I believe that sometimes religion inhibits ones ability to live morally. Of course this sounds odd because the point of many religions is to show followers how to live a moral life but that, to me, is actually the problem. Everyone has different ideas on what is moral and what is not but many religions have strict rules about what is right and wrong in “god’s” eyes. Some followers are able to hold on to the ideas they agree with while discarding the others, but many do not think of religious teachings as something you can pick and choose from.
These beliefs can drive people to do very immoral things. Killing innocent people in the name of god, fighting wars over land they claim god gave them, and turning away their own children because god doesn’t approve of their lifestyle; I don’t know about you but the god I just outlined doesn’t sound like a very loving being to me. If god is telling his or her followers to kill the followers of other gods, giving land to his favored followers and turning away good people because of whom they love, that is not the god that I want to follow. I think many of these devout believers would be much better off if they simply lived their lives according to what they believe is right and wrong but that is very difficult to do when they have been indoctrinated with these beliefs since the moment they were born.
I was raised catholic and went to Sunday school every week until I was in the 7th grade. My parents aren’t particularly religious but they were both raised catholic also, so I guess they just kept the tradition going despite their own lackadaisical outlook on the catholic religion. The first time I remember looking at religion with a critical eye is when the “head mistress” at our local church told my brother he couldn’t make his confirmation with the rest of his class because he had failed the interview portion of the proceedings. She asked him if he thought one must go to church to be a follower of god, his answer was no. He said that one can follow god from anyplace, anytime and although going to church is a good thing, it is not needed to be a follower of “the lord.” This is when I realized that the people who were teaching me about being a good person were no more qualified to do so than myself. I was recently at my nephews christening and decided if I ever have children of my own, I will not have them baptized. I was sitting in the front row with the rest of my family when the priest began saying my nephew was born tainted by original sin. As I stared at my beautiful, pure, untainted nephew, I couldn’t help but think that the priest was full of it. That small, ethereal baby was anything but tainted. The priest went on to say that by baptizing my nephew, he was washing away his original sin and presenting him to god. Again I thought the priest was full of it.
The only thing that keeps many following these beliefs, which were not generated from within our own mind, but given to us by others, is fear. We are afraid of what may happen to us if we do not. This can mean that we are afraid of what will happen after we die, what will happen with our families if we go against the grain, or even what will happen to us within our communities if we do not proclaim our faith. Even my own mother, who I mentioned was not particularly religious, was upset when I told her I would not baptize any future children I may have, and that I would not raise them with any particular religious beliefs in mind. She tried to convince me that you must give your children something to believe in, but I just can’t agree with that. The one thing that I will tell my children to believe in whole-heartedly is themselves. Listen to what makes sense to you, hold on to the memories you have of people who seem exceptionally moral, and be your own person. That is the only dogma I want my children to be indoctrinated with. If they grow up and decide that they would like to follow a certain religion, I will support the decisions they make because using their mind to make decisions is the most basic human right they will ever possess. What I am afraid of, is not living my life the best way I can because of what someone else is telling me to believe. I fear that much more than what may happen to me when I die. I believe I’ve been a good person during my life and if god denies me entry to paradise because I questioned religion or god’s existence in general, that would make him or her a pretty narcissistic being.
I’ve always loved Darren Aronofsky as a director. “Requiem for a Dream” opened my eyes to what a movie could be while I was a young adolescent and now “Black Swan” has pushed the envelope even further. I felt like I was looking into Nina Sayers’ mind and her thoughts were intoxicating, frightening, and provocative. It was difficult to distinguish reality from fantasy throughout “Black Swan” but after watching the film twice, I’ve come to the conclusion that the audience is just not meant to know. Nina doesn’t know what is real and what is fiction so why should we? Everyone feels like they are going a little crazy from time to time which is why I think I enjoyed this movie so much. It is truthful. There is nothing more riveting than watching the human mind gradually spin out of control.
That is what I have always loved about Aronofsky’s films. In “Requiem for a Dream” Sara Goldfarb played by Ellen Burstyn was slowly slipping away from reality due to her increasing age and addiction to weight loss medication. Marion Silver played by Jennifer Connelly pushed herself to do things she never thought she would because of her addiction and Harry Goldfarb played by Jared Leto was left paying for his addiction with a permanent physical abnormality. Maximillian Cohen played by Sean Gullette in “Pi” was tormented by his own mathematical genius until it all became too much to handle. Even in “The Fountain” Hugh Jackman’s character Tommy became obsessed with immortality until he finally realized that what he had been waiting for was relief. “The Wrestler” is another example of an obsession that holds strong until the very last moments of ones life. The human mind can be a very dark place and Darren Aronofsky is not afraid to emphasize that reality in his films.
(Semi-spoiler alert) I feel that “Black Swan” was my favorite Aronofsky film to date because it shows a more female perspective that I haven’t really felt in his other films. I felt a deep-rooted connection with Nina Sayers and even though I’ve seen almost all of Natalie Portman’s movies, I felt like she was Nina Sayers. Her performance in this movie was breathtaking and worthy of praise. Not once did I feel an ounce of doubt or uncertainty in her character. Erica Sayers, Nina Sayers mother played by Barbara Hershey was both manipulative and loving. She wanted to keep Nina all to herself which is definitely a contributing factor to why Nina Sayers finally spirals out of control but Erica Sayers also shows that her love for her daughter is stronger than her love for Nina Sayers the ballerina. Erica Sayers realizes that Nina is becoming overwhelmed by the pressure she has placed on herself to be “perfect” and tries to get Nina to give up her role as “the Swan Queen” in order to save her sanity. This minute detail, and many others like it, help to add a level of truth that is often left to be desired in recent films. Any caring mother would be more worried about the well-being of their offspring rather than their professional position and it is small details like this that made me feel as if I was watching reality rather than fiction.
Sorry Mila Kunis, I absolutely love you but I would love to see awards go to BARBARA HERSHEY for Best Supporting Actress and NATALIE PORTMAN for Best Actress. I do hope Mila wins the golden globe considering Barbara Hershey wasn’t nominated but I’m still rooting for Hershey for the Oscar (hopefully she is nominated.) Amazing performances deserve recognition and Hershey and Portman deserve to be praised for years to come. Check out A.O. Scott’s review of “Black Swan” from the NYTimes. The link is available on this post and he says it much better than I ever could. WATCH “BLACK SWAN” then come back and let me know what you think 🙂