Matthew Archbold over at the excellent Creative Minority Report blog posts this item about his dismay with famous writer and director Joss Whedon, creator of the hit TV shows “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel,” “Firefly,” and “Dollhouse.” Matthew really loves Whedon’s work but really took exception to remarks Whedon made when he accepted an Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism from the Humanist Chaplaincy at Harvard. Here’s a clip:
I find myself in the same boat with Matthew. I’ve never been a big fan of vampires, so I was never a regular Buffy watcher. When I did watch the show, I noticed the frequent snarky swipes at religion, but it was hard not to like “Buffy” because it was so well written. I loved “Firefly,” in part, precisely because of the continuing dialogue between the skeptical, embittered Mal Reynolds and the minister, “Shepherd” Book. I want to like Whedon too, but in this instance, he clearly doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I find it ironic that he says he had to have his value as a person confirmed by a “shout out” from Obama. If Whedon would check the first few chapters of Genesis, he’d find the fundamental statement that all human beings, male and female, are created in the image and likeness of God, and therefore have inestimable value. If he were to check the New Testament, he would find the revolutionary idea that the Son of God gave his own life and rose from the dead in order to redeem human beings from the power of sin and death. This strongly suggests that the God Whedon doesn’t believe in thinks that human beings must have some value.
I find it ironic that he insists that “education” is the answer to the world’s ills, but he either forgets or doesn’t know that the founder of all the great European universities was the Catholic Church. Harvard, the school at which he is speaking, was founded as a a religious institution. Whedon accepts his award from atheists and addresses his audience of atheists in a church on the university campus. No irony there.
Finally, his assertion that “faith in God means believing in something with absolutely no evidence,” while faith in humanism means “believing in something with a huge amount of evidence to the contrary,” has the argument exactly backward. G. K. Chesterton once said that original sin was the only part of Christianity that could readily be proven. Human history is replete with evil, barbarism, and cruelty, and yes, much of it has been done by those who claimed to believe in God. But where is the evidence that human beings can be truly good without God? The two most evil and barbaric regimes of the twentieth century, Nazism and Communism, were either officially or de facto atheistic, with the power of the Church legally subservient to that of the state. The central premise of Christianity, as Flannery O’ Connor put it, was that God looked upon the world in all its horror and decided that it was worth dying for. In other words, God looked upon human beings in all their cruelty, ignorance, and malice but knew human beings and their world could be changed, transformed, and redeemed–but only by Christ’s own sacrifice of himself on the cross.
Sorry, Joss. Even though you’re at Harvard, for that weak attack on Christianity and paltry defense of humanism, I’d have to give you a failing grade.