Follow me, fellow heathens, back into a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. Join me, here, in the Twilight Zone.
In my second installment of "Twilight Zone and Atheism", I'm going to take a look at one of the most famous episodes of the series: "It's A Good Life".
This particular episode focuses on a town crippled by fear, as many TZ episodes do. What sets this particular one apart, however, is what the townsfolk are afraid of: a child with what amounts to absolute power.
The habitants of the town do everything they can to appease the young child, out of fear of his wrath. The child kills or erases everyone who "doesn't like" him, and punishes the townspeople harshly for the simplest of annoyances (singing, making too much noise).
From a nontheist perspective, the child does not seem all too different from the Old Testament god. He punishes recklessly for minor infractions, demands absolute worship, and is utterly intolerant. The child goes so far as to turn the one citizen brave enough to defy him into a Jack-in-the-box. If you ask me, it might as well have been a pillar of salt.
The episode goes into heavy detail on the ability of fear to manipulate people, which is a major aspect of the "fire and brimstone" based religions. The question that ultimately arises is one that I believe has been covered at length by Christopher Hitchens, which is "If the God of the Old Testament did exist, should you worship him?"
In this situation, the all powerful being has the petty and infantile mind of a 6 yo child, and lacks even basic morality. His only concern is for himself, and he punishes all those around him severely and eliminates everyone who is disloyal. The majority of the town, by the time the episode starts, worship the child out of a sense of crippling fear. But should they? The episode resoundingly answers "no", but the one rebel voice falls upon the deaf ears of his fellow townsmen. Perhaps, however, death is greater than living under a totalitarian regime. The lesson to be learned here is that might does not make right (in the moral sense), and thus one should not praise an entity based on the being's power, but on morality. If everyone always followed the man with the strongest arm, then there would be no morality beyond subservience. Thus, if the Old Testament god did exist (like the child here), then the right thing to do would be to rebel, regardless of the personal repercussions. It is the only moral action to take. If the ruling entity does not adaquately serve the interests of his subjects, then the subjects should (at the very least) attempt to overthrow him.*
Outside of atheism, this episode can be considered a condemnation of all totalitarian regimes that rule over their subjects with fear and only serve the elite class. Personally, however, i think the parallels to the cruel, unjust diety depicted in the Old Testament are too obvious and potent to not point out. In any case, this is a chilling and highly memorable episode. Enjoy.
(I'll be posting more of these in the near future. Look forward to "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" and "Number 12 Looks Just Like You" soon)
*apologies to any Lockeians out there for that minor butchering