Showing posts with label Violence-religious. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Violence-religious. Show all posts

Sunday, April 4, 2021

The Passion of the Christ 2004 Movie Review

 

The Passion of the Christ      

Director

  Mel Gibson

Writers

  Benedict Fitzgerald

  & Mel Gibson

Reviewed by

  Geoffrey W. Sutton


WARNING-- The Film is violent and not suitable for all audiences.

The Passion of Christ is a graphic film that follows a composite story line of Jesus’ final hours that includes some extrabiblical traditions and artistic license. The opening of the film is set in Gethsemane where Jesus is praying, and his disciples are asleep. Throughout the film, the characters speak Latin or Aramaic. The film background explains that the Aramaic is a Syrian version.

Judas has taken 30 pieces of silver from the Temple leaders in Jerusalem. Judas identifies Jesus with the infamous betrayal kiss. Jesus is arrested. Peter attempts a defence by cutting off a guard’s ear, but Jesus insists on putting down the sword and heals the man’s ear. John runs off to tell Jesus’ mother Mary and Mary Magdalene about the arrest.

Jesus is presented to Caiaphas the high priest who accuses Jesus of blasphemy when Jesus affirms he is the Son of God. Peter has come along but is at a distance. When challenged about being a follower, Peter denies Jesus three times.

Judas appears overcome with guilt and tries to return the silver. He is tormented by demon children and hangs himself.

The high priest and others bring Jesus before Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea. Pilate finds no reason to condemn Jesus and appears worried by his wife’s dream warning against condemning Jesus. Pilate sends Jesus off to King Herod who rules over Jesus’ home district. Herod interrogates Jesus and returns him to Pilate.

Pilate attempts to free Jesus. He tries to offer the crowd a choice of taking one prisoner—Jesus or Barabbas. The crowd follows the lead of the religious leaders and calls for Barabbas. Trapped, Pilate orders Jesus to be scourged. The Romans appear to specialize in, and take delight in, mocking and whipping Jesus. He is severely bloodied and beaten almost to death. The crowd insists on crucifixion. Pilate washes his hands in a bowl of water and Jesus is led away to carry a cross.

People follow Jesus as he travels the long path to Golgotha, the hill where he will be crucified. Along the way, the woman known in tradition as Veronica wipes his face. Jesus is constantly beaten by the Romans and becomes too weak to carry his cross. Simon of Cyrene is pressed into reluctant service to manage the traditional large wooden cross.

The brutal ordeal continues as Jesus is nailed to the cross and hoisted into place. He is mocked by one criminal in contrast to the other one who asks Jesus to remember him and receives the promise of entering Paradise.

As time progresses, Jesus utters his final words including a prayer to God to forgive those who are taking his life. One artistic drop of water falls from heaven followed by a powerful earthquake that destroys the Temple. Caiaphas appears terrified. The Satan is defeated.

True to the story, the Romans on Golgotha break the legs of the two criminals but leave Jesus legs intact as he appears dead. A spear is thrust into his side as if to make sure he is dead. Jesus is taken down and his mother weeps.

The film closes as Jesus gets up and leaves the tomb. You can see the wounds in his hands, side, and feet.

**********

The presentation of the story is a close retelling of the traditional Catholic version of the passion story in a physical context that adds a considerable degree of realism. The clothing and props along with the ancient languages adds an other-worldliness amplified by the Satan and demonic.

The brutality is beyond belief to my modern mind. That is, it is hard to believe a man could take so much abuse and still walk up a hill to be crucified let alone carry a cross. The incredible duration and intensity of the violent bloody torture makes the film difficult to endure and calls for strong advice to  adults who wish to avoid a potentially disturbing or even traumatic experience. It is unquestionably not suitable for children.

I found the whole presentation evoking disgust because of the violence. I was ready for it to be over. But perhaps that’s the point. Jesus risked everything when he challenged the way local leaders burdened the poor and cared more about religious rules than the needs of the people.

