any room for “faith” is exactly the stance that a Deist or Pantheist would take.  I’d like to once again commend the quality of this film, because I’ll now be moving on to the second film which is its polar opposite.  I warn you that this portion will be far-more segmented, because I jotted down notes while watching it and feel like most points don’t require much set-up once the original point has been made.
The second movie is essentially a cult-movie and not in the sense that Fight Club or Star Trek is.  God even makes his brainwashing explicit when he says, “once you have the children, you got ‘em all.”  Nice to know that religion is explicit in having the same frame-of-mind as cigarette companies.  In the first movie he had a message of love and purpose to send; this one is just proselytization and keeping the sheep in line.
Allowing Tracy to fall behind in schoolwork because according to Christians and other religious nuts having faith is more important than knowledge or creativity is decent representation of what real “Christian values” are.  John Denver had to sacrifice of course, but all things worth doing require some sacrifice and he was spreading a message of kindness and creating an ideal society – i.e. Socialism.  When this little shit has become nothing more than God’s ad man; well, ad girl.
There’s a scene where the sole sane child at-this school speaks out against being indoctrinated into a cult and god forces him to say what a grand idea smearing simplistic ambiguous messages is.  Putting words or in a child’s mouth or even worse alien thoughts in their head?  What happened to “free will” you tyrannical ass?  It gets worse with God apparently being a supporter of Theocracy for Kindergartners, when we see the children crossing out all the other messages.  Analogous of Christians being against freedom of speech and censoring all thought that does not conform to their ant-intellectualism, dogma and faith.  Expressing the true evil of religion and belief in a personal God.
The film is also an advertisement for the Anti-intellectual and insidious nature of advertizing and Capitalism.  Showing how insidious it is with “Enjoy Coca-Cola” and other insipid messages polluting the eyes with Capitalist diarrhea.  And that though it may seem up-beat and harmless, advertisement and coercive authoritarian regimes go hand-in-hand.
Astonishing how this movie seems to promote graffiti as long as it’s for a message that Christians support.  Christians wouldn’t like it if Muslims, Jews or Atheists spread stupid little pamphlets; yet the stupidest and most fundamentalist are always shoving their bullshit down your throat.  Think God?  Christians cannot comprehend how creepy and unwell they sound (and many are) when they talk to me about their imaginary friend.
I know most Christians don’t give a damn about the Separation of Church and State or rather many of them despise Secular Liberalism but what happened to private property Capitalists?  These little religious lunatics are smearing their little screed in people’s businesses and on Government property as well.  How about I graffiti the words “Fuck God” everywhere?  Or read “Marx, Nietzsche, Mill you Christian losers?”  Or even just “Think.”  Forget the God part; just think for once in your life.  Thankfully we’re getting to the point where people aren’t thinking about God in their day-to-day lives.
God tells the kid that she’s in good company and lists some names.  Socrates, MLK, Gandhi and Lincoln weren’t known for being lunatics; they were known for being controversial and were controversial because they were a match that began a fire of change and thought in some fashion or another.  This little tart however and her “think God” bullshit provides no intellectual content and is just insane and intellectual inept.  Also having Think God in the mouths of Lincoln shows how the GOP believes that the founding American Presidents were all “men of God” when in fact the majority of them were vehemently anti-religious Deists.  Hell, if being a controversial figure is the entire criterion for being in this “special club” than you’re right up there with Adolf Hitler and Pol Pot aren’t ya kid?  Adolf Hitler was known for spewing Christian rhetoric as-well; why don’t you idolize him and leave us free-thinkers alone?
Quick note:  “I make a beautiful fruit”?  Err, wrong.  People created the bananas we now have.  You think God would know more about botany than Ray Johnson – that is the cat’s name right?  Either that or Ray Comfort.  Putting Johnson and Comfort together makes a pun, but I’ll let you make it.  Hahaha – good one.
Mathematics being a mistake? Well that one I can agree with.  But in all seriousness that sounds like a Christian response.  Oh no, don’t learn about math or science, just say Think God or pray to solve your problems.  And then God does her homework for her.  Oh thanks asshole, have her do your job for you being your ignorant little proselytizing half-wit while you do her work for her so she doesn’t learn and you can continue using her as one of your serfs.  Faith in action.
