On "The God Who Wasn't There"
January 15, 2006 5:09 PM   Subscribe

Doug TenNapel reviews "The God Who Wasn't There" in three parts: [1,2,3]. (Religion not your thing? He also does comics. And video games.)
posted by brownpau (36 comments total)
I'm strangely unimpressed:

Ask your favorite non-believer why they don't believe the Bible and they'll repeat the same old same old, "The Bible's been translated so many times it lost something throughout the years." My father repeated this myth all the time, though he is a carpenter and never studied textual criticism...but in this area, the non-believer is the instant scholar.

Why don't you believe the Pride and Prejudice?
posted by grobstein at 5:20 PM on January 15, 2006

I loved The Neverhood. I had no idea Doug TenNapel was still doing... anything. Thanks for linking to his blog.
posted by painquale at 5:20 PM on January 15, 2006

I never realized that TenNapel was so religious, though. Reading these unfortunately poor blog entries is making me realize that The Neverhood was far more Gospel-inspired than I thought, and I'd better just stop thinking about this now before I start thinking of that cute little claymation game as a proselytization device.
posted by painquale at 5:27 PM on January 15, 2006

This "review" is as bad as the movie seems to be. Thanks for the uninspired post you intractable bible-thumping Christian fundamentalist.
posted by furtive at 5:36 PM on January 15, 2006

The reviewer is just as opinionated, and his conclusion predestined, as the filmmaker.

I saw some of the film and, in particular, the part this is referring to:

"Flemming sets a trap for the superintendent of Village Christian; Dr. Ronald Sipus, bad hair, bad suit, perhaps even bad theology, but he clearly entered the interview under false precepts. Once Dr. Sipus sees he's been snared he freezes...and says that Brian was dishonest, misleading him about the interview. Then Brian tilts his hand and exposes himself as a complete liar...it's subtle but I caught it. While Dr. Sipus removes his lapel-mic Flemming pretends that he doesn't know what's going on, "What, Are you ending [this interview] now?" But if Brian has half a brain he would know exactly why Sipus is leaving in anger. Flemming plays the victim all too easily. Now he's dough-eyed and hurt, "What did I do? I just wanted an honest interview with this fundamentalist monster.""

Maybe I'm mistaken as I didn't see the whole film but I got the impression that Brian asked Sipus for an interview and Sipus took it for granted that it would be a pro-religion one as Brian was an ex student. This is why, I thought, when Brian asks him why he's ending it--specifically asking how he "misled" (something Sipus says he did), Sipus doesn't have an answer.

Again, I didn't see the whole film (and if someone did and I'm mistaken and the context of the interview is stated, please correct me), but it seems TenNapel is just as misguided as the filmmaker and, to me, both of their opinions/conclusions on their two topics (god/religion and the film itself) are equally worthless as a result. Both of these people are preaching to the choir; anyone else is better off ignoring both of them.
posted by Manhasset at 5:36 PM on January 15, 2006

I've seen the whole film. I was very unimpressed by it
posted by 517 at 5:39 PM on January 15, 2006

"Dough-eyed"? Seriously? Clicking the links...yep, "dough-eyed." Wow.
posted by Gator at 5:42 PM on January 15, 2006

Gator: ha. Didn't notice that myself. Pretty funny, though.
posted by Manhasset at 5:43 PM on January 15, 2006

Speaking of homos, why are Harris, Carrier and Flemming, lisping, effeminate metro-sexuals?

this is a piss poor showing all around ... a bad review of what sounds like a bad movie

the answering infidels review is much better, but overly long and i'm not going to read all that
posted by pyramid termite at 5:54 PM on January 15, 2006

...I guess in the land of atheism associating your work with Michael Moore's 'documentary' lends it credibility.

And reduces Doug TenNapel's website's to zero. I guess.
posted by telstar at 5:57 PM on January 15, 2006

"... though he is a carpenter... "

Yeah, because everyone knows that carpenters are an ignorant lot; name me one who's ever done anything.

Lucky he's not my kid.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 5:59 PM on January 15, 2006

Okay, TenNapel may be crazy, sure. But he gave us Earthworm Jim, and the Neverhood, and Sockbaby, and Creature Tech (a fantastic comic), so I'm more than willing to give him a free pass.
posted by jimmy at 6:03 PM on January 15, 2006

Personal religious beliefs aside, I just can't say anything bad about the guy who gave us Sockbaby.

