A Few Thoughts …

A few days ago, our friend Roger and I were chatting, and he happened to mention an old movie that I saw way back in the day, Inherit the Wind (1960).  I could remember very little of it, so I went to Wikipedia to be reminded of the story … oh yeah … it was based on the Scopes Monkey Trial, formally The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, in 1925 in small-town Tennessee.  I decided to watch the movie again, having forgotten most of it in the 50 years or so since I first saw it.  I’m glad I did, and I highly recommend it.

This movie has some of the best acting of all time.  Spencer Tracy, Frederic March, Dick York (of Bewitched fame), and Harry Morgan (of Dragnet and M*A*S*H fame) outdid themselves in this one.  But it wasn’t only the acting.  It was the film itself, the message, that cost me a couple of nights’ sleep.  It was seeing, or rather being reminded, of the cruelty of the human race, of man’s closed minds when it comes to views that do not match his own.

It is Spencer Tracy’s final words in the movie that provoke thought.  Speaking of his antagonist, Matthew Harrison Brady (Frederic March), as he speaks to newspaperman E.K. Hornbeck (Gene Kelly) he begins …

“A giant once lived in that body, but Matt Brady got lost because he looked for God too high up and too far away.”

And with those few words, I was reminded of the evangelical movement here in the U.S. today.  Is it possible that a person can believe in God or Allah or Buddha without adhering to a religion?  What, after all, does religion do?  It provides rites and rituals that manipulate people, that dictate what they must believe and how they must act.  And it expands … it attempts to mold all people into its set of values.  If a religion proclaims that homosexuality is wrong, then LGBTQ people must be either converted or exorcised from society.  If a religion teaches that white people have a higher value than all others, then Blacks, Hispanics, Middle Easterners … well, more than half of the world’s population must be set apart, given lesser roles in society.  If a religion teaches that women are lesser creatures than men, then women must be subjected to being ruled, told what to do and how to act, by men.

Religion, from what I’ve seen, promotes exclusion and hatred … hatred toward those who are considered to be somehow ‘different’, whether by the colour of their skin, their gender, or simply the fact that they don’t buy into the story of the world being created in just six days.

A personal story … when I was married, I lived in a small town in Virginia and my best friend was the wife of my husband’s cousin.  As our friendship progressed and we learned more about each other, she invited me to join their church.  As a non-believer and anti-religionist, I politely declined … no criticism, just a polite, “Thanks, but no thanks.”  Well, when she told her husband Danny, my husband’s cousin, he told her that she must ‘convert’ me, or if she couldn’t do that, she must stop being friends with me.  That, my friends, is how religion works … it segregates humans into cults or clans where only those with the exact same features and beliefs can be a part of their world.  There is no room for new ideas, new thoughts … you either fit in or you’re out.

Inherit the Wind takes place in a small town where the majority of the people are of the same church; they think alike, and new ideas are not welcomed.  The teacher in this case (York) was caught teaching Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and it was this that landed him in the courtroom, fighting for the right to teach credible science, fighting for his right to be a teacher.  That’s all … he only wanted to open kids’ minds to other ways of thinking, to new ideas.  Rather like some of today’s teachers who only want to teach acceptance of Black people, Middle-Easterners, and LGBTQ people, but some in this nation are so scared of losing that white supremacy concept they found in church that they refuse to allow young people’s minds to be opened.  They feel threatened by new ideas, or even the teaching of history.

I think it is possible to believe in a god … whether you call it God, Buddha, Allah, Jain, or any other … without being religious.  There is much wrong in the world today … our environment is in decline, people are starving all around the globe, democracy is in decline, and people need/want to be able to believe that there is purpose in life, that somewhere, somehow, there is order in the chaos.  I get that.  But religion is only adding to the problems when it seeks to exclude certain people or ideas, when it seeks to close minds rather than open them, when it seeks to hide the truth from future generations.

