The Rite is another movie in a long series of the everything ever conceived by the Catholic Church is absolutely true genre that would have us clutching religion for salvation. I have to admit, it is a very effective piece of propaganda. The words Based on True Events usher in the movie where we find that after nearly completing seminary school, the young Michael Kovak has apparently lost his faith. Excelling in psychology, he views religion as a false answer to people’s qualms about death.
Clever to use a skeptic to be the protagonist, as Kovak will learn through the tutelage of Father Lucas Trevant (played by Anthony Hopkins) that Satan is, in fact, very real and counts on our ignorance or lack of belief in Him as being his strongest power for deceiving wayward souls. Kovak is seemingly rational as he disputes the evidence of demonic possession in Rome as a first-hand witness to Father Trevant’s “client roster”.
If you actually believed that this movie was a literal transcription of true events, then you would probably be scared shitless that you might be possessed in your sleep tonight. If you somehow suspect that Hollywood has resorted to a little artistic flourish in dramatizing these events (replete with movie make-up effects and all), then you’ll doubt the accuracy of the movie entirely—as I do.
But I’m not going to approach this problem from a purely atheistic perspective, mostly because I’m a pantheist. But let’s grant monotheism for a moment. So there’s God: loving, all-powerful, all knowing. . . If Christian’s grant this, then the idea of Satan falls flat. Why would an all powerful God allow Satan to exist throughout time to tempt weak souls? Why would a loving God allow souls to be tormented for all time in Hell? Why should we suppose that an omnipotent God would allow his anti-thetical opponent to battle him for all ages for the claim of human (or alien) souls?
The answer is, he wouldn’t. A loving God could not refuse entrance to any dead person wanting to be in Heaven, if it meant that person would go straight to Hell. It’s simply not possible to be the perfect manifestation of love and then condemn people through their unworthiness to unimaginable, unendurable, and unending suffering in some plane of existence. Maybe a sadistic God of the Hebrew Bible would allow this to happen. But the God of Christ would not allow such thing, should he be loving as so many followers of Christ insist he is.
Then there is the all powerful problem. If God is all powerful, then why should he even allow Lucifer to persist in tempting souls? Why not just destroy him? God’s all powerful, but he won’t smote the most crucial enemy of his whole plan? He’ll just let this Fallen Angel doom many of God’s flock to unending torment and suffering?
These are just inconsistencies of the Christian notion of God which allow for Satan. It simply doesn’t make sense. Let’s employ the great Ockham’s Razor here. Let’s do it as a theist or agnostic even. . .
Is it more likely that a loving, all-powerful God wants humans to go to Heaven but has decided not to use his power or immense love to save humanity from the grips of Satan? Or is it more likely that Satan is one of the most effective recruiting tools in the employ of the Christian churches in scaring people into believing in God and whatever the church tells you to believe?
*Side note, God is all-powerful and omniscient, but he’s no good with money. Can do anything he wants but doesn’t know what to do with a dollar bill. That’s why you have to give so much to your churches (tax free income for them, of course).
†And, yes, I stole that joke from the great George Carlin.
Yes, Satan is a powerful recruiting tool when you are a child being compulsed into going to church to hear sermons of a fire-and-brimstone Hell ruled by Satan and the suffering souls of people who made the wrong choice with their Free Will.
Never mind that Free Will is a farce if there is only one decision you can make that God will accept. What choice is there in living 80 years as you like if you suffer eternity in Hell because God gave only a couple right answers and a billion wrong ones to the multiple-choice question of what to do with your life?
No, I don’t believe in Satan, and have far different notions about God(far removed from the one that Christians are so adamant that they believe in). Pantheism is both a difficult and simple concept all at once. Does it allow for some singularity-type consciousness in the Universe? Maybe. Does it transcend the Universe or is it imbued into it? Hard to say. I’m not going to use this entry to outline Pantheism here. I just want to outline that I don’t take the “evidence” that The Rite displays as evidence for Satan. More likely, it just shows how a lot of people (both possessed and ordained) are seeing and believing things that they want to believe.
I’ll end with a short, nonsensical story that I heard a Christian tell me once as justification of the most cliché version of Heaven you could ever conceive. He had read a book about a boy who was dead for 3 minutes and was resuscitated. Since his close family were apparently die-hard Christians, they interrogated the boy about what he saw while he was dead. Let’s say that this boy is about 5.
This Christian man felt that the boy’s answers proved beyond all doubt that when you die, you float up to the clouds and see the Pearly-White gates version of Heaven. He was asked, who sits to the right of God? “Jesus” the boy answers. Who sits to the left of God? “Gabriel”, says the boy. Now, queries the Christian man to me, “How does a boy of 5 know about Gabriel?”
Hmm, if I had to guess, I’d say it was his parents or church? No, that’s too simple. The boy had to get this knowledge from an actual, after-life experience. More “evidence” for you to consider from the nearly empty collection of Christian evidences.
© David Metcalf