Peter Rodger, a Hollywood photographer and TV commercial-maker, has filmed what sounds like an intriguing documentary (due out this month) called Oh My God. Though there are a few celebrities in it (e.g., Hugh Jackman, Seal, David Copperfield), the majority of those interviewed are average people of multiple faiths from all over the world.
On why his question was “What is God?” rather than “Who is God?”, Rodger says, “I wanted to look at God as a concept and be as objective as possible. Referring to God as ‘who’ is already putting the concept into the image of Man and therefore the objectivity becomes lost…. My goal was to find out what ‘God’ means to people, and to determine whether religion and religious people were causing all the world’s problems.”
I find the concept interesting, as well as the fact that Rodger didn’t “find” what he thought he would. Now, based on his comments in the article, I probably won’t agree with much of what Rodger concludes — though he supposedly leaves the question unanswered at the end of the film. There are indications of the usual mix of religious pluralism, moral relativism, PC “tolerance”, etc. For example, he says, “The similarities in belief-systems transcend time and geographical boundaries….” (There is some truth in that, but as I’ve pointed out elsewhere, it is the differences that make the difference.) Or, “I realized that we all have a responsibility to live our lives with tolerance and understanding for our fellow man. Don’t be barbaric and ignorant…. I learned that the world is way more united than divided, but most of us are conditioned to believe otherwise.”
Here is another interesting quote from Rodger’s explanation of what he wants viewers to get out of the film: “If a viewer is religious, I would love them to take away from this film the desire to study their religion themselves, to understand their holy book and not rely on other human beings who might be manipulating the meanings of their scriptures.” I say “Amen!” But, taken in context with other comments, I realize that Rodger means it in connection with his concerns about Man using “God” and religion “to control other men, how he twists the preaching of its prophets to create politicized clubs that serve his narrow ends.” I agree that this is and has been true, and it is a HUGE problem. But, I don’t agree with the atheists & agnostics who use this fact as a reason to distrust ALL religion and throw out ALL religious teaching.
I also think that people should not rely solely on themselves for proper interpretation and understanding of scripture. It is better to first learn from those who have preceded us, who have perhaps had a lot more time to study the “holy book” in question (along with associated disciplines like ancient languages, history, and textual criticism). Then we can use critical thinking skills to judge the accuracy & implications of their interpretations by the consistency & coherency of their arguments in accordance with what we know of human nature and of the world around us. (Often easier said than done.)
I hope I get a chance to see this documentary….