Requesting Input on Good Motion Pictures with Atheist, Freethinker, Naturalist Themes

Dec 11, 2013


Discussion by: neurol

FEBRUARY FREETHOUGHT FILM FESTIVAL

What are your favorite atheist, freethinker, or naturalist motion pictures?

Each year our UU Humanist group runs a local one month film festival. In the past we have watched and then discussed: "Inherit the Wind", "Agora", "Contact", "Life of Brian", "The Seventh Seal", "Tree of Life" and "Dekalogue" 

What are YOUR suggestions?

37 comments on “Requesting Input on Good Motion Pictures with Atheist, Freethinker, Naturalist Themes

  • 1
    Michael Fisher says:

    Bedazzled [1968] with Dudley Moore and Peter Cook [Not the remake! Love this film ~ plenty of devilry & disrespect]

    The Invention Of Lying [2009?] with Ricky Gervais [I’ve not seen it. It bombed at the US box office, but it got good reviews ~ especially the first half hour]



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  • I remember watching The Ledge a couple of years ago. Thought it was pretty good, not great, but worth a rental.

    A thriller in which a battle of philosophies between a fundamentalist Christian and an atheist escalates into a lethal battle of wills. Ultimately, as a test of faith, or lack of it, the believer forces the non-believer onto the ledge of a tall building. He then has one hour to make a choice between his own life and someone else’s. Without faith in an afterlife, will he be capable of such a sacrifice?

    Mike



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  • In reply to #1 by Michael Fisher:

    The Invention Of Lying [2009?] with Ricky Gervais [I’ve not seen it. It bombed at the US box office, but it got good reviews ~ especially the first half hour]

    Saw it at the Atheist Film Festival in San Francisco a couple of years back. It was great.



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  • Life of Pi would be interesting. Narrator claims he will make you believe in God at the start and concludes the movie with the closing argument that a nice imaginary story is better than a nasty factual story so therefore we should believe in God. That is how I took it anyway, maybe I missed something. The problem with this “It’s nice to be nice” theory is that the only way we can make our lives “nicer” is by a closer understanding of reality. (eg. knowing the reality of how disease works allows us to find cures, knowing the reality of farming allows us to produce abundant food, etc, etc.) Anything that moves us away from an accurate understanding of reality, such as supernatural religious beliefs, is bound to also move us away from “niceness” and toward nastiness. Just a thought; probably not the best film for an Atheist Festival, except in the way it openly confesses belief in god is justified out of self indulgence and fear.



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  • David Attenborough’s “Life in the Undergrowth” is an incredible and beautiful doco to watch. Even an Atheist audience will probably be shocked with the facts it reveals about how life actually works and how miraculous it is compared to the sad old stories in most religious texts.



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  • 6
    justinesaracen says:

    In reply to #4 by Catfish:

    Life of Pi would be interesting. Narrator claims he will make you believe in God at the start and concludes the movie with the closing argument that a nice imaginary story is better than a nasty factual story so therefore we should believe in God. That is how I took it anyway, maybe I missed somet…

    I loved the movie, but I saw it in French and missed most of the subtleties in the dialog, so I could enjoy the spectacular visuals. I’m trying to read the book (I read French better than i hear it), but already in the second chapter I’m fed up. He seems to be making the most banal case possible for belief; that it is comforting. I have no patience now for the tiresome old apologies for religion.



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  • Jerome Bixby’s ‘The Man From Earth’ is very interesting. This was his last screenplay. He was a sci fi writer involved with or who Influenced aspects of Star Trek, Alien, Twilight Zone, Fantastic Voyage etc.

    Not exactly an action drama as it’s pretty much a drawn out party game conversation entirely shot in a single lounge room set. (Lacks car chases, gun fights, full frontal nudity, and similar naturalist themes.) Might have been written as a single set play. Plot is a guy who claims to have a genetic disorder that prevents him from aging. Discusses some interesting life experiences over the millennia, including accidentally starting Christianity. The other party goers attempt to challenge his story (and his sanity).

