Sucker Punch, Tacitus, atheism and Orwell

” If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

I don’t like quotes like these, because it feels like mindless repeating something that someone else has thought off and is probably quoted out of context anyway.. I heard  this quote when I watched the movie Sucker Punch, just to give you an idea of the context..
Sucker Punch is a curious movie. On the face it seems to be an over-the-top action movie filled with scanty dressed women who are facing various diverse unrealistic situations such as world war I with zombie Germans and so on.. The whole is tied together by a double layered story. The first layer is the ‘real’ world in which the main character is locked up in a psychiatric hospital. She fantasizes to escape her dreary environment and impending doom(being lobotomized). The next layer has her and her other inmates being held by a sleazy guy who acts like a pimp and the environment has a definite vintage feel. It is the layer in which she escaped to the next world.
Sucker Punch has not been received well and I think I can make case  that this has much to do with the pretty women dressed in fetish outfits and the over the top action scenes. It is too flashy and too sexy to look like a profound movie and as such it isn’t.  And that is ironic. Perhaps more quotes would have helped, even if these quotes are totally out of context such as the quote above. And as the case may be: quoting things out of context and cherry picking is a well established practice.

The quote made me also think of an issue I have been struggling with these last few months. I have been watching a lot discussions surrounding atheism on you tube. Atheism can be described as a rejection of the claim that a god(or gods) exists on the ground that there is not enough proof to think otherwise.  In the western world this discussion focuses mainly on the god of the Christians because that god is culturally tied to those areas.

In the Netherlands(my native country) there are almost no discussions surrounding atheism and as far as I can tell nobody takes exception when you say you are an atheist. Perhaps it might lead to an exchange of views, that eventually ends with stand off, but nothing more.
In the US and on You Tube however the discussion is on. There are good reasons for that.  In the US the obvious conflict is the one between fundamental Christians, spearheaded by creationist and apologists, and the atheists. But it isn’t just a fight between ‘extremes’ but one that has a profound influence on our world and thus affects us all. The well funded extreme Christian basically denounce anyone who oppose their claims and want any other claims suppressed. And this is scary because the US is the most powerful nation in the world both economically and military and also very influential in many other areas. A right winged extreme Christian United States is no blessing too the world.

An example of a group of people that are seen as enemies of the faith are those scientists who hold views that are contrary to the views held by extreme Christians. If their scientific investigations do not match with the Christian claims  or even contradict them then science has to take a backseat and adapt to fit the Chritian. claim. Such extreme views are propagated by the likes of a Sye ten Bruggencate.
An example is a passage from the works of the Roman historian Tacitus. When describing the burning of Roman in 64 AD he tells us that the emperor Nero shifted the blame to a group of people called Christians by the populace.. He then tells that the name Christians comes from a man called Christ who has been killed on orders of Pilate during the reign of Tiberius.  More about this can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tacitus_on_Christ
This is the only passage on Christians and Christ that exist in the extant works of Tacitus. It is often pointed to as proof of Christs existence. The whole issue comes down to the interpretation of this sentence: Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus,[]
Either this sentence builds upon the previous sentence in which Tacitus says that the name Christians is a name given to these people by the populace.. and then what is said about Christ is also derived from that source(whatever the value of such a source) or this sentence does not build upon the previous one and is one that stands on its own: this is what I Tacitus have found about about Christs(from other sources than mere hearsay). As you might have gathered, even the best of ancient writers do not out of habit mention their sources.

Whatever viewpoint is  the most valid one is very much in dispute, but one thing can be said for sure: this passage is not undisputed proof for the existence of Christ for the passage inself is disputed.
But extremist Christians still keep submitting that Tacitus offers precisely that: undisputed proof for the existence of Christ.

In the US the conflict is taken to the classroom where intelligent design is pushed as valid alternative scientific idea next to ideas such as evolution. These attempts have often failed, so an alternative strategy is develop: remove disliked theories such as evolution from the classroom.
And here we touch a profound  pattern. This is no longer about a conflict over opposing ideas,. this touched on  the progress of humanity. Evolution is not the only view that collides with intelligent design and creationism. Ideas about how the universe and life evolved contradict extremist views and eventually any critical thinking will. So when evolution is removed, this will be just the first of ideas that will be removed, because evolution isn’t a stand alone idea, it is part of a bigger picture, remove one and you need to remove the next . And then the next will follow. And the next. And the next. Until nothing remains.
But these are the idea that are born from critical thinking and eventually critical think will need to go. But it  this same critical thinking that underpins progress and inventions.  Without critical thinking there would be no internet or mobile phones or cars or advanced medicines or science.
Critical thinking, out of the box thinking, qualities that are so readily demanded from applicants by companies and institutions alike, have to be suppressed to make the world match with  extreme Christian concepts .And so we are now entering Orwells world of 1984 where history is rewritten to match the current state of affairs between the superpowers, because suggesting that it might have been changed is to suggest that ‘Big Brother’ has changed his mind, which suggest that he might have been in error. And ‘Big Brother’ does not make errors. The world will be eternally frozen into the now.. there will be no past and no future. There will be no progress.

I have often seen these discussions about atheism as fringe discussions,  interesting only to inhabitants of the United States and not ‘us’  Europeans. In addition I do not always like the methods and arguments of those that fight Christian fundamentalism. But the fact is that they, atheist, sceptics, scientists, artist and anyone else who are not liked by extreme Christians) are actually fighting for something that we accept as normal and we are not helping them.  They are up against some pretty powerful well funded organisations that do not hesitate to stoop to lies, deceit and manipulation to advance their agendas, and which will include an attempt to brainwash the next generation in thinking that the bible is the only proper source of knowledge and truth. And although  I don’t feel on any level qualified to join the discussion, I can at least report on it.. for even writing about it will be contrary to those who like to drag humanity down into ignorance.

So more posts will follow…

 ” If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” might seem to be a reason to take a stand on something. But as a matter of fact, if you do stand for something it doesn’t mean you are doing better than those that stand for nothing. Fundamentalist stand for something.. and see what that leads to.

One thought on “Sucker Punch, Tacitus, atheism and Orwell

  1. Fucking excellent post. You’ve cut to the heart of the matter and left it to lay open and bleeding on the table.

    If you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for anything is just propoganda. Nicely done!

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