After watching the film more than once, I read Roger Ebert’s review. He quotes reviewer David Ansen’s feeling of being abused rather than moved by the portrayal of Jesus suffering. Indeed, it is difficult to feel empathy when the visual experience is so-in-the-face bloody violent.

However, in retrospect, after the ordeal has passed, the disturbing presentation caused me to look back on the Easter story and feel more empathy for the Jesus of the gospels and those who suffer in places where religious expression is stifled by the threat of violence. Too often Jesus is dehumanized by Christians who seem to overlook his life as a flesh and blood Jewish man.

Unlike so much of scripture, which is best interpreted as metaphor, or viewed through a lens of ancient understandings of history and science, the passion story in the gospels portrayed in The Passion of the Christ jarred me into recognising that sometimes a literal reading of the old texts can be justified.

I suppose one could say, The Passion of the Christ is violence with a purpose.


 Note

I watched the widescreen version of The Passion of the Christ on a DVD.

 Movie Trailer from YouTube



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Monday, March 23, 2020

The End of Faith-A Book Review by Sutton


THE END OF FAITH: 

RELIGION, TERROR, AND

THE FUTURE OF REASON     



By

     Sam Harris

Reviewed by


     Geoffrey W. Sutton

The 9/11 Islamic terrorists emblazoned the psychological truism of the path from belief to
behavior on the minds of millions. The world saw the lethiferous power of religious belief. We witnessed the purpose driven death. Sam Harris pummels readers with invidious images of destruction associated with religious belief. We may well dispute many of his conclusions but the ineluctable truth is that beliefs matter. At times acerbic, Harris has prepared a puissant polemic focused primarily upon the terror of Islam with ample scathing visited upon Christianity and Judaism. 

His thesis is that the beliefs of religious people have become unhinged from reason to the point that meaningful conversations cannot take place. 

He asserts that reason is in exile (chapter 1) and that survival requires a return from unproven beliefs to evidenced-based reason when making decisions that affect human life.

In chapters two and three, Harris examines the notion of belief and the manner in which
numerous contradictory beliefs are accumulated from early authority figures. He notes important findings that people are conservative—they do not easily give up beliefs. As beliefs develop into a worldview, a subset deals with matters of religious faith. By way of example, Harris shows the importance of re-examining beliefs that can have powerful consequences on health and well-being. Harris provides two historical examples of the inquisition and the holocaust to demonstrate the incredible power of malevolent belief systems to wreak havoc in the lives of hapless victims.

Harris wages war on Islam in chapter four. His major point is that there is a reason we are facing Islamic terrorists rather than people of another faith—the principle of jihad. He acknowledges that apologists for Islam interpret the jihad as a personal struggle but warns of those warriors who believe in a holy war against all non-Muslims, who are by definition infidels or apostate. To further his point, he quotes several several hadithic lines that encourage war on earth and promise eternal rewards for martyrs. He follows this litany with a list of massacres and pogroms against Jews and quotations from Pew Research that support an alarmingly high percentage of people in various countries that affirm the justification of suicide bombing in the name of Islam (e.g., Lebanon 73%, Ivory Coast 56%).

In West of Eden (chapter 5), the author challenges the extant American Theocracy, which is
primarily an attack on the two-term presidency of George W. Bush and the values of Christian fundamentalists that he believes were foisted on the general public. This analysis appears a bit dated given the 2008 Presidential election, but might apply to the 2016 election. However, there are clearly laws and political positions related to such issues as abortion, stem cell research, certain substances (e.g., alcohol, marijuana), and same-sex marriage that are likely to persist into the future and which are trigger points for particular clusters of American Christians (e.g., see A House Divided).

