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Freethought Today

Vol. 21 No. 2 - Published by the Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. -
March 2004

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Mel's Passion for Sado-Masochism

"The Passion of the Christ," a media-fed phenomenon depicting the "last 12 hours of the life of Jesus," is directed by aging actor Mel Gibson, a traditionalist Roman Catholic. Catholic James Caviezel, despite his blue eyes, is cast as his tortured Jesus.

Barring critics (and Jewish advocates) from early previews, Gibson began screening the movie to religious and rightwing audiences a year ago. Concerns that the bloody movie, filmed only in Aramaic and Latin with subtitles, would feed anti-Semitism only seemed to fuel media hype, including the cover story of a recent Newsweek magazine.

Gibson had to be pressured by the Vatican Council to remove a scene in which Caiaphas, his villainous Jewish high priest, tells a mob of Jews: "His blood be on us and on our children."

Gibson told the New Yorker last year that he wanted the scene in. "But, man, if I included that in there, they'd be coming after me at my house, they'd come kill me."

Gibson also told the New Yorker he wanted to "kill" New York Times columnist Frank Rich (and his dog) for writing a critical column. "I want to kill him. I want his intestines on a stick."

In a 1995 Playboy interview, Gibson said women should not become priests. One of his proffered reasons was the fact that a female business partner of his was a "cunt."

He added: "Feminists don't like me, and I don't like them. I don't get their point."

Gibson has made similar crude remarks about gays.

In a recent interview with Diane Sawyer, Gibson said Catholics will get to heaven much faster than those of other denominations and faiths.

Critic Ty Burr of the Boston Globe called the movie "profoundly medieval," "brutal almost beyond powers of description," and "more obsessed with capturing every holy drop of martyr's blood and sacred gobbet of flesh than with any message of Christian love." Burr warned that "any parent--no matter how devout and well-intentioned--who takes a child to this movie is guilty of abuse. Period."

According to Los Angeles Daily News critic Glenn Whipp, the "centerpiece" of the movie is a lashing that isn't mentioned in Matthew or Mark, and earns only five verses in Luke and John. Gibson makes the caning of Jesus' back take up a quarter of the movie, leading some critics to dub the Ash Wednesday debut "Lash Wednesday." New York Daily News critic Jami Bernard called the movie "sickening," and "the most virulently anti-Semitic movie made since the German propaganda films of World War II." (Gibson's father has famously denied the Holocaust occurred.)

"The Holy Ghost was working through me on this film," Gibson claims.

CBS news correspondent Andy Rooney, in his weekly commentary on Feb. 22, claims he also heard from God, who told him "that both Pat Robertson and Mel Gibson strike me as wackos."

Rooney continued: "My question to Mel Gibson is: 'How many million dollars does it look as if you're going to make off the crucifixion of Christ?' "

* * *

If you are seeking an antidote to the "Passion," you might try "Osama," the first film out of Afghanistan since the Taliban was deposed. It is about a delicate 12-year-old girl whose burqa-enshrouded mother, a doctor, who can't work under the Taliban regime, sends her out to work dressed as a boy named Osama. Her situation becomes imperiled when a Taliban officer presses "Osama" into a religious school for boys. The film was written and directed by Siddiq Barmak and was shot in 2002 and 2003 in Kabul.

Featuring an outright atheist protagonist is the documentary, "Touching the Void," based on atheist Joe Simpson's book about a mountain-climbing misadventure in Peru in 1985. "I don't believe in fate, or God, or heaven," the British Simpson told the Denver Post (Jan. 31, 2004).


March 2004 Excerpts