In the media and in public opinion there seems to be a perception that currently we are undergoing a rise of fundamental religion, with particular emphasis on the role of religion in politics and so on. In Christian circles, you will more likely hear that we are going through a rise in secularism (?) and militant atheism. For instance, see Richard Dawkins, and I guess the media portrayal of 'fundamentalists'. In a way I think maybe these could be flip-sides of the same coin, if you see atheists as also leaning towards fundamentalism maybe it all makes sense. Maybe one side is right and the other is wrong. Maybe it is the age old lament, 'society's not what it used to be'.
Whichever, I am coming from the Christian perspective and constantly provoked by media discussion of religion and its ills, particularly when I feel it is defending Reason in an irrational manner. But that is really for another day. Today I am mostly wanting to talk about an article in the Herald about an upcoming film, Agora. It's based on the story of Hypatia, a female philosopher and mathematician in Alexandria in the 4th century (or so) AD.
Alright, I don't know much about this character, so as contrast for the claims made in the review I'm going to use Wikipedia. Anyone who is more knowledgeable, feel free to comment, maybe I will check more later, the Wikipedia article does seem well referenced though. Anyway, let's contrast quotes from this article with some wikipedia:
- On her life
SMH: "Rachel Weisz and director Alejandro Amenabar travelled back to ancient times to tell a modern story about a progressive woman standing against religious dogma and persecution."
Wiki: "According to the Byzantine "Suda", she worked as teacher of philosophy, teaching the works of Plato and Aristotle. It is believed that there were both Christians and foreigners among her students. Although Hypatia was herself a pagan, she was respected by a number of Christians, and later held up by Christian authors as a symbol of virtue."
-On her death
SMH: Forced to flee the city's library, a storehouse of ancient knowledge and manuscripts, Hypatia rescues a handful of irreplaceable texts from a Christian ransacking and continues her theorising on the nature of the universe. Christian leaders eventually label her a witch and make her a martyr to scientific reason.
Wiki: Believed to have been the reason for the strained relationship between the Imperial Prefect Orestes and the Bishop Cyril, Hypatia attracted the ire of a Christian population eager to see the two reconciled. Despite her actual background, authors Soldan and Heppe wrote a text in 1990 arguing that Hypatia may have been the first famous "witch" punished under Christian authority.
And we'll give the director the last word:
"We all can tell that we are going to somewhere else. We don't know exactly what. And since I am an optimist by nature, I don't think we'll go back to something like the Middle Ages, but we can feel that something is not quite fitting right now."
Typical, diss the Middle Ages. There's more on both sides of this debate, so read both articles, they are interesting. Maybe the most annoying thing for me is that when I read that article I feel they're going to do that most irritating of historical fiction things and make a historical situation and character utterly anachronistic in order to moralize at their audience. To be fair I haven't seen this movie yet. Maybe I am just biased, possibly my religious tendencies are handicapping my ability to reason.
You know, I would really like to write a light-hearted and whimsical post, but reading the newspaper everyday it's so easy to find things to rant about... Alright, ranting is kind of fun. But maybe this behaviour is bad for my health.