Last June, I went to see a movie with my father and my brothers. This movie was entertainment intended mainly for an audience of children. Partway into the film, I started to feel uncomfortable due to a few crude jokes added to the movie to make the adults in the audience laugh.
That same month, I was enjoying reading a novel considered to be a great classic of Western literature. The names of the book and movie are not really important; all that is necessary is their descriptions, since several books and movies fit them.
I left the theater feeling rather dissatisfied, and from there it was not very long till my librophile mind compared what I saw in the movie to the themes in my novel.
Why Use Crude Jokes in Entertainment?
I thus found myself wondering how society, at least where entertainment is concerned, had gone so downhill from the time the book was written. Now obviously, no 1,000 page book in history was written to amuse 6-year-olds, like the movie was. Thus, one could make the argument that of course a 22-year-old college graduate would not get the same joy from the movie as compared to the book.
My point is not, “Well, I’m mature and educated so I’d rather read big books than watch kiddie movies.” I certainly would not criticize the movie for being silly, predictable, or for not having layers of deep meaning. Besides, children’s stories, though simple, can have beauty in them; for example, Robert O’Brien’s “Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH.”
No, my problem is that the filmmakers took what could have been a decent story for kids and unnecessarily sullied it.
What is Love? Ask Someone Religious
But let me put my original question in plainer terms: what has destroyed modern societal standards of entertainment, most especially to think sneaking vulgar jokes into a children’s movie would be a good thing?
In the first place, I would argue that the atheist ethic is a major reason. Now the correlation between these two things may not seem immediately obvious. The defenders of this crude humor might connect them this way: since religion “suppresses” certain realities of life, of course those silly God fanatics wouldn’t let themselves enjoy a couple of funny jokes, just because the content was supposedly “inappropriate.”
However, not agreeing with that, I want to make a different point. Surely most reading this know the saying that “God is love.” Now take a short definition of atheism, and replace “God” with “love.” That leaves something like “the belief that love does not exist.”
If one were to ask an atheist, “Do you believe in love?” depending on personality and the circumstances, he would probably answer in the affirmative. Though they most likely believe in love, I think atheists as a group generally do not understand it.
The more obvious facet of this principle is that man, if he believes himself to be God, will always put himself and his wishes first, thus he does not know what it means to truly love another, particularly to the expense of self.
There is a different twist on this in a Christian context, because if God exists, what are we? We are the greatest of earthly beings, created in His image, and He loves us for that according to our nature, so we imitate Him in loving ourselves and others in the same way.
Man is God and Foul is Fair
If, however, man loses touch with God, choosing to believe He does not exist, then he also loses touch with the real meaning of how people ought to be loved. There are two reasons for this. The first is, lacking understanding of his nature as the highest creature (disregarding angels), he does not know what he deserves. The other is because, without God, man is made the sole arbiter of everything, especially what is good and bad, so, though the atheist may know that he should love himself, in attempting to do that he will likely give himself false goods. That is because, thanks to original sin, we all desire them, and they satisfy a base want easily, rather than allowing a man to see the lack that causes him to search for something higher.
The New God Likes it, so it’s Good for Everyone
But what do these points about false goods have to do with the aforementioned kiddie movie? That is simple. If a man chooses false goods for himself, then he will also want to give them to others, including little ones. Being essentially the most important being in existence, then he would naturally want to make what he saw as good more widespread. Now our society has taken this distorted idea to the extreme and left these dreadful innuendos plastered everywhere, on billboards, in songs, et cetera. After all, if one person-made-god, being rational, decides for himself that a certain kind of joke is good, then there is no apparent reason that everyone else should not share in the “good” as well, children included. There might also be a further argument for saying it would be better to show children that sort of vulgar humor, just because “it would make them laugh.”
There is one more reason behind this show of crudeness. It goes without saying that making oneself out to be a god entails selfishness. The applicability of this has two parts, the first explanation of which is that people might tarnish a kiddie movie with inappropriate humor simply because they, as adults with distorted viewpoints, like it better than a truly child-oriented movie. The other is profit. If the parents like that trash themselves, then they will be more likely to buy it for their kids. (While there is an opposite argument for alienating conservative families, in my experience most companies pick the former.)
Man is Now His Own God… But he Cannot Create
This returns to my earlier point: that the man who has been taken in by the atheist ethic cannot understand the love due to his own nature. Thus, not knowing what love is, he certainly cannot love others. Without real love, it then makes sense that his major focus would be turned to a lower good, in this case, money.
First, he would have less reason to care about the effect his work would have on those exposed to it, and, more telling, the importance and enjoyment of creating a beautiful piece of art in itself would be seconded to “making what sells.” It follows that the atheist inadvertently loses part of a special attribute he shares with God—creating for its own sake. This last point best explains my thinking that most of the cultural products of today cannot compete at all with the contributions of Dostoyevsky or George MacDonald. After all, though I do not know for certain, I believe most of the writers and artists of those times not only took more pride in their work in and of itself, but they were also believing Christians. I also presume to guess that they were not exposed to inappropriate innuendo as children, but that speaks more to the effect of the entertainment decline than its cause.
Can an Atheist Understand This Problem?
Up till this point, I have blamed “the atheist ethic” for the degrading of our society. However, putting all the responsibility on atheism itself is not nuanced enough to be fully accurate. Rather than the belief that there is or is not a higher power, the relevant belief is that in a universal value system, that to which C.S. Lewis referred using the Chinese term of the Tao.
If any atheists are reading this who do believe that there is objective truth, lack of a deity notwithstanding, I apologize for having been too general. In fact, I would honestly say that belief and adherence to the truths of the Tao could be more vital to living a good life than just believing in a Being more powerful than oneself, at least in a qualified sense. To say that there is no good or evil, or that you yourself choose what is good and evil is more destructive than choosing the good because of what it is rather than “because you must.”
The atheist who does something noble because he recognizes it as the good is acting in a better way than the theist who does it out of a servile fear of God. To be succinct, what is necessary here is the knowledge that there is good and evil in the world, and that everyone, without exception, should be taught the difference. That is also what was lacking in the movie, and thus led to it being spoiled.
Remove the Crude Jokes, Save the World
The “springboard” of my thought process began with thinking that the majority of cultural products of today cannot compete at all with the contributions of earlier creators. Yet, this is also a self-fulfilling prophecy—if the children of today are not exposed to the good, who will be the great creators and artists and visionaries of the next generation?
Who will be able to understand what love and beauty really are? We need to demand more than crass “adult” humor, even in subtle instances, or there will be little beauty left in the secular world, which is just as or maybe even more important than the religious. This is just another sign that man was made for something more than worshiping himself.
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