DTV Hell…kinda: The God Who Wasn’t There (text review)

So, I’ve talked about Christian movies that slam their messages down your throat so hard, they’d be charged with sodomy, if those laws still existed. However, we’ve only talked about one movie that tried to force a “Christianity is dumb” message down just as hard. Since I have three more Apocalypse movies to review, as well as Left Behind and at least one more Rich Christiano film, I’d best throw in another anti-Christianity movie. In this case, a documentary.

No, no, not Religulous, though that would be a solid example if it weren’t a wide release film. No, this is a smaller scale documentary that did get a decent amount of attention when it was released in 2005, but mostly from Christian and Atheist websites. That film is The God Who Wasn’t There.

First off, let me say that this movie actually has a pretty nice soundtrack. You can even get your own copy of it on CD, if you want to pay money for it. Otherwise, you’re smart, I’m sure you know how Bittorrent works.

Reviewing a documentary is a bit strange, perhaps, since it’s just here to inform. And inform it does, telling us that once, long ago, the sun used to revolve around the earth. Wait, no, he’s just trying to make a point that Christianity has been wrong about one thing, and thus might be wrong about something else.

Yes, this documentary is about how Jesus Christ never existed. Feel free to find that idea insane if you want, but the fact is, we actually don’t know that much about whoever the person is that we knew as Jesus. This documentary was the thing that got me to look into the idea that there was no physical, historical figure known as Jesus, and as of yet, I have no answer to whether he ever existed or not. The filmmaker/narrator points our how happy Christians are talking about Jesus, and asks why he can’t be that happy. He then goes on to show numerous people who have either done or advocated violence in the name of Jesus, though Charles Manson might have been a low fucking blow, maybe, a little.

Next, a recap of the story of Jesus. We all probably know that one, so moving on. So, he then asks a bunch of Christians about how their faith spread across the world. Yeah, because people actually know that information. It kinda feels like the narrator here is picking on these people, but I guess that might be fair. You’d think people would bother to learn the history of their own faith, but eh, whatever you want to believe.

He talks of Paul, who effectively founded Christianity, and states that Paul never considered Jesus to be a real person. Interesting use of a single Bible verse to prove that point, but then he moves on to talk about how the gospels might well be mythology. Or, rather, the various people he interviews explain it. It is interesting, as he equates the story of Jesus to the modern concept of the urban legend. Hell, he even interviews the founders of Snopes to talk about known fiction eventually being considered fact. Compelling, to a point, and worth checking out, but therein lies the problem. I find it interesting. A Christian who is strong in their faith will not. You need to try and compel your audience to look into the story themselves, but with something like this, it feels like a total non-starter. Though, to be fair, it might be the goal to get non-Christians to look at the idea of Jesus as not real, and get the secular community to stop saying that a man named Jesus did once exist. I kind of see the point in that, but still, it’s a bit of a stretch to get people to disbelieve something that they have no reason to disbelieve.

Well, guess what. He has an answer for that problem too. We should get rid of Christianity because they are dangerous to us all. He jumps into the commentary of blood sacrifice, talking about how successful The Passion of the Christ was, and how much violence there really is in that movie. A movie of Jesus, just getting the shit kicked out of him. I found the film to be pretty dry, myself. And it didn’t even have the satisfying conclusion of him resurrecting. To get off topic for a sec, that should have probably pissed Christians off, honestly. The resurrection is considered by Christians to be the most important aspect of Jesus’s life, as it was symbolic of the triumph over death. “The Passion” just makes it look like death kicked Yeshua’s ass something fierce.

Of course, it isn’t just the illustration of how violently Jesus died for your sins that makes Christians dangerous, oh no sir. Next, we have an illustration of insane fundamentalists, like televangelists and marchers. So, back to interviewing, and we talk about how religion is inherently harmful. Hey, I have a better idea. What if, now just follow me on this one, what if these people are just total assholes using God as an excuse. You really think that dangerous people won’t find some way to justify what they are doing without a God to hide behind?

