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Thursday, October 07, 2010

Spiritual envy? Not really

So, whilst reading Will Unwound's 'Sunday Meditations' post, I was very appreciative of most of the comments--nearly all of them, up until someone named Wayne Hanway decided to spit on atheists and agnostics everywhere. I didn't want to bring any arguments to Will's thread, so I decided to hash it out here. Anyway, this is what he said:

"With God, creation is a marvellous place, and not the least of the marvels is the powerful love and goodness that can be found even in the midst of strife and natural disasters.

Without God, creation is a fearsome place, and life in it is lonely, mean-spirited, and ultimately pointless."

Well, Mr. Hanway, I'm sorry you have such a narrow view of things. I am sorry that the human spirit isn't enough for you; that you must seek companionship, love, and security in otherworldly things which may or may not exist. We who are sans "God", you must forgive us for enjoying our time on the planet and indeed, marveling in the whole of the world, artwork and food and music and sex and ugly-cute dogs and travel and napping and and and--and not giving a shit whether some demiurge is wandering about the firmament, whether that Bearded Sky Daddy made this for humans, whether he is watching us masturbate and eat curly fries and talk about Adorno.

Mr. Hanway seems to be the quintessential embodiment of a Regina Spektor lyric that I have always found rather bleak: "He stumbled into faith and thought, God, this is all there is."

I rephrase Mr. Hanway's comments--

"With God, creation is a hideous place, and not the least of that hideousness is the powerful hate and terror that can be found in every country on the planet and which is often excused by statements of "we are doing God's work".

Without God, creation is a truer place, and life in it is full and meaningful, with limitless thought and expression, ultimately free."

I do not believe in a god. I was raised to believe in God, who made the world and its creatures, who created the laws of the universe, who now seems to me to be a damned lunatic and a bullying asshole to boot. In my journey away from the religion of my youth I have discovered many kinder deities and many beautiful religions, but at this time I do not feel an urge to "join" any of them, though I do worship in my own way (which mostly involves not-quite-successful cooking experiments and desperate attempts to keep my houseplants alive). I can't say who Mr. Hanway's god is, since he didn't elaborate; perhaps his is a gentle god, but demiurges are not often of this type. Perhaps his god loves everyone, those pesky gays and blacks and Hispanics included. Perhaps his god is really a goddess. Perhaps his god is himself. But any way you slice it, his remarks are condescending and narrow-minded, and my experience has been that those who look so snottily on atheists do not look any more kindly on people who worship deities other than the Bearded Sky Daddy. My dearest mate is fond of saying that the truest civilization is one without religion--by which he means, I think, not that religions should be forcibly eradicated, but that a continual state of spiritual and mental evolution will eventually lead to a society in which either all forms of religious belief are TOTALLY accepted or a society in which the people have literally outgrown religion.

Either society sounds good to me. Far be it from me to tell people how to worship or whether to worship, and it is always worth noting that some religious paths allow for worship without belief. But I must be afforded the same respect. You may keep your god, Mr. Hanway, and I will keep my enjoyment and appreciation of human endeavors and creations. God didn't write The Return of the Native or compose "Temples of Gold" or paint Guernica. Humans did and I will laud them for it until I pass into oblivion.

Now for the television portion of my commentary! So, everyone knows I love Glee. Mostly I care about the music--like last week's "Brittany/Britney" episode, I was willing and able to set aside the monstrous plot machinations and character weaving to enjoy the bombass musical numbers. Usually my ability to suspend belief and just listen to the tunes is pretty solid. This week, not so much. For the non-Gleeful types out there, "Grilled Cheesus" was the Very Special Religion episode! Just kill me now. Network TV just needs to stop trying to be socially responsible or whatever and make entertaining viewing. Was anyone out there really jonesing for an after-school special about how atheists and religious people can be friends? ANYONE?

So basically, Kurt the gay kid's dad has a heart attack (or something) and slips into a coma and of course Kurt is broken up about it, but instead of sitting with him in the hospital or taking him to a movie or buying him ice cream or letting him cry on their shoulders, most of his fellow glee clubbers try to make him go to church and shame him for not believing in god. Like literally, one of them says, after Kurt states that he doesn't believe in god, "We shouldn't be talking like this. It isn't right" (and please do keep in mind that this character is one who, had it been revealed that SHE is an atheist, I am pretty sure no one in the audience would've said boo. Her character arc WAS heading in interesting directions...).


The upshot of the episode was that atheists and agnostics are bitter and jealous of those who have faith. SURE RYAN MURPHY BRAD FALCHUCK THAT'S IT EXACTLY. Also, apparently everyone who doesn't believe in god go that way after praying really hard and then not getting any answers. SURE RYAN MURPHY BRAD FALCHUCK THAT'S IT EXACTLY. Sweet hofucking Darwin. Here's my weirdo confession--after I ditched my religion, I went around with the idea that everyone around me, unless they indicated otherwise, was at the least agnostic. I thought that the default was NOT believing in anything in particular. Maybe that's so and maybe it isn't, but I have yet to meet someone who's really broken up about their lack of belief. And if such people do exist, all I can say to them is: find a god who doesn't hate you. Find a deity who loves everyone, who stands for what you believe. THEY ARE OUT THERE. Create your own if you have to, if you have such a burning need for belief. I am pretty sure that there is a god out there for everyone who feels the need for one. Just look a little harder. Hint: it's probably not Jehovah.