The kid begins to be more vocal about her imaginary friend and people rightly think she’s nuts – oh fuck, another food being slandered by Man and his evil slang; us and our damn rock music.  Which reminded me of when a crazy person does something a Christian disagrees with in the name of their “special friend” it’s always that they’re sniffing paint fumes and telling everyone they live in a yellow submarine; but the people they like, the people in the Bible, oh, of course they really talk to Sky Gods and angels – unless it’s a different faith like Hinduism then it’s malarkey.
And then of course the evil man who wants to take down all the Think God posters and graffiti comes into the plot – as my champion.  Sorry Christians, but you don’t get to smear your drivel in a public school.  What if Buddhists stepped outside of their character and began proselytizing?  Smearing walls with paint that read “accept Buddha as Savior?”  Or hell, what about Satanists?  They’re a religion, many of them are just tongue in cheek atheists who are more devoted to satire than myself; but they still have the rights, or rather the appropriate lack of rights to proselytize in the public sphere, as Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus etc.
The parents seem to be taking this rather lightly however, saying that the children are only writing nice things.  Proselytizing to me isn’t “nice.”  It’s creepy and vaguely threatening.  And the girl then responds to the superintendent telling her to take down the posters by saying “I’ll have to ask him.”  Sorry missy.  This is a public school.  The word of God doesn’t mean thing-one here.  It’s less than worthless.  It’s abhorrent.  Here we respect knowledge and intellect; not worship Jewish father-figures.
One of the children outraged at her suspension exclaims, “What if they throw us all out!”  Yes, but you see there’s a fundamental difference here.  In reality she’d be crazy, while all of you are merely stupid.  One of the main purposes of education – regardless of what Conservatives think in education namely its function being only preparing children for the workplace.  I.e. destroying their souls – is to take stupid people and try to make them not-so stupid; and in the process not so gullible, superstitious and ignorant.
Oh my God, did this film just try to compare what this little buffoon is doing to Socrates?  Something you should know you little fuck-head:  Socrates was put to death by the Athenians for having the youth of Athens be skeptical of the Gods, not reinforcing belief in religion.  Socrates was encouraging intelligence and independent thought; while you on the other hand are just another religious rat proselytizing others to your closed-minded cult.  Say you’re working for an imaginary man in the sky all you want, but when you compare yourself to Socrates, Marx, Camus or other men of greatness you can simply fuck off and die.
The plot of her being condemned as crazy continues.  Now I myself am not exactly sure whether Tracy, or rather any child who claims to hear voices, should be immediately put in an institution.  But what I do know is that many Christians will detach themselves from reality – not a hard feat for people who believe in talking snakes – and say, “oh, they’re just locking her up because no one believes in God anymore, and she was just working for Jee-zahs!”  Someone hearing voices is a significant problem.  It doesn’t matter if it’s Charlie Chaplin, Groucho Marx, all the Marx Brothers, Abe Lincoln (the real Abe Lincoln, not the Christian caricature) or Fidel Castro.  Voices are voices.  And Conservatives blaming school shootings not on guns (because guns are never the problem) but on crazy people would be at the height of hypocrisy not wanting to lock up this child when she hears voices and sees things.  Sorry folks, but if this were an actual event in history and you believed that this girl actually spoke to your God, you’d need serious help too.
Thankfully this movie has a few brain cells to rub together and reverts back to Deism rather than Christianity or Judaism in its explanation of pain and suffering.  It’s not the Fall of Man (blaming problems of creation on humans; being one of the most lowly and disgusting things I can conceive of) or “free will” bull shit; it’s merely the reality of life, or rather biology.  Or as the film describes it:  It’s built into the system.  You can’t live without it and when we do do-without-it it’s because of Man understanding our natural order which religions have always been against – God in one sense has absolutely nothing to do with it and in another sense is a gigantic hindrance on human progress intellectually, utilitarian-wise and materially.  Also there is wisdom in accepting great sadness as necessary for great happiness (but shouldn’t be seen as a defense of the horrors of religion or life in general) and of course this is one of the fundamental aspects of Nietzscheanism.  Philosophy of the man who said God is dead.
When God picks Tracy up from the train (or maybe bus?) station he is driving in a motorcycle but is invisible to the coppers.  Why would God not allow himself to be seen?  In the first film it was only that he couldn’t be recorded – which made some sense I suppose.  Overall of course it’s just to create some meaningless suspense or perhaps a cheap laugh of the policemen’s reactions.
