Scorsese’s new film about how God was hidden but still exists anyway

Today’s posts are going to be largely about faith, perhaps because The Season is upon us and the Internet full of religion.

From the Aussie ABC we hear of a new movie by Martin Scorsese, a reliably good director.  The critically acclaimed film, called “Silence,” is about the absence of God, but of course that doesn’t mean there isn’t a god. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation gives a bit of the plot:

Set in 17th century Japan, Silence portrays a Portuguese Jesuit Priest ministering in secret to a hounded and persecuted minority Christian population in villages around Nagasaki.

Father Sebastião Rodrigues is forced to watch helplessly as various members of his flock in the hand of the Japanese “Inquisition” are set on fire, slowly tortured with boiling water, drowned, hanged or beheaded in front of him. Rodrigues screams out to his God for mercy, intervention or even just a word. In return he hears nothing.


It is the weight of that silence that Scorsese explores in his adaptation of the novel by Shusaku Endo. He took almost three decades to make the film after first reading the novel in 1989 and it is clearly a profoundly personal exploration of a pressing dilemma for someone of Scorsese’s faith: Where is God in the darkness?

Indeed, one might well ask that question. If Nessie hasn’t shown up in Scotland, and there was plenty of opportunity for that reptile to have done so, including deliberate submersible attempts to find it, then one can reasonably conclude that there is no Nessie. But, according to the ABC—and Christians—God is different. When He doesn’t show up, well, it’s not because he isn’t there. He’s just wily and enigmatic!

By the end of Silence, Scorsese’s priest Rodrigues looks in more than one sense utterly defeated. His dreams are in tatters. Death is all around him. His whole identity has been wrenched from his grasp and his formidable resolve cruelly beaten out of him.

And yet, the silence of God does not mean the absence of God. It is in the silence that Rodrigues senses the presence of God suffering beside him. This is the God he believes feels deeply the injustices large and small that humans inflict on one another; who enters the human drama as a child and fully engages with the human experience.

It’s only in religion—in faith—that the absence of evidence is taking for evidence of presence. And really—God engages with the human experience as a passive spectator, as His children are tortured and he won’t help them? He only feels those injustices in his “engagement”? Only in religion can you get the tortured logic of theodicy.

Now one can say that that is Scorsese’s take on the movie, but I’m pretty sure it’s also the opinion of the piece’s writer, Simon Smart.  After all, this isn’t a movie review, but an “opinion” piece, and the ABC describes Simon Smart  like this:

Simon Smart is a Director of the Centre for Public Christianity and the co-author with Jane Caro, Antony Loewenstein and Rachel Woodlock of For God’s Sake – An Atheist, a Jew, a Christian and a Muslim Debate Religion. A former history and English teacher, he studied theology at Regent College, Vancouver. He is the author of a number of books including Bright Lights Dark Nights – the Enduring Faith of 13 Remarkable Australians.

So we can take the analysis above as Smart’s theology as well. He ends like this:

The Christmas story claims to be, out of the void, a moment of profound communication — a break in the silence between a creator and his creatures — God drawing near to us. Our literature and art has for centuries reflected the mysterious wonder of the incarnation and the sense that it represents the best hope that, despite appearances to the contrary, we are not alone in the universe.

That’s a remarkable statement (and an obscure one), for what gives “the best hope. . . that we are not alone in the universe” is not evidence, but a “story” in an ancient book. That story isn’t made more credible by centuries of “wonder.” Nor does Scorsese’s film appear to add any credibility. But such is faith, defined by Hebrews 1:11 as “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

Here’s the film’s official trailer:

h/t: Phil


  1. GBJames
    Posted December 23, 2016 at 9:20 am | Permalink


  2. Ann German
    Posted December 23, 2016 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Or, in the infamous words of one of our current prophets (!%&#@*), “the unknown unknowns.”

  3. Posted December 23, 2016 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Much rather see his documentary on the Grateful Dead than this nonsense.

  4. Posted December 23, 2016 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    The book is fantastic!

  5. Posted December 23, 2016 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    ah, the god that just gets the feels rather than doing something. For a god that constantly interfered in the bible, it sure is impotent when someone’s actually watching.

