God and Man in Dogville: Memes, Marketing, and the Evolution of Religion in the West
GOD AND MAN IN DOGVILLE:MEMES, MARKETING, AND THEEVOLUTION OF RELIGION IN THE WESTJoel Bergsman, Ph.D.Mentor: Arnold J. Bradford, Ph.D.ABSTRACTThe movie Dogville (2003) provides viewers with a rare and provocative twist on differences between on the one hand the rigorous, Old Testament Jehovah, characterized by rules, and by rewards or punishments in this life, and on the other hand the loving, forgiving Christ and God of the New Testament and later Christianity who are characterized by forgiveness, and by rewards or punishments in an eternal afterlife. The movie, especially its ending, challenges the forgiving nature of the New Testament God and Christ, and makes a case that the Old Testament, rigorous Jehovah is more appropriate, at least for humans who respect themselves as responsible grown-ups.Earlier than these two views of God and man, and still alive and kicking, is a third view, the "Heroic." God is irrelevant here, either as a source of rules or as a source of forgiveness and redemption. Rather, man generates his own meaning by accepting his fate and struggling to do the best he can; this life is all there is and the struggle, i.e. living it is the only meaning.The three views can be seen on a continuum with the Heroic on one end and the forgiving Christ on the other, and the rigorous Jehovah in between and closer to the heroic than to the forgiving.The Dogville point of view, preferring a rigorous God to a forgiving one, is very rarely found in literature (the Grand Inquisitor episode in The Brothers Karamazov is similar to some extent) but both the Heroic and the forgiving Christian views appear everywhere, in all kinds of non-fiction, and either explicitly or as metaphors or parables in fiction. The Heroic view is taken here to include not only classic Greek and Roman heroic writings (e..g. those of Homer and Virgil) but also more modern schools of thought including Nietzsche, the existentialists, and other "God is dead" points of view.The paucity of the first view in literature is mirrored by the small number of its followers: all self-identifying Jews are less than 0.5% of the world's population and the orthodox are a minority within that. In stark contrast, about one-third of individuals world-wide self-identify as Christian. Followers of the Heroic view, roughly measured by self-identifying atheists and perhaps including agnostics, are between 15 and 20 percent of the population of the USA.Focusing on the United States, the data show that the number of adherents of each of the two extremes of an expanded continuum, i.e. the Heroic view on one hand and the born-again Protestant version of the forgiving view on the other, has been growing while the numbers of followers of everything in the middle, i.e. Judaism (excluding its New Age, non-religious variants), Roman Catholicism, and mainstream Protestantism have been declining.The waxing and waning of these different views are evaluated in the lights of literature, philosophy, psychology, marketing, and the idea that ideas ("memes" as coined, described and popularized by Richard Dawkins) evolve, endure or disappear according to the Darwinian principle of natural selection. The conclusion is that there are important, long-term reasons for the observed trend, and that therefore both born-again Protestantism and atheism are likely to continue to take market share from their competitors in the middle.
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Why God and Darwin won't go away [review of An Evolving Dialogue: Theological and Scientific Perspectives on Evolution, by James B. Miller; Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought, by Pascal Boyer; Darwin's God: Evolution and the Problem of Evil, by Cornelius G. Hunter; Doing without Adam and Eve: Sociobiology and Original Sin, by Patricia A. Williams] White, Ronald F. (2002-01)