Friday, February 15, 2013

No Bones About It; This is a Sensitive Issue.

I love Bones.  Yes, I know sometimes the science is a little more like magic than actual science.  It's my nerdy guilty pleasure.

If you watch the show, you probably know that Temperance "Bones" Brennan has always been an atheist, considering it the only purely rational option.  I have never had an issue with this.  My beliefs haven't been and will not be affected by a TV show.  If she were a real person, I would say she could believe whatever she chooses if it feels true to her and doesn't hurt anyone else.  What I was frankly astonished by was the outcry among many atheists when, in the most recent episode, Bones had a near-death experience and was given a reason to question her staunch non-belief.  

My first reaction to the comments was confusion.  It was as if having a single episode that pertained to the possibility of a higher power immediately made viewers think the show was going to become a live action church.  Yes, there have been more episodes dealing with the supernatural, but it still seems like the show is far more about solving murders and the interactions between Brennan/ the squints/Booth and the FBI.  (Also, I can't exactly see the series ever becoming fit for Evangelism TV, especially when a psychic was a staple of a few episodes!)  My next reaction was sadness.  There was a depressing level of prejudice and hatred in some of the comments. "If she becomes a believer, I will never watch again!" "She is smart enough to realize that there's not a God." "The show is turning into more atheist-gets-religion crap."  

All right, I will admit, my very first reaction- and it was an un-Christian one- was anger.  "Wow, these people are so judgmental!   Believers can't be intelligent?  Leonhard Euler.  Done."

So he wasn't the best dressed believer in the world; no one can say he was unintelligent.

Then I acknowledged that usually people do not actually mean "intelligent" when they say it in this context; usually they mean "rational" (and for the ones that do mean "intelligent," what's the point of getting angry at them?).  And you know what... belief in God isn't actually rational.  My question is, why insist that everything in the world be rational?  Personally, I have never understood why complete rationality should be an aspiration.  Faith is an act of trusting blindly; if you don't want to trust blindly, no one's forcing you (and if they are, they really shouldn't; I've always considered force to be the antithesis of true belief.)  I'm not ashamed to admit that there is no scientific proof that my God exists.  I believe He does and will without any hesitation tell others that He does. I have had small miracles in my life that I believe prove His existence, but they are not what scientists call "proof," rather "anecdotes"... sort of like what Brennan went through in the last episode in a less dramatic, didn't-actually-die-for-two-minutes way.

If religion gives people, including Brennan's character, hope, comfort, and/or a purpose for whatever reason, and they want to believe that they were created by and/or are watched by a higher power, isn't it rather selfish to want to take that away from them for any reason?  I don't mind if she ends up not believing in God.  If the writers and actors want to say she's still "too rational" to believe in the end, I will still watch and enjoy the show.  I think some Bones viewers, though, are projecting too strongly their own disbelief onto her character.  Part of me understands, because I think all people like to "click" with characters in books, shows and movies.  It makes them easier to understand if they believe as we do.

Probably why this book is so often assigned reading.

Still, isn't the idea "I think believers don't make any sense, and therefore her scientist character should not either" just as misguided as a Christian's desire to force theism on others because he/she doesn't like what atheists believe?  I think my initial anger was also due to this: it has been my experience that those who are first to negatively judge others for believing in God are also those who spend the most time calling for a tolerant and equal society.  Keep in mind that I'm not talking about those who criticize believers who act hatefully; although I think too often people make the mistake of blaming God for the faults of His followers.  See this earlier post for more reflections on that topic.

I know that there are annoying believers.  I also know that there are annoying atheists.  And annoying agnostics.  I can be annoying (though I try not to be, I swear!).  What many don't seem to realize is that people's personalities are usually pretty set in stone, and moving between these three groups shouldn't change anyone so drastically that they lose what makes them... them.  Just because we hear most about the Tom Cruises of the world who start to believe in something and, er, create a huge stir, doesn't mean that is the most common occurrence.  I don't see Brennan's character changing much if she ends up believing in God; she strikes me as one who would believe quietly and keep right on going as usual.

It probably wasn't rational to cry during this scene, but I don't care.  I cried anyway.

I also know that I am generalizing, and a lot of atheists watching the show probably don't care one way or the other and are content to enjoy the show whether or not the main character "gets religion."   Perhaps many feel the same way I do when I hear people saying, "Christians are hypocrites and only promote hate," because they only judge by what they see in the media.  I just find it sad that the ones with extreme opinions are the ones who get so much air time, as it were.  I think it is time that people who want tolerance and are willing to extend it to all peaceful human beings, not just those who believe in that which they approve, made their voices heard.


  1. I ended up giving up on Bones after I realized how ... much (for lack of a better word) the show was getting with the drama of Bones going into hiding and the baby and the genius programmer- also I got to be around real SI Anthropologists and they’re so much more fun.

    Anyway, what really got me was the relationship of intelligence- and Christianity. Thanks to a mix up with course descriptions, I’m in two classes with a group of self-proclaimed humanists. Because they’re a group of masters and PhD candidates, they’re very vocal (and don’t mind insulting religious minority in the class because intolerance is only bad if it’s coming from a religious group, not against it). According to them, a believer in any sort of religion (especially Christianity) is a Conservative/Republication and Republications are categorically racist and racists are stupid, therefore people who believe in any sort of higher power are stupid (I didn’t draw that conclusion, they vocalized it weeks ago). This is coming from the same people who writes books on the legitimation problem brought on by replacing God with Man after the Enlightenment because Man has no ruler to guide his decisions and just isn’t good enough to fill that God-shaped hole but he has to because he’s Man (there are trees and a forest here somewhere…)
    That turned into more of a rant than I intended- sorry!

    1. Hi, don't worry at all about ranting! I imagine those classes must be frustrating for those of you who don't necessarily agree with the majority's views, especially if you want to avoid heated arguments (and it's OK to NOT want to debate everything!). I have no problem with self-proclaimed humanists or anyone who adheres to a certain philosophy, as long as they realize that it is theirs and shouldn't be thrust on others, just as believers shouldn't force others into religion. But the believers are automatically stupid argument is a logical fallacy that I know would bug me. Also, would they call a non-white Republican (they do exist!) racist? What is their definition of stupid and what makes their definition more valid than another person's? (These are rhetorical questions, but they always pop into my head when people start in on that line of thought. Just as "But how do you know the tree fell in the first place? Did you see it?" pops into my head every time :-).)

  2. I've always enjoyed the contrast of Brennan's rationality with Booth's faith. I thought it was a neat point whenever it came up regarding the baby. (I haven't seen any of the current season.) You're right that faith isn't rational. I do believe that even science depends on a little faith.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Alliesings! I agree the contrast between Booth's and Brennan's perspectives on faith does add interest to the show. The writers have done a good job having them disagree but still ultimately respect and love each other.

      The most recent season was a huge disappointment to me for completely different reasons, unfortunately :-(. But here's hoping it picks up again!