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May 18 2006

In defence of Joss Whedon. A reader objects to Joss being lumped in as a "voodoo atheist" at The National Review Online's weblog 'The Corner'.

The kindest thing to say about the blog structure at The Corner is that it's extremely haphazard. So to place this all in context, here's the summary of events.

Original entry

A response

Author expands on original entry and adds Joss to the mix

Another respond to the original entry

Yet another response

Finally the response to the Joss Whedon entry

Interesting conversation. However there are a few inaccuracies when it comes to terms that were used but not defined.

Agnostics are those who believe in a God but do not believe that God is personal. That is, there is a God but we, as people, can't really know that God. People who believe this might believe that the world was created by God but that this God no longer does anything to influence what goes on here. It's kinda like God wound up a toy and let it go. Most of the "voodoo atheists" that the article is talking about would fall into this category.

Atheists on the other hand deny the existence of God in any form. This is the camp that Joss falls into. He's said it many times in interviews, commentary, etc. He seems to have really thought this through and have reasons to back up his convictions (which is rare for those who call themselves atheists). Also a good point is made that Joss is not antagonistic towards those who do not share his point of view. Joss may not believe in any God, but he understands that others do and respects and tries to explore that in his work. And while I don't agree with him, I do respect him for that.
I'd define agnostic a bit wider than that, as it also includes those who don't believe in any form of God but don't deny the possibility there could be one. Not the same thing.

Me, I'm a happy apatheist.

[ edited by Chris Bridges on 2006-05-18 13:55 ]
Jonah Goldberg? Lucienne's little son? I rue the day we link anything on Whedonesque to any word he has to say. He's contemptible and I wish he would not appropriate Joss Whedon to push his own agenda.
Dana5140, we don't ever bash the author here and if you dig through the archives you'll see that his comments have been linked to before.
gt0163c, you're thinking of a deist there. An agnostic (literally "no knowledge of spiritual truths") holds that it is impossible to know whether or not there is a God.
Exactly, JesterInACast. I was just about to post that very same thing.

Thanks for posting this, Simon. Quite interesting.
So writing a story in which the supernatural is well, natural is the same as believing in it. I didn't know that.
Interesting article though I think the main gist amounts to 'People aren't always rational' which frankly amazes me since i've never met an irrational person in my life. Ahem ;).

Many people aren't rational about everything (in fact i'd say no-one is). I know atheists for instance who don't believe in the supernatural but play the lottery every week (at odds of over 13 million to 1 against) even though it's probably not the 'rational' thing to do. I also know atheists who believe that rocks and trees have spirits and that homeopathy is a valid alternative to 'western' medicine. In other words, there's no necessary correlation between atheism and increased rationality (indeed i'd say it's possible to be just as dogmatic about atheism as some people are about God).

Also, isn't Joss a self-described 'raging atheist' ? So i'd say the final post defending him is painting a slightly rosy picture. He certainly refers to 'religious' themes (redemption, meaning, identity, good, evil etc.) in his shows but I don't think there's a particular deference shown to religion (certainly the organised kind) and many of the 'religious' themes are, to me, just metaphysical ideas which are, nowadays, largely seen as falling under religion's umbrella.

Book, for example, is obviously a preacher but he is presented as being a good and wise man apart from his beliefs i.e. he gives sound advice without referring to God and certainly seems to hail from the 'God helps those who help themselves' camp (e.g. the Bible being famously 'fuzzy on the subject of knee-caps' ;). In this surely Joss is saying that there are good (and bad) Christians just the same as there are good (and bad) of every other type of person which is, to me and i'd imagine most people who've ever met, oh, say, any other human being ever, pretty obviously true.

Of course, it's also worth remembering that a creator of fiction is not required to believe everything they present in their works and, as has been said before, JW is famously pragmatic about using ideas, themes and devices in order to achieve the emotional hit that he's after.

(and personally I think de Toqueville didn't go far enough in that it seems that humans in general are just hard-wired to see patterns - see how long it takes to pick a horse or a face out of a cloudy sky if you don't believe it ;) - and it has nothing to do with equality or democracy, IMO, just survival)
1. I'm not Goldberg's biggest fan, but I thought his original entry (titled "Voodoo atheism") made some good points very well.

2. In the discussion, it's suggested that Whedon is an agnostic (which simply means the belief that God is unknowable); I recall Whedon referring to himself as an "angry atheist."

3. The writer asks what other sci-fi shows depict people practising religion. Answer: Babylon 5.

4. The letter-writer says Whedon hired Christian writers. Anyone know who (s)he has in mind?

5. I think (A) Whedon is a wonderful writer, and (B) I'll probably watch anything he does, but (C) he has yet to portray a genuine, 3-D, identifiably practicing Christian. In anything I've seen (which includes all of Angel, Buffy, Firefly, Serenity, and some he's doctored or been unhappily associated with). Though others will disagree, Book ("I don't care what you believe") is not an exception. Can't? Won't? Questions I can't (and won't) answer.
He said in the Q and A from the Australian version of the Serenity DVD, when asked by a Christian fan why he hates Christians, that he doesn't hate them. He spoke about being an atheist but that he was fascinated by people and why they do what they do. He also mentioned an episode of Angel where he came the closest to speaking his own philosophy, in the episode where Angel sees that hell is here and he saves the cop from an attempted suicide. Essentially, nothing you do has any meaning so the only meaning is what you give it.
But, as Joss pointed out, immediately afterwards the cop pointed out that Angel was able to come in her apartment without being invited, implying that God and/or miracles were possible. He wanted to leave it open.
In closing, he assured the fan that he didn't hate Christians. "Just you."
He gave an interview to the Onion AV Club in which he was pretty explicit:

The Onion: Is there a God?

Joss Whedon: No.

O: That's it, end of story, no?

JW: Absolutely not. That's a very important and necessary thing to learn.

Sounds pretty firmly in the atheist camp to me.

http://www.avclub.com/content/node/24569
Gotta agree with Joss. I'm definately in the firm athiest camp when it comes to religious debates. There is as much chance of me believing the contents of Tolkien's works to be true as there is of believing in God, at least in the religious sense.

I'm certain that there is more to this universe than we know, or at least I hope so, and I'm certain that there are beings out there that are way more powerful than we are, maybe even godlike, at least compared to us, but what I won't believe is that our existence as a species is anything more than a chemical fluke in the primordial soup. Nothing more or less important than that.
I believe in myself. I believe I am personally responsible for everything I do, and hold everybody else accountable as well. I do not believe in gods, aliens, or anything like that.

It's a frightening and very enlightening thing to face up to (and by the way, makes great drama).

Somebody -- here as it happens, about 6 months ago -- told me I couldn't possibly believe that. Actually, however, I do. The faith I place in myself has been as enlighting, I'd suggest, as finding faith in others.
"So writing a story in which the supernatural is well, natural is the same as believing in it. I didn't know that.
batmarlowe | May 18, 14:58 CET"


My thought as well.

"I think (A) Whedon is a wonderful writer, and (B) I'll probably watch anything he does, but (C) he has yet to portray a genuine, 3-D, identifiably practicing Christian. In anything I've seen (which includes all of Angel, Buffy, Firefly, Serenity, and some he's doctored or been unhappily associated with). Though others will disagree, Book ("I don't care what you believe") is not an exception."

One of the problems with portraying a "genuine, 3-D, identifiably practicing Christian" is the fact that so many Christans consider their own brand as being the only "genuine" brand. Book was a 3D, identifiably practicing Christian but some do not consider him genuine because he was a pragmatist when it came to trying to help Mal. He was more interested in helping him find hope and the ability to believe again rather than in pushing on a specific Christian dogma. For some Christians that is a sin that makes him not a genuine Christian, for others it is the sign of a smart, enlightened Christian. How many different sects of Christianity are there now?


So did I understand the definition of atheist that is being used in the original article is anyone who does not believe in "traditional" religions? That seems to be what he is saying. What he is then objecting to seems to be that these people who are antagonistic towards "traditional" religion, have other beliefs that do not come from Judeo-Christian roots. Since the author is apparently antagonistic towards their religious beliefs, should they also consider him an atheist? ;-)

The pantheists that I know do not consider themselves atheists and although I have heard a lot of antagonism towards the way people who follow monotheistic religions treat other people and the world, I have not heard people be antagonistic towards the religions themselves.

Then there was the comment in one of the responses about democracy making people think that God had to be equal to something, thereby promoting pantheistic beliefs and diminishing the concept of what God is. Not meaning to insult anyone, but I have always found most concepts of God in the Judeo-Christian traditions (in which I was raised, btw) to be smaller and more human than I imagine a single Supreme Being must be. When a person tells me that he *knows* what God wants human beings to do or that he *knows* what God's Word means, I find that rather blasphemous and just plain egotistical. How could a human being possibly know for sure what a single all powerful God is up to or has been doing throughout eternity. The mind boggles at the concept. I sometimes wonder if it is our realization of how incredibly complex the universe is that has caused some people to look beyond the Judeo-Christian view of God for something not more democratic but more complex. I don't know. I'm just going along trying to figure it all out as best I can...and not there yet. (Really doubtful that I ever will be.)

