I thought you guys would be interested in this very cool interview with Matthew Chapman, great-great-grandson of Charles Darwin, movie director, who directed the movie The Ledge, in my opinion not a bad movie, not a fantastic movie but worth watching, especially because the overtly atheist subject and the hero of the movie is an atheist (it did not hurt that the actor is very good looking). Chap,man strikes me as a very likable guy, a true humanist.
An Atheist Hero is Something to Be
Carolyn S. Briggs is an Associate Professor of English at Marshalltown Community College. She received her M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of Arkansas. Her memoir This Dark World: A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost was published by BloomsburyUSA in 2002 and Rowman & Littlefield in 2011 (now titled Higher Ground: A Memoir of Salvation Found and Lost). She wrote the screenplay "Higher Ground" in 2010.
My Christian fundamentalist mother was furious when I wrote about an atheist convention, but she was practically sputtering to read that once there, I hugged Matthew Chapman, the great-great grandson of Charles Darwin. Our paths had nearly crossed at Sundance in 2011 where we each premiered a filmabout faith and doubt.
When he later screened his film The Ledgeat the national atheist convention held in my hometown, Des Moines, I queued up to meet him and tried not to feel sycophantic. Even though I had heard lots of atheist speakers by the time I spoke to Matthew Chapman, it was our brief conversation that stayed with me. If my mom takes the fun out of fundamentalism, Matthew Chapman puts the human into secular humanism. Later, we had a more extended conversation.
CB: We both made films dealing with faith and doubt that were released last year. You’re the outspoken atheist and I’m between faith and doubt. I’m just circling the drain.
MC: [laughs] No, you’re not. You’re out there having a good time and enjoying yourself.
Depends on the day, but what about you? What’s your raison d’etre?
To leave a good impression. I hope I do things that have some sort of positive effect on the world. I am far from a perfect human being, but in the way I think, write, hopefully make more films like The Ledge, I am involved in what I hope is an important conversation.
I’m an atheist who believes deeply in compassion, love, charity, hope. I’m an atheist who has been through a lot of suffering on this earth. I have some understanding of some of the things that can push people into religion. In The Ledge, you even see a sympathetic portrayal of the fundamentalist. When you learn everything about his life and what he’s been through, [you understand] his slightly twisted adoration for his wife and you sympathize with him. But I can sympathize with anyone. I am so nonjudgmental that I can sympathize and like just about anyone [laughing]. If you can’t find excuses for others, how do you find excuses for yourself?
That sense of acceptance and tolerance really comes through in your memoirs. In fact, you called it a defect. You said once you get to know someone, you can’t hate him or her even if it’s justified.
I can hate at a distance. I really didn’t like Jerry Falwell—
Are you about to make a case for Jerry Falwell?
[laughing] I didn’t meet him, but if I would have met him before he died, I probably would have found him quite charming. I did meet Jim and Tammy Baker, years before they became infamous. She was absolutely charming. He was a little bit slippery, though.
But the beliefs themselves are hard to take. You mention a fundamentalist who told you that most people in the world will certainly end up in the fires of hell and then in the next breath, he offered you a cup of coffee. You couldn’t get your head around this “spectacular acceptance of spectacular violence.”
The concept of hell is incredibly violent. In the Bible, there are two sides to the coin. On one side, there is goodness and charity and the reward of heaven. Yet throughout the Bible is this idea that a lot of people, I mean really most people, the majority of people, 80% of people, are going to hell. And that makes God the worst butcher in history, the worst torturer who has ever existed. A. C. Graylingsays that the believers he admires the most are the fundamentalists who have the guts to stick to the original text. I don’t know how you keep reinterpreting the Bible and keep watering it down.
Your film The Ledge introduces us to a chill, good-looking, somewhat heroic atheist. When you screened it for some young atheists, they were very moved.
They cried. One young man told me afterward that it was an Atheist Manifesto. Atheists don’t see themselves as sympathetic or likeable in film; certainly there aren’t any action heroes shouting, “You gotta have reason!” Hollywood is ruled by a desire for profit and since most Americans believe in God, that’s going to be reflected [on the screen].
That’s interesting because I spent a lot of years watching films and television through the lens of a woman of faith. From my perspective, Hollywood seemed to consider God as irrelevant, toothless, meaningless. No one was reading the Bible or praying in mainstream entertainment. Characters pursued their passions and resolved their conflicts without God. Yet, your movie made the question of belief a relevant one. You brought God into the conversation.
I’m very glad. Now that you say that, you’re right. Given how central religion is in American life, it is true that it doesn’t get dealt with a lot [in mainstream film]—from either side of the aisle.
You were convinced that a movie would be more powerful in representing atheists than any number of books and speakers.
You were at the national convention in Iowa. Some of the atheist speakers were pretty good, but you can’t compare any of them to a good preacher. I think atheism leaves out a whole emotional component from the argument. That’s wrong because some of the injury that religion causes is deeply emotional—children who have been killed in religious wars, homophobia, denigration of women—none of these find their way into the logic of an atheist argument, and in a film you can do that.
Read the rest here.
It looks like a real gripping movie. I will try and succeed to see it.I love the title of the interview or/and of the article. It is definitely true that churches are getting emptier and emptier. Religions has nothing to do with morals asI guess this movieshows.
When at the end of the interview he said that he would have wanted to study comparative religion and this has been one of my dreams too for many years; it seemed like an important way to understand the world we live in.
(not sure if my thoughts are too coherent now ?)