    • Posted December 23, 2016 at 11:25 am | Permalink

      Yes, we have had suspiciously few direct interventions of G*d ever since the Iron Age began in earnest. Maybe he, like the elves, is powerless in the vicinity of iron.

      • rickflick
        Posted December 23, 2016 at 11:46 am | Permalink

        Or, back further still. Try wood.

      • Posted December 23, 2016 at 11:59 am | Permalink

        Ah, that’s it! or it could be video tape, or digital imaging or medical personnel or … 🙂

      • Posted December 28, 2016 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

        Well, we know that. Because, iron chariots.


  6. Jonathan Dore
    Posted December 23, 2016 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Ok, but remember it’s an adaptation of a novel (and a great one at that, though I think The Samurai is even better) — a work of imagination in one art form, viewed through the lens of another — not a treatise, apology, or attempt at argumentation. The theological notions are those imagined into the heads of fictional early-17th-century characters. One doesn’t have to agree with them to understand the force they have for the characters.

    • Craw
      Posted December 23, 2016 at 9:56 am | Permalink

      I love the Odyssey but don’t believe in Zeus.

      • Posted December 23, 2016 at 10:05 am | Permalink


      • Posted December 23, 2016 at 10:09 am | Permalink

        I like Jason and the Argonauts.

        • Posted December 23, 2016 at 11:26 am | Permalink

          Me not. If I had a daughter, I wouldn’t want her to meet Jason!

          • Filippo
            Posted December 23, 2016 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

            Yep, she might get fleeced.

          • stuartcoyle
            Posted December 24, 2016 at 5:08 am | Permalink

            Certainly not if he is still married to Medea!

      • loren russell
        Posted December 23, 2016 at 11:08 am | Permalink

        Odyssey is better written, but it’s at least as immoral as the HB

        • Posted December 23, 2016 at 11:28 am | Permalink

          I think that just its central character is immoral.

    • Posted December 23, 2016 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      As I said, I think the theological notions are in fact those laid out by the author of this piece, a MODERN Christian. I am prepared to believe the novel is good, but the theology is still with us. I’ve read tons of similar arguments for why God is hidden, but of course they’re unconvincing, for they’re unparsimonious.

    • Tim Harris
      Posted December 23, 2016 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

      I must say that I really disliked the novel when I read it years ago. It was not so much that it was pessimistic (being a pessimist myself, I am very fond of pessimistic writers like Beckett & Kafka and Krasznahorkai – the last of whom I have just been reading), but that in the end it offered nothing while somehow pretending to do so; nothing, apart from the self-pitying – and in the end, I think, rather self-congratulatory and chauvinistic – thesis that Japan is a sort of swamp where belief dies… Endo was of course Catholic himself, or claimed he was, and it seemed that the novel was in many ways an illustration of an irresolvable quarrel within himself, but it did not seem to me, at the time I read it, to be an honest addressing of this quarrel, if there really was such a quarrel, but a book that was at base manipulative (which good art is not). I should have to re-read it to see whether my thoughts at the time were justified, but have no desire to do so.

  7. Posted December 23, 2016 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    Won’t be on my must see list

    • mfdempsey1946
      Posted December 23, 2016 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      “Silence” is most definitely on my must-see list because it is a Martin Scorsese film and one that he has wanted to make for some 28 years.

      I have no doubt that the film will be compelling, the way both “The Last Temptation of Christ” and “Kundun” still are for me because of the depth of filmmaking imagination and personal passion that he customarily brings to his projects, although, like every other director, he has had his artistic failures or, at best, semi-successes.

      This applies even though I, a former Catholic seminarian like Scorsese, walked away from my religious background long ago without looking back, whereas Catholicism still exerts a grip on Scorsese. Despite this, it still has some grip on me as well, so I can relate.

      Also, this new “Silence” is the second film based on Shusako Endo’s novel (which I have read in translation). The first, released in 1971, was directed by a top-flight Japanese filmmaker, Masahiro Shinoda, eleven of whose films I have had the opportunity to see, some several times — but so far not his “Silence,” alas.

      • Kevin
        Posted December 23, 2016 at 11:13 am | Permalink

        I thought The Last Temptation of Christ was pretty good. Kundin had no traction with me.

