Finally, a documentary/TV program that is about religious skepticism and atheism that is intelligent and not (very) insulting or degrading towards religious people. I am talking about “The Atheism Tapes” by Jonathan Miller.
To be honest, I have been recently quite disappointed by documentaries that are about religious skepticism. The first was “The God Who Wasn’t There”, whose ads you’ve probably seen around teh interwebz. It’s got really great reviews, but I thought it was just sort of meandering and pointless. There’s not really an overall theme, and it just left me feeling that I hope religious people don’twatch it because it would give them the wrong impression. It just made me feel its about some guy exercising his personal grudge against religion and the people who tried to cram it into his head.
Next was “Religulous” with Bill Maher. This one was better, but still left me feeling a bit empty. Maher talks with religious people, apparently just trying to understand why people are religious, but doesn’t really come to his main point until like ten minutes before the end, which is that religions can be very harmful in that they instruct people to act in a certain way against creating a sustainable rational world, that is against working for a better world, because there’s no point. They’re going to be rewarded in a few decades anyway, why make this world better?
“The Atheism Tapes” really nails it by saying that religions are harmful and that there is a real problem with the world in that religions do exist. I also liked that this documentary program was much more philosophical and grappled with the dense issues like: How can evil exist if God exists? What really happens after death? Exactly how do religions inform the behavior of human beings? It lambastes the common idea that people use religion as a cover or justification to do horrible things (which implies that these people would do these horrible things anyway even if religion wasn’t around), and correctly states that these people do these things because they sincerely and deeply believe certain wildly implausible things are true. People blow themselves up and fly planes into buildings, not because they really like doing it, but because they KNOW God will reward them for doing so.
I especially liked it because I identify myself as a philosopher first and foremost. I may be a physics-major, and I may design complex games about finance, but when it comes right down to it, I’m a philosopher, something actually quite uncommon among physicists and the scientific community in general. Scientists do science, which is founded on empiricism, the idea that you have to be able to gather data from the world in order to know anything about it. I, of course, agree with that, but most scientists completely shun any issue in which you cannot gather data because you can never know if your musings are correct or not.
“The Atheism Tapes” is also apparently a supplement to the BBC program “Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief” also by Johnathan Miller. The main program I can’t find on Amazon or Netflix, but I’ll keep looking. If I have to buy from the UK at least I have a Region 2 DVD player in my computer.