Anyway, I find the concepts that the articles take for granted in their discussion so muddy and broadly defined as to find myself discounting it as serious discourse. Of course maybe I am being too hard on them. I wrote a long enough post to be taking it seriously. ;-)
Joss Whedon possesses a supremely intelligent, contemplative, searching mind. If he says, in interview after interview (I can think of at least three) that he considers himself an "angry atheist," then I believe him. He doesn't believe in god. It's pretty simple, really. His statements about god and religion are not throwaway and unthought out. He has discussed at length in said interviews and elsewhere (just listen to the Objects in Space commentary) that faith, god and religion are things that he has thought long and hard about since he was a teenager. The existential topics he takes on in his creations - faith, friendship, sacrifice, love, family, trust - do not belong to Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, etc. alone. They belong to everyone, whether you believe in god or deities or not. There is plenty of Christian imagery in BtVS, to be sure. Buffy's swan dive off the tower with her arms spread out like Jesus on the cross; the lowly "carpenter" Xander, taming Willow's evil with the message of love, the playing of St. Francis's prayer set to music shortly thereafter, these things are clearly Christian. But this does not mean that either Joss or his writers are Christian. You can't grow up in the U.S. without knowing the Christ story and being moved by aspects of it - self-sacrifice, etc. I'm an "angry atheist," too, and I find aspects of Christianity moving and deeply meaningful and fascinating. No, I believe Joss when he says what he says about his beliefs (or non-beliefs.)

As for Joss hiring Christian writers, I remember reading somewhere that Dean Batali and Rob des Hotel are explicitly self-identified Christian writers. Not sure where and when I read this.

[ edited by phlebotinin on 2006-05-18 18:02 ]
Did anyone see any evidence that JW actually believes in the supernatural? If it's his fiction that's supposed to be the evidence, then Jonah's argument is worthless and he's tilting at windmills.
Smo, I'm pretty sure I remember reading Whedon's saying once that he didn't believe in any of it, just used it as metaphors and plot-devices.
Wait a minute, Lord of the Rings isn't real ? Damn, I really thought I had this whole 'life' thing sussed. Maybe I could return my chainmail or swap it for a phaser (Star Trek's still true, right ?).

Not sure about Aliens gossi. Seems reasonable there'd be life out there, possibly even intelligent life though I very much doubt any of them have popped over to mutilate cows or anally probe bad sci-fi authors (i.e. aliens possibly, alien visitation, not so much, sorry Whitley ;).

Re: personal responsibility, I agree, but i'm a bit stuck on the whole free-will thing. There doesn't seem to be much room for it in a mechanistic, materialist universe but it sure feels like we have it. Seems like you'd need some kind of free-will to have responsibility for actions (after all, if you're 'destined' to do something it's hardly your 'fault' when you do it). Maybe we can just do some hand waving and blame it all on quantum ;).

(I don't believe in the supernatural at all but I do believe there's a hell of a lot of 'natural' we haven't explained yet and I have to reluctantly accept that we may, even in principle, be unable to do so)

newcj, I think it's the certainty (and disdain) with which some people put down traditional Judeo-Christianity while still entertaining their own slightly, err, unusual beliefs that the author has issue with. On that I agree with him. Outside of parts of maths i'm extremely distrustful of certainty of pretty much any kind since I don't think there's ever been an act of evil committed in the world that didn't go hand in hand with some particular brand of it. I really think rational scepticism is our most powerful weapon against tyranny (of any kind).

Re: the humanising of God, yeah, it's true that it's maybe slightly arrogant for Christians to assume they can know what God wants (never mind the logical issues with a perfect being _wanting_ anything) and some Christians do feel that they are too humble to understand his purpose. But it's also true that one of the advantages of God is that he can be a final moral arbiter (yep, i've issues with that too ;) and if we can never know what he wants then he can't really fill that role, hence, the need to personalise him/her/whatever.

I think the need for a God comes from an incredulity at the magnificence of the universe and our feeling that there is order in it which uniquely suits it to us (which is related to our ability to see patterns in pretty much everything). It's telling to me that, among scientists, physicists (who study order and often abstract away details) tend to believe in God more than biologists (who are usually witness to nature's bizarre eccentricities - or lack of order - and poor 'design' for want of a better word).

I agree about the smallness idea though, to anyone who says evolution for instance can't be true because God is, i'd reply (and have) that their God must be quite a limited being if he can't even manage the mechanism of descent with modification.

(Aaargh * falls off soap-box and sprains pomposity * ;-)
That is pretty much my thinking as well, Saje. This universe is just way too big for us to be the only intelligent (not including chavs in that, obviously) species to exist. There has to be more out there, in my opinion. I'm not saying that they are visiting us in ships but I do think they are there.

Also, the supernatural just being the "natural we haven't got around to explaining yet" is the way I look at it too. Just because something is unexplainable to our current science doesn't make it unreal or magical. Wasn't so long ago that fire was thought to be the work of the gods. Actually, there are certain groups of chavs that still haven't developed the intelligence to explain fire yet. If you ever get surrounded by a bunch of chavs in the street just light yourself a match and watch them run for cover. Or for a fag.

Okay, I'm clearly having an anti-chav day ... good for me!
[ignorance showing] What's a chav? [/ignorance showing]

[ edited by newcj on 2006-05-18 18:33 ]
Voodoo practioners and wiccans are not atheists. Just because they're not traditional Christian (although New Orleanian voodooists consider themselves to be a part of Catholicism)doesn't make them atheists. They believe in God/higher powers which is decidedly not anti-theist.

The inaccurate use of words was my biggest problem with that whole thing, which is why I stopped caring and didn't read any more.

[ edited by lalaa on 2006-05-18 18:35 ]
I think Chav = British version of white trash.
[ignorance showing] What's a chav? [/ignorance showing]


The British version of white trash. Except with even more of a speech impediment. And one of them won the lottery once.
I'm a huge fan of Joss Whedon's, but he has some pretty serious skepticism toward religion, but not to the supernatural.

Don't forget kids, if you write about anything supernatural, you must believe it's absolutely true!

3. The writer asks what other sci-fi shows depict people practising religion. Answer: Babylon 5.


Also, Battlestar Galactica. One of the main sources of conflict being the war between monotheistic, pantheistic and (to a much lesser extent) atheistic ideologies.

Just wanted to openly admire this discussion. IMO, it comes from yet another example of "the writer uses these themes, so therefore they must be promoting them as their own beliefs instead of simply telling a story." But who cares when it stimulates this quality of thought?

Special props to Saje for your entire last post. If I attempted to describe my own thoughts and beliefs on this matter, I'd largely be parroting you. And not as elegantly.
Interesting discussion. Thanks for organizing those posts Simon.

I consider myself agnostic. My definition of it is that we can't possibly know what happens in the afterlife until we get there. If there is one.

Its impossible to know and nothing anyone can say will convince me otherwise.

However saying that, I have hopes of course. And since I have actually had an out of body experience I do believe that there is something of us that exists outside of our human bodies. Soul?
I don't know.

And even though I don't actually believe in "Karma" I realize that anything is possible (including christianity) so I live my life as though it were true. (Karma, not christianity.)

I believe in the capacity for great good and great evil in humanity and try to be the best human being I can be. I have tried to teach my children this without the benefit of religion as well. To be a good person for your own sake and the sake of the world. So far it has worked.

When I was a kid my plan was to be a nun. So I know what it feels like to have "faith" And I know what it feels like to lose it. Its okay. Knowledge is better.

I have studied history extensively and know how man came to acquire and invent organized religion and in general I think most people benefit from it. I never try to negate anyone elses beliefs, but I think fanatics from any religion are extremely dangerous.

But the bottom line is, anything is possible, but some things are highly unlikely.
Nice post, Xane. My opinion is very similar, and I too was raised with Catholicism only to shun organized religion later in life. I think there is validity in the concept of faith, and I believe there is room for everyone to hold their own beliefs, be it Christianity or Hinduism. Unfortunately, there are fanatics at the far end of all belief systems, and I abhor being told what to believe and how it is the "one true" religion, no matter who it comes from.

I also believe that one is accountable and responsible for ones actions, and that a strong belief in yourself is necessary to achieve your goals in life. Prayer is a powerful tool in faith, whether it is to your god or yourself.
he has yet to portray a genuine, 3-D, identifiably practicing Christian

In This Year's Girl, Riley shows up for church in a suit and tie, other than in Restless's dream sequence, the only time I think we see him thus attired.

He's clearly a regular church goer, even if a demon fighter. And his character was, I thought, pretty well developed.

[ edited by Chris inVirginia on 2006-05-18 19:59 ]
Simon- noted. I will keep the "ad hominizing" off the board. :-)

I am troubled by the letter writer's point on noting that Joss hired Christian writers. Is he implying that only "Christian" writers are somehow appropriately religious and believe in God? The Jewish ones, for example and of which there were many, do not? Does anyone understand what he was trying to say there?
Aliens. Now, I think there will be life outside of earth. Obviously. It wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if there's much life elsewhere in our own solar system, for example. However, in terms of intelligent, aware life - I don't know. I certainly don't think they're flying around our solar system, anyway.
"he has yet to portray a genuine, 3-D, identifiably practicing Christian"

So? Why does he have to? It was his show and if he didn't want to go the whole "nice, wholesome, christian" angle then i see no reason why he should have to. Besides, that's what 7th heaven is for.
If i had a show i guarantee that there would be no religious characters on it. I would just not say much about religion at all, as i know if i did it would be comments and storylines of the negative variety.
I would for sure classify myself as a "raging atheist" and i have thought it over many many times. I have yet to get to the point where i understand and accept other people and their religious beliefs, and i doubt i ever will, but i am young so maybe i will mellow with age.
I'd say i find the whole concept of god laughable if it wasn't the catalyst for so much death and the mistreatment of millions of people because "the bible says they are bad". I am not talking about what the bible actually says here, i am talking about what people take away after reading it. Everyone seems to interpret it a different way, depending on what they think going in to it. If you hate gay people then you are going to find words and phrases in the bible to support your hatred, just like people do for all of their various hates.
One thing that always bothered me about the bible is the fact that i always hear from people about how this is "god's word" and whatnot. It isn't really, as before the printing press the ony way there was more than one copy was that people copied it by hand. They translated it into different languages, they changed small things that they felt need changing (be it grammar, or a simple rephrasing) as that is what people do. So even if the bible was at some point directly from this big man in the sky, after many years of diluting it simply isn't anymore.
And don't even get me started on those cartoons of mohammad.
Long time lurker, first time poster here...