    Essentially the theme is how might one know whether an apparent lunatic who claims to be Jesus might actually be who he claims.



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  • I wonder if the Lars Von Trier film “Melancholia” could be described as an atheist film? It certainly wasn’t promoted like that, but it loved the way that small family group approached the prospect of annihilation by a rogue planet with such calm acceptance. There were no histrionics. No talk of a place waiting in heaven, just bravery. I was really touched by this film and I thought the visuals were stunning.



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  • 9
    SaganTheCat says:

    In reply to #1 by Michael Fisher:

    Bedazzled [1968] with Dudley Moore and Peter Cook [Not the remake! Love this film ~ plenty of devilry & disrespect]

    The Invention Of Lying [2009?] with Ricky Gervais [I’ve not seen it. It bombed at the US box office, but it got good reviews ~ especially the first half hour]

    seconded



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  • 12
    missus_gumby says:

    Of those I have seen (mentioned above) I would recommend Melancholia, Contact, and Life of Brian. My suggestion is ‘Enemy Mine’ (1985) starring Dennis Quaid, Louis Gossett Jr. I suppose it would be classified as a Humanist movie.



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  • 13
    jimbobjim says:

    In reply to #6 by justinesaracen:

    In reply to #4 by Catfish:

    Life of Pi would be interesting. Narrator claims he will make you believe in God at the start and concludes the movie with the closing argument that a nice imaginary story is better than a nasty factual story so therefore we should believe in God. That is how I took it…

    The book is far better than the film.



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  • 14
    jimbobjim says:

    why not have a “theistic neutral” film that raises the question (maybe The Life Of Pi) etc? Or films that raise the questions about life after death. Broaden your horizons and see where the conversation leads rather than “hey let’s get a film that we will all agree with”



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  • 15
    Seraphor says:

    In reply to #7 by Pete H:

    Jerome Bixby’s ‘The Man From Earth’ is very interesting. This was his last screenplay. He was a sci fi writer involved with or who Influenced aspects of Star Trek, Alien, Twilight Zone, Fantastic Voyage etc.

    Not exactly an action drama as it’s pretty much a drawn out party game conversation entirel…

    Seconded.

    As dull as the premise might seem, it’s actually a very interesting, and even entertaining film. I would even rank it up there with my all time favourites.

    In a similar way to Life of Pi you come away wanting to believe him, however the story gives you more to go on than just a “you should believe me because it’s nicer that way” the writer clearly wants you to believe him and even goes as far to stick in a few hints and clues that he’s telling the truth.
    The twist at the end however I think was unnecessary and a little poorly executed, and pretty much kills any doubts you had.

    In the end it’s a fairly sad and you really feel sorry for the guy, but the journey it takes you one is awe inspiring, just not in a visual way like Life of Pi.



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  • Agree. That was the purpose of our discussing films like “Dekalogue” and Igmar Bergman’s “The Seventh Seal”.

    In reply to #14 by jimbobjim:

    why not have a “theistic neutral” film that raises the question (maybe The Life Of Pi) etc? Or films that raise the questions about life after death. Broaden your horizons and see where the conversation leads rather than “hey let’s get a film that we will all agree with”



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  • 17
    Steven007 says:

    ‘Letting Go of God’ which is actually a movie length monologue by Julia Sweeney. This would be a great docu film to include in discussion.



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  • 19
    secularjew says:

    I would recommend “Crimes and Misdemeanors”, “Doubt”, “The Rapture”, “Existenz”, “The Magdalene Sisters”, “Citizen Ruth”, “The Master”, “Goya’s Ghosts”, “A Serious Man”, “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger”, “Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple”, “Persepolis”, “Creation”, “Viridiana”, “La Dolce Vita”, “Devil’s Playground” (2002), and “Valley of the Bees.”



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  • 20
    BanJoIvie says:

    Marjoe [1972] was the academy award winner for best feature documentary. It follows a former child preacher, Marjoe Gortner, as he returns to the revival circuit with a camera crew in tow to expose the methods and techniques that evangelical preachers and faith healers use to fleece the gullible.



