If one is interested in seeing the movie, "I Am Legend", then be warned that this post contains spoilers.
If (1) you do not wish to see the movie, (2) have already seen it, (3) do not mind spoilers, or (4) hate spoilers but suffer from a compulsive curiosity as to why I am mentioning this movie, then feel free to continue.
The spoiler is that this movie sets up a "tense" situation, then brings God into the movie to make a magical solution at the last minute.
The original book, by the way, was a "science fiction" book in the classic sense. It attempted to offer a scientific explanation for everything and shunned supernatural explanations.
I can rant about what type of God would take steps to stop a plague after it had nearly killed everybody when he could have taken action much sooner. I could go on a rant about how the hero's sacrifice to find the cure becomes meaningless once the cure is handed to him by God and, we may assume, God would have done some magic, somewhere even if this hero had done nothing.
However, the purpose of this post is not to offer these types of complaints.
The thought that came to my mind concerns the fact that there is a call to boycott The Golden Compass on the grounds that it is a part of a stealth campaign to introduce children to atheism. Yet, a stealth campaign arguing for theism is not subject to question. There is a bit of hypocrisy going on here, but that is not the worst of it.
The boycott has almost certainly cost the movie some money. Movie companies are going to take this into consideration the next time that somebody produces a movie. The author will be vetted for atheist sympathies. If you are an author with atheist sympathies, then you are going to have a little bit harder time getting that movie made. They will amost certainly gut it of any atheist message. However, they will not be able to divorce the movie from the fact that you (the author) is an atheist. So, your hopes of having a movie made out of that book depend not only on your refusal to put an atheist message in the text, but on your own refusal to "come out" as an atheist.
Stewert Lee, who created the play "Jerry Springer: The Opera," said that he would not do another work like this, "because 'idiots' could too easily close it down."
It's the same story - worry over revenue after the religious right targets a product means that companies involved in these projects simply are not going to consider products that the religious right does not approve of.
Imagine having a censorship board, where all works of art need to first be submitted to a fundamentalist board, and only those that the board approves of are allowed to continue. Well, actually, these projects can be made. However, one has to keep them small and inexpensive with no expectation that the will be mass marketed to the general public.
As a result of these two events (and others like them) expect the entertainment industry to be particularly skittish about releasing anything that puts atheism in a positive light. After all, we must remember that anything that portrays atheism positively is militantly anti-theist and, thus, not to be permitted in civil society.
(Though a movie like "I Am Legend" could never be thought of as militantly anti-atheist; as if that could be thought of as a bad thing.)
So, this brought a simple question to my mind.
Where can one go in this country to say that no God exists?
Contrary to popular lies that are spread by hate-mongering bigots, teaching evolution in the classroom is not the same as teaching atheism. If it were, then explaining what is wrong with the car without mentioning God would also be an example of atheism. Every day, even devout Christians explain real-world events without reference to a supernatural force without claiming that the answer is atheistic.
So, when I ask where a person can actually say "No god exists," the classroom does not qualify.
I am also not talking about some work of fiction with some dysfunctional drunk or perpetually depressed individual who hates God because his or her spouse and/or child died in some tragic event.
I am talking about a case where a well-adjusted individual can argue against the existence of God on its merits - a case where the character can turn to another who is cowering in prayer and say, "That's not going to help you. The only way you're going to get through this is to work for it."
A character who can complain, "Don't go giving the credit for what I do to God."
I am particularly interested in asking this question, "Where can one go and say, 'No god exists'," in the presence of children?
Another think that I am not talking about is identifying oneself as an atheist. There is a difference between saying, "I am an atheist," and saying "God doesn't exist." This is closely related to the shows that I mentioned above.
There is a clear difference between a show in which a character declares himself to be an atheist and one in which no God exists. Just as there is a clear difference between a show in which a character declares himself to be a theist and one in which God can be heard whispering a message or creating a miracle at the last moment to save humanity.
I am talking about a show in which "No god exists" is stated as clearly as "god exists" is stated - as clearly as it is stated in the Pledge of Allegiance and on the money, and everywhere else a child may look. Where can a child look and see the message, "No god exists?"
It is socially prohibited to tell a child (other than one's own child) that no God exists. So, the vast majority of children in this country grow up thinking that the claim is unchallengeable.
Sure, children are aware that there are some people 'out there' who do not believe in God. However, they are always perpetually depressed people angry at God for taking away their spouse/child in some tragic accident. They are people we should feel sorry for - not people who have actually adopted their position based on thought and reason.
The result of this prohibition is that we have one generation after another that views religious claims to be unquestionable. Which is exactly how this nonsense perpetuates itself from one generation to the next - because it is set up to prevent any alternative from even taking root; poisoning the ground so that only the fewest number of seeds can ever take root.
Why do the boycotts such as that on The Golden Compass exist? Precisely to enforce a social prohibition on making the statement, "No god exists" in the presence of a child. Many other statements can be made in the presence of a child, but not this one.
What was that charge used against The Golden Compass again? Oh, yes. It was charged with "stealth atheism to kids."
If we lived in a society where people can speak openly about atheism - where atheists are permitted to be as open (in the presence of children) as Jews and Muslims, then the very idea of "stealth atheism" would be laughable. "Stealth" only makes sense in a context where being open and direct is assumed not to be an option. We only worry about people sneaking into a house where they do not have permission to walk in the front door.
Yet, we do live in a society where speaking openly about atheism in the presence of children is prohibited. And, so, those who guard these boundaries (the church officials who like their monopoly on access to children so that they can brainwash children into their way of thinking) then need to worry about atheists 'sneaking in' to a child's mind where all opportunities for direct exposure have already been blocked.
The best way to deal with this problem is to insist on the right to present atheism in a way that is friendly to children in just the way that theism is too often presented in ways that are friendly towards children – to do so deliberately and unapologetically.
Addendum: Monday, Dec. 17
This morning I woke to news of yet another boycott. Some Christians are offended because Border advertised to those who purchased Richard Dawkins' book, The God Delusion with a card that read, "Oh Come All Ye Faithless".
These Christians say that the card is an insult to Christianity.
The Evangelical Alliance's Thacker added: “I think the atheists will love it because it's bashing Christians around the head. It's another thing to take a Christian festival and abuse it.
Of course, if this card is an insult to Christianity, then "Oh come all ye faithful" is an insult to atheists, right?
Of course not. However, these people who claim that their religion gives them a perfect conduit to immoral behavior and a perfect incentive to be moral could not recognize The Golden Rule if it bit them on the fact. They are so in love with lies and hypocricy that they seem perpetually driven to provide us with new examples of both.
The fact is, they view the very existence of a belief that no God exists as an insult to their religion, and will not be content until the mere mention of this 'insult' guarantees economic ruin (or worse) on the part of those who mention it.
Their economic power is great enough that they just might succeed, unless and until those who do not wish to see such a world are willing to speak all the more loudly in response.