Author Archive: Mike Pulcinella
Mike Pulcinella is a documentary filmmaker.
I don’t think it can be denied that religion provides much good to the individual. Those who suffer from addictions, the effects of abuse and loss of loved ones are strengthened and comforted by the religions of the world.
Many are comforted by the knowledge that there is more to life than what we see. That helps them deal with the daily trails and tribulations that can all too often discourage us.
I don’t dispute that.
Religions also provide a framework of community that helps people come together to help each other. One need only look to your local churches to find food banks, clothing drives and other altruistic community activities that benefit your less fortunate neighbors.
This also is hard to ignore or speak ill of.
However, when multiplied by millions or billions of people, certain tenants of religion which are built into the doctrine can become toxic.
In the late 80s computer technology in the investment industry had given some brokers an edge over their competition. Complicated algorithms would determine the best time to buy and sell stocks. However, as more and more firms got the software the computer systems began to synchronize and it eventually led to wild fluctuations in the market bringing on an automated sell off and the crash of October 19, 1987. See this article for more…
It wasn’t the only reason for the crash and it’s an imperfect analogy, but I think it illustrates my point that small advantages for a few can add up to large problems for many.
It’s the same with religion. When multiplied by millions you inevitably get conflict between religions and even sub-cults of various religions because of the very nature of elements within the doctrine. These elements are inherent in any successful religion.
Here are what I think are the top 5 elements of dogmatic religion that, when multiplied, have created conflict in the world. I don’t think I need to provide examples of the kinds of conflicts these elements have created. We are sadly all too familiar with them.
1. The “one true” religion. – This assertion is necessary for religion in order for it to create a cohesive community. Believers must believe that they have found the best possible faith among the many that exist in order for them to commit completely to it. However, when expanded to the world at large it also tends to pit the religion against all others.
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I am a doubter and a religious skeptic. A few days ago I shot video of a Presbyterian Christmas service.
As I entered the church with my equipment I was greeted warmly by many in the congregation. I returned their greeting in kind. Truth be told, I was happy to be there because the officiant was a friend of mine and this video was going to help her get ordained.
It was a very moving service, different from the Catholic Mass I grew up experiencing. There was a time for people in the congregation to ask for prayers or give thanks for good fortune. There was beautiful music and many moments of good humor and laughter. Topping it all off was a Christmas pageant in which the children of the community dressed as the familiar biblical characters and recited lines from the Nativity story. Much of it brought a tear to my eye, I am not ashamed to admit.
As a well-known doubter you might think that I would have found all of this distasteful. Not at all. The warmth and love in the room was something to be celebrated and I was glad to be a part of it.
But, also being the filmmaker that I am, I couldn’t help but notice that the moments in which the people in that room glowed most brightly were the moments of interaction between them. As I have noticed in my own Catholic upbringing, the reading and analysis of scripture is often met with polite attention, if not actual boredom. And this seemed to be the case here as well.
The moments that were most moving to everyone, and the moments which brought little gasps of joy from the people there, were not the reminders of Jesus’ birth and suffering but the little things that people did for each other.
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Hot, blonde Fox newscaster Meygn Kelly, while reporting on the rescue of one
of the trapped Chilean coalminers today, said this upon seeing the live feed
as one of the miners emerged and was greeted by his tearful common law wife of
(I’m paraphrasing from memory)
“There’s one of the miners now. Waiting for him is his common law wife.
They’ve been together…living together I should say…for 25 years, but of course they
are not married in the eyes of the law…or in the eyes of God.”
Well, eff you Meygn!
Since when did you get a direct line to God? If “God is love”, as believers
are so fond of saying, then wouldn’t He approve of a love that can withstand
25 years without a government issued paper to force them to stay together?
How DARE you diminish the relationship of these two people with your self-
righteousness! They’ve stayed together for 25 YEARS. I know people who have
been married by THREE BISHOPS in a CATHEDRAL who didn’t last HALF that long.
Next time you feel the need to tell us what God is thinking, try to remember
that one of the basic rules of journalism is to not inject your personal morality into the story.
Oops, I forgot! You’re on FOX!
We buried my best friend yesterday.
I had known Joe since first grade. He was a believer. I am not. We’ve had many lively debates over the years and our differences of opinion never affected our friendship.
Joe died from neglect. He neglected his own health in favor of taking care of his family which consisted of an aging father, a somewhat schizophrenic brother and his ten year old niece who he had adopted after his sister died of cancer while the child’s father was in prison.
Six years ago I warned Joe, who was overweight, that in order to take care of his family he must first take care of himself. He needed to start to eat right and exercise. I did this for selfish reasons, I told him. I didn’t want to lose my best friend.
Selfless as he was, he didn’t take my advice. A few years later he developed diabetes and eventually lost a leg.
