Wednesday, March 10, 2010

When Worlds Collide: The Rich Man and the Kingdom of Heaven

In the 1951 movie When Worlds Collide, a group of scientists deduce that two planets are coming straight toward the earth, and as a consequence the earth will be destroyed. Their only hope is to build a rocket ship that will be able to take some people to the second of these two planets, which appears to still have an atmosphere, and on which humans should be able to survive.

No one believes them.

Except one rich - but cantankerous man in a wheel chair, Sydney Stanton, (played by the great John Hoyt). He provides the money to build the rocketship, with one proviso - he has to be allowed on board. Well, the scientists take his money and build the rocketship, but when the time comes, Stanton, helpless as he is in his wheelchair, is not allowed to board the ship. Nope, he's shunted aside, so that some poor person (albeit one perhaps with scientfic knowledge) can have his seat.

Is this fair? The rocketship wouldn't have even existed if Stanton hadn't paid for it out of his own funds, but once the money has been used...he is owed nothing in return?

Of course the movie sets it up this way. Stanton has an aide, Ferris, who is his dogsbody, pushing his wheelchair during the day and helping him into his bed at night. Ferris could have protected Stanton's interests if he'd been allowed to go on the ship, but no, Stanton cold-bloodedly shunts the aide aside first. Ferris, desperate, pulls a gun in order to force his way onto the ship, but Stanton shoots him, thus depriving himself of the one man who could have helped him get on the ship.

And while that's a convenient plot device, it really makes no sense. Why wouldn't Stanton originally have contracted for himself and Ferris to have places on the ship, in return for his money. Stanton knows Ferris, Ferris knows Stanton, and Stanton will need someone to take care of him - push his wheelchair, bring him food - on the new planet. It makes no sense that he would even consider leaving Ferris behind.

But without Ferris it's easy for Dr. Cole Hendron (designer of the spaceship, father of the heroine) to sacrifice Stanton (and himself - he remains behind also) so that two young people can get on the ship in their stead.

As the saying goes, it's easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than that a rich man get into heaven.

I'm also reminded of a Dorothy Gilman book, called Talley's Folly. Now I love Gilman, she's the author of the Mrs. Pollifax books - and the early ones in the series are great (the later ones admittedly not so much so) but she expresses an interesting philosophy in the book. She's got some characters living in a house to which they do not have title (the owner had said she would leave it to them, but died and they can't find her will), and none of them work. They can grow their own food, but they need heat. So they go to a local junkyard to steal a heater.... which the owner of the junkyard has conveniently left out for them to steal. ("They won't take charity," he says indulgently, "but if I let them steal it, they feel as if they're not dependent on me.") Okay I'm paraphrasing that, but it's the general gist.

But I read this and thought, what kind of philosophy is that? Yes, they're not breaking into someone's home and stealing, they're just stealing from a junkyard (i.e. from a "rich man" who has stuff to spare), but still the implication is clear. If you don't have something, don't work to earn money to buy it, just find some rich person - who by definition has more money and things than they deserve - and take what you need.

From there let me segue back to my topic of yesterday, Christians and home schooling...since that actually is the topic of today's post!

I read the Religious board at, and there's no doubt that there's a dozen or so very knowledgeable religous types there, who've read the Bible and believe in it. So I thought I'd ask that old standby, "If God created man, who created God?" Well of course they had the answer. "The answer is revealed in the opening lines of Genesis. "In the beginning there was nothing, then God created this and that..." In other words, God created time, and the Universe. He himself exists outside of time, and thus was not created - he has always existed. Yeah, like that makes sense.

But then, some people say, if God has always existed why couldn't the Universe have always existed, without being created? And the answer to that is, "No, no, there's scientific proof that the Universe was created - whether it was the Big Bang or what have you - and since it was created, there must have been a Creator to do it."

So since God wasn't created (it says in the first chapter of the Bible that he wasn't) he must always have existed. But since the universe was created, obviously God created it.

Talk about sophist reasoning.

And of course this is a kind, just and loving God who wants us all to reach the Kingdom of Heaven. Which is why, no doubt, he created all these people and then specified that the Jews were his "chosen" people, and he'd help them over all their enemies - other people he'd created. So there was no sweetness and light in God's original plan... indeed, in the beginning mankind was apparently peaceful, all spoke the same language, and wanted to build a tower up to heaven. God couldn't have that, so he destroyed the tower and "split men's tongues" so that everyone spoke different languages and no one could understand each other, thus ensuring thousands and thousands of years of strife. Gee, thanks God.

But that is, again, why I don't understand how religious people can even think of their God as a kind and generous and loving God. (Of course there are two - the God of the Old Testament who is only concerned with the Jews, and the God of the New Testament who sends Jesus down to earth to die "for our sins.")

So God gets offerings from Cain and Abel, and he spurns Cain's and likes Abel, causing jealously between the two of them so that Cain kills Abel. Classic reaction of a child to a parent, eh? God should have known better than to have shown favoritism, but of course he does it again, when he chooses the Jews as his chosen people, despite the fact that he supposedly created all mankind. Why do the Jews get to be his Chosen - or remain his chosen once they show that they don't really care for him all that much - breaking his convenant, et al.

Talk about a lousy parent! Talk about an incompetent God!

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