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The Invention of Religion

What does it say about a film that I completely enjoyed and yet profoundly disagreed with? What does it say about me? I'm not sure, but I can recommend Ricky Gervais' The Invention of Lying to my three readers (Facebook doesn't count because you don't have to search out my blog to read this.)

The gist is this: There exists a world much like ours except the people there are incapable of lying--of any kind; they don't even make-up stories to tell, e.g. fairy tales, novels, etc. One day, however, Marc Bellison (Gervais)"magically" lies about how much money he has in his bank account. Since everyone tells the truth, he is believed over what the bank's computer reports.
He goes on with this new-found power to create religion with "A man in the sky." Gervais, an atheist in our world, pokes his finger in the eye of religion with its silly tales and arbitrary rules.
Unfortunately, the world he created isn't all that desirable. It's flat, unimaginative, and the people, while honest, lack compassion of any kind. They say whatever they feel about anyone, even if it makes the truth-teller look bad: "I'm threatened by you." The fact that Gervais' character doesn't feel compelled to say everything doesn't make one necessarily be like him either. He's stuck in the bind of knowing nothing exists after death and yet makes scads of money with his ability to lie.
There is a virtue in being honest, in not equivocating with people, yet not everything we think or feel about someone needs to be said. Why are we telling that woman that her dress is ugly? Why did we tell that child he's fat? Probably not to cause them to change their behavior, but to make our small selves slightly larger. Jesus told his followers to "speak the truth in love," and that's what Gervais' world lacks. His character starts to get at it, but ultimately to what end? After all, his world works just fine with brutal truth-telling.
All in all, this was a funny, well-crafted film. But I'm not convinced by Gervais' mockery that religion is just an opiate for us. From whence does the idea of good spring, Mr. Gervais?


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