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  • 21
    Red Dog says:

    In reply to #1 by Michael Fisher:

    Bedazzled [1968] with Dudley Moore and Peter Cook [Not the remake! Love this film ~ plenty of devilry & disrespect]

    The Invention Of Lying [2009?] with Ricky Gervais [I’ve not seen it. It bombed at the US box office, but it got good reviews ~ especially the first half hour]

    The original Bedazzled is one of my favorites. Jesus Camp is a great movie for giving evidence that religious indoctrination is child abuse.

    Contact is proof that you need more than good intentions to make a good movie.



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  • 22
    Kim Probable says:

    Has anyone seen “God Loves Uganda”? It seems like it would be worth discussing. (I haven’t been able to see it myself yet.)

    A description:
    Academy Award-winning filmmaker Roger Ross Williams (Music by Prudence) explores the role of the American Evangelical movement in fueling Uganda’s terrifying turn towards biblical law and the proposed death penalty for homosexuality in this enlightening but shocking exposé. Thanks to charismatic religious leaders and a well-financed campaign, these draconian new laws and the politicians that peddle them are winning over the Ugandan public. But these dangerous policies and the money that fuels them aren’t coming from Africa, they’re being imported from some of America’s largest megachurches. Using vérité, interviews, and hidden camera footage, the film allows American religious leaders and their young missionaries that make up the “front lines in a battle for billions of souls” to explain their positions in their own words



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  • ‘Waking Life’, a Richard Linklater film. It’s essentially interviews with lots of different authors, filmmakers, philosophers and scientists about finding meaning in life.

    The artwork is beautiful, they animated over live film in a really haphazard way to create this unreal, dreamy feel to the whole movie, and the existential questions raised by lucid dreaming are discussed, along with the future of humanity, the meaning behind language, moment-to-moment experiences of the divine, etc.

    Great movie, gave me lots of ideas.



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  • There are plenty of feel good films that don’t mention god, but, as we have said before here, atheism is about “not believing” rather than believing in something which isn’t organised religion. So as soon as you have a non-religious feel good film, you almost inevitable find some other woo substituting for it.

    So the best I can do is recommend some good films which have religion at their core, but are largely critical of said religion/religious practices.

    Beyond the Hills is about a girl’s extreme experience when she goes to visit a former friend who is now caught up in a church commune. Romanian/East European film 2013.

    Red State is a crazy tale of Church vengeance getting out of control – brilliant acting from Michael Parks as the pastor … brilliant. US film 2011.

    I’ve recommended this before here. Not pretty but from Afghanistan 2003 Osama is excellent. Not about Osama Bin Laden, but about a girl who dresses as a boy to get a job and help the family – but the Taliban are in power and are watching.

    Finally to be going on with Requiem German film from 2006 set in the 1970s about the declining mental health of a teenager who has a break down at university. Her home church think they can help.



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  • 25
    SaganTheCat says:

    my favorite film is Brazil. I think it could be a good point of discussion on seperating hopes and dreams from reality and the dangers both of blindly following authority and romanticising the struggles of the opressed



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  • Moon, Solaris and especially GATTACA are great SF movies that consider what it is means to be human, are we just the sum of our genes etc etc? NASA rated GATTACA as the most scientifically plausible SF movie of the last 20 years recently.
    Otherwise a personal fave is Silent Running from 1969 which despite some huge scientific errors ( some obvious at the time, others found out later) was a very prescient movie about extinction with a very green ecological theme. First saw as a youngster and still makes me cry today.



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  • 27
    Red Dog says:

    In reply to #26 by Roy72:

    Moon, Solaris and especially GATTACA are great SF movies that consider what it is means to be human, are we just the sum of our genes etc etc? NASA rated GATTACA as the most scientifically plausible SF movie of the last 20 years recently.
    Otherwise a personal fave is Silent Running from 1969 which…

    I thought the original Solaris was great but I’m sure almost no one else has seen it. It was done by a Russian or Polish director in Russian or Polish or some other slavik language. That movie really captured the essence of the original Staislaw Lem novel. The Clooney verszzzzzzzzzzzzzz sorry, I fall asleep even thinking of that one.