Harris wishes to take us beyond religion toward a science of good and evil (chapter 6).
His position appears to turn on defining that which is moral as that which affects happiness
or suffering in others in the present era (rather than an era in which leading religious texts were written). He rejects moral relativism and pragmatism and appeals to moral facts that can inform regarding happiness and pain. He buttresses his moral position with numerous exemplars of immoral behavior wrought by religious leaders. He also exposes the ethical limitations of pacifists who would not use lethal force to protect the innocent when faced with an unscrupulous enemy. Though Harris makes powerful sparring points, which would undoubtedly ring cheers from many audiences, he has not established a groundwork for his metaphysics of morality. In the language of psychology, he has failed to operationally define happiness and suffering in such a way that the concepts have clear criterial attributes. Instead, he has left us with a few strident examples of evil, which do not begin to
limn the contours of the perennial debate.

Experiments in Consciousness (chapter 7) appears to be a foray into a rational basis for
spirituality. Harris explores the notion of the self and the experience of self and otherness found in various mystic traditions. On the whole, Harris does not accomplish much here. His argument lacks a substantive basis that would support his endeavor to bring mystical experience within the realm of neuroscience. Readers familiar with neurotheology and neurophilosophy will note a more nuanced approach to apprehending the emergent phenomenon of mind. He appears aware of this weakness in the Epilogue, which is worth reading to glimpse his manner of responding to challenges.

Availability of The End of Faith- AMAZON LINK     AMAZON UK


Related Posts


Sutton, G. W. (2009). [Review of the book The End of faith: Religion, terror, and the future of reason by S. Harris]. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 28, 280-281.  Academia Link    Research Gate Link 


Connections

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   My Books   AMAZON     GOOGLE PLAY STORE




   FACEBOOK   Geoff W. Sutton
   TWITTER  @Geoff.W.Sutton

Publications (many free downloads)
  Academia   Geoff W Sutton   (PhD)     
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Breaking the Spell-A Book Review by Sutton

Breaking the Spell:
Religion as a Natural Phenomenon    

By

   Daniel C. Dennett

Reviewed by

  Geoffrey S. Sutton




One Sunday I had the occasion to view both spells in action. A Christian scholar was presenting various theological perspectives on the apocalypse when an attorney interrupted with challenges to the speaker’s shifting from literal to metaphorical interpretations and to textual problems with the doctrine of the trinity. At one point, the theologian, notably frustrated with the challenger, raised his hands, and decried that he did not know the answers to all the questions, noting that humans are ‘‘peanut-brained’’ (repeated twice for emphasis), and that anyone who pretended to understand such mysteries was arrogant. 


And that is the problem in discussing religion. It is notably hard to analyze using logic and any questioner is cursed (though I suspect the lawyer had been called worse than "peanut-brained").In this blog, I will summarize and comment on Daniel Dennett's attempt to break two religious spells. Most people on earth are religious or spiritual. And only a small percentage are atheists or "nones." Therefore, the notion that such people are under a spell is worthy of consideration. At the end of the post you will find a link to my academic review (Sutton, 2009).


Dennett organizes Breaking the Spell into three parts, which are not intuitively obvious by glancing at the creative labels for the parts and 11 chapter titles adumbrated in the table of contents. 

The first part, ‘‘Opening Pandora’s Box,’’ focuses on understanding the powerful spellbound effect religion produces. He also addresses how science might study religion, and what theories might account for the existence and persistence of religion. 

    What is religion? Here's Dennett's working definition of religion.
 ‘‘...social systems whose participants avow belief in a supernatural agent or      agents whose approval is to be sought’’ (p. 9).
    What are the two spells? The spells are two issues that protect religion from objective analysis.
1. There is a taboo against subjecting religion to analysis. Religion is sacred. To raise doubts is to be offensive.
2. Religions cast a spell of fear that keeps people engaged for fear they will suffer severe consequences if they violate the rules or leave.
Dennett wonders what will become of religion. He suggests five hypothesis. I am not sure there bear repeating. Frankly, I am not sure much will change because so many people are religious and any persecution of religious people appears to strengthen rather than weaken their commitment. 