At the final hearing of Tracy’s case I quite like that God came into the room not saying, “I’m God so let this girl go,” more-or-less rehashing the courtroom scene in the original but pretends to be a psychologist.  However, his falling back on radical skepticism shows one of the major faults in Christian belief today.  The Christian says to the Atheist:  You can’t really know whether disturbance in the natural order take place.  But all examples have been proven to be invalid; or rather there isn’t enough evidence to display such phenomena as occurring.  Also I think it’s telling that Christians in such cases will fall-back on a type of Skepticism, or pseudo-skepticism, when they claim to “know” relatively speaking that their God exists.  They tell Atheists to not be so sure of themselves, when you never hear the moderate or Liberal Christians tell Right-wing morons to be more skeptical and accept a certain degree of doubt.  Sorry God, but unless you gave this little girl some evidence to use as-to whether or not you spoke to her, we do have a valid explanation for why she would say so:  She’s fucking nuts.  Either that or she’s lying for attention or some other motive.  David Hume would understand this incredibly well.  What’s more-likely.  The natural order be suspended?  Or some stupid fanatic lie to validate their own religious claims that they need-to prop up their own frail psyche’?
And why is it that there are still people in insane asylums who never get out?  Well… we can’t cure them.  Understanding something as an illness, how the illness functions, how the illness is conceived or spreads and curing the illness are four radically different things – though the second and third are closely connected in many cases.  I would suspect God to know this but evidently not.  Also science provides no absolute certainties; it doesn’t claim to be an absolute like the religious fanatics claim to have with their holy scribbles.  Scientists look at the evidence, make deductions and intellectual abstractions to the best of their ability and are inevitability “corrected,” or rather a better more functional and accurate model is presented by someone else either because he has more information or a better take on the same data.  I find it hilarious that he’s chastising the scientists for being so sure of themselves, when God essentially brainwashed a town of children to be certain of him.  Once again with the double-standard.  Also he could have made an intelligent point along Kantian lines between what is real and what our mind constructs.  But to play parlor tricks with making a chandelier disappear is just the kind of “faith-confirming” act of bullshit you find in mind-rotting Christian films.  I almost expected the little twit to shout “Checkmate Atheists!”  Also the ending with George Burns seemingly walking in place and being cheaply transparent until he disappears indicates this is a movie focusing on cheap gimmicks and Christian enforcement rather than creating an intelligent, well-meaning movie which the first one was in almost all-regards.  Next film.
The third film lacks the greatness and wisdom of the first film but also the disturbing worshipful nature of the second.  It’s a fairly solid film that doesn’t have as nearly as-much ideology or message tethered to its plot.  For the most-part it’s your basic sold-my-soul-to-the-devil plot.  However the film could be seen as promoting Cynical and Existentialist values.
Once Bobby sells his soul (shouldn’t it be called “trading your soul” since they rarely just get wads of cash?) he essentially becomes an entirely different person, or rather is living another person’s life while someone else is living his.  This clearly is critiquing the Hedonist notion of happiness and fulfillment as well-as living anyone else’s life as a means for happiness.  Rather than following his own ideals and inner-self he sells his “soul” theoretically what made him who he was to be successful only by society’s standards – he himself has achieved nothing.
This film however it seems almost reasonable to see one’s soul to the Devil, if one didn’t care about personal achievement and instead only about fame and pleasure.  No mention of Hell is present to my recollection, and we’re never made clear what happens after the seven years of fortune and pussy is up.  For Billy Holiday – if he is the original Billy Holiday – it’s simply that he believes that he is another person; effectively destroying “himself” psychologically or consciously and inserting in him the memories, personality and tastes of Bobby.  This is a rather ingenious way to have the main character struggle through his decision of adopting someone else’s life but have his wife and all other loved one’s be ignorant of his absence by having someone else completely assume his life save physical appearance which the Devil easily could make a mute factor by altering everyone’s memories and in no way impending upon their free will.  I like this idea of the Devil; one that doesn’t simply want us to suffer physically forever, but wants us to suffer by sacrificing what makes us who we are by offering us what we think we want or told by society we should value.  You don’t often get messages of Cynicism in movies, at-least not this blatantly, and this is the main noteworthy aspect of the film.
