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The Sciences

Will Atheists Rally Behind "The Ledge"?


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Today in New York and Los Angeles, "The Ledge" premieres--see here for our Point of Inquiry episode--a landmark, by any reasonable estimation, in the cinematic depiction of atheism. Tell me another movie that has top tier Hollywood stars in it (Liv Tyler, Terence Howard), that has been nominated for best drama at Sundance, and that actually advances the case that atheists are ethical, good, and even heroic people? When Mel Gibson made The Passion of the Christ, evangelicals rallied around the film dramatically and made it a huge success. Seriously, the film grossed over $ 600 million! You might think atheists would see their chance to do the same...but then, atheists are not like Christians, in many, many ways. Psychologically--this is my opinion, but actually grounded in a lot of data--they are highly individualistic, not followers, not into heeding any authority, marching to their own drum. That is, of course, what makes them atheists and what makes them reject the dogmas of religion. And it is also what makes them regularly criticize their own. You see this in the blogcomments on The Ledge wherever you go--a lot of negativism directed towards the film. I know that those who comment on blogs are only a small proportion of those who read them, but--if you want to have an effect through popular culture, this does not bode particularly well. The film may cascade to prominence anyway--Bill Donohue's Catholic League has been baited into attacking it, which is great PR for the film, and it does after all feature a star studded cast. But this weekend is crucial--the opening in New York and LA has to be strong in order to spread to more theaters. Will atheists come out, in these two cities that are absolutely full of them? Let's hope so--you can find a theater here. And for those who aren't based in our two bi-coastal megacities, you can still stream the movie via Sundance. Meantime, here is a clip of the central "debate over God" scene:

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