Also, my husband used to work with him back in the days of the Sega Genesis. Though I've never met Doug personally, I've never heard a bad word about him either. Most of what I hear from my husband is "Why didn't I listen", then he mumbles about Shiny and Earthworm Jim and it usually ends in tears.
posted by Miss Bitchy Pants at 6:04 PM on January 15, 2006

This movie was mentioned in a previous thread wherein I bitched about one of TenNapel's first observations (the dating of Matthew). I'd forgotten about that great "Charlie Manson was a Christian" intro, which reminded me a bit of Krakauer's hatchet job on the Mormons. This is really just a piss-poor excuse for a documentary. There is so much interesting (grippy?) debate available in Christian (and other religious) studies, it pains me to think that alleged "free thinkers" might watch this and toast their own intellectual superiority. Having read the review, this guy (not familiar with him, unlike other posters) is getting waaaay worked up. Could have been a great single page tearing down the more ridiculous claims. (I'm with pyramide termite - that answeringinfidels.com review looks most meaty...and waaay too long.)

I suppose, in the end, a well-conceived and balanced look at the arguments for and against the historicity of Jesus would just end up on the history chanel at 3 a.m., not toasted at film festivals. (Standard disclaimer: not a Christian, not a Mormon, not a Mansonite, just a freelance student of religions.)
posted by Banky_Edwards at 6:19 PM on January 15, 2006

I really enjoyed Under the Banner of Heaven--Mormons aren't just based on silly theology, they're based on multiple acts of mass murder.
posted by bardic at 6:55 PM on January 15, 2006

Bardic - are you seriously claiming that Mormonism is *based* on the Mountain Meadows Massacre? (Which, BTW, is a *single* act of mass murder. Got any others?)

My beef with Under The Banner Of Heaven is the constant linking of mainstream Mormonism with the wingnuts whose murderous fantasies are allegedly inspired by the Book Of Mormon. In my mind, that's slumming with those who blamed Marilyn Manson for Columbine. Or this movie's linking of Charlie Manson, Koresh et. al. with Christianity. It's just sloppy thinking.
posted by Banky_Edwards at 7:22 PM on January 15, 2006

I thought the Neverhood was a great game (obviously ;) ) but understood that that was despite the fact that it has deeply deeply religious subtext.
posted by hoborg at 7:40 PM on January 15, 2006

I thought Under the Banner made a pretty clear distinction that the killers and the other wackos mentioned weren't part of mainstream LDS. But yeah the Earthworm Jim games ruled.
posted by TetrisKid at 7:41 PM on January 15, 2006

My favorite line:
"If he's now an atheist, fine, go have fun renting hookers."
posted by jam_pony at 8:15 PM on January 15, 2006

TenNapel is a frustrating mess of awesome and unrelenting, unthinking crazy-person. Earthworm Jim? Awesome. His views about gay people and women? Not so much.

He has a forum on his website. It's mostly very, very, very right-wing fundamentalist Christian discussion, with the occasional person expressing something like "Sometimes I feel like maybe not all the non-believers should go to hell", followed by a landslide of posts assuring the poster he will also go to hell if he does not immediately concede to the contrary. It was depressing.
posted by Anonymous at 8:33 PM on January 15, 2006

That was disappointing.

Christians should stop freaking out about there being no historical evidence of Jesus. They don't need any historical evidence. Faith exists outside of all that. Well, it should, anyway.

They could think of it as a little mind game god is playing on them, a test of faith: if there's no evidence Jesus existed, and they still believe, well, surely they will go straight to heaven, right? Maybe it's all a PLOY. He moves in mysterious ways, and all that.
posted by Hildegarde at 8:56 PM on January 15, 2006

Maybe it's all a PLOY.

[hicks] Does it ever bother you that Goddddd might be fuckin' with you?[/hicks]
posted by 235w103 at 9:06 PM on January 15, 2006

He has a forum on his website.

Speaking of which...
posted by crumbly at 9:12 PM on January 15, 2006

Good point Hildegarde. Why bother with objective history, when it's only because of irrational faith that you care about the maybe-historical personage?