  8. tubby
    Posted December 23, 2016 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    When people point to the centuries during which European art was devoted to religious works it makes me wonder if they don’t understand that the production of these works is expensive in terms of time, materials, and skill. The church was where the money was, and art studios had to make money to pay their bills. It’s like someone 500 years from now talking about the sublime elegance and divinity of a MySQL database created for the DoD.

  9. Posted December 23, 2016 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    It’s an adaptation of a great book by one of the most consistently brilliant directors of his generation: I’m not going to dismiss the film just because I think theology is bullshit.

    Judging art according to a conformity to a preferred set of beliefs and values instead of its own merits isn’t something I’d encourage.

    • rickflick
      Posted December 23, 2016 at 11:53 am | Permalink

      I’m sympathetic to your view Speaker. Often a great movie maker will wander into dangerous philosophical/religious territory. Yet the craftsmanship of the film will be worth watching.
      As for me, I may see “Silence” when a copy comes to my local library, but I don’t think I’d pay money to see it.

      • Posted December 23, 2016 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

        Most of Scorsese’s films have a strong Catholic influence. The exception is Taxi Driver which is more overtly influenced by (writer) Paul Schrader’s Calvinism. If anything the idea that God has already chosen who to save is more objectionable than the Catholic theme of redemption – but Taxi Driver is a absolute bloody masterpiece.

        The Devil might have the best tunes but sometimes Jeebus has better movies.

        • rickflick
          Posted December 23, 2016 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

          “Taxi Driver is a absolute bloody masterpiece” I agree. I didn’t know about Schrader’s Calvanism. Damn. Guess I’ll have to watch it again. 😎

          Any film maker worth taking seriously is not going to force some moral viewpoint besides which the film makes no sense at all. Frank Capra was very moralistic and I think his views weaken his films. But they are still worth seeing.

  10. Les Robertshaw
    Posted December 23, 2016 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Why this infantile yearning for a universal protector? Is it only fear? Why is that need so strong that even otherwise intelligent people will twist, turn and perform headstands to persist in believing in a big daddy in the sky with no evidence whatsoever?
    After all the childish, self pitying pleading of the theists and jabbering of ‘educated’ theologists their God does not want to show him/he/itself. Isn’t that enough to tell them that he is either non existent or doesn’t give a damn about them?

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted December 23, 2016 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

      “I had sampled several such brotherhoods, including the Rosey Cross and the Orange Lodge, during the period in which I examined the Supernatural and found it not merely uninstructive but damnably dull, its members possessing nothing in the way of individual imagination and a great need to seek confirmation in numbers for the merits of miserable little madnesses….Such people as a rule were lonely, confounded misfits, attempting to alter the surrounding evidence of Nature by inventing abstractions to explain why common facts were false and ordinary reality a poor illusion.” Michael Moorcock, The City in the Autumn Stars, Chapter 3

  11. darrelle
    Posted December 23, 2016 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    “This is the God he believes feels deeply the injustices large and small that humans inflict on one another; . . .”

    Shoot, I can do that. I do do that. Every Goddamn day (channeling Patton).

  12. Robert Seidel
    Posted December 23, 2016 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    > Now one can say that that is Scorsese’s take on the movie, but I’m pretty sure it’s also the opinion of the piece’s writer, Simon Smart.

    Having read the piece, I’m not so sure how much of Scorsese there is in it. Smart’s description of the film’s ending sounds pretty ambiguous:

    “By the end of Silence, Scorsese’s priest Rodrigues looks in more than one sense utterly defeated. His dreams are in tatters. Death is all around him. His whole identity has been wrenched from his grasp and his formidable resolve cruelly beaten out of him.”

    So the stuff about god being present in the silence seems more like Smart’s personal spin on it. It doesn’t seem to be based on anything Scorsese said about his film, either. I think it is a bit incautious to infer Scorsese’s own message from a Christian author’s interpretation of it.

    • Posted December 23, 2016 at 11:48 am | Permalink

      Actually, I’m writing more about the author’s take than Scorsese’s; for all I know, MS could be an atheist. If the theology is the author’s, so much the worse. .

