I watched The God Who Wasn’t There last night.
I’ve never been a religious man. I was born without the “God Gene” – so much so that I dismiss most religous dogma and orthodoxy without wasting any time on it, no more than I do thinking about unicorns or leprachauns. It’s just completely off my radar, and I’m not sure why I decided to add it to my Netflix list. Maybe it’s the recent crescendo of the Creation Science and Intelligent Design factions trying to elbow their way into public schools that brought it to my attention.
Whatever the reason, I’m glad I watched it.
It was short, only one hour and two minutes. It starts out with a very entertaining “History Of Christianity In Six Minutes Or Less” and goes from there. Interviewing both academic skeptics and devout believers throughout, the documentary questions the very existence of Jesus as a historical figure, much less as the Son of God. And Brian Fleming, the writer and director, raises some darned good points, some I knew and many I didn’t. For example, it observes how closely the story of Jesus resembles the story of many other folk or mythical heroes. It notes that Paul never knew Jesus, and never even refers to Jesus as an actual person who lived on earth, but only as a purely heavenly entity, and how Christian leaders conveniently gloss over those first few decades of the first century in the religion’s history.
Mr. Fleming spends time discussing the Inquisition as Christianity in it purest form, not as a “perversion” of it. It’s not just an arbitrary assertion he makes, it’s a logical argument that I’d like to see some believers discuss.
The documentary loosely compares the Inquisition to modern-day Christian leaders, and shows some video clips of them saying some pretty alarming things, one of which is that homosexuals should be executed just like murderers, complete with biblical support.
(Which makes me wonder: Why is there a single Christian homosexual? Why would you adhere to a religion that literally calls for your death?)
The documentary wraps up with Mr. Fleming scoring an interview with the superintendent of the Christian school he attended as a child, and we learn that the documentary was a personal journey as much as it was an intellectual inquiry.
I should note that, while of course the documentary is supporting a particular viewpoint, it definitely did not resort of incendiary or sensational tactics, unless you consider facts to be incendiary or sensational. I’m now going to have to search the net for some Christian responses to the documentary.
Five stars. Highly recommended. Be sure to check out the DVD extras.