The film however posits a biological or genetic perception of identity when he realizes that his wife is pregnant with his child.  His in the sense that she became pregnant when she had sex with him and is carrying his genetic make-up; although he is masquerading as someone else he still retains his identity and genetic makeup, while Billy only retains the later half.  But, we still identify him as Billy, not Bobby, which would have us believe that we recognize who a person is is their material makeup, not who they believe they are.  Yet there are stories of people having their brains in jars and then replacing their identities into differing respective bodies yet we identify the individual by who they “were” or rather by their consciousness.  It seems like the structure of the plot signifies how we view the individual and the essence of who he is.  In this story Billy is totally insignificant except as a replacement for Bobby.  When if he remembered who he was but was playing along with his new life we would be far-more inclined to define who a person is by their personality and memories as a functional way of distinguishing the two.  Since it is impossible to remove someone’s brain and place it in another person’s skull, I find the biological and scientific perception of identity to be functional and also not in contradiction with Existentialism; since a significant and defining aspect of who a person is and what their sense of purpose in life is is derived from their genetic make-up and basic human nature.
Very-little of the film however is worth mentioning specifically until the end.  When Bobby tries to kill himself – when he realizes that God is trying to help him which you think would prevent him from doing such a rash action – God and the Devil are playing poker for his soul.  God wins on a bluff – another move I like considering he used his wit rather than merely having the best hand because he’s God or to suit the plot – and Bobby “becomes” who he was again while Billy Holiday does as well – effectively being murdered by Bobby’s attempt at suicide.  Does he deserve to be killed for Bobby’s actions?  And why does God care so much – we of course are told but the answer isn’t sufficient – about Bobby when Billy could have been just as moral a person who made a mistake? This shows the unfair nature of religion, and God’s standards being more rigorous for different people.  So will Billy go to Hell or simply become the person he was before?  I realize the second is highly unlikely, but when did there could very-well be a long chain – or multiple chains – of people who “are” different people because of the Devil’s handiwork whether they are aware of their true selves or not.
As a quick note, I like that God says that the story of Noah’s Ark is bullshit in the third film, something that not even the first film was willing to claim, and hinted was a legitimate event on the joke of John Denver’s car being just like the Ark only without the stench of the animals.
The film does also raise an interesting question about whether an individual would have ownership over one’s soul if such a thing existed.  We of course own ourselves in a free society – which this largely is not – however we would be unable to sell ourselves into slavery.  Slavery is a contradiction of freedom and exist only in harsh, unjust societies where people are largely abused and destitute and are abused by one class or group; such would be perhaps even more true in a society where people would be so desperate they’d willingly sell themselves into slavery – firstly, if you sold yourself what would you spend the money on?  All your basic needs are provided for you, and if they weren’t then you would be receiving a wage and therefore could only be identified as a wage slave which is a basic aspect of Capitalist Society and therefore one does not “sell one’s self” into it, rather one lives it day-to-day and the arrangement is never stated formally or directly as selling one’s self into slavery – for something that very-likely should and would be granted by the prosperity and opportunity present in a free and progressive society. 

So just as the very definition of being free is the inability to be a slave even if one chooses, at-least economically - existentially might be a different matter though ultimately I would argue that only one who suffers psychologically or has been contoured to suffer by one’s society would “sell one’s self” existentially to follow the logic of the economic or political case – so the reasoning continues that if we had souls God should not allow us to sell them considering it would promote the conditions that allow the suffering that both sustain the desire to and the punishment of selling one’s soul.  Instead of sacrificing for penance a free society creates standards of value and opportunities where all can prosper freely, which is of course the only way any organism can prosper.  Slavery is by its very-nature the highest form of poverty whether materially or of the soul and whether one realizes one is a slave or not.  The Matrix as analogous of Capitalism is a perfect representation of how we could very-well be slaves and ignorant of the fact.  In-fact people largely create the chains of their own existence seen in the creation and surrender to religion or any force that allows one the illusion of prosperity without individuality or achievement – seen in the second film as analogous to ignorance and proselytization; and in the third as analogous to Hedonism and petty narcissism.  Only in the first film does the main character originally retain morality by being his own person and acting virtuously; and in doing so preaches the ideal society of virtue, tranquility and wisdom: and God is not required for this in the least.

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