47 thoughts on “A Few Thoughts …

  1. Pingback: A Few Thoughts … – Nelsapy

  2. While I connect with what I believe to be the Source of existence, in no way does that relationship resemble any organized religious practice that can be named. I don’t ‘do’ religion or honestly anything else that promotes separation of humans into groups. Not clubs, no flags or logos, status symbols or associations unless they are all inclusive. The closest thing I know to a loving worship situation is the Unity church affiliation. Most of these churches provide open doors to all and invite spiritual teachers from every faith to share their beliefs with whomever chooses to attend the services. Sadly, I am a recovering Christian, raised Southern Baptist with all the guilt, judgment and self loathing you can fit into the 15 years my family were regular church goers. What it gave me was sweet memories as a child of summer bible schools, beautiful hymns to sing, Dinner on the Grounds potluck and the certainty that no one will ever tell me how to have a relationship with Spirit. That is a personal thing. It is worse than incomprehensible to know that millions of people want to be told what to do and when to do it. But do you know why, really? Because then they aren’t responsible. When the sh$& hits the fan, it wasn’t their fault. The preacher, the priest, the devil even ‘made them do it’. I see it as a coward’s way. This In no way is meant to slight those of Christian or other faiths who practice unconditional love for all. I just don’t see enough of it anymore. Too many are just hiding their true prejudices and judgments to stay out of the hot seat. Trump managed to run most of those out of their safe dark places. 🥺💔

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    • Yep, religion becomes first their ‘safe haven’, their guidance, and then later it becomes their excuse, their justification. I well remember the first time I questioned my father, who was Jewish, and got the answers that made me question the entire religious/god thing … I was five years old and I could smell a lie a mile away. If you think about it, most of the problems of the world today have their roots somewhere in religion. Sigh.

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  3. Jill, this is one of my favorite movies as well. It is a powerful, well-acted story based off a true event. William Jennings Bryan was a populist well before mass media came about. Fortunately, enough people saw him for what he was and did not vote him in as president. The character in the movie based on Bryan is well-played, but I do like the understanding Spencer Tracy’s character (Clarence Darrow) gives him in the end, a quote you note above, in contrast to the more cynical view of the character played by Gene Kelly.

    Populism is fed by fear based selling. Fear the other. Tell people it is the other’s fault. This is why there is a desire to control what is taught. We cannot have the thoughts of the other being told to people. Sadly, most populists start to believe their own BS. And, they put themselves on a higher pedestal than before. They become Yertle the Turtle and at some point they will fall. With social media, that fall may take longer, but when one lies so much, it is hard to remember what you said. Keith

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    • I had forgotten that William Jennings Bryan had actually made a run for president. Thankfully yes, people were smart enough to send him packing, but then more than a century later, people elected another radical populist, this one without half the intelligence Bryan had! Isn’t it funny, though, that back then it was the Democratic Party who was the instigator of populism, and today the table have turned 180°. That one line in the last 2 minutes of the movie took my breath away, started the cogs turning inside my head.

      You’re right … it IS fear-based, it plays on fears that people may already have and gives them false credence. Good analogy to Yertle the Turtle … someday, somewhere along the line, there will be a burp that sends the likes of DeSantis, Trump, Cruz and more into the mud. At least … I hope so. Sigh.

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  4. I really enjoy listening to ur reminiscence. Thank you for sharing valuable life lessons, like the politics of religion. I guess the same could be said regarding the religion of politics these days, tribalism is way outta control, reason and compassion decidedly absent.
    I’ll be sure to check out the movie, appreciate the recommendation.

