11/06/2016 | Share this article: View CommentsBy Carl S ~
The 1962 movie, "Gigot," (pronounced: zhih-GO) features the Catholic comedian Jackie Gleason as the title character. It's about a middle aged deaf-mute and the young girl he befriends in Paris. The young lady is the daughter of a well-known prostitute, and Gigot is the laughingstock of the city; so both of them are outcasts. Gigot spends time showing the girl the sights of the city. I still remember one emotionally powerful scene, even this many years after seeing the movie: In the center of an empty gothic cathedral at mid-day, the two of them look up and see the life sized crucifix hanging above the far-off altar. The girl asks, "Who is that man on a cross?" Gigot stares, and throws out his arms, searching for a way to explain what "that man" means to him. He cannot speak. In frustration, he pounds his fists on his mouth.
|Gigot (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
I mentioned this scene to my Christian wife, hoping to explain my frustration in trying to get through to believers. Unless you see it for yourself, though, it's only another person's experience. But it explains a lot, both from the believers' and unbelievers' positions. When faced with evidence which questions their beliefs, believers will double down and dig in defensively, as if their personalities are being assaulted. If the believer is a churchgoer, questioning faith will make that person more committed, emotionally, socially, and financially, to the church. The church community is, after all, a fragile fortress against doubts and truths. And that figure on the cross, touted as a representation of love, also represents repressed fear of questions.
We who've been raised to respect Christian beliefs as normal, have experienced those emotions. But we have gone on from there, confronting our doubts, and found them friendly and honest. We have battled against the irrational and demeaning beliefs. We have come to reject them as we've paid attention to the contradictions, dishonesty and hypocrisy Christianity has in its roots. We've come to realize that beliefs are not only unnecessary for virtue: often they destroy virtue. True, there is frequently a price to pay with believers: they will reject and/or make fun of us as being non-understanding or even immoral. At the heart of this is the reaction against those who will go where they are afraid to tread. (We should consider ourselves fortunate in one respect: religions, when in power, have always treated the pioneers, the bearers of reality, as messengers who are to be killed.)
To return to the movie, what could explain the reaction of Gigot? Why - he was surrounded by a man-made ambiance, a cathedral, deliberately made to overwhelm the senses, to focus on a solitary figure hanging in the sun's rays. Haven't all temples been created, for all the gods, in order to produce the same emotions? Isn't the idol of this god-man Jesus just as fictional as other worshipped gods, and as fictional as the character, Gigot? Can't you see believers in other gods just as frustrated as Gigot, in explaining their god’s natures and desires? Didn't they also live in powerful emotional commitment? By our own experiences with believers today, can't we imagine the ancients’ frustration, their rejecting evidence for the non-existence of their gods? They who cannot explain what they claim to understand, do not themselves understand what they are saying.
That man, beating his fists against his mouth has, unaware, swallowed a god of another's choosing, hook, line, and sinker. He has accepted another's daydream/religious fantasy in place of his own. Humans daydream, therefore we are. This is how we interpret the world, and how we continually change the world around us. We dream of, and daydream, solutions to problems. We dream of worlds to achieve, daydream of relationships with persons who are non-existent, even of relationships with actual humans who would not give us the time of day. We just do. No other animal does this, otherwise we would have proof, in bridges, ships, electricity ,etc., not to mention idols, temples, and religious wars. This is why we humans make progress and mistakes; humans lying awake at night or in the midst of a lazy day, or reacting to tragedy, allowing idealizations and fantasies to flow in, invited or not. Daydreams lead to ideas, to conceptions much like natural conceptions born in mini-ecstasies, often followed by miscarriages, spontaneous abortions. With enough perseverance and patience, there are new births, which have to be further developed and nurtured to maturity. We create, therefore we are. Our daydreams become our natural children. And our personal daydreams can be infectious, adopted by others and expanded on. Let the other person be free to daydream of a personal god or gods, or loving savior; that is his or her own right. All is well as long as one person's daydream doesn't become another person's nightmare.
We daydream, but we can and do realize our daydreams through the tools we have: Nature, as observed, recorded, and played back through amplification, magnification and slow motion, stop-motion and rapid photography, as seen with our extended senses of telescopes, space probes, micro and sub-atomic sensors. We can and do re-create our daydreams in audio and video, without confusing them with reality. Religions do not. Nature, unlike humans, does not lie to us, but people do.
In spite of this magnitude of evidence, there are still many humans who will reject it, preferring their other-implanted daydream fantasy world. Trying to get through this impenetrable barrier is most frustrating. I have no answer for changing this attitude except to recommend you show them by example and just living that you don't need their god or obsessive beliefs in order to be happy and content, contrary to what they have been told. Perhaps some day, they will daydream what their own lives can be without irrational fear. It's human. It's a start.