The second part, ‘‘The Evolution of Religion,’’ includes a history of religious practices suggesting a progression from beliefs in local helping-agent gods to more developed
monotheisms and belief systems that ensure survival. He observes the benefits people receive when they believe. For example, religion offers great comfort when loved ones are ill or die. In this section, he refers to Dawkins' (1999) concept of a meme to show how religious beliefs might be transmitted like genes from one generation to the next.

Part three, ‘‘Religion Today,’’ concludes with three chapters discussing the importance of
contemporary religious or spiritual beliefs, matters of morality and meaning in life, and
implications of religion for society. Dennett reminds us of the 9/11 attacks on the US, which I have called the Purpose Driven Death. These attacks make it clear that it is important to study religion--it might be a matter of life and death.


**********
Dennett offers readers a thoughtful view of religion and is quite different in his approach than his more aggressive colleagues (e.g., Dawkins, 2006 and Hitchens, 2007). I do agree that violence in response to beliefs that religious leaders or a god or gods commanded such action is reason enough to take religion seriously. However, as a student of the psychology of religion, I believe there has been considerable work done in this regard by psychologists and my colleagues in sociology and anthropology. Thus, the first spell is not quite as  powerful as it was when people remained in the closet about personal beliefs out of fear for their lives.

As I write this post, years after my published review, the world is managing the terror of Covid-19. Death rates are climbing. And as predicted by Terror Management Theory, people are turning to their religions for support. In fact, many places of religious worship are closed but religion has moved online along with words of comfort and support. There are other theories that offer additional explanations and the models have been tested (e.g., Meaning Maintenance Model).

The idea of the second spell cast by religion itself is worthy of additional consideration. In western cultures I have observed a number of younger people leaving conservative Christian subcultures in favor of more progressive denominations or none at all. A few confided in me that they no longer have faith; however, they remain in the closet out of concern for losing family and friends. Thus, even the second spell has been weakened to some extent when fundamentalist beliefs don't seem to square with observed reality. The concept of "progressive" Christianity is likely a mutation that will survive as it offers a more adaptive stance toward science and culture for the younger generation who will reproduce and pass along the new memes to their children. Meanwhile, the less adaptive fundamentalisms will likely fade with the older generation in western cultures where there is freedom of religion.

FOR Related books on Atheism CLICK HERE

Related Posts

The God Delusion

The Case for God

Caught in the Pulpit

The End of Faith

When Religion Becomes Evil

You might also be interested in A House Divided: Sexuality, Morality, and Christian Cultures available on AMAZON.















References

Dawkins, R. (1999). The selfish gene. New York: Oxford.

Dawkins, R. (2006). The god delusion. New York: Houghton Mifflin.

Dennett, D. (2006). Breaking the spell: Religion as a natural phenomenon. New
York: Penguin.

Hitchens, C. (2007). God is not great: How religion poisons everything. New York:
Twelve.

Sutton, G. W. (2007). [Review of the book, God is not great: How religion poisons
everything]. Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 26, 372–373.

Sutton, G. W. (2009). [Review of the book: The god delusion by Richard Dawkins].
Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health, 11, 235–239.

Sutton, G. W. (2009). [Review of the book Breaking the spell: Religion as a natural phenomenon by D. C. Dennet].  Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health, 11, 231-234.  Academia Link     Research Gate Link 

Connections

   My Page    www.suttong.com
   My Books   AMAZON     GOOGLE PLAY STORE
   FACEBOOK   Geoff W. Sutton
   TWITTER  @Geoff.W.Sutton

Publications (many free downloads)
  Academia   Geoff W Sutton   (PhD)     
  ResearchGate   Geoffrey W Sutton   (PhD)



When Religion Becomes Evil- A book review by Sutton

When Religion Becomes Evil:     

Five Warning Signs: 
Revised and Updated

By
Charles Kimball

Reviewed by

  Geoffrey W. Sutton




In the aftermath of 9/11 and during the onslaught of religion-damning missives from the ‘‘evangelical atheists’’ Dawkins (2006), Hitchens (2007), and Harris (2004), Kimball provides a ‘‘gentle introduction to the critical study of comparative religion’’ (p. vi). In seven chapters, he outlines five critical ways that religion can lead to tragic, even violent outcomes, and offers suggestions that may promote better relationships between people of different religious traditions. In the end, he argues for respect for diverse faiths and traditions. Kimball is uniquely qualified to write this informative work. He is an ordained Baptist minister and a professor of comparative religion at Wake Forest University. He obtained his doctorate from Harvard University in comparative religion where he specialized in Islamic studies.

