Sunday, April 27, 2014

Contradiction... and resolution

Last weekend was the American Atheists's 2014 national convention.  And it happened to be in Salt Lake City... where I happen to be living these days, so... even though I didn't really feel like I could afford the tickets (I suppose I could have tried harder, but I failed to find a sufficiently low-priced option (see point #4) to actually attend), I went and hung out a bit: the "hallway track"take on things, plus a few things that were explicitly open to non-attendees (for which I'm thankful!): the exhibitors' displays, the book sale room (not that the books were free), and, importantly to this post, a screening (actually, several) of a new film from a guy named Jeremiah Camara, called Contradiction (also on facebook).  Here's a trailer for it:

So.  Let me just say that I'm really glad I had a chance to see this film, and that I would encourage any and all who have the chance to see it.  Let me talk a bit about why:

  1. Perhaps most generally, it's a film that's taking a critical look at the effects of religion on society.  I've come to an increasingly strong belief that organized religion in many (perhaps even all?  certainly, to me, all Abrahamic) forms is deeply harmful to... "us", whether we think of "us" as our society at large, or individual humans, or... all species of life on this planet, even.  That's a strong statement I'm making, and I don't think I have the energy to quite back it up here with my own words, so I hope you'll forgive me for a bit of hand-waving and just direct you to a two part blog post (not to mention the subsequent talk and book [Powell's; Amazon]) from Greta Christina (who I was lucky enough to chat with a bit; she's awesome, by the way), which gets into some of it, and then things like Daniel Quinn's Ishmael [Powell's; Amazon], which does a whole lot of deconstructing of things, that's been a significant influence on my thinking.  Which goes beyond that, but anyway, the point is that this film is taking a critical look at the effects of religion, and I think that's a wonderful thing.
  2. Further, it's particularly looking at the effects of religion on the (let's see, what's the PC word these days? well, I think the word our director used was) black community within the United States. My understanding is that this is a community which often goes under-represented within atheist circles (though there are signs of change - a good thing, 'cause it's apparently a pain to be a black atheist). It's also, of course, a community which has faced all sorts of other difficulties.  And the impression that I get from the film is that there's definitely some correlation between these points. And that... well...
  3. There's an exploration in the film of the idea that Christianity, in particular, is something that may well be common within the black community because slave-owners forced it on them, with a twisted message of getting freedom in the afterlife thanks to a relationship with some so-called god, by being submissive to your master in this life.  I think it's fucking atrocious that this happened, and just about as bad (though with less individual culpability) that the attitudes instilled in this way are lingering on, continuing the enslavement (of mind, if not body) of black Christians today.  But then:
  4. While this movie is nominally about the black community, and its religiosity, I think it has powerful things to say about the harm of religion in general.  And yet:
  5. It's been made in a way that's loving and respectful to believers, showing how easily they could be lured in to such beliefs - and yet also showing the dark side of those who may be profiting (or even profiteering) from their, err, propheting, shall we say?  Their ministry, anyway (in the sense of the action of ministering to someone).
So yeah.  I think this is an important film, and that people need to see it.  So if you have a chance to see it, do.  If you have connections in the film biz and can help it get distribution, please have conversations. Or maybe go check out Jeremiah's other project, The Slave Sermons, and watch, like, and subscribe.  And/or donate.  Something.  Just do what you can to help get this film seen.  Because really, it needs to be seen.  Help resolve the contradiction, by making people more aware of its existence.

Thanks for reading.