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  5. Hello Jill. I think most people only know what their preacher or church leader tells them about their religion. I doubt most people read their holy book; I doubt most of them do research to figure out the history of that time to understand what is being talked about. I think that is why there are so many sects of each religion. Because it is not the written word that is important to the congregation, it is the spoken words of the leaders. The people get trained to put their faith in the people at the top, the pastors, preachers, or elders without question. Which as we know can lead to awfully bad things when the people at the top feel they cannot be questioned. Hugs

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    • I wouldn’t say all, but there certainly are a lot who, if the priest or minister says it, they will believe it without bothering to think, to do some research, or better yet, to question everything! This is how the politicians on the right gain their base … by parroting the church leaders and leading the people right off a cliff! And even the written word … was written by men, not some ‘higher being’ … it was written by men who hoped to manipulate and control. Sigh. Hugs!

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    • The many sects are also the results of “interpretations”! I have asked many believers why if their God is all knowing, how could he not know what he meant when he wrote the Bible? Would He really have left room for interpretation? The most common response I get makes no sense i light of what they tell me they believe, “Oh, God did not intend the Bible to be read literally! That’s dumb!” Funny that they mostly use the word “dumb,” which means unable to speak. If God is dumb, how did He speak at all?

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  6. Pingback: A FEW THOUGHTS … |jilldennison.com | Ramblings of an Occupy Liberal

  7. I’ve seen this movie 4 or 5 times over the years, and it’s so good, I could watch it again. The acting is superb (except for the miscast Gene Kelly, who is merely adequate) — especially Spencer Tracy and Fredric March in the starring roles. One of my favorite lines in the film comes when March keeps insisting on the Bible as evidence, and Tracy finally says “OK, we’ll play in your ballpark” (like a politician who wants his own spin on every issue to be accepted on how it should be taken).

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    • It’s on Amazon Prime for free right now, if you want to see it again! I agree that Gene Kelly had some good moments, but overall his was average. But Spencer Tracy and Frederic March … they were so believable that I really wanted to smack March upside the head!

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  8. Pingback: A Few Thoughts … | Ned Hamson's Second Line View of the News

  9. I absolutely believe it’s possible to believe in a divine figure and have faith in that without being religious or following a religious doctrine. As far as I’m concerned, the majority of religions are about controlling people and funneling power to a few individuals. I have little faith in those leaders or what they espouse in the name of their gods.

    Hugs and cheers, and thanks for another thought-provoking post. M

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    • They don’t just funnel power, but they also funnel your money, mostly to the highest higher-ups in the Church.
      Right now I am waiting to see if the Pope’s apology to the Indigenous People of Canada is going to include any monetary reparations. Along with our cultures, our languages, our clothing, our homelands, and our spirituality, they took our valuables, and they ate still taking our money–and the money of every organized believer. It is time to give a good chunk of that money back yo the people, in this case our,people. Money won’t bring back of of the stolen things and values, but it can help punish the Catholic Church for their sins against humanity. I do not expect that to happen!…..

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      • That too … just look at Joel Osteen whose net worth is over $100 million and he earns a salary of over $5 million per year for nothing but talking to churchgoers once a week!

        I do agree with you on the Indigenous People, both here in the U.S. and in Canada … it was robbery and genocide, plain and simple, and their descendants certainly deserve reparation, but I’m not holding my breath.

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        • Nor am I. My Orange t-shirt for National Day for Truth and Reconciliation reads SOAP THE POPE. I don’t think I’ll have to change the logo yet. His wotds may mean something to someone, asking God for forgiveness, saying I am sorry. Those words are meaningless to me. Nor do I care about the money itself. I want to see the Catholic Church punished.
          Damn, I think I already said those words somewhere today!

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      • Jill, could you please repair the many typos above. I was about to proofread when my finger hit the publish key. Seems my typing is betting worse and worse. My fingers have minds of their own. Thanks.

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    • Perhaps so … at least I think it’s possible for some, but for others they seem to need someone to tell them what to believe and how to think, and for those, the church is a drawing card. I agree with you … most religions ARE about control. Marx was not wrong when he said religion is the “opiate of the masses”.

      Hugs ‘n cheers to you, Michael … and thank you! I tread very lightly when it comes to religious discussions, for I know my own views are different than most and I never aim to be disrespectful, but this one just begged to be written.

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