Kimball helps readers focus on what it good in religion before pointing out the evil. He reminds us of the rich cultural ways people of different religions mark life events and guide acceptable behavior for their adherents. Then he offers the following warning.
‘‘...when their behavior toward others is violent and destructive, when it causes suffering among their neighbors, you can be sure the religion has been corrupted and reform is desperately needed’’ (p. 47).
Kimball's five warnings follow.

1. Absolute Truth Claims. The possibility of evil and violence exists when an interpretation of beliefs requires conformity to the extent that people are held hostage to textual literalism. Often, the zealous focus on preaching their interpretation of truth and ignore those texts that speak of compassion.

2. Blind Obedience. A common example of the potential for destruction is the group led by James Jones, a charismatic leader who preached about nuclear destruction and held faith healing services. Eventually, Jones led his group to Guyana in 1974 where he established Jonestown and functioned as a god to his followers. California congressman, Leo Ryan flew to investigate Jones' group, but he and those with him were murdered. The next day, Jones led his followers in suicide. Protesters were shot. Altogether, 638 adults and 276 children were murder-suicide victims.

3. Establishing the 'Ideal" Time. Kimball gently lays out the problem of hope gone awry. For example, some Christians have preached about the "End Times." When disasters occur, it is easy to refer to texts that talk about disasters happening near the end of the world. When this preaching encourages people to act to advance their idea of God's will in a violent manner, humans can bring about a disaster.

4. The End Justifies Any Means.  Kimball begins this chapter with an example of violent clashes between Hindus and Muslims. Unfortunately, such violence continues. His point here is: "The end goal of protecting or defending a key component of religion is often used to justify any means necessary." (p. 140).

5. Declaring Holy War.  Following the horrific attack on the United States known as 911, president Bush used religious language reminiscent of the biblical devil when he called bin Laden "the evil one" and his followers, "evildoers." The US led a "war on terrorism" to combat bin Laden's "holy war." The topic of war and peace appears important to Kimball as he focuses the chapter on ways to promote peace such as seeking repentance and forgiveness, advocating for human rights, and promoting religious liberty.


**********

I think Kimball offers a reasonable balance to offset the assault of the atheists against "bad faith." People of integrity must confront that which is destructive in their own faiths if we are to live in a peaceful world--at least one free from religious strife and violence. His points seem reasonable and are well supported by more examples than I included here. It's easy to see why this was the "Top Religion Book of the Year" according to Publisher's Weekly.

Related Posts

The God Delusion

The Case for God

Caught in the Pulpit



References

Dawkins, R. (2006). The god delusion. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin.

Harris, S. (2004). The end of faith: Religion, terror, and the future of reason. New
York, NY: W.W. Norton.

Hitchens, C. (2007). God is not great: How religion poisons everything. New York,

NY: Twelve.

Kimball, C. (2008). When religion becomes evil: Five warning signs. New York: HarperCollins.

Sutton, G. W. (2010). [Review of the book When religion becomes evil” Five warning signs: Revised and updated by C. Kimball]. Journal of Spirituality in Mental Health, 12,78-80. doi 10.1080/19349630903495616.  Accepted 09-01-2009.  ResearchGate Link  Academia Link


Connections

   My Page    www.suttong.com
   My Books   AMAZON     GOOGLE PLAY STORE



   FACEBOOK   Geoff W. Sutton
   TWITTER  @Geoff.W.Sutton

Publications (many free downloads)
  Academia   Geoff W Sutton   (PhD)     
  ResearchGate   Geoffrey W Sutton   (PhD)










