Driving past Harkins a few weeks ago, I saw a woman standing on the sidewalk holding up a homemade sign that proclaimed: “Jesus would not approve.” Well of course he wouldn’t approve I thought to myself, who would approve of them remaking the greatest big-ship-gets-flipped-over-by-rogue-wave story ever told? After all, once you’ve witnessed the immortal Ernest Borgnine holding back tears as Shelly Winters’ lifeless body floats past the porthole, where is there to go but down? And then, unfortunately, it dawned on me: the lone Harkins protester probably wasn’t protesting the remake of The Poseidon Adventure; she was protesting The Da Vinci Code. I say unfortunately, because her protest meant that I now felt obligated to go see it, and there are few movies that I would less rather see: remember, we’re talking about a movie here that is based on a book that has been described by some critics as being like “eavesdropping on a conversation between two drunk sorority girls”. But no matter: once I saw that Jesus sign I just had to go: it’s an atheist thing.
I’ve been an atheist since I was eleven. And, before you ask, it wasn’t anything traumatic that happened to me at age 11 that inspired my atheism: it was a chance encounter with a volume of works by Voltaire that did it. Well, actually it was a not-so-chance encounter, seeing as how this particular book was just one of the many books my grandfather would often slip me on my way out of his door. (His habit of slipping me books by authors as diverse as Voltaire, P.G. Wodehouse and Edgar Rice Burroughs taught me more than all the lectures he could have ever delivered: he could literally speak volumes without ever saying a word).
One book I’m sure that he never would have slipped me, however (even if it had been written at the time) was The Da Vinci Code; as a scientist he would have been appalled by both the tenuous connections Dan Brown makes and his overt use of religious symbolism. Not to mention the fact that as an avid reader he would have been appalled at the cheesy writing. On second thought, however, maybe The Da Vinci Code is exactly the kind of book he would’ve slipped me: if killer albino monks aren’t enough to put you off your religion, than I don’t know what is. Not that I think he was trying to put me off of religion when he slipped me the Voltaire; he was just trying to open my eyes to other possibilities, which is exactly what he did.
This is something I have been trying to keep in mind lately as I watch Clementine on her spin through the worlds’ religions. So far, she has been a Buddhist, a Hindu and, judging from the state of her hair, a Rastafarian. She has also been through a Christian phase whereby she would drop to her knees and pray over dead animals, plants and bugs. (I tell myself it was Christian only because I like to ignore the fact that the over-the-top melodrama of it all clearly screamed “Scientologist”).
Recently she has begun to claim that she, too, is an atheist, but somehow I still doubt it: her love of ghost stories alone places her commitment to a supernatural-free lifestyle in question. If anything, she is (shudder) an agnostic. Truthfully, though, whatever belief system she eventually arrives at will be ok with me–even something as wishy-washy as agnosticism–as long as it makes her happy and allows her unfettered access to her dreams. Of course, hopefully her dreams won’t involve standing outside of movie theaters holding up cardboard signs protesting the latest Tom Hanks movie. Unless he is doing a remake of The Towering Inferno. Then I’m with her all the way.