Subject: Books and Films

Vampires, Immortality, and Christianity

This lecturewill explore the mythology of the vampire and its inversion of Christian mythology, including immortality. It will trace the concept of the vampire as it alters through different cultural shifts. Examining the Christian beliefs that are all important in the novel, Dracula, written in 1897 by Bram Stoker, one may trace a path from various vampire books, films and television series up to the present day in which Christian lore becomes less and less important. Christianity no longer seems to matter or be necessary to either vampires or vampire hunters any longer. Other topics considered will be the fear and fascination humans have with two things associated with vampires: blood and immortality. The natural causes for the uncanny appearance of corpses and disturbed graves will be scrutinized, as well as the psychological reasons for our frightening dreams about the return of our departed loved ones. The role and the reasons for the Roman Catholic

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Atheist Personal Narratives

The personal narrative, or autobiography, is one of the most popular genres of literature in the present day.  Most critics and writers of personal narrative are agreed that there are several reasons for this genre’s prevalence.  Jill Kerr Conway thinks that people are familiarized with revealing stories of the most personal kind, either by narrating their own experiences, or hearing other people’s, through books, television, or film.  The most intimate details of many people’s lives are open to assessment and interest. Conway also states that another reason for the rise of the autobiography is that people no longer read fiction for the same reasons they did at one time.  They once turned to fiction for instruction and reflection concerning life. Many no longer find literary fiction realistic or relevant, and they do not turn to it for direction in life.  She believes that many people do not seek out the

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Film Noir and Hard Boiled Novels

The philosophy of Existentialism reached the United States during the 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s. Existentialism has already been discussed in a specific lecture (see Existentialism). Despite the low expectations of the leading French existentialists concerning American understanding of the philosophy, American popular culture embraced Existentialism with enthusiasm.  Here are some of the doubtful statements with regard to American thinking by important Existentialists.  “There is no pessimism in America regarding human nature and social organization,” said Jean Paul Sartre in 1950.  Simone de Beauvoir wrote that Americans had no “… feeling for sin and remorse,” and Camus was derisive about American optimism and materialism. Historians such as George Cotkin disagree. Cotkin and other scholars point out how readily Americans began to participate in the conversation of Existentialism.  There is, according to Cotkin, a rich American tradition of thinkers, such as Jonathan Edwards, Herman Melville, Emily Dickinson, and William James, among others, who

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Bergman’s Atheist Films

Ingmar Bergman’s Films and the Death of the Idea of God The films of the Swedish director, Ingmar Bergman (1918 – 2007), belong to the realm of the highest creative endeavors undertaken by artists.  The totality of his films’ quality of scripts, sound effects, camera work and acting are frequently unmatched by other auteurs. But there is infinitely more to his films than his stunning mise-en-scenes.  Bergman’s oeuvre is replete with philosophical reflections and with questions that can be referred to as “ultimate concerns.” He is preoccupied with the question of god.  God, as depicted in his films, is most frequently a tormenting absence. Bergman underscores the absence by the depiction of religious ceremonies and symbols that are empty and lack meaning or comfort for humans. Bergman has written: “When my top heavy religious super-structure collapsed, I also lost my inhibitions as a writer… In “Winter Light,” I swept my house clean.” Bergman

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Atheist Films

The film discussions below contain many spoilers, including plot resolution. The films of a nation reflect its mentality in a more direct way than other artistic media.   Siegfried Kracauer. From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1947. The films of a nation surely reflect on its mentality and United States cinema all too often exhibits its theist bent in its films.  The religiosity is overt in some cases, such as Chariots of Fire (1981) and other films in which prayer is exhibited, characters are seen going to or coming from church, mentions are made of the Bible and so on.  The theistic proclivity of America is often portrayed in a more subtle and impressionistic manner, as well.  The viewer understands that the rustling of leaves of the trees, or the wind blowing over the grass or water during significant scenes often signals the presence

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Atheist Fiction

What does literature mean for the atheist who reads novels, plays, poetry and essays?  For many of us literature is the only transcendent value because it is open-ended. The great literature to which we return again and again provides a deep and exhaustive observation of the human experience.  Each author, even when plumbing the depths of the human puzzle, the human problem, will approach it in an equally profound and different manner.  Each author will present a different interpretation.  The various strategies that writers have employed to approach the problem of god’s non-existence can be observed in the volumes chosen for the Book List.  Each volume will deal with the difficulty of living without a “transcendent other,” and consequently without a given dispensation. Humans must create their own meaning in an indifferent universe, and many secular readers believe that literature helps them with that task.  The great writers have seen

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A Critique of “Seven Types of Atheism”

John Gray may be a contented atheist, but he is not pleased with other atheists whom he believes are mistaken in their goals or advocacy.  He has written a  book  to express that displeasure, Seven Types of Atheism. Published in 2018, it is a volume similar to his 2002 work, Straw Dogs. 

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Books for Parents and Children

Secular American parents in the present day have an extra challenge when they raise children.  American culture, an anomaly in the Western world (see Atheist Demographics) is steeped in religion.  Many parents more in tune with the culture of our country do not concern themselves with raising children to be freethinkers, with open minds and the ability to question and make intelligent decisions. Certain religions encourage both parents and children to move in lockstep, not questioning cultural prescriptives. Secular parents are committed to raising children with open minds.  In addition, atheist parents must make certain practical decisions, such as what to do about Christmas and Easter.  Will your family celebrate these Christian holidays or not?  How does a secular parent deal with Santa Claus?  What do you answer when your teenager is invited to go to an afterschool teen club that is Christian in orientation?  How do atheists deal with

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Introduction to Atheist Narratives, Books, and Films 

There is not an atheist aesthetic, and many non-believers who love the arts think this is a very good thing.  Atheists are thinkers who refuse to be confined to any dogmatism, including artistic theory that is doctrinaire.  Art flourishes best in times when philosophic thinking is speculative, when religious strictures are questioned, and when economic conditions are secure.  Such optimum circumstances were the state of affairs in 5th Century Greece, Renaissance Florence, the T’ang Dynasty in China, England in the century after the Armada, and 17th Century Holland.[1]  In the present day there are many great writers, artists, architects, film directors, composers, dancers and children’s book authors who are atheists.  Their works do not need to display an outspoken atheism.  Many free thinking, creative artists exhibit their doubt in other, subtler ways.  Their rebellion or indifference is displayed in myriad styles, such as subverting the “rules” of the genre they are working

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