I just wanted to say that conversations like this are what I thrive on. I was raised a good Presbyterian, then was a Religious Studies major in college, and now, well, now I'm unclassifiable. I'd say "agnostic theist" is probably the closest. I don't really have anything new to add that others haven't already said, but reading all of this made me want to say "hey!."
Oh, and anyone that has seen Wonderfalls...it reminds me alot of Jaye's brother...the athiest theologian.
"A theologian that doesn't beleive in god?"
"There's more of us than you think."

Heh heh
"I am troubled by the letter writer's point on noting that Joss hired Christian writers. Is he implying that only "Christian" writers are somehow appropriately religious and believe in God? The Jewish ones, for example and of which there were many, do not? Does anyone understand what he was trying to say there?
Dana5140 | May 18, 20:02 CET"


I thought he was trying to point out that Joss had some writers on his shows that were clearly not of the sort the original article was complaining about. Since the posters have a clearly Christian leaning, he/she used the example that would most likely be appreciated by the audience being written for. Jews and Muslims were implied to be part of the traditional religions being looked on favorably, but that does not mean they are the target audience. My guess is that for this group it is the Christians that are downtrodden and examples of them being included indicates that Joss is not so narrow minded as may have been indicated.
I think most of the thoughtful writers above me are giving too much credit for both intellectual rigor and good faith to the National Review bloggers. They know how to mimic the talk, but I don't believe that they have ever or would ever subject their own "beliefs" to the painful scourge of actual, honest self-criticism. This shows in the way that they present their belief system (vaguely defined) as central, and everything else as wicked or crazy dissent. Without that centrality, they got nothing. This has little to do with Christianity per se, but everything to do with politics.
Without turning this thread into one of those places where religion is discussed ad nauseum and gets everyone all riled up, some one emailed me to say

There was mention of a scene on Angel implying miracles were possible. I checked, and no one has posted mention of "Amends" on that thread. Snow on Christmas in Sunnydale, preventing Angel from dusting himself? Sounds like a miracle, right? :-)


I thought that was a very valid point.
"Without turning this thread into one of those places where religion is discussed ad nauseum and gets everyone all riled up,..."

Oh come on, you must be thinking of some other board, we would never do that. We all

Wait a minute. Sorry, I'll be back later. My nose just knocked over the lamp on the desk.
We're perilously near to the soul discussion of a while back, where I wondered why, if the soul is just (just!) that which animates us, makes us human, defines us as unique creatures, was it considered so awful that Fred's soul was destroyed. Because if her body, transformed and taken over by Illyria, really didn't exist any more, what use was her soul?

And, yes, Amends, a deeply spiritual (if not religious) episode...when Angel asks if he's a righteous man, a thing worth saving, the question arises, saved from--or for--what? It's never explicitly addressed, but there is at least damnation in the Whedonverse. Salvation, maybe not so much, but, maybe, just maybe.

As for miracles, how about the clattering Claddagh ring, followed by the impossible reemergence of Angel from whatever hell dimension he was sent to by Buffy in Becoming?
Ok, responding a little bit late to Saje's eloquent post above, I think belief in God can be more than 'incredulity at the magnificence of the universe and our feeling that there is order in it which uniquely suits it to us'. I think there's an element of cosmic justice in there somewhere too. The lottery winner mentioned above as a chav (if it's the same one I think it is) is also a convicted rapist. Many wonderful people live in horrifying conditions, suffer enormous tragedies. Other utter arseholes perpetrate atrocitioes, and get away scot free. It's really, really, not fair. The idea that there's an ultimate weighing up of good and bad, puts the world as we know it into some kind of future balance.

It could be argued that religion absolves people of responsibilty - there's a strict code a guide for life. Sometimes this is great, like a moral code. Sometimes, as D'Hoffryn points out, this is merely interpreted by those who want to control and oppress.

Joss may be an atheist, but atheists can live by a very similar moral code to that offered by most organised religions, like don't kill people, do as you would be done by, honour and respect other people, etc. Just without the big cheese (or cheeses). I don't think they're necessary. As an angry atheist myself, my moral code fits in pretty closely with that classic line from Angel; 'If nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do'.
A question to all you angry atheists: What are you so angry about?
Ditto on everything D'Hoffryn said.
I don't guess I'm so much angry as just plain atheist, but CiV, I think what is meant is that oftentimes atheists are seen as 'less than' somehow, by the majority of christians and other 'believers'. Like their lives are tainted or bad because they don't believe in the sky bully.

Most atheists I've met are really cool folk. I can see them getting tired of most times having to defend their beliefs, which are usually primarily scientific and very reasonable.
Chris in Virginia, I love Amends, too. It has the only moment (the snow) that makes me cry every single time on DVD. If I have to put my own personal interpretation of Angel's situation on that, which I'm reluctant to do, since the story seems so pure as it is, it's that Angel dreads what he could do in the world he's been brought back to, and wonders whether he should be in it at all. He can't do any damage in hell, where he's the powerless victim. The light (snow) from above tells him that he does belong and that he can do good. It's appropriate that he gets that on such an epic scale because he's an epic-scale fictional character.
Thankfully I've never had to defend my atheism. Over here it's mostly the other way around, where religious people have to justify themselves against "normal" people.
Yeah, that occurred to me too ChrisinVirginia ;).

(about the soul discussion, I mean)

I don't disagree that there is damnation and redemption (at least the concept) in the Buffyverse (I use that specific term because I don't see much evidence for either in Firefly at least not in the spiritual sense) I just have issue with the idea that this is then necessarily talking about God (i.e. the Judeo-Christian one).

Yes, 'Amends' has a 'miracle' (a Christmas one no less ;) but surely within the context of the show it's more likely to be down to TPTB not God ? In 'Epiphanies' when Angel enters Kate's apartment without permission, again couldn't that be them ?

The ideas of atonement and redemption seem today to be primarily Christian but that's because Christianity is the pre-dominant world view in the West (which is to say, where most of us are and where Joss and most of the writers are from) and when all you have is a hammer everything starts to look downright nail-esque. I think you could for example make a pretty good comparison between Angel and Hercules regarding sin, atonement and redemption so are we then to assume that Joss was tacitly promoting the Greek pantheon ?

And even if it is all down to God in the show, i'm just not sure what anyone can take from this apart from the fact that Judeo-Christian tradition has great, penetrating and important themes which can be used (maybe a little opportunistically ;) by a creator of fiction to achieve a certain effect or talk about certain issues (the Wachowskis may or may not believe in God but when Neo's body makes the cruciform at the end of The Matrix trilogy I doubt there were many viewers who didn't make the connection to the idea of Jesus and his noble sacrifice and similarly in Spiderman 2 on the train. True or not, as images go, it's a powerful short-hand).

And yeah, personally I agree LonefashionableWolf, part of the attraction is the idea that there's ultimate justice and rewards everlasting for those that walk the right path and I think there is a certain abrogation of personal responsibility but, in fairness, I think this is true of most philosophical frameworks since they're a kind of shortcut to decision making (i.e. you use the framework rather than judge things on a case by case basis). Also agree about the possibility of a moral atheist (I try to stick to most of the ten commandments myself though sometimes it's tough - my neighbours donkey is an absolute beauty for instance, hard not to covet ;).

BTW, CiV, as an ex-angry atheist (hopefully i'm a bit more live and let live now) it was partly the smug satisfaction some Christians took in telling me I was going to burn for eternity (not a very Christian attitude if you ask me ;), partly specific aspects of some religions (I find the idea of original sin pretty abhorrent for example, no offence intended to any Catholics on the board), partly the kind of revelling in ignorance that seems to go along with religion (e.g. Eve being a sinner because she ate from the tree of knowledge - gotta ask, y'know, why put the frikkin tree there to begin with ? We'd all be in much better shape if God had just got the landscapers in before the whole clay/rib episode ;), partly the numerous horrible acts that had been/are being perpetrated with the excuse of religion and maybe partly (and completely irrationally) anger at God for not existing. Which is clearly not his fault so I don't blame him anymore ;).

Over the years though i've come to see that most of those issues are really with ignorant or intolerant people not the excuse (and defence) they use for their intolerance.
Okay, not going to get into the big religious debates because I've spent far too much time on them in the past, but I am a firm Christian. There's just too much personal experience I've had for there not to be a God. There's a lot that's happened to me, and a lot that says there is most definitely a God out there. But at the same time, I'm not one of those fanatical Christians that give the religion a bad name; i.e., I'm not going to force anyone into believing what I believe. I even approve of homosexuality and whatnot. The Christian faith is often most misunderstood by those who practice it.

Anyway...

I know that Joss has said he's an atheist, and I of course do not know him nor have I ever met him, but it seems to me that it couldn't be that simple. The religious subtext in his stuff is just so enormous. I don't know if this is a case of me taking what I'm seeing and applying it to my own beliefs, but I genuinely see a lot of religious exploration in almost everything that he's done. In fact, if you ask me, Mal's arc almost seems like Joss' way of working out his own inner conflicts...Mal was a believer who lost his faith, but who is constantly trying to find it again.

