Posts Tagged religion

God, Faith, and Belief

Monday, November 15, 2010
Are you spiritual, religious, agnostic, or atheist? Do you think there is one path to God, or many?

I would say that I am not religious.  However, I am unwilling to state with certainly that no God exists.  I don’t have faith – that is, I don’t believe without evidence in the existence of a God, Judeo-Christian or otherwise.  But by the same token, I can’t say I have enough (in terms of quantity or quality) evidence to dismiss the idea of divine being.  This position is often hard for my friends to come to terms with, so I thought I’d explore it a bit more in this post.  I think I am best described as an agnostic, and I don’t feel any particularly spiritual devotion except to the idea of human agency (which is itself non-falsifiable).

I believe quite strongly that anything that is imaginable is possible.  Possible doesn’t mean probable, but it does mean not easily dismissed.  So, despite a perfectly reasonable explanation for the universe without divinity, I can’t say for certain that divinity doesn’t exist.  Critics of religion will often draw out Occam’s Razor, the principle that among many hypotheses, the one that requires the fewest assumptions is best, but I don’t trust that line of logic.  I do act in my practical life in accordance with Occam’s Razor –  less assumptions mean less things *have* to be true, and therefore generally those scenarios are more likely.  But that’s a question of predictive power, and I’m not considering divinity or religion to need predictive force to be able to something meaningful.

Since this question is about belief, I believe strongly that the Truth, such as it is, about the structure of reality is certainly not well-known to us simple humans, so the possibility still exists that something non-falsifiable (the existence of God, for example) is True.  I think the most important question about religion, spirituality, and faith is why a person believes the way they do, and I certainly can never have that conversation with a person if I start out by denying their belief.

Anyway, a lot of run-around to say simply, I believe in not discounting what is possible!

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Review: Small Gods

Now, I am no particular Terry Pratchett fan.  (Wow, he is famous enough that I got a spelling auto-correct for his last name!)  I had only read Night Watch previously, because it was on a bookshelf and I was in need of a book.  That one was alright, nothing special, and I didn’t really understand why so many people – especially my roommate Sam – thought Pratchett’s Discworld books were so amazing.  But Sam, rational thinker and arguer that he is, convinced me to read Small Gods, holding it up as a better (maybe the best) example of Pratchett’s work in a single book.

I love it.  Small Gods is wonderfully irreverent, while at the same time saying so much more about faith, religion and spirituality than many other texts designed for that purpose ever do.  The characters are compelling, the integration of the story with the details of the world is excellent (and Pratchett’s world is quite impressive, and so it is even more impressive that it doesn’t overshadow the story), and it’s got quite a few laugh-out-loud funny moments.  Before Small Gods, I was dubious at the prospect of “humorous fantasy,” which is the genre I have always thought of Pratchett belonging to, but now I am a believer.

I’m not sure that Small Gods made me want to read the rest of the Discworld books, so well-contained was its story, but it does leave the seed of interest in my mind where before they was disapproval.  So that must also be seen as a success.  I would definitely recommend Small Gods to anyone who is interested in fantasy and likes stories that make them think.

Overall: A
Balance of Philosophy and Fantasy: A+
Death’s Review: IT WAS PRETTY ALRIGHT, WOULD RECOMMEND

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Review: Preacher

I recently reread the graphic novel series Preacher, and I still think it’s pretty incredible. Preacher is the story of a preacher (durr), Jesse, who has lost his faith… right around the time a being of unimaginable power, Genesis, inhabits him.  Genesis grants him the power of the Word of God – when he wants to, he speaks and anyone who hears him must obey.  The story of the series is how Jesse hunts down God to confront him about a number of things, but mostly to demand answers about why God lets the world be so shitty.  The story is very compelling, and the characters have a lot to identify with.  The first part of the second compilation is just dynamite – it’s like a 33 Minutes from Battlestar Galactica, or a Faraday Cage from Anathem.

It has flaws: a lot of the pacing doesn’t work for me, because there are long sections of people talking in a diner, for example, rather than resolving those issues (the ones in the conversations had) through the action or arc of the plot.  That’s not to say that some resolution works that way — and when it does, it is spectacular.  Preacher has some scenes, and some panels, that are among the most visually engaging, viscerally gripping, and disturbing/terrifying/beautiful things I have ever read.

Preacher asks for a bit of faith – unironically – and suspension of disbelief, and the progression through the plot is a little shaky, but the series as a whole is unforgettable and has a lot of good stuff in it.  It captured a large chunk of my friends our Junior year of college, and is nothing if not epic in its scale and scope.  I’d recommend it if (a) you don’t take religion too seriously, (b) you appreciate a high-minded story that has its fair share of low-brow humor, and (c) you aren’t squeamish.

Overall: B+
Jesse’s Word of God Recommendation: Two thumbs up.
Balance of “Big Issues” with hilarity: Good

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Review: Legion

I thought Legion was a bad movie.  Bill’s theory is that the director made one of those “I bet I can make something so bad…” bets with his yes-men.  I think the movie was bad because there were a couple simple things that could have been done to make it so much better and they weren’t.

I’ll attempt to avoid spoilers, even though I would not recommend seeing it.  In short, the plot is derivative (of Terminator, as Ryan astutely pointed out), the characters were wooden, and the promise of ass-kicking angels did not bear out (in fact, this movie is more like a zombie apocalypse movie than a biblical apocalypse movie).

The pacing was way too slow for an action movie, and not really right for a horror movie either.  I wanted there to be more character development and conflict for the angel-protagonist played by Paul Bellamy.  It was great that he’s instantly recognizable from his name, but there was no payoff in terms of rich character depth – he was full mostly of one-liners and gunshots.

Two of my favorite “religious” literature pieces – the graphic novel series Preacher and the book God: A Biography – treat the God of the Bible as a character in his own right.  This movie hinted at God-as-a-human-emotionally, but it would have been waaay better if God had actually had any screen time.  Having his angels talk about him was sort of a letdown.

Finally, there were a lot of plot points that were just plowed through with implication but without explanation, and would have been way more interesting had there been any discussion of them amongst the in-universe characters.  Foremost of which was, why was the baby so important?  Nobody says, and they have the frickin’ Right Hand of God there to tell them the Truth, but nobody demands an answer!

The ending was of course pure deus ex machina, but I don’t think I’m allowed to complain about that, given the material. 😛

Final Grade: D+

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