We just rented the movie “Paul“, the comedy of an alien who finds his way home with the help of a couple British geek tourists. I enjoyed it, but then I give generous stars to most movies I see. But when I watch a movie, I also often see the ideology of the filmmaker come through — their assumptions and prejudices, even pet peeves.
I know it’s a difficult comparison to bring up the movie “Contact“, but one of the themes of Paul really touched on the same eternal question of a purely material and scientifically understood existence versus one in which concepts such as fate and deity have room to exist. In “Contact”, four central characters could be plotted on a graph of quandrants: the religious fanatic; the sensible believer; the close-minded skeptic; the open-minded scientist. In “Paul”, a woman is ‘cured’ of her ‘faith’ by knowledge and science (and ironically, by a science-fiction character). The notions of “Intelligent Design” were disproven by the script, but through it the very notion of a god was dismissed wholesale. I wont detail it for fear of a spoiler, but see it and you’ll know what I mean.
Admittedly it was not a huge moral imperative of the movie, but by no means a small plot point either. The woman in question becomes one of the rescuers, hunted down by her father, shotgun in one hand and bible in the other. The characterizations of her (before her ‘conversion’) and her father were stereotypical evangelicals to the comedic extreme, being gravely enemic in scientific knowledge and violently allergic to common sense. The father even subjected her daughter to lifelong impairment of sight in one eye because he didn’t belive in non-religious healing (medicine). Paul was offended by their ignorance (as I would have been), but in tearing down the fallacies of thier extreme ‘literal’ scriptural interpretations, nothing was offered in it’s place. Belief was treated as an either/or proposition such that knowledge was not given the chance to ‘evolve’ faith, only rip it out it from the roots. There could have easily been a softening of the over-simplified conclusion, where the young woman was no longer ignorantly a ‘believer’ but a believer with a deeper appreciation for what is behind the ways of belief she outgrew.
I do not believe MOST theists are so shallow in their faith that a challenge to the mythos surrounding their truths must end badly with closing their ears or abandoning their souls. Sure, many ARE as ignorant as the Hollywood characitures — I’ve met a number personally. But for the rest of us, science only deepens our appreciation for divine considerations, and this could have been handled better, or at least less ofensively in this movie.