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted December 23, 2016 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

        I think Scorsese is Catholic although married 5 times. So active Catholic.

  13. Historian
    Posted December 23, 2016 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    “And yet, the silence of God does not mean the absence of God. It is in the silence that Rodrigues senses the presence of God suffering beside him. This is the God he believes feels deeply the injustices large and small that humans inflict on one another; who enters the human drama as a child and fully engages with the human experience.”

    When people want to believe something, no matter the lack of evidence, indeed all the evidence is to the contrary, they will concoct any rationalization, no matter how absurd, to allow them to believe the unbelievable.

    This post reminds me of how so many Jews who survived the concentration camps, somehow didn’t lose their faith. I imagine most people would praise them for this. I think it is a situation that because of the impulse to survive in the concentration camp (physically and psychologically) and life thereafter, the victims needed to resort to any delusion that would serve the the survival instinct. Perhaps self-delusion, in this case in the form of religious belief, is an evolved means for survival. But, this is just a guess on my part.

    • Posted December 23, 2016 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      + 1

    • Posted December 23, 2016 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      Speaking of Jews in concentration camps, though, there is the case of the guy who wrote on the wall: “If God exists, he will have to beg for my forgiveness.” I think that guy got it right.

    • Tim Harris
      Posted December 23, 2016 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

      The philosopher Leszek Kolakowski has some thoughts about this in his book ‘Religion’, as I recall

  14. Larry Smith
    Posted December 23, 2016 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Here’s another take on the silence that greets us when tragedy strikes – “Georgia Lee” by Tom Waits:

    Cold was the night and hard was the ground
    They found her in a small grove of trees
    And lonesome was the place where Georgia was found
    She’s too young to be out on the street

    Why wasn’t God watching?
    Why wasn’t God listening?
    Why wasn’t God there
    For Georgia Lee?

    Ida said she couldn’t keep Georgia from dropping out of school
    I was doing the best that I could
    Oh, but she just kept running away from this world
    These children are so hard to raise good

    Why wasn’t God watching?
    Why wasn’t God listening?
    Why wasn’t God there
    For Georgia Lee?

    Close your eyes and count to ten
    I will go and hide but then
    Be sure to find me, I want you to find me
    And we’ll play all over
    We’ll play all over
    We’ll play all over

    There’s a toad in the witch grass, there’s a crow in the corn
    Wild flowers on a cross by the road
    And somewhere a baby is crying for her mom
    As the hills turn from green back to gold

    And why wasn’t God watching?
    Why wasn’t God listening?
    Why wasn’t God there
    For Georgia Lee?

  15. jeffery
    Posted December 23, 2016 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    I, for one, hope that “we’re not alone in the universe”, but I’m thinking about advanced aliens who, in my fondest hopes, come visit this planet someday and FORCE us to live according to rational thought!

    • Posted December 23, 2016 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

      That’s what happens in The Day the Earth Stood Still – which is a Christian allegory.

      Klaatu calls himself ‘Carpenter’ and he rises from the dead.

      I’ve always found the message of that movie dubious: if anyone has to FORCE you to live rationally they are doing it wrong.

      • rickflick
        Posted December 23, 2016 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

        I saw that film for the first time when I was nine or ten. It scared the beJebus out of me, but I had no idea it was an allegory. It clearly had more than one level of meaning.

  16. jredwood
    Posted December 23, 2016 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    The brutal actions of the shogunate in stamping out Christianity certainly led to the creation of many martyrs. However, it also had an effect on modern-day Japan: less than 1% of the population is Christian, compared to near-neighbor South Korea, which is over 27% Christian. I certainly prefer Japan, where there aren’t any Christian do-gooders trying to change Japanese society to their way of thinking. Oh, and which country has just about the lowest crime rate in the world? The Christian US or the non-Christian Japan?

    • Carl
      Posted December 23, 2016 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

      To be fair, Japan had its own ideology that led to hideous results. It was only after a country with an atheist Constitution and a modified Christian population crushed Japan in war, and imposed a similar Constitution, that Japan truly became civilized.

      Meanwhile, back at home in Portugal and Spain, coreligionist of the martyrs depicted in the film were creating martyrs themselves, burning at the stake and continuing the persecution and expulsion of Jews who had lived in Iberia for centuries.