Once again, that doesn't mean anything. At all. Joss has said he's an atheist, and I believe him. The subtext and themes of his series can be (and have been) vigorously debated; I'm just saying what I get from it.
Saje - I'm with you on the donkey-coveting. See also llama-desiring and ferret-fancying.

CiV - you made me laugh, good point! But I'm one of those people who's generally in a strop about something I'm afraid. Might be all those lovely furry beasts I want to get my hands on...
Sorry all, for lowering the tone of this fine highbrow discussion.
I can't believe someone really cares if Joss is an atheist.

I have very little trust in people who publicly announce their Christianity these days... It's cheap and craven.

And mealy mouthed secularists don't wanna piss any one off and say nothing courageous at all.

I trust atheist sentiments much more than the public BS of most that chime in on the issue.

Having said that, "The Gift" was one of the most revolutionary spiritual episodes of television ever aired.....bar none.

To me...quite literally it asked the question, "What if Abraham would have been a woman? What if God had asked Abraham's wife to sacrifice her son/daughter?" and the answer....
"That woman would have done the Christ-like thing-- and sacrificed herself"

There are many things to meditate there... and bless Joss for that.

[ edited by hbojorquez on 2006-05-19 01:13 ]
Saje: so are we then to assume that Joss was tacitly promoting the Greek pantheon?

Well, no, of course not. But there are openly Christian images in Buffy, and maybe that's owing to the entire vampire mythos of crosses and such, but they still are there.

Re: hammer and nail. Agree, and my wife, a recent convert to Catholicism (4 years ago) used to see a lot more Christian imagery in Buffy than was really there, but she's calmed down a bit. That said, it's pretty damned obvious that there is a ton of Christian influence on the storytelling.

Back to the soul issue, which nobody's answered to my satisfaction: If the soul is only to animate the body, who cares what happens to it when the body is gone? It's purpose is finished, no?

Well, no, because Buffy's soul was somewhere, somewhere good, somewhere she really couldn't describe, but it was a place she loved and hated being wrenched out of it.

Sounds to me like a soul lives on after the body in the Buffyverse.
WAIT... This is the realy funny.. I hadn't even bothered to look at the link... the NATIONAL REVIEW!!!!!!!!

Joss is a screaming liberal democrat! He backed Kerry and was supportive of Whedon fan efforts to raise money for Kerry..

Remember http://www.highstakes2004.com/


The National Review is pretty much right of Attila the Hun
Well, you know, though I label myself as an independent, I definitely lean liberal, and I'm still religious. So that doesn't really mean much.
Yes, hbojorquez, the National Review. Wow, who'd have thought it??

Well, me, for one. I was a long time subscriber, and know many, many people who have written for it (including Jonah.)

Your Attila the Hun cliche is not only tired, it's wrong. Bill Buckley, the magazine's founder, has been in favor of legalizing marijuana for decades. Do you even read that which you criticize?

As for myself, I'm considered pretty damned conservative (just ask my good friend an not at all conservative fellow-Washington Whedonite phlebotinin).

Do you really think that the art that Mr. Whedon creates is bound by political ideology? How silly.

Do you know that there was an article in The Weekly Standard (a very conservative periodical) after the end of Buffy was announced that began "Buffy the Vampire Slayer is the best show in the history of television."

The first person to extol the virtues of Buffy (to no avail, I was...agnostic, at best about the show) is a friend who used to head the American Conservative Union.

Buffy--Whedon--transcends politics...obviously. That shouldn't be a source of surprise or humor or anything...and I'll stop now, 'cos I'm getting dangerously close to saying something nearly as unpleasant as has already been posted about religious believers, so, see ya.
BtVS, Angel, and Firely DO have a lot of redemption, doing the right thing, "powers that be", and all kinds of things like. However, as others have pointed out, those ideas and themes are not exclusive to religion and god. A person can want to change, or redeem themselves but that doesn't mean that religion has anything to do with it. They could want to change for a loved on, or because they want to do the "right thing", or perhaps just because they want to better themselves in their own eyes.

Something that i, as an "atheist", wonder about other athiests is that when religious people talk about how "there was all kinds of christian symbolism on BtVS and how that must mean..." and stuff of that nature, do you (as an atheist) see the christian imagery as not any kind of admission of any of that religiousness, but more as just borrowing some popular storytelling? Writers and directors are always borrowing (or stealing, making an "homage", etc) from other stories all the time. That's what i consider the bible. It is just a story, a story that people have chosen to accept as fact for some reason.
Something that i ask people when discussing this subject with them is if the bible is like a textbook of how to live. Damn near every time the answer i get is "well, yes. it is like a textbook on the history of our lord, and what we should do to be good people" (obviously paraphrasing). My response to that is always "why are you using a textbook that is thousands of years old?". Textbooks are updated because things are always changing, and no school would use a textbook from the 50's in a classroom today as views on equality, women's rights, and all kinds of things have changed drastically.

I just noticed something someone said here and it inspired something else i have thought about. It seems that when some religious folk talk about how they aren't nuts and are the "good" ones of their faith they always feel the need to include something like this:

"I even approve of homosexuality".

That is really sweet and kind, but who says that anyone is asking for their approval? That is one issue i have with all religious people, even the "good" ones. They speak of being gay and how they give it their thumbs up, despite the fact that it is "wrong". I am not gay (i don't care for labeling myself as one thing or another, but if i were to pick a term it would be bisexual, or a 3 on the kinsey scale).
Now that i have clarified, why is it that religious people think it makes them "cool" and "open minded" because they "approve" of how other people are? As if their opinion matters in some way?
Dhoffryn, I am the one who made the homosexuality comment, and I really really did not mean for it to come out sounding like that. But it's a well-known fact that the Christian right believes that homosexuality is bad bad BAD. Like, so bad they spend more time making sure that gays can't marry than finding the supposed WMDs in Iraq.

I did not mean for that to sound as if they needed or asked for my approval; of course they did not, and I'm sad that there's even any debate as to whether or not homosexuality is okay. I was just saying that because, well, most Christians AREN'T okay with homosexuality, and I AM. There's nothing wrong about it. I just said thatn because most Christians believe that there is.

Really really did not mean for it to sound as it apparently did. My sincerest apologies!!!!
hborjorquez, I'm not sure what point you're making with that last post, but let's focus on the content rather than the source. The author presented his comments in a reasoned manner, and the responses here have been equally reasonable. I'm not sure the magazine's political stance need enter the discussion at all. Thanks.

ChrisInVirginia - word. Although I do wonder what Attila the Hun's position on marijuana really was . . .

More generally, I would hope we're all mature enough to comment on religions and "religious people" in general (which encompasses so many different ways of thinking and believing as to be almost meaningless as a label, IMHO) in a respectful way.

Thus, Dhoffryn, when you speak of "all religious people, even the 'good' ones," you should surely be mindful that many "religious" people would be unstintingly supportive of gay rights. There are, after all, ordained ministers, rabbis, and other spiritual leaders who are openly gay.
I have to count myself as one of those who don't see Book as a terribly realistic portrayal of a Christian (Catholic?) clergyman. He's what you often get when athiests write religious people--sort of vaguely moral, and he seems to believe in something, but it seems like even he'd be hard-pressed to explain exactly what. I don't think it would take very much re-writing to make him a Buddhist monk, or a rabbi, or what have you. His specific faith just doesn't seem to really have much impact on his behavior, his opinions, or his preconceptions about the universe.

Now, Riley being a practicing Protestant; that's a little more interesting. I can see that very much affecting the black and white, good vs. evil frame of reference that he has until fairly late in the season. I actually kind of wish they'd played with that a little more.

I do like that Joss acknowledges that religion is part of people's lives. It's a part of life for many, many people in real life, to a greater or lesser extent. The future he suggests in Firefly, where some people are religious, some are agnostic, and some are atheistic, is much more realistic, I think, than Star Trek's vision of a world where everyone seems to have forgotten that religion ever existed.
JesterinACast, I have to go back and check that episode (which is easy, because we planned on watching the Season 4 episode where he and Angel tangle tonight anyway), because I thought it was a Catholic church, but I could be wrong. Riley as a corn-fed mid-western Evangelical does make perfect sense, though!

And, yes, even though we have lots of Big Bads, and no ultimate Big Goods, it is refereshing--no, more than refreshing, intoxicating, really--that in all the shows, Joss realizes that religious belief, kind of belief, and unbelief are part of people's lives.
ChrisinVirginia

hmmm do I dare step into this one...
I must admit right of Attila the Hun... is a tired cliche...
I won't even defend it.

[snipped]

I'm sorry... sorry... sorry.. I know this is the place to worship Joss... but I took WAAY too much allergy medicine and my sense of what is appropriate has gone out the window!

BTW... Sodding...
The comment from the National Review... was simple liberal cattiness on my part!

But wait there is something to be said for discussing the source... and the interesting disconnect between the religious zealotry of the right and the comments from the author.

Also... Joss himself has said that politics play a HUGE role in what he writes... so I'm not too sure that it's a topic to be avoided.
Sorry, hbojorquez, but we're not going there, and I edited your post accordingly. If the topic is specifically about politics (say, an interview with Joss regarding the appropriate level of government spending, or judicial appointments), we can have that discussion, but it isn't and we won't. And, again, please think before bandying about expressions like "religious zealotry of the right." Such sweeping statements are not very helpful.