This is easily the biggest problem I have with the so-called New Atheist movement: they believe religion is all inherently bad, all the time, and that there can never be a good way to believe, because we will only be a good people when we all stop believing in fairy tales. Sorry, that doesn’t hold up. It just doesn’t. There are such a thing as moderate and liberal members of all faiths, and yes, the film goes into that by saying that God is not a moderate. Well, too fucking bad, human beings usually are. The Bible is so full of contradictions that you can pretty much believe anything you want, and it will still be right, somehow. Jesus mostly taught love, and Yahweh (the Jewish god) was a jealous douche most of the time. The two really are mutually exclusive most of the time, but show as many random, contradictory facets as human beings themselves. If a person acts violently in accordance with a faith, then the person is wrong. If they act kindly in accordance with a faith, then the person is right. The faith is an independent component that is not using a person, but is used by a person, and acting as if it works the other way around is just inexcusable.

However, there is at least one merit to this argument: government officials acting on their own faith for the detriment of society. Moving on to the Rapture, we reach the one reason that I can’t completely disagree with New Atheism: the idea of the End of the World. This actually does have some far reaching problems. If someone believes that gay people should die, as long as they don’t act on that or force someone else to do so, their belief can easily die with them if we just ignore them. If someone treats our only planet like toilet paper, then every individual’s actions help with the collective destruction of the Earth, meaning that anyone who believe there is no future for this world has no reason to act as though there is. If you remember, Apocalypse begins with an imminent nuclear holocaust, that is magically stopped by the Anti-Christ. What if some nutjob takes that part seriously, hoping to trigger the Rapture by launching a nuclear missile? Well then we are all completely fucked, that’s what. If there is ANY reason to get rid of religions with an end of the world ideology, it is this. Pagan religions that do not subscribe to this concept are, therefore, exempt, as are very liberal denominations of Christianity that don’t believe in the Rapture or End Times, among other religious ideas.

I know that this has turned into something like a screed against both Christianity and Atheism, but with a documentary, you don’t have much of a choice but to talk about the message and what you think of it when you do a review. At no point do I ever say I will do unbiased reviews. Hell, a review is, by its nature, biased to the preferences of the viewer, though there are actual things that can be considered universally good traits for movies. This movie is completely adequate in how most of it is shot or put together. Interviews are, at times, shot in people’s houses or offices, and lighting is a possible issue, but its really not favoring any specific group over another, overall. The only part that really annoys me cinematically is the ending. Sitting in a church, the narrator, film maker Brian Fleming, moves his camera to point at himself as he commits “the unforgivable sin” of denying the Holy Spirit. A ballsy move, perhaps, though it has been turned into a kind of New Atheist rite of passage, so it has lost any sting it may have had. As he moves the camera, as expected, it shakes severely. He honestly couldn’t get one other fucking person to film this shot? I’m sure that if needed, he could just go back to the chapel if he wanted to. It was on the spur of the moment, apparently, but really, he should have just snuck back in if he had to. I’m sorry if that seems like nitpicking, but the rest of the film is done well enough that this scene is just jarring.

Unsurprisingly, I have to place this movie in the circle of wrath. It isn’t that the movie is poorly researched (though there is at least one part that is a bit off), but the forcefulness of “Christianity is bad. Grrr Christianity” is off-putting to anyone but New Atheists. Agnostics, such as myself, find this ideology to be as faith-based as Christianity itself, and people of other faiths have to be wondering if they should let Atheists make comments about how Christians and Atheists both don’t believe in, say, Buddhism or Islam, just to try convincing Christians that the Atheists might be completely right in the end. But hey, even though it un-ironically belongs in DTV Hell, I still actually recommend this movie. It’s like any movie I would place in Limbo: There is a chance you would like this film and what it talks about, even if you aren’t in agreement with everything included.

Next time, we take begin a two-part review with yet another Disney sequel, though to be fair, it has been a while. Beginning with one of the most unnecessary of all of Disney’s sequels, and following with another, rounding out a trilogy of films that might actually not completely suck.


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