#32 Movie Review: The Ledge (2011)

Last night we rented “The Ledge”, a Matthew Chapman movie, from iTunes for $6.99.  We rented it on our Apple TV 2, in HD, and streamed it on our TV.  The movie premiered online as a streaming option on May 26.  Weeks later it opened in a few theaters nationwide and is currently playing in a handful of venues.  I’m not sure why the decision was made to open like that and I think it may have done the movie some harm.  The only reason I knew about it was because of the tireless promotion by the movie’s writer and director, Matthew Chapman (great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin, yes, that Darwin).  I heard Chapman discussing it on several podcasts including Skepticality, The Humanist Hour, and Point of Inquiry.

Here is a short synopsis of the plot from IMDB:

“A thriller in which a battle of philosophies between a fundamentalist Christian and an atheist escalates into a lethal battle of wills.  Ultimately, as a test of faith, or lack of it, the believer forces the non-believer onto the ledge of a tall building.  He then has one hour to make a choice between his own life and someone else’s.  Without faith in an afterlife, will he be capable of such a sacrifice?”

I was prepared for a movie laden with dialogue and heavy, philosophical, monologues and I was not disappointed.  That’s not to say the movie dragged on as some of that type tend to do.  The conversations and thoughts of the lead characters were thought provoking and well written.  Of course I identified with the atheist character, Gavin, played by Charlie Hunnam, and I felt that his passion and level of knowledge about the bible were a accurate portrayal of the modern, educated, atheist.  I wouldn’t, however, characterize his behavior with Shana, played by Liv Tyler, as that of a typical atheist.  The atheists I know are moral, kind, and intelligent people and his actions were immoral and dishonest.  It makes a good movie, though.

The fundamentalist Christian antagonist (or protagonist, depending upon your point of view), Joe, played by Patrick Wilson, did a great job of portraying people of that sort.  He showed how people of serious faith will do anything in support of their god’s mission and vision.  At one point he said that he had no fear regarding the consequences of his actions because God was on his side.  That is a scary thought and the central one of the film.  In the end, Gavin has to decide whether he has the ability to die for his beliefs, or lack there of, to save another.

Since the central plot of the movie is very specific it is hard to discuss it without giving much away.  I will say that the movie is worth watching and that you won’t be disappointed.  The movie should appeal to the fundamentalist and atheist alike since both characters where written very well and honestly.  Chapman, an atheist, did not write the fundamentalist as something that they are not.  He was truthful and accurate.

You can rent the movie on iTunes or from Sundance.

Would you sacrifice your own life, knowing that there is no afterlife, for someone else?  I’m not sure I can even make that decision without being presented with the situation directly.  When religious people sacrifice their lives for their beliefs is it really that much of a sacrifice?  In their own eyes, are they giving up that much?  What is a few decades on this planet when you can have an eternity (ETERNITY!! FOREVER!!) in absolute paradise?  If I thought for a second that god and heaven were real I would be searching for reason to blow myself up so I could get on with the rest of my eternal existence.  Why not?  What do you have to lose?  Oh right, it might all be a fairy tale.  That must be why most people balk at the whole martyr thing.

Anyway, enjoy the movie!


Written in Sparks, NV.

#28 Skeptical Believers: Are you just going for the cookies?

Every time I'm around a group of freethinkers or outright atheists the majority opinion is that people of all types are free to attend. That means atheists, agnostics, believers, you name it. I don't disagree with that part. If all we do is get together with like minded people and preach the gospel of atheism and science then we aren't really doing much for the community as a whole. However, there is something to be said about educating ourselves internally so we can be better advocates for reason and rationalism.

The more easy going and friendly part of the atheism/skeptical movement feel that it's OK that there are people out there that believe in a higher power of some type but that also identify as skeptics. Personally, I think the two are mutually exclusive. If you apply rational arguments to the god hypothesis then the entire argument breaks down before your eyes. Calling yourself a skeptic means that you apply rational thinking to ideas and concepts that are presented to you. I try to do this to every aspect of my life. At work some people know this type of thinking through the axiom, "Work smarter, not harder". This is a simple phrase that allows you to stop what you are doing, apply some critical thinking skills to a problem, and continue on in a more efficient manner. In other words, thinking skeptically.

So, why do otherwise rational people still hang on to archaic beliefs? I think it's because they feel a sense of community when they go to church. I'd be surprised if any of the believer-skeptics out there are going to those mega churches or to the really fundamentalist churches. They are likely going to small community churches where a few songs are sung, the preacher tells a story, and they all go socialize over coffee and cookies. As skeptics, we can, and do, provide this service to the community. There are local skeptics and freethinkers groups, Skeptics in the Pub meet ups, and local skeptical events such as celebrating Darwin's birthday. I have an idea for another community event that should take place on Sundays so we can provide an outlet for families that don't what to go to church but still want to do something constructive with that time. I'm devoting my next post to that idea.

So, if you are a believer that identifies as a skeptic, I ask you to step back and look at your position with the critical thinking skills that the community is trying to teach you. Does your belief really make sense? Or, are you just going to church for the friendship and heart warming stories? It's difficult to see the cherry-picking that the church does to keep people there when they cloak the scary bits of the bible in flowery "Jesus loves you" stories. Don't forget that the bible also condones stoning your children, beating your wife, and killing your enemies. Next time you are at church, look around. Are people really paying attention or are they checking their phones and watches and scolding their children? Are they just sitting there because they, and you, are just waiting for the cookies?

I welcome comments.

Written in the high desert northeast of Winnemucca, NV.