The Great Chain

The Great Chain

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Monty Python and Jeff's Third Step to Atheism

Monty Python was the tipping point.

Specifically, a double feature of Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Monty Python and the Life of Brian.

The fact that I was able to watch those movies and be able to have both my Christian sensibilities offended, but find myself laughing anyway completely destroyed the Church for me.  The culmination of nearly two years of increasing skepticism.

Humor was able to decimate my Faith based defenses in a way cold facts and argumentation could not.  It enabled me to look at the Church and laugh.  I had never done that before.  Ever.  And once I could laugh, once I could look at Religion generally and laugh at how ridiculous it all was, the battle was over. 
Once I could look at the Church and not feel reverence or boredom or fear, the only three emotions I'd ever really had towards the Church, it didn't stand a chance.

I had made a swear and God hadn't struck me down.  I had separated myself from Church Friends and School Friends, and had pretty much given up on Church as a social institution.  I had sat on the swing behind the Church for hours running through all of the things that made me uncomfortable about Church.  I paid no attention during sermons, instead scribbling out disagreements in the margins of the Weekly Bulletin, but for all my internal argumentation, for all my boredom, I wasn't free.  Not yet.

Then I saw Monty Python and the Holy Grail.  Specifically the exchange between Arthur and Sir Bedivere when Sir Bedivere leads his followers through his logic whereby if a woman weighs the same as a duck, then she must be a witch and shall be burned.  I think I fell off of the couch watching this for the first time.  Not just because it is a brilliant scene, but because the logic employed, the nonsensical connections, the leading questions, the non-sequitur conclusions, were what I had been hearing to explain the supernatural my entire life.  The application of the kind of logic to something I had been predisposed to believing in (Christianity), when applied to something I was NOT predisposed to believing in (witchcraft) struck me as beyond hilarious.  It was stupid and it was gloriously funny.

The Holy Grail had captured me.  The unapologetic irreverence was intoxicating in the same way that swearing was.  I was LAUGHING at God and nothing was happening.

Monty Python and the Life of Brian, sealed my fate.  While the Holy Grail had merely been irreverent in the face of the divine, it had gotten me to a place where I was able to laugh at irreverence, where I was able to find God quaint and silly.  While obviously intended to be a parody of the origins of Christianity, Life of Brian didn't initially strike me as hilarious, it struck me as PLAUSIBLE.  Watching the Life of Brian, it occurred to me that the ludicrous story being told wasn't actually all that different than the story I had been told all my life.  In fact, watching it, it suddenly struck me that the Life of Brian was actually more plausible (aliens aside) than the story I had been told my entire life.

Watching that movie, I was suddenly struck by a rather stunning realization.  Neither of these stories are real.  And only ONE of them is funny.  And I laughed.

I laughed at the bearded women who were so excited about the stoning.  I laughed at the fact that all Brian wanted to do was get laid and he kept getting sucked back into this damn Religious uprising.  I laughed at the fact that Pontious Pilate had a good friend in 'Wome' named 'Biggus Dickus.'  I laughed at Brian's crucifixion.

I laughed at the crucifixion.

It is strange.  My faith based defenses had held off my increasing skepticism for nearly two years, but in the face on hilarity, my defenses crumbled.  The fact that an obvious parody, an obvious and hilarious farce, could be as plausible as something that I had deeply and truly believed struck me as hilarious.  And so I laughed.

I had not only made swears and thought unkind things about fellow Christians, I had actually mocked God.  I had laughed.  And nothing had happened.

And in my mind, a small idea flickered to life.  If God doesn't do anything when I swear.  Doesn't do anything when I think badly of His people.  Avoid His people.  And doesn't even do anything when I actually LAUGH at Him.  Perhaps...  Perhaps it's more than the fact that He isn't watching me.  Perhaps He isn't actually there at all.

Perhaps there is No God.

Perhaps this, all of this, is nothing but a story, a myth, a fairy tale.

It was the first time in my life that I had been able to posit the hypothesis that there was no God.

And it was the last time in my life that I was able to think about Church without rolling my eyes.

My journey was far from over, of course.  Reaching the point where you decide to investigate the hypothesis that there is no God hardly means that the conclusion is inevitable.  Faith is an incredibly powerful tool for maintaining a delusion.  And the Church as a community, can be very strong.  But I had no community in Church.  I cared nothing for the social institutions of Christianity.

And so I was free to explore my hypothesis.  Free to examine the evidence, free to read, and write, and think and discover.  I was still a cultural Christian.  In a few small ways, I suspect I will ALWAYS be a cultural Christian.  But the edifice that ten years of Christianity that had taken ten years to construct was sliding slowly but inexorably down into oblivion.

Thanks to Monty Python, I was able to watch that slide with a laugh and a smile.


  1. It's so interesting that it was humor that was the tipping point. God was never addressed either way in my home, and while I gave it thought at times as a child I generally was always an atheist. It was a lot of fun reading these posts seeing your young mind working through things I never had any real direct experience in.

    Good jub.

  2. A new book 'Life of Brian/Jesus' claims the Monty Python film is the most accurate biblical film ever made. It not only reveals some telling information about the film but also compares it to the actual biblical events and comes to some extraordinary conclusions.
    What the Pythons said about the book "A mischievous journey of discovery" - Terry Jones "Great stuff. Lots of blasphemies" - Terry Gilliam.

  3. That line of thinking always makes me smile when atheists use it; the whole, 'God didn't do anything to me, so he must not exist.' Or, better yet, 'if you stop to think about it, then you'll certainly agree there is no God.'

    What church did you grow up in, where you felt scared to question and laugh at some ideas the church had, to the point you were, apparently, waiting for some real, physical punishment from God if you did?

    That more than anything else makes me sad. Keep up the cultural Christianity. And have faith - it's not a delusion.