      • Filippo
        Posted December 23, 2016 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

        This reminds me that I need to refresh my understanding of the U.S.’s “gunboat diplomacy” vis-a-vis Japan.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted December 23, 2016 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

        It was my understanding that Japan selected the parliamentary form of government like England, not the constitutional type like ours. And how that had anything to do with being civilized, to each his own.

        • Carl
          Posted December 23, 2016 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

          Japan became a liberal democracy under its new constitution, which was largely written by MacArthur’s staff and imposed during the allied occupation after the war. It included civil rights guarantees modeled on our Bill of Rights. The form of government was parliamentary.

          Before the defeat in WWII, I would class Japan as highly uncivilized – atrocities in China and Southeast Asia, enslavement of Korean women as prostitutes, that sort of thing.

          • Tim Harris
            Posted December 23, 2016 at 8:33 pm | Permalink

            That really is too simple, and rather too self-congratulatory. I suppose the Germans, too, were ‘uncivilised’ until they were defeated. If we are going to go down this road, then one ask how civilised the British were in India after the Indian Mutiny (or ‘Rebellion’, as I should prefer to call it) or during the Second World War when they allowed millions of Indians to starve, just as a century earlier they had allowed the Irish to starve (for good economic reasons, of course); or how civilised the Americans were in their destruction of native American peoples or in their adventures in the Philippines, Vietnam and Cambodia… It is curious to a European like me how the USA seems to be regarded as existing outside history, just sort of plonked there on the American continent complete with Constitution and Bill of Rights, unchanging, an eternal city on a a hill, always benevolent and unstained by the muddy waters of history, a teacher to the nations…

            • Tim Harris
              Posted December 23, 2016 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

              And, honestly, how ‘civilised’ were the fire-bombings of Tokyo & Yokohama, not to mention the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, or the exploits of Bomber Harris’s boys at Hamburg or Dresden?

              • Carl
                Posted December 23, 2016 at 10:55 pm | Permalink

                War isn’t civilized. Japan and Germany were the aggressors. Both made unprovoked attacks on multiple countries, and treated the conquered peoples with incredible barbarity.

                They got what was necessary to stop them. I have no sympathy that the fire bombs and atomic weapons were over the top – the axis powers started it, they could have surrendered sooner.

                Then, rather than treating the defeated countries in a fashion they might have expected, for example the way the Soviets did, America helped rebuild Japan and Germany. They quickly became liberal democracies and leading economic powers.

                I don’t understand this “hate America first” attitude – some mixture of jealousy and shame maybe. The sins of America exist, but pale compared to any other great power that ever existed. And the benefits America has brought to the world are unmatched.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted December 23, 2016 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

                “the benefits America has brought to the world are unmatched.”


                Name one.

                That is, name one benefit which (a) doesn’t have as many drawbacks as assets and (b) was an exclusively American development that wouldn’t have happened anyway if the US took no part in it.

                A country founded in slavery and which has disproportionately exploited the world’s resources and meddled with the politics of smaller countries ever since. (Yeah, it wasn’t the only one, I know that).

                I have some sympathy for the people of Hamburg and Hiroshima even if you don’t.


              • Tim Harris
                Posted December 24, 2016 at 12:14 am | Permalink

                Carl’s response does not, alas, surprise me. If you criticise the US, he tells us, it’s the ‘hate America first’ attitude. You have British people who will say the same if someone, British or not, ventures to criticise Britain, and Japanese people who will… injured national amour-propre is not a very discriminating thing. ‘They got what was necessary to stop them…’ ‘They’, of course, includes children and people who did not support the war-mongers and people who had small choice but to keep their heads down in the hope that things would blow over, but, never mind, they are all bloody Germans or Japanese so let’s bomb ’em to buggery.(Hamburg, of course, was a city that had been far from enthusiastic about the Nazi takeover.) I always find risible and in the end hypocritical the sort of fervour – I shan’t call it moral fervour – that arises out of injured national amour propre and so excuses atrocities that one’s own nation has perpetrated – ‘we’ had moral right on our side and ‘they’ got was coming; or, another way out, it was not as bad as the anti-Americans, anti-British or anti-Japanese say it was; or, yet another, we had no alternative, it was their fault for not doing whatever … One finds it much among the Japanese right when the city of Nanjing is mentioned, and of course one finds the same set of excuses in any children’s playground after some boys, usually, have got into a fight. For it is a fundamentally childish attitude. It has nothing to do with ethics.

