Getting Ready for Russell Crowe as Noah? Read Wesley Smith's The War on Humans
It's a commonplace, so common I hesitate to repeat it, notwithstanding that it's true: Materialism is weirdly like a religion. Despite its pose as a counterweight to faith, you have many of the most stereotyped elements of religious belief right there.
Let us count the ways. The multiverse, much in the news today, recalls the old Norse myth of Yggdrasil the world tree, from which all realities including our familiar world branch off. Darwinism is the myth that explains the origins of life, although a view that I predict will gain more adherents with time denies there's really any such thing as "life." Instead there is only a continuum from inanimate to animate matter. What we call life is indefinable and certainly nothing special. (See here for a recent New York Times opinion piece explaining "Why Nothing Is Truly Alive.")
On moral issues, you have not the theist's belief in the existence of free will and personal responsibility but an insistence on determinism, a denial of choice or responsibility. You have, in global warming, an apocalyptic vision of the future, the ruination first of the climate and thereby of civilization.
Missing until now has been a flood story to compete with the narratives of universal deluge that religions literally around the world have recounted. Judging from pre-opening comments, Darren Aronofsky's Noah may provide the materialists' answer to the Bible's account of the flood. With Russell Crowe in the title role, the film opens on Friday. We'll see it and let you know what we think.
It's interesting, though, that Glenn Beck -- who did see a screening -- has put his finger on what he calls the film's persistent theme of anti-humanism:
If you're looking for a biblical movie, this definitely is not it. I don't think it's an environmental thing as much as it's just so pro-animal and anti-human, and I mean strongly anti-human...There's no redeeming value in Noah. None. He hates people. I'm sorry, no prophet of God hates people. ... Noah is wrong about everything.
OK, I'm taking this with a grain of salt, but it fits with earlier reports, already noted here at ENV, that Aronofsky's screenplay focused on "modern-day problems like overpopulation and environmental degradation."
If you don't understand the cultural and scientific context for such anti-humanism -- assuming Beck is right -- it must be very perplexing. What does this successful atheist filmmaker have against human beings? To understand, you'd need to follow the work of Discovery Institute senior fellow and National Review Online writer Wesley J. Smith, whose new and very timely ebook is The War on Humans. See our video trailer here.
The Biblical narrative of Noah and the flood is a parable about widespread moral corruption and the ruin that brings with it. The materialist's deluge is not that. It's a response to insults to the environment, disrespect for the Earth and for the animals, our very near relations.
This is just a totally different way of looking at the world, one with its scientific roots in Darwinian evolutionary theory. If humans are nothing more than animals with an attitude problem -- no soul, no image of God, nothing genuinely, meaningfully exceptional about us -- then a clean sweep of us from the surface of Mother Earth might make sense.
The idea has its own integrity. With the accretion of myths like the one in Noah, materialism even takes on a certain richness. That it produces twisted and ugly sentiments -- fantasies of mass human death to make way for the beasts and the plants -- is also true.
The angry apocalyptic strain in radical environmentalism runs deep. In The War on Humans, Wesley cites Donald A. Brown, a professor of environmental ethics at Penn, who thinks "opposition to the [global] warming political agenda" should be "considered a crime against humanity." Climate skepticism -- yes, that's the real impurity in need of cleansing. If skeptics prevail, Brown predicts multiple catastrophic "harms":
These harms include deaths[,] injuries, hunger, and disease from droughts, floods, heat, storm-related damages, rising oceans, heat impacts on agriculture, loss of animals that are dependent upon for substance purposes, social disputes caused by diminishing resources, sickness from a variety of diseases, the inability to rely upon traditional sources of food, the inability to use property that people depend upon to conduct their life including houses or sleds in cold places, the destruction of water supplies, and the inability to live where [sic] has lived to sustain life.
As a solution, many proponents of "deep ecology" and Gaia theology would like to see much of humanity wiped out first. Even before Noah, dreams of this have been the subject of Hollywood storytelling. The 2008 remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still with Keanu Reeves was a science-fiction retelling of the Noah story.
Compared with the original 1951 film, writes Wesley Smith:
The message of the remake is not only far, far darker, but seethes with antipathy toward the human race. The remake's alien community not only has no interest in saving humanity; it doesn't think we are worth the effort. To the contrary: Klaatu has mutated from a benign friend of man into a dangerous and brooding enemy. Gort the killer robot isn't a potential threat to our future, but a weapon to be immediately deployed against us for total annihilation. Why? Not because the space civilization worries we will bring war to the stars, but because total genocide is the only way to save the Earth.
Klaatu justifies making humans extinct in very blunt terms, with the clear implication that the Earth itself is a living entity...
It is also worth noting that Klaatu's flying saucer has been replaced by a blue sphere that looks like a mini-planet complete with clouds. Other Earth-looking spheres soon arrive, and it quickly becomes clear that they are extraterrestrial Noah's arks, tasked with removing all other species from Earth to be returned to thrive unmolested after the great human obliteration.
Without Wesley as your guide to these currents in the culture, the new Noah might seem to be nothing more than a perverse, spiteful slap at the Noah of the Bible. Glenn Beck reports that he found himself laughing at the bizarre spectacle. It was all too ridiculous.
The truth is that, if the reports are accurate, this reimagined Noah is not ridiculous at all. It's part of the unfolding of a myth system that follows inexorably from a philosophical seed, scientific materialism. For a primer on that, read The War on Humans.
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