This was his wake-up call, he told me. Everything is going to change, he said, for the sake of the people that were in his care, especially the little girl with no mother.
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In mathematics we know that no matter how perfectly you carry out the calculations, if your constants are wrong, your answer will be wrong. In science, the assumptions you make before beginning your experiment can affect the outcome of the experiment.
Keep that in mind as we go forward.
There has been some amazing scholarly work done with regard to the bible over the ages. And yet I feel that much of it rests upon several erroneous assumptions about the nature of God that don’t hold up to common sense scrutiny.
Believers have told me that creation “bears witness of the creator”. In other words, we can see the hand of God in nature. I agree! I think that the creative/destructive forces of the universe do reveal their nature through creation. With that in mind let’s look to nature to see the nature of “god”!
God vs Satan
In the bible we are told that there is a cosmic battle going on between the forces of good and evil, i.e., God vs Satan. However, the separation of good and evil doesn’t hold up in light of common sense observations of the universe. Bad and good are NEVER completely separate things. Nothing is ever all bad or all good.
Here is an example:
From Wiki: “The parasitoid wasp Glyptapanteles lays its eggs, about 80 at a time, in young geometrid caterpillars. The eggs hatch and the larvae feed on the caterpillar’s body fluids. When they are fully developed, they eat through the caterpillar’s skin, attach themselves to a nearby branch or leaf and wrap themselves up in a cocoon.”
For the wasp, this is good. For the caterpillar this is bad. Horrifically so.
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I am often asked, “Why do you fight against religion?” Today my answer would be best expressed by this article from the New York Times.
A new documentary called “Saving Africa’s Witch Children” will be airing Wednesday May 26th on HBO2.
The documentary follows Gary Foxcroft…
…founder of the charity Stepping Stones Nigeria, as he travels the rural state of Akwa Ibom, rescuing children abused during horrific “exorcisms” — splashed with acid, buried alive, dipped in fire — or abandoned roadside, cast out of their villages because some itinerant preacher called them possessed.
One of the main subjects of the documentary is Helen Ukpabio.
At home in Nigeria, the Pentecostal preacher Helen Ukpabio draws thousands to her revival meetings. Last August, when she had herself consecrated Christendom’s first “lady apostle,” Nigerian politicians and Nollywood actors attended the ceremony. Her books and DVDs, which explain how Satan possesses children, are widely known.
So well-known, in fact, that Ms. Ukpabio’s critics say her teachings have contributed to the torture or abandonment of thousands of Nigerian children — including infants and toddlers — suspected of being witches and warlocks.
If ever there was a reason to continue to strive to undermine the authority of religion, this is it.
Why doesn’t God like me?
I have an acquaintance who has been enlightening me recently about manifestations of the supernatural, both good and bad. He has told me frightening stories of people using occult practices to summon dark spirits and actually touch them.
More often I hear believers talk of their personal experiences with dreams, visions and the clear responses they get from God that cement in their mind His existence. These are not imagination, they assert. These are real events. Palpable things.
So, what’s wrong with me?? I have been alive for almost 50 years and never ever, not even once, had any experience that was so unexplainable that I felt it HAD to come from another realm.
“But you have to seek God out before you will find Him,” the believers will say.
I have been very open to belief at times in my life. I was raised Catholic, left the church in my teens, returned to the church in my 20s, ready, open for and desiring a spiritual journey…and felt nothing. I’ve had hard times, lost loved ones to disease, been divorced and lost all my money, been alone, nearly became addicted to painkillers for a time and contemplated suicide on one occasion.
Nothing. No signs from God.
There were times when I really needed help and would have welcomed a vision or two, but not one experience did I have during all that time that I would consider other-worldly. I just said to myself “enough of this”, and eventually moved on.
My agnosticism comes from my practical experience. I’ve lived this long and been through what I’ve been through and have never experienced a manifestation of any kind. Do you blame me for not believing?? Why should I believe in something that gives me no sign of its existence? If there is a God, why is he holding back?
So, what’s wrong with me, God? Didn’t I deserve a vision or two along the way? Wasn’t I good enough for a manifestation that I could see and touch? They say that faith is knowing in the absence of proof. You gave proof to these other believers. Why not me?
Is there anyone listening?
Yes, this is Tommy Chong of Cheech and Chong, and if you have the time to listen this is a very inspirational talk that he gave at the Free Library of Philadelphia!
In this podcast he talks about…
- Corruption in the DEA and why the war on drugs is foolish but will never end
- Mind altering substances as a path to enlightenment
- How prison helped him
- How much he loves the bible
- Jesus’ message to us
- Spending time in an Indian sweat lodge
- How to raise children
…and more! All with his trademark laid back style of humor.