Thanks.
Chris inVirginia--upon review, you're right, it is a Catholic church. Riley actually feels more like a Presbyterian or Methodist to me, which is probably why it was a Protestant church in my memory, but I think my point about his moral framework still stands.

(Also, possibly, his predisposition to submit to authority, the government and military in general and Maggie Walsh in particular. I think--partly due to my own experience--that people who grow up in faiths like Christianity or Islam that stress doctrinal orthodoxy are probably more likely to accept what they're told by people in positions of authority.)

[ edited by JesterInACast on 2006-05-19 02:10 ]
Deleted.

[ edited by Chris inVirginia on 2006-05-19 02:25 ]
CinV - I've already asked that this line of discussion - about politics, that is - be dropped. Thanks.

hbojorquez - we can continue the discussion by e-mail if you like, but we're not going to do it on-site.
This tread has moved along quickly while I've been trying to put my thought down, but on the soul in the Jossverse or whichever, I've found a lot more coherent thought about what the soul (or the self, as it's more often called) is in Taoist and Buddhist texts than in the Bible. The consensus from those traditions is that it's not a object to itself. Look, and you won't find. That doesn't mean it isn't real, or that it doesn't have moral obligations for what it is, and has been, in any form it finds itself. If you really want to get into this,CiV, define the soul in Christian terms, and we'll go. Probably by email, since I sense admin patience is being tested.

ETA: Even more quickly than I thought. Email, then.

[ edited by dreamlogic on 2006-05-19 02:22 ]

edited again to correct important philosophical mistake.

[ edited by dreamlogic on 2006-05-19 02:32 ]
I wasn't offended or anything by what you said UnpluggedCrazy, it just sparked a thought. That's all.

I was saying "religious people" because i didn't see the need in constantly saying "some religious people, but not all" over and over again. Yes, there are openly gay spritiual leaders of various religions, but i guarantee there are plenty of people who don't want them in that position.
My family's rabbi (not mine, theirs) came out about being gay at the temple he had been at for 16 years and so many members of the temple were upset and asking that he be fired that he stepped down. People who had know him for years, or in a couple of cases since he started at the temple 16 yrs ago, were openly talking about how "innapropriate" and "against god" (yes, i heard someone say that. My family had to usher me away before i went off on that woman) it was that the rabbi was gay. I will never understand how people can be such sheep that they would instantly turn on someone they had known for 16yrs because he was gay, that just makes me so disgusted with people.
Like that baptist church (or not baptist, i can't remember) that is mostly made up of one family who are going around with the picket signs about how god wants soldiers dead because the US "allows" gay people to be. That family is just going to keep on going with that insanity as they will just raise their kids with that and it will never stop.
People really disgust me.

edit: i guess the whole discussion is going to be over now (or very soon) as the mod(s) seem to not care for it (one last thing, yay censorship! :))

[ edited by Dhoffryn on 2006-05-19 02:30 ]
There's a part of this discussion I find interesting....
Do you need to re-invent a set of allegories and symbols , just because you don't believe in them?

Why wouldn't Joss use Christian allegories and motifs?

They define western thought and art... and even big-time atheists like Camus and Sartre used Christian allegories and symbols ALL the time... and not just to dog them.

Case in point... "The Devil and the Good Lord"..."No Exit" of course... Which btw... I would argue that "objects in space" and the Hell in L.A. Angel episode, beats Sartre's take on existential hell... and I am Sartre loving Catholic! Go figure
To be perfectly clear, I asked two things: (1) for posts to be respectful, and (2) for an end to the (off-topic) discussion about the National Review and politics. Pretty reasonable requests. That's it. Not sure where the "censorship" crack comes into it.
This is possibly irrelevant, but it made me kind of sad when Buffy stopped wearing crosses. I thought it was a very nice bit of character detail, and I missed them when they were gone.
Coming very late to this party (much similar ground covered in another recent thread), but in response to the question of religious believers in SciFi shows, Andromeda had an alien Minister on board. Don't remember if it was a Christian denomination.

hbojorquez, I have had the same thought about Abraham and the sacrifice of Isaac story, although I admit I never related it to The Gift. Since it's the portion of the Torah read on Yom Kippur, which is about the only time I go into synagogue, other than the odd wedding or friends' children's ben mitsvim) I keep coming back up against the story. As a child in Hebrew school, I remember being taught that Abraham made the correct choice in showing his devotion to God by agreeing to the demand that he sacrifice what he loved most, his son. But I always wonder what if that was the WRONG choice. What if he had said instead, "I will give what is mine to give, my own life, but I have no right to take the life of another, even at Your command." What if that was the test that God was setting him, and he failed it? Would human history would be entirely different if he had made the other choice?

Of course since I don't believe in the Judaic or any other human conception of God, and I don't think there's any literal truth in the Bible, it actually wouldn't change anything - it's all storytelling. But the stories one tells, tell a lot about the storyteller.
Still left wondering why the soul truly matters in the Buffyverse...
barboo...
I've thought a lot about the Gift and Abraham.
And there are hints ( I was an English major so I over analyze)...

Who ends up doing the killing of an "innocent"---

Giles... representative of ambivalent maleness-- remember how much he prods about killing Dawn.

And then Tara, as they saunter off to find Glory says to Giles.."You're a killer.. This is all set down".. and literally it threw people off because everyone thought it meant something to do with him trying to kill Dawn (as Abraham would have done... and possibly alluding to Abraham NOT being the father of monotheism.. but the father of murderousness in the name of religion)...

Regardless..
CinV

About the soul... I always saw it as a sign of Joss' extreme optimism about humanity.

The soul... ultimately meant having a conscience...not even a potential conscience but almost a guarantee of a conscience.
I remember way back in the first seasons, Buffy saying something like..."Someone with a soul did this?" in reference to some murder... and time and time again.. the soul is seen as a metaphor NOT for animus (that which animates) but as that which gives us conscience...

Which is really kind of an optimistic (and really secular) view of mankind.

This is a thread of thought that even runs through Serenity... The Reavers for example...aren't the result of innate depravity due to loss of civilization's rules (a very very traditional western theme.. case in point... Lord of The Flies and Heart of Darkness).
Instead... the pure evil of the Reaver's is a result of man's own stupidity.... NOT because man is innately depraved.

IMHO Joss can be very optimistic about humanity.
And those I think that this is why his meditations on these issued attract believers and non-believers... because there is something within us all that wants to believe this...and optimistic thoughts are far better measures of our desire to experience the divine...than fear and shame.
I thought the article writer made a couple of errors in his initial assumptions.

He takes what Sam Harris, Atheist at Large and Author of An Atheist Manifesto, does and then considers it an act of hypocracy, because its an indication of a spiritual side not based on rational materialism - then lumps it all in with new age stuff.

But there's nothing inherently inconsistent in Mr Harris' activities. Zen Meditation has been shown to cause measurable differences in mental activity over the long term, via EEGs and their ilk. If those changes are deemed beneficial, why shouldn't Mr Harris pursue them? Mystical Experiences, too, have been suggested as being linked to changes in brain state, and there's some evidence pointing in this direction. They don't seem like that to the experiencer, though, and they can be very powerful experiences in themselves. Recognising that is hardly dancing sky-clad around a mulberry bush. The rationalist materialist atheist has no doubt something caused religion - they just see no reason to rely on supernatural explanations for it.

If they are actual atheists then they don't believe in all the gods - a number just one more than the number of gods monotheists don't beleive in.
"I have to count myself as one of those who don't see Book as a terribly realistic portrayal of a Christian (Catholic?) clergyman. He's what you often get when athiests write religious people--sort of vaguely moral, and he seems to believe in something, but it seems like even he'd be hard-pressed to explain exactly what. I don't think it would take very much re-writing to make him a Buddhist monk, or a rabbi, or what have you. His specific faith just doesn't seem to really have much impact on his behavior, his opinions, or his preconceptions about the universe."

I totally disagree. A couple of the Christian publications that reviewed Serenity used something similar to your phrase, "He's what you often get when athiests write religious people..." to describe Book, but I always felt it showed more about the writer's own view of what a Christian minister or monk should be like than a reflection of Joss's ignorance about such things.

That is what I was talking about up thread when talking about the variety of Christian sects. I would add to that that there is also a lot of room for styles of Christian minister/priest/monk in the huge number of protestant denominations as well as the Catholic Church. Not all Christians wave their religious dogma around when it is clearly not wanted. There are Christians of strong faith who are subtle, listen to what people of other faiths are saying and are willing not to step all over the beliefs of others.

I always saw Book as being very clear in his beliefs, but also very clear that they were *his* beliefs, not necessarily those of the people around him. I never had any doubt he could articulate those beliefs if given the opportunity. Actually I had the feeling he was working on Jayne in their moments together. I always thought that in Jayne, Book had a pretty good chance of making headway and he knew it. But Book was on a journey to find his place in the world and that included figuring out what his religious purpose was with the crew of Serenity. He found a man who was disillusioned about a Christian faith he had once had and a young girl who was totally lost in the real world as well as all others. With each he took his moments with them and tried to speak in terms that they would listen to.

It seems some Christians feel that a *real* Christian would have hit Mal head on with specific dogma, "Take Jesus as your Savior. Nothing else can help you." or something to that effect. If Joss had done that, Book would have been a one dimensional anti-Christian statement...and off the ship in the first episode because Mal would have had nothing to do with him. I realize that to some Christians, making that statement is more important than getting Mal to the point that he is not so angry at God's seeming betrayal, that he can even begin to function spiritually again. That kind of Christian is not going to be able to function effectively around the characters Joss focuses on.

