I read about a movie recently that supposedly puts a positive spin on atheism. This intrigued me enough to investigate the plot --which unfortunately left me sorely disappointed. The trailer is below:
The movie is called "The Ledge" and was a hit at the Sundance Festival, and will be released this summer in selected theatres. The movie stars Patrick Wilson as a married fundamentalist Christian named Joe ( Liv Tyler plays his wife Shauna) and Charlie Hunnam as an atheist professor named Gavin. They become neighbors, and Gavin has an affair with Shauna, but when Joe finds out about the affair, it leads to finding Gavin on a ledge with a policeman played by Terrence Howard, trying to talk him out of jumping. He is there because Joe gave Gavin an ultimatum. He must either kill himself, or someone else (Shauna?) will die.
This movie has been touted as a battle of philosophies between a fundamentalist Christian and an atheist which escalates into a lethal battle of wills, and is seen as a test of faith, or lack of it, where the believer forces the non-believer onto the ledge of a tall building where he then has one hour to make a choice between his own life and someone else's. Since the atheist has no faith in an afterlife, this movie is meant to illustrate whether or not he is capable of making such a sacrifice. I, however, see it as something else entirely.
As an atheist, I was disappointed as I watched the trailer, and I do not see how portraying an atheist as an adulterous sinner who lures a "a good Christian woman" into sin (in the eyes of Christians that watch this film) does anything positive to promote atheism. Christians already view atheists as heathens with no moral values, and all this film will do is confirm their suspicions. What this film also illustrates, is how insidious Christian dogma is in society, as even those that are not Christian fall into the trap of believing they are "born sinners" who can't help but to "sin." In this case, it is the atheist who "can't help himself" from having an affair with his neighbor's wife, and she, as a "born sinner" cannot help herself either. The truth is however, that it is all just a matter of choice. The atheist could have chosen not to have an affair--and so could the Christian.
I could think of a thousand plot lines in which an atheist could be the hero without being a "sinner" in the minds of Christians. ( I do not believe in sin, but there is such a thing as right and wrong, and I believe in taking responsibility for my own actions.) How sad---that this was the best they could do.