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Friday, January 21, 2011

Agora: When faith burns reason at the stake

History is full of episodes in which people of faith have thrown away every ounce of tolerance and acted violently against those who won't conform to their (usually) nonsensical beliefs. Today I got to see Hypatia's story as depicted in Agora.

I won't bother in demonstrating that the way Hypatia's death is portrayed is accurate. It's not. The movie takes some liberties when portraying her life and death. Look at her. Cute, right? Well, I seriously doubt the real one looked like that. But the underlying idea of the movie and events show us a deeper, undeniable truth.

Many have said this is an "anti-christian" movie, some sort of "anti-Passion of the Christ". It's not. It's a depiction of how blind faith no matter what name it receives, pushes self-righteous people to become monsters, and how precious is a mind that considers others as equals, and how such mind is a threat to the hierarchical religious thinking.

The movie starts with a tension between Christians and Pagans, the latter starting hostilities. Hypatia is a pagan philosopher who teaches at the library and pleads for peace, but is not heard. Therefore, the Pagans attack the Christians, but these retaliate, taking control of the library, destroying all the works inside since they are seen as "heretical". After that, they would gain control of the city, banning Pagan and Jewish cults.

Something remarkable is that Christians are not the only ones who are represented as violent. All the other groups do so, in every case because of feeling insulted by the mere presence of other faiths.

Among all this turmoil, Hypatia tries to discover the path celestial bodies follow. She considers other explanations, she experiments, and questions her own knowledge, finally arriving to an answer.

That something Christianity (or the other faiths) would not do.

Hypatia is like a Sun, trying to shine for a better cause than the petty and idiotic fights between those who surround her. In the end, she is killed as a result of her knowledge being threatening to the power Christianity tries to obtain. Just like the dogma that the Earth was the center of the universe, Christianity tries to be the center and most important thing in the universe.

Another remarkable part is when one of the Christians starts to question his faith, saying that they are not behaving like Christ, who forgave those who killed him. That's a nice attitude, and certainly, if more Christians, or those who are in power, had that attitude, the world would be different. But that is not the case.

God won't come down to tell us what he really wants. Jesus is not coming back. The only thing we have are the many different interpretations that twist scriptures as they want. Moreover, scripture being so cryptic and full of nonsense, it becomes really useful when it comes to shut minds down, forsake critical thinking and attack possible threat to the desired absolute power.

Hypatia was a woman whose knowledge offended Christians and threatened the control they desired. It still does. I wonder how many Hypatias are out there. Her life is that of a woman who gave up the customs of her time and made the brave bet for knowledge and instruction. She was indeed a teacher, a sister and a mother. May there be more Hypatias and let us be those who sit and listen instead of those who throw rocks at her.

Oh, and finally, the WTF part: When Hypatia gives a piece of cloth stained with menstrual blood to the guy that had declared his love for her, in order to show him how imperfect she is. Ladies, really, a "sorry, but no" is enough.

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Blasfema libremente

"Que esté permitido a cada uno pensar como quiera; pero que nunca le esté permitido perjudicar por su manera de pensar" Barón D'Holbach
"Let everyone be permitted to think as he pleases; but never let him be permitted to injure others for their manner of thinking" Barón D'Holbach