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17 April, 2006

The God Who Wasn't There



D. and I celebrated Easter in a decidedly unorthodox way by going to a special screening of the documentary "The God Who Wasn't There". It was held at the Hollywood branch of the Center for Inquiry (CFI), a think tank of skeptics and secular humanists.

Afterwards, there was an open forum with director Brian Flemming which was almost as enjoyable as the documentary itself. That's him on the right in the photo above.

Flemming was a Christian fundamentalist who later became an atheist. With the help of notables such as Jesus Seminar fellow Robert M. Price, professor Richard Dawkins, author Sam Harris and historian Richard Carrier, his movie takes a look at Christianity's dogmatic beliefs, specifically the very existence of Jesus Christ.

For the record, I do believe in God, but I don't believe religion should be held beyond the reach of challenge or inquiry. A healthy discussion never hurts, and if people are confident in the strength of their faith, what is there to be afraid of?

Mr. Flemming chose a provocative yet lighthearted approach to The God Who Wasn't There. Though it wasn't as in depth as I would like, his visual style and spunky narration was very entertaining and viewer friendly. For a more extensive discussion on the existence of the historical Jesus, including rebuttals and counter-rebuttals, he pointed to Earl Doherty's jesuspuzzle.com, which he admitted strongly influenced the documentary.

My desire for a more serious discussion was satisfied later that evening, when D. and I saw Bill Moyers' interview of philosopher/atheist Daniel Dennett on Charlie Rose (Moyers was subbing for Rose who underwent valve replacement surgery in Paris). Dennett recently wrote the controversial "Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon" in which he asserts that people, more than anything, "believe in belief".

Unlike the rational yet confrontational Sam Harris, author of the award-winning book "The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason", Mr. Dennett believes that religion and rationality can co-exist. An excerpt of the interview can be found here.

All in all an unusual, yet fascinating Easter Sunday.

posted at 11:13 PM by City Muse

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