One of my all time favorite writers, who offered wonderful tales that were imaginative and offered some creative ideas about our preconceived notions about the nature of life and the universe was Douglas Adams. Douglas was a close friend of Richard Dawkins and gave us the SciFi comedy The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, originally as a book series that was adapted as a radio drama and television show for the BBC, and then finally as a movie.
The story itself is based on the premise that earth was a planet constructed by an advanced alien race to be a supercomputer meant to find the answer to the meaning of life. In the movie, Douglas offers us an imagined galactic view of religion by telling us about a few different alien perspectives as to the beginning of the universe. In one scene, we are offered that the Jatravartid people of the planet Viltvodle VI believe that the universe was sneezed into existence by a being known as the Great Green Arkleseizure.
Douglas uses comedy to address the inherent silliness of belief, as well as a comedic view of a universe that may indeed be far sillier than we ever imagined. He reminds us to laugh at life and just how absurd some things are, and that the highly improbable is not impossible, but it is often laughable. The final lesson turns out to be that the meaning of life is to love and to be loved, which is a message we all could do with hearing a bit more often.
While it is good to find films that promote secular values like equality and humanism, we should not overlook the religious offerings as well. As atheists, we can invite our children to see these films and offer them a perspective of the mythology that drives them. We can show them that the overblown theatrics present there are no different than those of the Greek and Roman epics such as the Clash of the Titans or Jason and the Argonauts. We can also offer these as fables with life lessons embedded in them.
There can be no doubt that the secular presence is strong in film and television and it is a wonderful medium by which we can convey the secular message. That message is simple: we stand for equality and justice for all people - even for space aliens if we ever happen across some!
Review by Casper Rigsby