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  • 29
    Red Dog says:

    In reply to #28 by CarlG:

    Dogma of Kevin Smith! The funniest movie about religion since Life of Brian.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120655/?ref=nvsr_1

    Dogma is great. Kevin Smith is an interesting director, actually I think he’s a much better writer than director. I either hate his films (Jersey Girl, Red State, Cop Out) or love them. The ones I love all have Jay and Silent Bob in them. BTW, I’ve heard him talk on DVD commentary tracks (his commentaries can be as funny as the movie) and he says he is a Christian.



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  • 31
    Red Dog says:

    In reply to #26 by Roy72:

    Moon, Solaris and especially GATTACA are great SF movies that consider what it is means to be human, are we just the sum of our genes etc etc? NASA rated GATTACA as the most scientifically plausible SF movie of the last 20 years recently.
    Otherwise a personal fave is Silent Running from 1969 which…

    I like Silent Running as well. I’ve always thought Bruce Dern was a really great actor who often gets stuck in second rate movies. He was also great in Twixt which I liked a lot, the ending actually made you think a bit which is really rare for a Hollywood film.



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  • 34
    beatrix says:

    Hi,
    Go for Jodorowsky’s ‘The Holy Mountain’ for psychedelic adventures.
    ‘Breaking the waves’ by von Trier, heavy stuff.
    ‘Young and wild’ by Marialy Rivas, (2012) Lighter stuff.
    ‘Il secundo evangelico di matteo’ by Fellini, old marxist stuff.

    best!
    B



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  • 35
    Lou C. Fer says:

    I guess I’m a little too early for this one. I have just completed a manuscript for a new book about the “Bible, Religion, Atheists and Open-Minded Free Thinkers.” So, I have over 68 years as a faith believing Christian, and fifty years of studying the Bible, as a Christian, with the last few years as an “Open-minded Free Thinker.” I no longer am a religious person, nor am I an Atheist.
    I believe that my background gives me the knowledge to write such a book. It is called, “The Power of Lies.”

    The movie version may come later, (I am also an actor and filmmaker of short films) if I have some success with this book. I have written over 15 other books, but they are all self published. Most of them are $0.99 E-books on Amazon.ca However, this one needs a good “International Publisher” to do it some justice. The biggest problem is “How do I find that kind of publisher who will read and consider my book?” I believe that it could be an “International Best Seller.”

    This book “The Power of Lies” should remind people of Richard Dawkins. I wasn’t going to write another book until I began watching Richard Dawkins debates on You Tube. I was so impressed with him that I was “Inspired” by him, to write one more book. “The Power of Lies.”



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  • 36
    sheepscarer says:

    Whilst not a movie – the BBC drama ‘God on Trial’, set in Auschwitz is certainly thought provoking as the Jewish inmates debate whether their fate is determined and overseen by a merciful god. I won’t tell you the verdict……………………..



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  • 37
    Red Dog says:

    I just noticed this thread. I don’t think anyone ever mentioned the movie Paul. It’s got two of my favorite Brits: Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (Shawn of the Dead, Hot Fuzz). Pegg and Frost are two nerds on a pilgrimage from the UK to Comicon and then on a road trip to Roswell, etc. And they end up meeting an actual Alien (named Paul) on the run from the US government.

    There is a great atheist themed sub-plot. Kristen Wiig is a repressed woman from a conservative religious up bringing whose idea of high fashion is a T Shirt with Jesus blowing away Charles Darwin with a gun. Naturally she has a hard time accepting Paul. The movie itself isn’t really an atheist theme but there are lots of jokes about fundamentalism vs. science. It’s also an awesome nerd movie with references to Star Wars, Star Trek, etc. through out the whole movie (e.g., they go into a red neck bar and the band is playing the music from the famous Star Wars bar scene). If you like Pegg and Frost (and who doesn’t?) it’s a great movie.



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