Tuesday, March 11, 2008

In a Fight Between Jesus and Buffy, Who'd Win?

A favorite show in our house is Buffy the Vampire Slayer. A teenage girl kicking vampire butt while dealing with the everyday horrors of high school and eternal questions of good versus evil, of sin and salvation - it doesn't get any better. It's like Scooby Doo written by Harlan Ellison.

And a while ago I found this great quote from Buffy's creator, Joss Whedon, on the question: "What do you have against being a Christian?"

Joss Whedon: "I don't actually have anything against anybody, unless their belief precludes everybody else's. I am an atheist and an absurdist and have been for many, many years. I've actually taken a huge amount of flak for that. People who have faith tend to think that people who don't don't have a belief system and they don't care if they make fun of them. It's actually very difficult: Atheists are as a group not really recognized by the American public as people to be taken seriously."

Gomonkeygo: I'm interrupting here because the above struck me as very true. A while ago I met with a young friend who was deeply confused and upset. She was trying to become involved as a volunteer in our community, but found the process frustrating. Why? Because every community group she approached was religious-based or run and didn't care that she wanted to contribute and help - they were only interested in talking about Christianity and religion with her. She was ready to give up.

Well, we talked for a while and I convinced her to give it another try, suggesting a few organizations that I thought would be more interested in help than holiness. She did try again. And she did find something, but the journey was made unnecessarily difficult for her because of her status as a non-believer. She felt ostracized, even discriminated against. I've had the same problem, felt the same way, and I'm sure there are millions like us out there but we are usually too timid to raise our voices for fear of backlash.

Back to Joss Whedon: "This does not mean that I rail against religion; however the meaning of life and the meaning of what we do with our lives is something that is extremely important to me. I have included characters from many different religions, particularly in Firefly, but also in the other shows as well, because I'm interested in the concept. I think faith is an extraordinary thing. I'd like to have some, but I don't and that's just how that works.... There's one other thing I would mention, which is from Angel actually: One of the few times I really got to sort of say exactly what I think about the world was in the second season of Angel, episode 16 ['Epiphany'] when he'd gone all dark, because he does that, and that he was getting better, and he basically decided -- he'd been told: 'The world is meaningless, nothing matters.' And he said: 'Well then, this is my statement: Nothing matters, so [the] only thing that matters is what we do.' Which is what I believe: I believe the only reality is how we treat each other. The morality comes from the absense of any grander scheme, not from the presense of any grander scheme.... So the answer is: 'Nothing, unless you've got something against me.'"


michelerui79 said...

Great post,gomonkeygo.Not only because I'm an atheist too (thoough an italian one...which is not a lucky kind either...), or because I'm a huge (HUGE!) Buffy(and Angel, ça va sans dire)fan, but mainly because Whedon's words (btw: where are they from?) are some of the best I've ever heard (I love those written by Percy Shelley on the matter too) about atheism and about the fact that being an atheist is not (at all) about not having a morality (as too many still tend to think). And maybe all the contrary: it often is about struggling, it is about always making decisions without (any) preconceived believes. Which makes every choice so much harder, of course... I remember of an old italian tv show when a(n) (atheist) host had a catholic church say that Atheists will be the first in line for heaven because (to god's eyes) their choices were so hard...Or something like that. Very weird from the mouth of a roman chhurch's
By the way: to answer your question (the one in the title) I'd quote Xander (Harris, of course): "When it's dark and I'm all alone, and I'm scared or freaked out or whatever, I always think, 'What would Buffy do?".

PS You made my "Fave blogs" list of my blog (actually you've made it some time ago).

gomonkeygo said...

Thank you, kind sir. It's only in the last year that I've started to openly talk about my non-belief except with friends. It's very difficult to be an atheist in small-town America. People are constantly, not knowing or caring about what your own beliefs may be, saying "I'll pray for you" and the like. I don't need their prayers. It's a waste of their time and a hypocritical waste of my own to respond politely (yet I do).

Many years ago, kind of like your story of the TV show, I told the pastor of the Lutheran church I was raised in that I didn't believe. I was twelve. I felt I had to tell him, that it was my moral duty to do so. He said it saddened him but at least I was thinking about it, unlike most of his parishioners, he suspected. Best thing he could have said. A very caring, good man.

I saw something about Buffy on your site and thought you might like the reference! There is a link to the quote in the post, in Whedon's name.

Me, I always ask myself a slightly different question: "What Would Robert Culp Do?" But the answer is the same. Someone gets their ass kicked.

rogue46 said...

It seems to me that coming from a position of not really knowing if God exists is a much better place than believing God exists and not living up to your knowing. Understanding that we don't know it all is the first step towards wisdom. It creates a vacuum that must be filled. I am a believer in God, but not the god most people believe in. I'm kind of a Christian mystic pagan.
By the way I'm a huge Firefly fan and love Joss's work. Thanks for your thoughts.

gomonkeygo said...

I had an epiphany this last year, for lack of a better word, about me and God. I realized that I have and have always had only two paths open to me - total belief or total unbelief. I'm either a crazy-in-a-cave-for-God wildman, sticks in my hair and shit stuck to my ass or I'm a total, burn-me-at-the-stake unbeliever, little intellectual granny glasses and all.

I've got a family, a job that's important (to me, at least), things I want to do while I'm still alive - so I decided I couldn't go cave-crazy. Had to stay in the real world, make my own decisions, take responsibility for my own actions, struggle and ache and hurt and do all the human shit without the sweet pillowy knowledge that God was on my side and I could just turn my cares and woes over to Jesus anytime they get too hard to bear. Because there is no God. And if Jesus ever existed, he's long dead and gone and ain't never comin' back.

Ol' Percy was a smart dude. Damn brave too. Next time I crack open the Laphroig, I'll pour one for him and Ozymandias too.


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shatter'd visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamp'd on these lifeless things,
The hand that mock'd them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains: round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away.