The anti-rational angle was played as early as the 2nd century.

"The Son of God died; it is by all means to be believed because it is absurd. And he was buried and rose again; the fact is certain, because it is impossible."
– Tertullian (Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, 160?-220? c.e.)

This was one of the first major Christian apologists, answering Marcion's rejection of the resurrection tale as an absurdity.
posted by jam_pony at 9:35 PM on January 15, 2006

Wow, he's a right-wing crazy Christian. That hurts.

Peter Engelbrite, a game design idol to me as the creator and developer of the Lynx classic Todd's Adventures in Slime World, also seems to be fairly deeply Christian. I don't think he's one of the crazies though, and I think his game is quite a bit better than Earthworm Jim. Indeed it's one of the forgotten classics of video gaming.

What does this show us? That human beings are wonderful and flexible creatures, and you can be dead wrong about something and yet possess amazing insight into other areas.

Of course, as I'm sure they'd tell me, that assumes that they are wrong and I am right. Who's to say? In the end, I think the truth value of their beliefs and our own are so close to zero when compared to the infinite majesty of our universe that I sometimes wonder why any of us bother to believe anything.
posted by JHarris at 1:13 AM on January 16, 2006

Credo quia absurdum est, as they said in the old days.
posted by spazzm at 1:23 AM on January 16, 2006

I saw the movie a few weeks ago and yes there are parts that make my teeth hurt. The whole Charles Manson thing in the first three minutes just reeks. Very amateurish. I agree with pretty much everyone upstream who said to essentially that, "it's a rich subject open to lots of exploration" - why this angry atheist has to show us a picture of Charles Manson in the first three minutes is beyond me.

By interjecting himself into the documentary Flemming just comes across as whiny, angry dude out to make religious people feel stupid (which was cool when I was like... uh... 19.) The whole interview with the school dean was painfully stupid and should have been cut.

Other than these "personal problems" the film asked some interesting questions and I thought several of the interviewees in the later half were compelling.

It's worth the download.
posted by wfrgms at 1:29 AM on January 16, 2006

I'm extremely wroth with the bullshit in the answeringinfidels link. If being a liberal means I have to automatically respect this guys beliefs just because he has them & calls them his religion, then I guess I ain't no liberal after all.

The idea promoted by pseudo-intellectual "christians" that having a naturalistic worldview necessitates a complete denial of "objective" morality is unadulterated bullshit. Or, if you prefer, deliberate dishonesty through semantic sophistry. The answeringinfidels guy is going to hell. He's dishonest, and of all the sins, dishonesty is the one about which the bible is the least ambiguous.

Anyone I've ever met with a naturalistic worldview recognizes objective morality on at least two levels: 1: game theory -- the principles for optimizing results in games which resemble those in our daily lives correspond remarkably well with our instinctive morality; and 2: we have a nature, encoded both physically in dna, and in our culture, that has evolved. That nature includes a moral code. To the extent that it is meta to individual humans, it is objective from the experience of any individual human.

The reviewer dude, who is clearly more sophist than real intellectual, is confusing the word "objective" with the word "absolute."

In any case, what is this so-called "objective" or "absolute" morality, which so-called "christians" like to use to make themselves feel superior to atheists? They claim it is objective, or absolute (I haven't ever actually personally encountered anyone claiming to be a "christian" capable of managing the distinction between the two terms so we might as well conflate them) because it comes from "God", and "God" (they claim) is absolute. But how do you experience "God"? Through faith, an entirely subjective experience.

And how do you come to know what the "absolute/objective" morality is? You cannot simply read it from the subset of the laws of judaism contained in the old testament, since the fathers of "christianity" clearly stated in the new testament that "christians" -- or at least gentile "christians" -- need only follow the 10 commandments and avoid eating meat offered to idols. No, you come to know the "absolute" morality by surrendering to God, and he will give you "convictions" which tell you how you ought to live. Convictions are an entirely subjective experience.

So, if a "christian" wishes to be intellectually honest, they must concede that regardless of how much they subjectively believe their morality to come from an absolute one, so far as we are able to know in the absence of any reliable, objective evidence for the "God" from whom the "absolute" morality flows, "christian" morality is subjective. The idea that it is absolute is simply another article of "christian" faith, or subjective experience. As such, it is no stronger, better, or knowably more absolute/objective than the atheists' morality.

