I must go (reception 6:30, film 7) if only to cap this religious-discussion-themed week (which also included our fine, feisty Debate at Lolita Bar between Richard Spencer and Helen Rittelmeyer, in which a crowd with admittedly few Christians concluded, by not too wide a margin, that Christianity is indeed for wimps). Tonight, I must also spread the insights of my friend Read Schuchardt who has pointed out that the first Matrix movie, while invoking numerous overlapping symbol-systems and philosophies, owes a great deal of its remake-reality-to-your-individual-will vibe to the bland yet creepy Landmark Forum self-help cult, of which the Wachowski Siblings are apparently graduates.
Read correctly predicted before the Matrix sequels came out that Christians enthusiastic about the first film and its messiah narrative would be disappointed by the sequels, which, to stay true to the Forum formula, would have to end with the messiah subverted, slain, and supplanted by individuals’ own diverse efforts. No more Trinity by trilogy’s end, either.
Of course, the Forum grew out of the older self-help cult Est, which was a conscious attempt to create something like Scientology without the aliens — and to some it might seem almost as nutty for Ethical Culture to have something resembling a church without a god, but for all their flaws, I’d say both at least represent slight improvements over their source material, so I may as well check out the latter group for an evening. Icky as watered-down quasi-religions and, say, Unitarianism can be, they may be a crude glimpse of the future if humans retain the social cohesion and moral lectures that religion contains but are capable of gradually shedding specific supernatural claims for lack of evidence (as careful thinkers, with intellectual integrity and honesty, eventually must).