My father thought seriously about becoming a minister. My father was not disillusioned or bitter but he would not have bothered to listen to a dogmatic, close-minded minister. I remember him going to the church up the street to check out the new minister when I was a small child. He sounded disappointed and disgusted as he said to my mother, "It's too bad. I liked the last fellow. This one is the 'hellfire and damnation' kind." I don't think he went back and I know my brother and I stopped going to Sunday school not long after. The new minister may have been an identifiable Christian, but only the people who already agreed with him had any interest in listening to him.


As far as angry atheists, I'm not one (well, I'm angry, but I'm not an atheist) but I think I can understand some of their anger. I have been friends with some fanatically religious people in my life. Unfortunately those friendships each ended when they decided that it was time to reel me in. Converting me to their religion became more important than our friendship and the friendship ended. I am well aware that each friendship was very likely a sham that was only meant to get me to convert, but I prefer to ignore that likely possibility and think of them more charitably. I know there are others that do not overlook such things when they happen to them, and can become angry.

Someone said that Mal's religious journey may bear a resemblance to Joss's. If so, I'd say it is the angry part that may be similar. It is hard to get over the anger of betrayal, but one needs to get past the anger to get to a happier place. To me Mal is angry at having believed in something that he may now think is probably a lie. He may even be angry that people who he loved and who taught him to believe in this false deity had also been fooled and betrayed...and because of being fooled they had unwittingly lied to him...and he unwittingly lied and gave false hope to others. That is a lot of betrayal and a lot of anger.

Whoof! Long post. Beddy-bye time.
I'm not a Christian (or a Jew), but it strikes me as pretty important for someone who practices a religion to follow it's teachings - and the Old Testament is pretty explicit in it's condemnation of homosexuality. Being "disgusted" because someone who openly professes to being Jewish or Christian actually follows the Bible seems rather asinine.

PS Regarding the Phelps family that you mentioned, don't you just hate Kansas Democrats?
"Voodoo" atheist?
As a black person, I find the term "voodoo" ignorant and insulting.
The proper name for the religion (yes, religion) is VODUN. (Pronounced "voh-doon".)
People who practise Vodun (which is a sort of cousin to Candomble and Santeria) believe in multiple "gods".
Me? I don't care if someone is a "Christian" or an Athiest or an Agnostic. Whatever.
Just don't be thinking that because you believe an old white man is up in the sky puppet-mastering YOUR life it doesn't mean that I have to believe it too. And if I don't happen to believe it that doesn't make you somehow better than me.
And regarding that Biblical "condemnation" of homosexuality?
The Bible apparently also says it's OK to have slaves. And sell your daughter. It's all in how it's interpreted.
The Old Testament is also pretty clear in its condemnation of people who eat shellfish, animals with a cloven hoof (that is, pigs, etc.), or who seethe a kid in its mother's milk (that is, eat dairy and meat together). So, are we saying, go to hell twice, you eaters of bacon cheeseburgers or shrimp cocktail?

Not to mention all those people who are supposed to get stoned to death for adultery. Except, of course, for the Biblical law that a man who rapes a maiden must marry her to make up for it (since he has destroyed her dowry value). Do you really see a lot of people rushing to marry off their daughters/sisters/selves to the man who raped away their virginity?

Not to mention the verses and verses that explain exactly how you should buy and own a slave, as AmazonGirl pointed out.

Not to mention that I believe that "onanism"/"spilling one's seed" (masturbation) is also condemned by the Bible as an abomination. Are there any states considering amendments to ban masturbation that we know of? ;-)

My point being, the Judeo-Christian Bible (as translated into Greek and then "standardized" into English by King James, around which time TPTB of that era also chose to exclude some testaments and books like the Gnostic texts [I hope I'm spelling that right] and the recently discovered gospel of Judas, and then passed down to us today as "THE Bible") has a lot of condemnations and laws that we conveniently ignore because we don't like them anymore (bacon cheeseburgers, yo), and a lot of laws that clearly make no sense or are inhumane to the extreme (slavery, death to adulterers and masturbators, marriage for rapists). So when some people single out the verses where the Bible is "clear in its condemnation" of homosexuality while not feeling as strongly about legislating masturbation, etc., seems pretty selective to me. I'm just sayin'.

Many people have said that the Bible is poetry, that most people read as prose (that is, literally). It is full of contradictions (I think there are 3 separate descriptions of the creation of the world throughout Genesis, not to mention different accounts of events in Jesus' life between the four Gospels). While I respect the strong feelings of love and belief that the Bible raises in many people, I think the Bible is better being respectfully discussed and examined and then followed (such as in ecumenical councils -- which of course can get bogged down in the politics, fears and petty behaviors of humans, unfortunately) than being strictly, unbendingly enforced without reflection or thought.
Yeah, The Bible's pretty explicit about not eating shell-fish or pigs too rkayn. Do all those people that condemn homosexuality also swear off mussels and bacon (and, further, condemn those that eat them) ?

As I say above, to me, some people use the Bible as a defence for pre-existing beliefs that are absolutely unrelated to 'Do unto others...', turning the other cheek, not judging lest we be judged or considering Lilies (hey, they're nice, we should all spend more time considering them ;).

(obviously other world views can be - and have been - perverted, just look at the so called science of eugenics, but religions tend to also teach unthinking, unquestioning obediance to authority which can make it pretty hard for even well meaning people to throw off the 'shackles' and say 'Hey, wait a second, maybe Oysters/Pork chops/homosexuals aren't so bad, maybe we can all live together and just get on with it. Also, look at those Lilies, man, they're cool' ;)

ETA: By which I mean what billz said (only with more of that betterness stuff everyone's so keen on ;).

[ edited by Saje on 2006-05-19 09:11 ]
Saje, are you and I scarily channeling each other, or what?! *stops to smell the lilies* ;-)
I can't help but think this topic has gone so far off on a tangent it's now in a parallel dimension (possibly in the world with out shrimp).

Get the topic back to the discussion of Joss Whedon and his shows in the context of religion be it Christianity and or the supernatural.

This is not really the place to have a general discussion of faith systems.
Er, does anyone know Joss' stand on bacon cheeseburgers? ;-)

OK, on-topic, I wanted to give a big "word!" to newcj in pointing out that "Christian" means so many different things because there are so many different Christian faiths and churches and followers within each of those groups. I mean, there will be some who watch 7th Heaven (really, there will be, "thanks" to The CW) and complain that those characters are not "real Christians," because they are not the same kind of Christian as those people making the complaint. We can't expect that a writer should only write about others in his/her own church or faith. (Would you have to have a writer for each character if each character is from a different background? Yeah, right!) The result is, Joss comes from his belief, and writes about a world of characters of many viewpoints, with respect for all (except maybe for certain Big Bads and Alliance/Blue Hands officials) -- just the way we like it! ;-)

World without shrimp, amen. ;-)
If anyone hasn't read 'What Would Buffy Do: the Vampire Slayer as spiritual guide', I'd say it was worth a gander.
What interested me most about that book was it's explanation of Angel as a representation of the Buddist figure Bodhisattva, who works constantly and selflessly for the good of others, but unfortunately I last read the book ages ago and can't remember much about what it said. Someone with a brain, some help?

Interesting little personal side-note - I was 'removed' from Sunday School as a child (6 ish) for asking too many difficult questions. My destiny is clearly to lie in on a Sunday morning :)
Your post reminded me of this recent link & thread about bodhisattvas, lone fashionable wolf. And your Sunday mornings remind me of the Simpsons ep where Homer decided he was best off skipping church, too, lol. You rock, LFW! ;-)
hbojorquez:
Why wouldn't Joss use Christian allegories and motifs?

They define western thought and art... and even big-time atheists like Camus and Sartre used Christian allegories and symbols ALL the time... and not just to dog them.


Quite. Given that Joss's work is so full of cultural allusions, we should expect to see some Christian ones. If there hadn't been any, it would have appeared he was deliberately avoiding them.

Although it's sometimes a litle frustrating to the part of me that wants answers to everything, I really like the fact that Joss often leaves issues open to the viewer's interpretation (like the snowfall in Amends, the invitation-free entry in Epiphany, and the significance of souls).
newcj--My point isn't that Book should have been written as more dogmatic. It's just that aside from a few jokes about Jesus being a carpenter, there's not even very much to indicate that he's a Christian at all. (In fact, I was discussing this with my fiancee last night, and until I pointed out those lines and the fact that his holy book is specifically referred to as a Bible in one or two episodes, she wasn't sure if he was ever specifically said to be a Christian.)

It's not that Book should have sat down with Mal, handed him a Chick tract, and said "You have to accept Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior or you'll burn in hell forever." That would be bad TV and bad evangelism.

The problem for me is that we never really get a sense of Book believing anything. He comes across as more like a Unitarian than anything. There's nothing wrong with that, but it's not, in my experience, a realistic portrayal of a priest/minister/rabbi/whatever. What people believe about their faith impacts the way they interact with the world, and I just don't see much of that with Book.
...Unless he is a Unitarian priest/minister/rabbi/whatever... ;-)

Less glibness more substance later. Work now.

[ edited by newcj on 2006-05-19 13:06 ]
Heh. Always possible.
Agreed tichtich, as I said in the 'soul thread' (why do I hear the Blues Brothers when I type that ;) The Bible is one of the most important books in the history of the world so for a show to ignore it, especially a show which has so many themes in common with it, would seem to be more than coincidental. And then added to this when one of the central tenets of the show, vampirism, already has a lot of religious symbology embedded in it, Joss would have to have been deliberately avoiding the subject/imagery of Christianity for it not to feature (not to mention missing out on a lot of story possibilities).