            • rickflick
              Posted December 23, 2016 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

              I think very broadly speaking the 20th century and it’s fairly significant levels of violence can be seen as a tug of war between enlightenment values and anti-enlightenment values. Simply speaking – democracy vs totalitarianism. The last half of that century, according to Steven Pinker’s “Better Angels…” is referred to as the long peace since the relative levels of pure violence since WW2 has diminished in a rather extraordinary way. It appears, despite some smallish upsets, that the enlightenment values have won. I think the current wind of reactionary politics sweeping Europe and the US are a kind of last gasp of incivility that will burn out fairly quickly. I’m trying to stay optimistic.

              • Tim Harris
                Posted December 23, 2016 at 10:39 pm | Permalink

                I’m trying to stay optimistic, too, but am feeling rather politically depressed – down in the drumpfs, so to speak.

    • Posted December 23, 2016 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

      The yakuza presumably do a lot of work for charity.

      • Westi
        Posted December 24, 2016 at 3:57 am | Permalink

        So did Pablo Escobar. All criminal organizations give for the poor, from Hell’s Angels to Yakuza families. It’s PR pure and simple. Too bad they use blood money to do the good.

    • Tim Harris
      Posted December 23, 2016 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

      No Christian do-gooders in Japan? Well, not many of them perhaps, but every year, from a little before Christmas and through the New year holidays, the fundies are out on the streets outside Shinjuku station (Shinjuku is famed for its shopping centres, restaurants, bars and other sorts of pleasure quarters) and elsewhere, with long poles on which are placards preaching about about sin and its wages, and loudspeakers from which a grating, contumelious voice informs everybody that they will all be damned unless they believe in Jesus Christ and get their sins forgiven. The only good aspect of this is that it offers a contrast to the carols, the good ones of which are invariably ruined by the most ghastly crooners, and sentimental songs that are churned out in department stores and other places… The rest of year, the Christians are mostly thankfully out of sight, out of hearing, and out of mind.

  17. Kevin
    Posted December 23, 2016 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Suffering is absolute with Christians. It verifies, justifies, dignifies, and widens the realness of their faith.

    Faith is a burden. Suffering is something to do. Anyone can suffer and it is quite easy to surrender to suffering. The faithful live and die for this.

    Crusades, personal or historical, are organized efforts to put suffering into perspective. And the act of prosyltizing and finding ‘others without faith’ is all part of the strengthening process.

    If the thesis of Silence is faith, then I think, Hitchens would approve. Religion has nothing. Exposing it as nothing but faith is a true story.

  18. Sastra
    Posted December 23, 2016 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    The idea of believing in God even though it remains “hidden” in the face of extreme or seemingly gratuitous suffering seems to me to be closely aligned with a very different idea in the minds of believers. And that is how we continue to hope, to work, to love, and to live even when things get dark and seem hopeless.

    That last one is hard, but from a secular standpoint the struggle is a worthwhile one. Giving up, giving in, descending into black depression, madness, or suicide is a response to be avoided. Make or find good out of evil — somehow. Maybe you try to fight harder, have more compassion, or remain grateful for the things which yet remain. It takes courage, strength, and resilience — but the alternative is bleak indeed..

    The religious then co-opt this mindset and blithely try to frame it as keeping faith in God. If I conflated the two, then I might also think it important to reject atheism the same way I’d reject giving in to black despair. It’s a neat trick on their part.

    But, of course, clarity is a secular value: you won’t find it in a faith which happily merges concepts together so that the less credible one gets a free ride on the back of the one which makes emotional sense.

    • Jonathan Dore
      Posted December 24, 2016 at 4:24 am | Permalink

      Thanks Sastra, a wise and enlightening comment.

    • rickflick
      Posted December 24, 2016 at 4:48 am | Permalink

      You’ve explained something that can seem baffling. Religion co-opts everything.