God is Not Great-A Book Review by Sutton

GOD IS NOT GREAT: 
HOW RELIGION POISONS     
EVERYTHING

By
   Christopher Hitchens

Reviewed by
   Geoffrey W. Sutton




Hitchens begins his pungent polemic against religion by explaining how he came to question religious teaching as a child (chapter 1). Following a deconversion experience associated with a teacher's simplistic description of reality covered with a simple religious gloss, Hitchens reflects upon perceived oddities in scripture and child-abusing clergy. Next, Hitchens adumbrates his thesis as: 

four irreducible objections to religious faith:
1. that it wholly misrepresents the origins of man and the cosmos, that because of this original
2. error it manages to combine the maximum of servility with the maximum of solipsism,
3. that it is both the result and the cause of dangerous sexual repression, and
4. that is ultimately grounded on with-thinking. (p. 4)
Hitchens covers familiar grounds in his attack of religious faith with each chapter a blow x blow progression of what he sees as the evils of religion. Here's my quick reference to his chapters.

2. Religious groups have behaved violently toward each other in the name of their faith.
3. An essay on the religious views toward pigs
4. Religious groups have a history of anti-health policies
5. A challenge to metaphysical claims
6. A challenge to intelligent design

Next, are three chapters targeting the faiths of Judaism (7), Christianity (8), and Islam (9).

From my published review (Sutton, )
Next, we encounter five essays (chapters 10-
16) on related matters interrupted by an attack
on the failures of Asian faiths (chapter 14).
Among other things, Hitchens minimizes miracles,
harrumphs on hell, and opines on the onerous
doctrines of religion (primarily Christianity).
The final chapters (17-19) offer readers hope for a better worldview based on reason.


**********
The value of a set of essays like those presented by Hitchens is to identify the strangeness of various religious doctrines and practices considered by various groups of people as essential to their identity as well as their worldview. Indeed, people who identify as spiritual or religious consider those of another tradition to be strange. In getting to know people of another faith, it is possible to genuinely like them, but remain convinced that they are strange or worse, headed to eternal damnation unless they convert.

In a related manner, Hitchens takes aim at beliefs and practices where faith traditions are most vulnerable. So many fundamentalists who insist on living according to their interpretation of literal translations of ancient texts offer a firm basis for rejecting their faith tradition. I suspect this situation will always exist. Fundamentalists are often those who fund religious schools and organizations. Those with more progressive views are muzzled by self-preservation or anxious administrators in need of more and more donations to survive.

Serious religious people can also humbly admit it's true that members of their own religious group often behave in ways reflecting a lack of transformation into people who live virtuous lives worth emulating. Sadly, too few religious adherents demonstrate the classic virtues of humility, wisdom, love, forgiveness, generosity, and so forth. Instead, as Hitchens reminds us, we have too many willing to kill others and force others to submit to their moral and cultural beliefs.

Hitchens also reminds us of the history of opposition to science and good health practices throughout religious history. And of course, such opposition persists as those in my own profession (psychology) have often witnessed. Unfortunately, the manner in which Hitchens preaches is unlikely to evoke reflection. But perhaps that is not his point. Perhaps Hitchens is more about venting his frustration or perhaps bent on evangelizing the youth who would build a utopia on the foundations of reason.

The wave of anti-religious attacks came in the wake of 911. However, then as now, when faced with a threat, people turn to their faith for support. Slowly, religious restrictions have abated throughout the world and those in the West demonstrate more confidence in physicians than priests when it comes to illness and disease. 

FOR Related books on Atheism CLICK HERE

Related Posts

The God Delusion

The Case for God

Caught in the Pulpit


Connections

   My Page    www.suttong.com

   My Books   AMAZON     GOOGLE PLAY STORE





   FACEBOOK   Geoff W. Sutton
   TWITTER  @Geoff.W.Sutton

Publications (many free downloads)
  Academia   Geoff W Sutton   (PhD)     
  ResearchGate   Geoffrey W Sutton   (PhD)