I agree about the open-endedness of the ideas in the 'verse too. Although I also have a part that likes straight answers, that same part doesn't like straight answers I don't agree with. Now, obviously, this is a failing but I think it's a common and natural one in that when we are told categorically that what we think isn't true (even if it's only in a fictional universe) it's kind of annoying and sets us against the creator and the fiction they create (personally, 'Signs' irks me for just this reason - massive plot holes aside). Leaving it open-ended is much fairer to all, seems less arrogant (since Joss isn't saying 'Hey, i've got all the answers'), is more thought provoking and also inspires interesting discussions like this one. What's not to like ? ;)

JesterInaCast, I kind of see what you mean but to me Book is more a common denominational Christian. He doesn't seem to belong to a particular type of Christianity and from that I took that in the future there's been some kind of merging of (or at least agreement between) factions.

I also don't agree that Book's faith doesn't impact the way he interacts with the world. I think he sees it as the solid foundation which allows him the strength to stand on his own and think for himself. To me, as was mentioned above, he is basically the epitome of what Christianity should be in that he is kind, sincere, compassionate, honest (except possibly by omission), faithful but not dogmatic and willing to fight for what he believes in so long as it doesn't compromise his moral precepts in the process. He's a Christian if you take away the inter-denominational disagreements and the literal adherence to the letter (and not the spirit) of The Bible (sweeping generalisation disclaimer: I know many, probably most, Christians aren't like this in their day to day dealings).

For those reasons he sort of is an atheist's version of a Christian since he has what we would consider to be the good bits without what we would consider to be the bad bits (and by 'we' i'm being as sweeping about all the different kinds of people who are atheists in just the same way i've been pretty sweeping about 'Christians' as if that's one particular type of human you can point at and clearly label)

(wow, do these posts expand, i'm starting to eye them suspiciously for any attempt to dominate the world, they're like the verbal equivalent of the Blob ;-)
That's well-put, Saje. I think you're onto something there. The thing for me is that Christianity is, essentially, a dogmatic religion. It makes claims about certain absolute truths that lead to conclusions about how one should behave. One can certainly be a moral person without believing Christianity's particular teachings (or those of any religion, for that matter) but then one isn't a Christian. That's where Book seems to fall, to me. He's a good man, but I don't think we're really given a sense that his faith has a lot to do with that.

(I also think it's possible that this discussion would have been pretty different if the show hadn't been cancelled. I think eventually Book and Mal probably would have had some sort of theological confrontation--the setup of Mal kissing his cross in the first scene of the pilot doesn't make sense unless Joss had a payoff in mind later on down the road.)
About the soul... I always saw it as a sign of Joss' extreme optimism about humanity

Well, fine, but it still doesn't explain why it's important in the Jossverse after death.
I think I said this on a long-ago thread, but it seems relevant again. The Firefly/Serenity-verse is 500 years in the future. 500 years ago in this-verse, the printing press was young and Martin Luther was still more than a decade away from starting Protestantism. If you think you know the exact composition of the Bible or Christianity at 500 years from now, because you know it today, you're not thinking like a sci-fi writer. Or a historian.
I don't think you can look at Firefly purely from a futurist standpoint, though. The world of the 'verse is a uniquely anachronistic one, and any examination of the subtext has to include our ideas about our past and present as much as our future. I agree that Christianity is unlikely to look much like it does now in 500 years, but people are also unlikely to be carrying six-shooters, driving stagecoaches, wearing silk-screened t-shirts, and saying "I reckon."

[ edited by JesterInACast on 2006-05-19 14:53 ]
You've got a point. But Joss does have a sci-fi reason for his "anachronisms." Or recycles. It was extremely expensive to move stuff from the old to the new solar system, and again from the inner to outer planets. Material goods had to be made from local resources under local conditions. Meanwhile, intangibles like religion and language could travel and progress unfettered. And don't be too sure about the guns. The U.S. Army's main heavy machine gun is still the the same one as in 1898. There are optimal designs that stick.

[ edited by dreamlogic on 2006-05-19 15:42 ]
True, but given how freely religious documents could spread and how easily very faithful copies of them would be to get hold of, how likely does it seem that there would be massive changes of the sort seen in the middle ages ? Those changes came about because access to the Bible was restricted to a few powerful men at the time.

Nowadays (thanks to the invention of the printing press, careful consideration of which should send all of us misty eyed ;), everyone has that access and I suspect, therefore, that most of the Bible as we know it now would survive intact (since there're no bottlenecks which would allow wholesale changes to be made to relatively few copies). Of course, interpretations will almost certainly change along with cultural mores but that's because they come from us not from the Bible itself, which, a lot like Buffy/Angel, allows for multiple different 'correct' readings.

Regarding the guns, BTW, they are patterned in appearance after contemporary/historical weapons but with the noises made when cocked there's clearly more going on than in our guns (maybe some kind of recoil-less mechanism, maybe some adaptation for use in low-gravity or vacuum environments) so they actually are more advanced though maybe not as much as you'd expect for 500 years of 'progress'. At the end of the day though, simplicity rules in survival situations and explosive charges propelling small bits of metal are much easier to build, maintain and probably use than laser pistols.

(I think the other throwbacks to American frontier life - clothing, carts etc. - are affectations to create a feel, a sort of visual 'frontier' short-hand much like some of the Christian imagery in Buffy/Angel though i'd love to hear from anyone if Joss actually has some line of reasoning behind why we went back to that style of clothing/speech etc.)
I think there are some rationalizations for the frontier imagery, but in my opinion, they're more like excuses for what Joss really wanted to do: Cowboys In Space! The anachronisms, in other words, are the point.

I also think it's worth noting that the only other Christians we see are pretty anachronistic themselves--witch-burning loonies straight out of the Middle Ages. They really represent the opposite of Book. He's the positive stereotypes about Christianity with all the warts filed off, and they're the negative stereotypes about intolerance and bigotry. But both are part of the church's history, and part of its makeup today. Most Christians occupy some point in the vast middle ground between those two extremes.
Book, in other words, as about as realistic a Christian as Willow is a Wiccan.
...and so now we come back to the fact that Whedon -- for all his wonders and amazingnesses -- has yet to portray a (note the words) genuine, 3-D, identifiably practicing Christian.

As long as we're all naming our Weltanschauungen, I believe in Jesus; which means I believe Jesus, no apologies, reservations, or qualifications.
billz, thanks for the link - and the affirmation! Always good to hear ;).
I guess normally vampires and what-not fit in quite easily with what I would usually think of as 'western' religions like Christianity, they fall into (usually) simplistic areas of good and evil, heaven and hell. It seems that the Buffyverse has so many more shades of grey than that, for one thing the concept that there are millions of hells and heavens.
The interesting stuff about Buddism and Buffy is that you can bring in alot of the individual issues that Buffy and co have in fighting the good fight - that being a hero (or simply doing good) can be a struggle in itself. That the hero herself isn't the only one, and Xander, Dawn, or Wesley are heroic in thier own ways.
From what I know of Wicca and been told about the often totally wrong use of the Goddesses summoned in BtVS, Book is as much of a Wiccan as Willow is. I’m not sure if you are showing a lack of knowledge about Wicca or you are saying that Book is so far from being a Christian that he lives in a totally different reality and may not know the difference between Jesus, Moses, David and John the Baptist.

It is true that Christianity can be/is a dogmatic religion. Interestingly enough, that is why there are sooooo many versions. It seems like every time someone disagreed with the PTB over doctrine or something else they started a new church. Garrison Kiellor had a wonderful monologue about how his Christian fundamentalist family was constantly splintering into small individual sects who would not speak to each other because of disagreements and arguments over some matter of the interpretation of their faith.

The fact that Book does not proclaim his specific Christian beliefs, does not mean he does not have them or that he is not identifiable as a Christian. On the contrary, it has always seemed to me that he is confident enough in his religion that he does not have to wear it on his sleeve. He has been in a monastery amongst other like minded people in what sounds like it was a contemplative life-style. Now he is out amongst people who are not like-minded and can be openly hostile. You can confront them, or give them time to get used to the idea that you are not a threat to them. (Oh yeah, they also carry guns. ;-) ) If you also perhaps went through some of the things yourself that you see others going through, you might understand even more deeply the need to wait for the person to be ready to hear what you have to say.

I agree that given more time, all aspects of Book would have come more into focus. One of the reasons Joss did not have to hit people over the head with everything about Book or any of the others was that he thought he had a few years to spin the story. I thought it indicative of the message that religion and specifically Christianity was not going away anytime soon, that people recognized Book's religious affiliation by his clothes. It meant that Book had even less reason to explain himself, just as an easily identifiable nun does not have to explain to everyone that she is Catholic and what that means to her life when she meets people.

Thinking about this whole thing of atheists not writing positive Christian characters dogmatic enough or Christian enough, I came up with the image of peppers. Now I hate bell peppers (I do not I hate Christianity. That is not my point.) and as a result I can smell them, taste them and see them, no matter how small the amount of bell peppers in a dish. People who love bell peppers, don’t even taste them in most of the things that are ruined for me.

My point is that if you do not like something, for instance the act of trying to force one’s religion on others or shoe horning everything into the dogma of one’s own religion, you are aware of every nuance a person makes who you know might be prone to such things. You become very aware of what religion is for different people. You figure out who you can talk to about subjects that might come under a religious umbrella without ending up with someone starting to recite dogma, damn you to hell, or cross to the other side of the street whenever they see you from then on. On the other hand if one is someone who takes evangelical zeal as a sign of true Christianity, they may not even notice all the much more subtle things that make others peg this person as a religious Christian.