I guess it could've been worse; Kurt could've had a marvelous inspiring conversion by the ending number, but he didn't. Still, that doesn't make up for his friends treating him like his feelings don't matter. My major bone to pick with stringent, usually Christian religious people is that in times of crisis, what their religion tells them to do supersedes what you and your family want. They're like Prince, they will pray 4 u no matter how much you ask them not to. Kurt says at the end to his father (after three of his friends have snuck into his dad's hospital room...to pray), "Them praying wasn't about me. It was about you." Kurt, I love you and you're the nicest person on the show and the best singer and your rendition of "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" knocked me dead, but you are wrong. It is not about you OR your dad. It is about making the person praying feel better. They say their prayers, they've done their Christian duty, they can feel good and holy and get a gold star next to their names and not have to actually DO anything at all--not donate money for cancer research, not hold your hand and shut up, not drive you to a park so you can meditate, nothing. Kurt's friends aren't on his side in this episode, and for some reason they're lionized for it. Know what else is FUCKED UP? The only member of the club who does seem to be on Kurt's side is Artie...who happens to be in a wheelchair. Yes, Ryan Murphy Brad Falchuck. That's it. The only people who are atheists are gays and cripples and everyone else who got fucked by the Almighty.

Furthermore, what if Kurt had said, "Well, I'm a member of the local Santeria congregation and we're going to do a ritual animal sacrifice for my father's health tonight. Would you guys like to come?" WHAT THEN RYAN MURPHY BRAD FALCHUCK WHAT THEN. You can pretend to be hip with your socially responsible discussion of atheism, Glee, but you're not. Currently, you're no different from any other dramcom on the air. Was this episode supposed to be heartwarming? It wasn't; it was grating and superior and at times literally made my teeth grind. Was this episode supposed to be socially aware? Well, just like that damned Pew questionnaire, it wasn't. As ever, the Big Serious Religion Discussion boils down to "people who worship Jesus" and "people who tried to worship Jesus but he never showed up and they got pissed off and took their toys and went home".

This apatheist is here to tell you that not all atheists are sad that they can't worship god like everyone else. I am willing to bet that most people who don't attend a church DON'T THINK ABOUT IT. It's not like I wake up in the morning and go out on my porch and say, WOW that sunrise is awesome. If only I could appreciate it, but I can't because I DON'T BELIEVE IN GOD. It's more like, WOW that sunrise is awesome. It's going to be a beautiful day.

Late author's note: as DR SHE BLOGGO has informed me, Brad Falchuck, not Ryan Murphy, wrote this episode. You're taking leaves from the wrong book, Brad.


Dr. She-Bloggo said...

Attempting to tackle a religion episode was about as smart as wearing water wings in quicksand. I wholly wish that Glee had not attempted to do it, because as usual, the execution was really shoddy.

Still wish Quinn had turned out to be the atheist. And that she was like, "Yeah, bitches, what now? I'm the smartest bitch in school!"

I think part of the episode's problem was that it framed the discourse on religion with personal tragedy. To me - and I'm not very well-versed in different beliefs so bear with me - a person's relationship with death is a largely a spiritual connection, regardless of religious label. So, choosing to create the centerpiece of the episode with a possibly dying character really colors the issue. Everything just felt very exaggerated, and no one was entirely sympathetic. If a discussion on religion occurred outside that specific set of circumstances, I feel like it could have been done in a much less cloying manner.

Mostly I felt like I wanted to slap everybody except Brittany. Telling Kurt that heart attacks were from loving too much nearly killed me dead.

You raise a lot of good thoughts - mind if I link to it on She-Bloggo? I still have to do a review of the episode, and reading this helped me gather some of my own thoughts on the whole issue.


Dr. She-Bloggo said...

ACK - coming back for more things I forgot to say.

Also think using Finn and Grilled Cheesus, while a reasonable attempt to lighten the mood, really just ruined things. It's hard to not think Finn's spectacularly idiotic when he's praying to a grilled cheese sandwich to touch Rachel's boobs. Ugh.

And, I was actually reminded of a Grey's Anatomy episode from a few years back (before it got terrible, haha) that tackled religion in a much better way, if I remember correctly. So if you get time, check out "Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer," the Season 2 Christmas episode wherein Cristina deals with a little boy who needs a heart transplant and doesn't believe in God. I think. Or maybe it's Santa. Crap, I don't remember.

But I DO remember that they touch on religious differences, and clearly delineated a difference between not believing in God and still being capable of hope. I think. Oh, now I don't know. So if you watch it WHO KNOWS WHAT WILL HAPPEN. ;D

Diana said...

Link away! I await your treatment shall I say, gleefully. Yours are always much better considered than mine.

I think you're right about the involvement of death altering the scenario. Death or the looming possibility of it brings out the most extreme responses in people, as it should; it is a very extreme scenario. However, if the topic of religious belief had come up in some other way, it likely would not have been as grating since, as you point out, dealing with a loved one dying is a very specific and very intense scenario.

Now that I'm thinking about it, it makes me even more irritated. Death or its likelihood are really the only situations in which a person can completely act their feelings out--or should be allowed to. Kurt's way of dealing should have been acceptable to his friends, because everyone deals with that brand of grief in a different way.

I will never, EVER fortive Murphy for making me mad at Mercedes. >:(

Diana said...



The grilled cheesus itself would have been fine, if it had been THAT kind of episode. Classic weirdo Glee. But stuck in the middle of what was trying to be Srs Bzns, it was completely wrong. Also, having Finn in that hospital room because he, Merdedes, and Rachel are "of different faiths"...if only that had been followed up at some point. I mean, he was praying to a damn grilled cheese sandwich, and it's the "let's all hold hands and sing Kumbaya...as long as we're doing it at the Baptist church" episode, and they couldn't think of ANYTHING to do with that??

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