I knew the "Atheist/Christian" episode of 30 Days would infuriate me, but I soldiered through it anyway.
In this particular episode, an athiest named Brenda lives with a Christian family for 30 days.
First, let me disclose my own bias — I’m no fan of organized religion. I like spirituality fine, and I think spirituality and creativity come from the same primeval source. But the organization of spirituality is self-defeating — doctrinizing what’s supposed to be intuitive is counter-intuitive.
Monotheistic systems are the most problematic. There’s an inherent arrogance to the belief in one all-powerful diety, an automatic framing of perception in absolutes. It’s exclusionary and intolerant at the outset, regardless of the content of the tenets. Preach about love and good works all you want — there’s still the first commandment to deal with.
I’ll answer the question of my theism later.
The husband of the host family, Michael Shores, was especially infuriating. If there’s a poster boy for the arrogance of Christianity, he’s it. (The preacher using all the war analogies during his sermon would be another.)
He comes across in the show as someone too frightened by the idea of other belief systems, not just atheism. The way he speaks, it sounds like the only source for a moral code is Christianity. In fact, he uses the word "ultimate" at one point. Uh-huh. And I guess Confucianism giving structure to Chinese families 500 years before Jesus is just a fluke.
Tracy, his wife, got it. She hit the epiphany when she likened her awakening to Jesus as her personal savior to the realization Brenda and her husband had about their beliefs. The fact she understood is hopeful.
I was frustrated at the debate over the phrase "In God We Trust", during the scene when Michael and Tracy were brought to an atheist meeting. The debate got derailed because neither participant — Michael and one of the atheists — could remove their blinders about their theism.
What if Michael had to carry around money with "In Buddha We Trust" or "In Vishnu We Trust" or "Blessed Be"? An atheist would probably be just as uncomfortable carrying money stamped with any of those other proclamations.
That scene pretty much demonstrated the failure of this episode. In a country that guarantees religious freedom, oppression affects every non-monotheistic religion. Would it have diluted the debate to mention Buddhism or Zen Buddhism or Wicca? For the hour-format of the show, probably.
Brenda’s atheism is pretty specific to monotheism. I would have liked to hear her views on the other belief systems that aren’t pre-supposed on a diety.
Before anyone thinks I’m an atheist, I’m not. My Catholic upbringing is far too ingrained to think otherwise. But my perception of God isn’t flattering.
Believers tend to gloss over the fact God is all-powerful. Keyword: all. That includes the bad stuff — he can be petty, mean, bored and evil. If he made man in his image, we can turn to the evening news to see how that all turned out.
And what makes anyone so special to warrant the attention of someone that all-powerful anyway? And wouldn’t being all-powerful include being flawed as well? I would feel more comfortable with God if he indeed made mistakes.
(I would like to see Michael’s head explode if he were ever introduced to string theory. If anything has ever gotten remotely close to the mind of God, that would be it.)