Having a moral code is part of our nature (though it is frequently damaged to some degree -- we call that being a sociopath or psychopath). Being an atheist doesn't change that. The claim that the morality of atheists is somehow less or weaker than the morality of "christians" is one of the more obnoxious bits of bullshit promulgated by the contemporary pharisees who call themselves "christian." It is an idea worthy of utter derision.

In practice, the so-called objective morality of "christians" is NECESSARILY far more relativistic than that of any atheist I've ever met. It is necessarily so because they take their faith from a book containing many stories of a society acting according to moral principles that are completely unacceptable to most modern human beings. All you need to demonstrate it unequivocally is Numbers 31. Ask any so-called christian to tell you the story of Numbers 31, and explain it without any relativism in their morality.

They'll never bother you with their bullshit beliefs again.

I know from history that there have been people who have convinced themselves that genocide and slavery were morally acceptable, and though most of those people were extremely religious, a few of them were atheists. But the only people I've ever actually personally met who would make the case that there are circumstances under which it would be morally "right" to slaughter an entire group of people except for the virgin girls, and divide those girls up to be raped for breeding stock are "christians" twisting themselves in a knot to somehow justify Numbers 31.
posted by lastobelus at 5:21 AM on January 16, 2006

I was annoyed and amused by his description of how agnostic children become bitter and don't play with other children. His reason was especially amusing, and I quote:

"If the child is under the assumption that a personal God has created the universe, and that this God has a heart very close to the human heart, then it is quite natural for the child to assume that He smiles upon the treasuring of special moments, or silly games, or plain old fun."

But, if the child is agnostic:

"this growing awareness of the reasons why people do things, or the lack of them, has a profoundly different effect on the agnostic child. Once he becomes aware that there are reasons people do things, he will look at the games of children and see a striking lack of reasons to do them.... Here we begin to see the development of the loser, thus defined: He will be more likely to be found sulking, or staring into space, or doing anything that doesn’t require much effort or interaction with others, because he has begun to realize that the weight of the universe is sinking down onto his shoulders."

I'm not only a agnostic, I'm an agnostic leaning towards athiesm and I pretty much always have been. Yet, during the middle school years when I was supposed to be becoming withdrawn and bitter because I didn't think God was smiling on my silly games I played various pointless games (mostly of the RPG variety) with a fairly large group of people and I can't seem to recall becoming bitter and withdrawn.

I must have been doing somehting wrong, because not only was I supposed to be becoming bitter and withdrawn, because after all there's no point in the universe unless God is there to make things all right, but I was also supposed to be developing into a loser. What a jackass.
posted by sotonohito at 6:11 AM on January 16, 2006

As a proud member of the "hyperskeptical community" I reject his straw man and affirm that if he asked me why I don't believe the Bible (or at least the more obviously deranged claims contained therein) I'd say, "Because I'd look askance at reports of the incredible in yesterday's newspaper so I'm certainly going to look askance at reports of the incredible in a motley mess of ancient writings created by ignorant, superstitious, credulous people."
posted by Decani at 6:50 AM on January 16, 2006

Well said lastobelus.
posted by jam_pony at 10:09 AM on January 16, 2006

Wow, lastobelus, you take the Old Testament even more literally than Christians do.
posted by brownpau at 12:28 PM on January 16, 2006

What gives us the right to divide children depending on their parents beliefs? We don't divide them by their parent's political views. That's because they're not old enough to understand them properly. Why do we think they're old enough to choose between cosmological models?

/dawkins paraphrase
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 12:31 PM on January 16, 2006

Wow, lastobelus, you take the Old Testament even more literally than Christians do.

Yes brownpau, it's clearly more valuable as collection of moral lessons in metaphorical form. Like "kill all gays" for instance. Such poetry!
posted by Protocols of the Elders of Awesome at 12:36 PM on January 16, 2006

Pretty_Awesome lol.
posted by brownpau at 2:10 PM on January 24, 2006

I guess, in Christianity, even the metaphors are best taken metaphoricallly.
posted by boaz at 2:16 PM on January 24, 2006

« Older Latin America's first woman president   |   We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all... Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments