Cinema Signal:

. "The God Who Wasn't There"

This is a spawn of "Super Size Me," an expose' on the perils of over-eating. In that documentary by Morgan Spurling, the call to a reasoned adjustment in practice and belief is for the sake of physical health; in this case the call is for a gain in mentality and reason. Either way, a demonstration of facts is the tool used to influence behavior and a more reasoned way of understanding reality.

Or, so writer/director/documentarian/former Christian fundamentalist Brian Flemming would have you believe after tracing the facts and fictions that brought us the church and its doctrine. For the job, he uses visual aids and enlists top religion experts for their take on what would seem to be a massive and effective snow job rooted in the make-believe.

But, what a snow-job! In terms of influencing minds and producing commercial immortality for centuries, there are no awards great enough to bestow on the fictions underlying Christianity. Neither the Nobel, the Pulitzer, nor having the Pope ring the bell on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange are commensurate.

Using the style and pacing of a thriller as much as he could muster from the editing board and music tracks, the essentials of Flemming's argument is that there's no historical evidence that a man named Jesus actually existed, that references by contemporary historians have been cynically manipulated to substantiate the fabrication, and that the books that comprise the New Testament is mostly fictional allegory drawn from nearly identical imagery copycatted from religions that preceded it. God, it isn't even original!

There's a certain sadness in the way a concept from a prior age gets accepted as truth, as memories fade or are misrepresented. Before you know it, you have a generation who knows nothing but what they're told in a party-line indoctrination from childhood that bears a sinister relationship to propaganda--in this case, in order to preserve power and cash flow.

Santa Claus is a product of commercialism strictly from 20th century origins, yet it seems to be generally thought of as timeless. The motto "In God We Trust" replaced "E Pluribus Unum" on U.S. dollar bills in 1956 amidst anti- communist fervor, yet there it still remains decades after the collapse of the Soviet Union. An act of Congress is all it would take to return to the "One From Many" motto formulation for our world standard currency, but it's guarded by the religious power base in America as though it were inviolable.

So, how does Flemming think he's going to appeal to his born-again brethren who haven't yet submitted childhood indoctrination to the clear sensibility of common sense, let alone the cold analysis of intelligent thought? Well, he is saying, all you can do is try.

There's little need for those who have already fallen into the hell of atheism to see this DVD -- no need preaching to the choir. But the demographic that has most to gain by the facts presented are those of the faith who have had doubts and those who haven't had the conviction yet to reject the religious precepts of their parents and instructors that seem true only because they're so prevalent. This DVD is a filter for the brain washed.

At the very least, in a time of awareness and scientific progress, one can only hope that an adoption of a standard of evidence may convince Americans that separation of church and state (Jefferson, 1782) is as vital to their true interests in a diverse society as is the certainty of evolution. As far as teachings of morality, let's base it on equal respect for all religions that don't teach murder or that try to dominate a democratic, multi-belief culture. All else is either destructive, or Santa Claus.

[Dvd extras: Extensive interviews, slide shows, music track by David Byrne. 4x3 ratio, Dolby, 62 minutes including special features, 259.]

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  

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