  19. rickflick
    Posted December 23, 2016 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    With religion, “the absence of evidence is taken for evidence of presence.”

    Or, maybe the proof of presence. The less evidence, the more solid your faith will be. It must be true because it is so obviously false. Black is white and the truth is a lie. Bad is good. Hate and indifference is love.

  20. Posted December 23, 2016 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    “…set on fire, slowly tortured with boiling water, drowned, hanged or beheaded…”

    Thanks for the warning. I will _not_ watch this film.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted December 23, 2016 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

      Me neither. Leaving aside the utter futility of what they thought they were dying for, and any frissons of karmic schadenfreude, there has got to be more edifying entertainment to occupy my time.


  21. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 23, 2016 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    From the trailer, the film looks gorgeous, a throwback to the cinematography of Vilmos Zsigmond and László Kovács. I can’t wait to see it.

    I share nothing of Scorsese’s religious convictions (except perhaps, for having had a Catholic childhood). But I will credit him with this: unlike so many self-satisfied religiosi, he at least struggles with whatever faith he holds (as he appears to do with this film, and as he did with The Last Temptation of Christ, which, you may recall, was detested by many Christians, who tried to ban it, then picketed outside theaters where it was playing).

    Anyway, I try to separate my non-belief from my aesthetic judgment. I would no more refuse to see this movie, or any other, on account of its religious content, than I’d decline to visit Chartres or the Hagia Sophia, or to read Paradise Lost or The Inferno, or to listen to Handel’s Messiah or to Mahalia belting out “Just A Closer Walk With Thee.”

    Scorsese is undeniably one of the world’s great filmmakers, with a handful of transcendent movies that are on anybody’s list of the best of the past 50 years — and another handful that are close to it (and yet another that are as-yet under-appreciated classics). He’s made close to 30 features (plus documentaries, plus others he’s produced), and I’ve seen all but a couple, many of them multiple times. There is something worthwhile to be found in every one. He’s made life richer for cinephiles everywhere.

    • Carl
      Posted December 23, 2016 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      I’ll be looking forward to this as well. I have serious doubts that the reviewer under discussion captured Scorsese’s intention, but I can decide after watching. Even if the reviewer is accurate, I doubt if it will turn me off on Scorsese.

      On the other hand, I simply cannot watch certain actors on screen, even though I greatly enjoyed some of their past work. Mel Gibson and Ben Affleck, for example.

    • Posted December 23, 2016 at 5:26 pm | Permalink

      He’s not just a great film maker he’s a film enthusiast.

      He has been active in the preservation and restoration of classic movies, and in the promotion of new, up and coming film directors and the promotion of international movies.

      He also pops up regularly in the DVD extras of movies he loves.

      I can’t think of another director who does so much for the medium.

  22. Tom
    Posted December 23, 2016 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    The christian relish for descriptions of martyrdom has been well documented since ancient times.
    The number of christians actually martyred by pagans in both ancient and modern times probably pales before the the numbers killed as suspected heretics (or merely in the way) by other christians. Oddly enough, they were also burned alive, boiled, beheaded etc.
    Perhaps the silence of god merely demonstrates he is confused and he really can’t decide which of all the inquisitions is the right one.

  23. Harrison Saunders
    Posted December 23, 2016 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    One wonders if Mr. Smart (or Mr. Scorcese) appreciates the irony of a Jesuit priest being appalled at the depredations of an “inquisition” inflicted upon his flock.

    • Tim Harris
      Posted December 23, 2016 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

      Ah, but when heretics were burned alive at auto-da-fes, as priests, kings, queens and their courts looked on in delight, it was for their own good:

      Who then devised the torment? Love.
      Love is the unfamiliar Name
      Behind the hands that wove
      The intolerable shirt of flame
      Which human power cannot remove.
      We only live, only suspire
      Consumed by either fire or fire.

  24. Zetopan
    Posted December 26, 2016 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    “Religious Faith”

    An unshakable credulity about magic; claiming that magic actually works.

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  1. […] newest blog/ column with some delusion 0n his own part, lauding Martin Scorsese’s movie “The Silence,” which I’ve now seen. It’s about God’s absence in helping the tortured Christians in […]

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