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 Spiritual Atheism: 'Buffy,' 'Angel,' 'House' and 'Doctor Who'

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MessageSujet: Spiritual Atheism: 'Buffy,' 'Angel,' 'House' and 'Doctor Who'   Spiritual Atheism: 'Buffy,' 'Angel,' 'House' and 'Doctor Who' Icon_minitimeVen 31 Aoû - 18:08

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Spiritual Atheism: 'Buffy,' 'Angel,' 'House' and 'Doctor Who'

By Steven Lloyd Wilson

When I was a kid, Sunday morning meant going to church. Every week, year after year, until I went to college and lapsed into proper heathenhood. I never really fought going, unless pretending to be asleep the first six times I was told to get dressed really counts as fighting. It meant too much to my mom, and even in the depths of teenage anger boys don’t screw around too much with the things that really matter to their moms. Freud said something about it, but he also had a few words about those sixty foot steeples stapled onto every church.

It’s a simple equation to solve, really. You add an overly intelligent child to a room with uncomfortable seats and a parent policed prohibition on sleeping and he’s going to read a book if it’s sitting right in front of him, there’s just not much else to do. So I read the Bible. Cover to cover. Over and over. Year after year.

It didn’t stick.

The New Testament was fairly boring except for Revelations, but the Old Testament had some deliriously fucked up parts. You ever read Maccabees? Them ancient Israelites were some crazy sum bitches. So I arrived at atheism and agnosticism through a rather Christian route. Those poor Jesuits spent a lot of years teaching the devil to quote scripture.

Spirituality is something distinct from religion: the search for meaning is not the same as the acceptance of god. Joss Whedon is an atheist. So is Russell T. Davies. David Shore isn’t, but he’s a Jew so he’s halfway there. Atheists write some of the most deeply spiritual works because they have thought about it, tortured themselves over it. It’s like how the greatest coaches were always the mediocre players, because nothing came naturally to them, they had to obsess over and analyze every detail, fight for every inch. It’s that struggle that imparts insight and wisdom. Atheists are amongst the most spiritual because they have not found an answer, their struggle for meaning never ends by definition.

Staggering through the wasteland of television, there are a few shows that have stuck out over the years:


“Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel”

“If there’s no great glorious end to all this, if nothing we do matters … then all that matters is what we do. ‘Cause that’s all there is. What we do. Now. Today. I fought for so long, for redemption, for a reward, and finally just to beat the other guy. Because, if there’s no bigger meaning, then the smallest act of kindness is the greatest thing in the world.” — Angel, “Epiphanies”

Joss Whedon has said that “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” is the story of a teenager growing up and that Angel is the story of a twenty-something becoming a man. They are stages, waypoints on the path. They’re not just universal stories, they are the story of our society.

We were young once, toddlers, we followed the rules under threat of immediate punishment: follow the priests or they’ll cut out your tongue and stone your ass in the temple square. Morality enforced by spanking. Then we grew up a bit, had a renaissance, wrote some philosophy, religion and the state got divorced, we became tweens: follow the rules under threat of eternal damnation, do what the church says, or god will get you when you die. Morality enforced by grounding when dad gets home.

Buffy starts growing up the moment she starts sneaking out at midnight to do what she thinks is right, when she fights the darkness regardless of the consequences with her mom, with Principal Snyder, even with Giles. The point of no return comes on that night when the door to hell almost opens, when her mother tells her that if she walks out the door it’ll be for the last time, and Buffy does anyway, heart broken, mind made up.

The industrial age came with all the bluster and violence of machinery and ideology. Civilization as a teenager. Stole the keys to the car, got drunk, plowed through some pedestrians. We issued thunderous proclamations that no one preceding us could possibly understand our agony, trashed our room and then scrawled endless bad poetry about our angst and pain. Morality is dead, they say. We need the old ways they say. This is what you get when you kill god, when you don’t listen to your parents anymore.

Buffy sleeps with Angel. The world nearly ends. She watches Faith kill a man, helps her cover it up. These are the things that happen when we stop listening to our parents. She stabs Angel through the heart to save the world, blows up Sunnydale High to save her friends. These are the ways we find our own path, our own morality.

We’re a civilization trying to figure out what the hell it means to be a man. We’ve grown up, got those world wars out of our system, but we moved out on our own. There aren’t parents anymore to tell us what to do. Insisting that society cannot have a concept of morality without god is like insisting that an adult cannot have a concept of morality without parents. The opposite is true. In reality, it is only as adults, free and unfettered adults, that we truly adopt any sort of meaningful and mature morality. That’s the morality that comes from deciding to be the kind of man we want to be. Not because our parents say so, not because god says so, but because that’s the kind of man we want to be, that’s the face we can look at in the mirror without flinching. Society works the same way. We have labored so long trying to live up to the morality of god, that we finally threw down and had the crazy teenage rebellion clusterfuck of the last two centuries. We’re fucking hungover as a species: the car’s parked in the yard, we somehow vomited on the couch and shit in the sink, vaguely remember beating the crap out of someone at a bar, and we really can’t stand to look in the mirror. That’s the challenge of the next century: to build a society we can respect, whether it lives up to the old religions and ideologies or not.

Angel goes to L.A., 200 years old and with a river of blood staining his hands, but still needing to learn to be a man. He watches friends sacrifice themselves. He becomes a father. He tries to help people, he tries to find some measure of redemption to dispel the darkness. But the more he fights for absolution, the more it slips away. The indifference sets in, the cynicism that rises up in self defense against the banality of evil, scoffing at him. “I just can’t seem to care.” It’s that crushing nihilism that sets in when you move to a city alone for the first time, no parents, no friends. It doesn’t matter what you do. No one is watching, no one is keeping score. But that’s the seed of real morality, that’s the epiphany: when nothing you do matters, the only thing that matters is what you do.


Lire la suite, avec House et Dr. Who :

http://www.pajiba.com/think_pieces/spiritual-atheism-buffy-angel-house-and-doctor-who.php

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