As far as the changes to Christianity and the anachronistic nature of the Firefly universe, religion and Christianity specifically were changing throughout America’s westward push. It is not a big secret that the US frontier after The War Between the States is the inspiration for Firefly. One of the fascinating elements of rural America that I have always found are the pockets of different religious groups one finds tucked in here and there all over the place, each group practicing their own brand of whatever it originally started out to be. From what I have seen, religion can move 500 years to the future in many places and stay a couple hundred years back a little ways away. Meanwhile the ones who are living 500 years ahead can be trying to pull everybody back to 450 years ahead instead.

Aren’t people interesting?
Just to be clear--my issue with Book isn't that he's not an evangelist. That's fine, and a character like that would be pretty annoying. I don't want Ned Flanders onboard Serenity.

But Book's personal beliefs just feel like something of a cipher to me, like maybe even Joss isn't quite sure what they are. And for a writer who's normally very clear and crisp about individual characters' voices, Book's a little jarring. Some of that, of course, may be the fact that his background is meant to be mysterious, and at the beginning, it's possible even Joss didn't know what his secret was going to be, and wanted to leave things somewhat open-ended.

(All this discussion makes me want to go back and watch the series, taking notes on religion as it's presented. It's wonderful how rich this stuff is.)
"Just to be clear--my issue with Book isn't that he's not an evangelist."

JesterInACast, actually I was not thinking that it necessarily was, and I had been avoiding using the word evangelical for that reason. Part of my problem though, is that no one actually says what kind of action they would need to see for Book to be perceived as Christian enough. I can understand why. It is very dangerous territory…but I would not mind if you gave it a whirl. ;-)
filops, way earlier in this thread (yesterday, actually), it was established that Riley Finn is a regular church-going Catholic...yes, it was only a quick moment, but it made its point very clearly. Riley is a Catholic, he puts on a suit every Sunday and goes to Mass.
Part of my problem though, is that no one actually says what kind of action they would need to see for Book to be perceived as Christian enough. I can understand why. It is very dangerous territory…but I would not mind if you gave it a whirl.

An excellent question, and I'd like to take a stab at it. I think I should take a bit to compose my thoughts on it, though. It is, as you say, a tricky subject. Let me jot down some notes, and I'll try to return with a coherent answer. :)
I think Book found Christianity and was seeking redemption for what he did (what ever that was). But we will never know.
Simon's take on it is exactly mine...like Paul of Tarsus, he was blinded by divine light (as he saw it), repented of his ways and sought to atone by becoming a holy man.

He actually uses the word "Christian" in "Serenity", of course. His prayers for the victims of the Reavers...his scolding of River for removing pages of the bible that "don't make sense" or whatever she said. He's clearly Christian.

But, as a friend, upon his first viewing of Firefly said, "He seems a man of vast command, more at home on the quarterdeck than in the cloister." He has quite a history.

Damn, I'd love a prequel...Book the Operative...and How He Grew.
I have to confess, the statement that Joss has "yet to portray a genuine . . . Christian" reminds me of nothing so much as a certain logical fallacy I learned as an undergrad.

I tend to think the burden is on those who would claim Book or Riley are not "genuine Christians" (whatever that may mean) to demonstrate, rather than to suggest that Joss, simply because he is an admitted atheist, cannot create an authentic (my word, rather than "genuine") Christian character. Whether he thought it was terribly important to do so is a different question.

But Book and Riley are as "Christian" in their words and deeds as many actual Christian people I've met in my life, people who don't necessarily bring their affiliation up at every turn, but who try to live by certain precepts derived from the New Testament and from church, and who will discuss their beliefs without fear or bluster when invited or encouraged to do so.
Very nicely put, SNT.
I've always thought that Christians proclaiming that someone isn't "Christian enough" is a decidely un-Christian behavior. Don't they supposedly subscribe to the "Judge not, lest ye be judged..." tenet?

Sounds hypocritical to me, and is one of my main criticisms of organized religion. Every faction/sect/splinter group etc... thinks they are right, that their way is the only way, and woe to anyone who disagrees.

And SNT, that was very well-said. Saje, I enjoyed pretty much all of what you've said here, as well.
For what it's worth, SNT, I think I'd consider myself in that category. I grew up in a very conservative, Evangelical family and church, but my beliefs have evolved with time, to the point where a lot of Christians (maybe even some in this thread) wouldn't necessarily consider me one of them. Nonetheless--it seems to me that most of the people who consider Book an authentic Christian portrayal aren't Christians, and none of the Christians in the thread (that I've noticed, anyway) seem to recognize him as one. Anyone here that bucks that trend, either way? If so, please speak up; yours might be the most informative viewpoint.
JesterInACast, I can only say, Huh?

I am a self-identified Catholic, often so described here. This is from a recent post of mine:

Simon's take on it is exactly mine...like Paul of Tarsus, he was blinded by divine light (as he saw it), repented of his ways and sought to atone by becoming a holy man.

He actually uses the word "Christian" in "Serenity", of course. His prayers for the victims of the Reavers...his scolding of River for removing pages of the bible that "don't make sense" or whatever she said. He's clearly Christian.


Okay?

Jeez.
Okeedoke. Sorry if I offended--that wasn't my intention. I wasn't aware that was your affiliation, which was why I asked for clarification. My apologies.
Interesting little personal side-note - I was 'removed' from Sunday School as a child (6 ish) for asking too many difficult questions. My destiny is clearly to lie in on a Sunday morning :)


You and me both lonefashionable wolf! For me it was about age 9 or 10. I actually had to define the word "metaphor" for the Sunday School teacher.
Ah well...oh! Someone earlier mentioned Bodhisattva. This is a person who in practicing compassion for all sentient beings, forgoes enlightenment, choosing to wait until everyone else before them is enlightened. In some branches of Buddhism, one takes a Bodhisattva Vow.
Kate Lockley, the "cop" in AtS mentioned in some earlier posts, is clearly a believing Catholic. She has such a hard time accepting Angel after she finds out what he is because she can't deal with something that in her belief system is an "evil thing" doing good (of course others have that same conflict, Giles and some of the Scoobies, the Watcher's Council without sharing her faith). The shaking up of her belief system by Angel, followed by her father's betrayal set in motion the sequence of events that lead to her suicide attempt. When Angel is able to enter her home without an invitation in order to save her, it restores HER faith. Whatever we the viewers, or Angel the vampire with a soul, choose to believe is the source of that intervention, for Kate it seems pretty clear, it's a restoration of her original belief in God. I find it hard to accept that that is not an example of a genuine Christian character.

The first time I saw that episode, at the point where Angel burst through her door I thought "I don't remember him ever being invited into her apartment." And, nonbeliever that I am, everytime I see it again, I get choked up at the point where Kate says to Angel, I know now that we're not alone, and he asks why and she answers "Because I never invited you in."
Yeah, Barboo, I get choked up at that, too...powerful stuff indeed.

Dare I say, miraculous?
ok...

...abiding liberal here.. I've been watching West Wing DVDs like mad for three months now.

I'm back on the Buff.... and I have to say...again...

How amazing this show is that is still can inspire 111 posts on a serious topic..
Barboo - And all along I thought Angel was able to burst through the door because she had, for a few seconds at least, died. Angel was thus able to enter the apartment and revive her.

CIV - Your friend didn't literally say, "He seems a man of vast command, more at home on the quarterdeck than in the cloister", did he?? Is his name Frasier? Actually, I can't quite imagine even him sounding that pompous.

Finally, WRT the myriad idiocies contained in the Bible, YES! Point them out, the Bible is full of them (plus absolutely reprehensible people and practices, all with God's seal of approval). But don't pretend to be shocked when you find people - in a church or synagog no less - who believe in some of them.

[ edited by rkayn on 2006-05-20 07:19 ]
Dare I say, miraculous?

How dare you Chris ?! ;-). Yep, it certainly could be read that way and I, convinced atheist that I am, also find it very powerful, probably because I think almost everyone wishes there were some higher power watching over us (the nice, omni-benevolent one that is, not necessarily the slaughtering 185,000 Assyrians one ;). Maybe apart from using Christian imagery/themes and being broadminded enough to allow different view-points, Joss was indulging us (and himself ?) in a bit of wish fulfilment (of course, to play devil's advocate - ahem, the 'power' doesn't need to be God - yeah, yeah, change the record Saje ;) - or even good since Kate could have been saved because she'll go on to become the most evil woman the world has ever seen).

rkayn, at first I thought that too but if you watch it, he seems to check her for signs of life, relax slightly and then the episode cuts to him going through the steps of 'sobering' someone up (walking her, keeping her alert etc.). Also, how could she be revived ? As he mentioned in 'Prophecy Girl' Angel has no breath so can't perform CPR (which is why Xander had to revive Buffy). In which case she would have to have revived spontaneously (which is also kind of miraculous, if that's how you want to interpret these things).

Also, who has 'pretended' to be shocked (how you can possibly know whether someone is pretending anything through a keyboard is another matter) at Biblical inconsistencies ? They're not a big suprise to anyone who's looked at the book critically but I think it's still worth pointing out the hypocrisy of those people who profess to follow its edicts regarding homosexuality but fail to do so in other areas.
In the Sydney Q & A, Joss says something to the effect that he didn't believe in god but he wished he did, so I agree that he could well put in miracles because some people believe they are possible. He isn't one of them but he won't begrudge those who are. Were there any miracles that did not involve Angel? Taking a quick look through this thread again, I can only see mention of the snowfall and him entering uninvited.

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