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

 

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Tags: Sci-Fi

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Comment by Gordon W Maples on February 8, 2011 at 7:33pm
oh dear, the UPN reboot. I wish that had all just been a bad dream.
Comment by Brent Feeney on February 8, 2011 at 4:59am

This is one of my favorite Twilight Zone episodes. Billy Mumy was fantastic as Anthony.

 

Believe it or not, during the UPN run of the series, there was a sequel made ("It's Still A Good Life"), starring (now) Bill Mumy as Anthony again and his real-life daughter as Anthony's daughter. Yes, Anthony's still as he was in the original, but now he's allowed the world to come back. After all sorts of mayhem from Anthony and his daughter, they decide to go to New York at the end of the episode.

 

Rod Serling was one of the greatest thinkers and writers of his time, and his TZ episodes STILL have a relevant message today.

Comment by Jonel Burge on February 7, 2011 at 2:49am

Well it does say "not by works alone", and those little ABC/123 Christianity! pamphlets don't exactly talk about being a good person, just accepting so-and-so into your heart so he can bathe you in his blood and take away all the human condition stuff, you know, wanting food, wanting a mate, generally wanting things.

It is that all-or-nothing approach that is terrifying, because they can use that to justify attacking anyone who doesn't fit all the whims of that cult.

And seriously, the "I'm forgiven for that now" was the entirety of my highschool. I was naturally nicer than the lot of them, I was kind to everyone, and a lot of other outcast people gravitated towards me because I didn't cause drama and start rumors on a regular basis. I was just me. Even now, though, people who bullied me go to friend me on facebook and then later message my sister with "why won't your sister friend me?" DUH, why would I want to touch a bully of mine with a 20-foot pole? I want nothing to do with them, but I bet you, if I asked them about it? They forgot, they are "right with god" now, they have "been absolved". And their skydaddy is obviously a higher power than me, the person they bullied.

Another friend, Let's just call him Y. Y puts off a super-creeper vibe. He's engaged, but still trying to hook up with random friends of friends online. He has some super-creepy fetishes and has a general failure at keeping them under wraps, he constantly is all "wanna feed my fetishes" to everyone--and he just gives every girl I know a bad vibe. Y, recently, got confronted by a female friend of mine(christian), who wanted to tell him outright--he is creepy. I told her it wouldn't work. His response? "I was in a bad place back then." and "Everything is okay now." and "God has put it right." alongside "No other girl has told me this, I don't feel that I'm creepy, it's just you, so you must be wrong."(in so many words). He was absolved of his creepiness. Couldn't be creep

Comment by Gordon W Maples on February 7, 2011 at 2:14am
That mentality truly frightens me. I've spoken to people that firmly believe that being a good person is absolutely irrelevant, and that the *only* thing that matters is giving yourself to Jesus. Just last week I was told that "the world tells you to do what is right; that doing right is enough. But it isn't. You have to accept his love, or it is all for nothing." This valuing of an outlandish concept set forth in an archaic morality text of controversial and dubious origins over being a well-meaning decent person is just sick. It is a diseased, deluded, and alarmingly dangerous mentality. Luckily, not all of the religious community is like this. It is certainly enough of the community for me to feel concerned, however.
Comment by Jonel Burge on February 7, 2011 at 1:50am

"love" anyone.

Dunno why there's a character limit.

Comment by Jonel Burge on February 7, 2011 at 1:48am

I will take the one good quote I have heard from Two and a Half Men:

"So you believe in the vengeful old-testament Santa?"

I wonder about people, really, who follow this old-testament god, who believe that 9/11 was because New York was a homosexual epicenter, who think that the Tsunami was because the people there didn't believe in their sky daddy, who think that Katrina happened because of the amount of African-Americans who live there.

Once, I was on a christian nerd forum--I'm still friends with a lot of people from it because they're all pretty kind, and rather nerdy, and nerdery really brings people together. But on the nerd forum, a freaking fruit loop shows up.

To warn us about IMPENDING DOOM, and telling us that Florida, you know, SOON, after the Tsunami that hit Thailand, that god was going to take his vengance upon Florida for hoarding the world's wealth from the christians, and that soon, with all their hummers and McMansions, Florida was going to break off from the US, become an island, and soon after, sink into the ocean.

And this person seemed both terrified and thrilled at this happening--

Somehow, I think it's the same way with the people who believe it. They are scared, of course, of retribution should they question the storm, but also happy it's not them, and of course, happy when it's a group of people they are already previously seeing as sinful, whether it's homosexuals or Thai or African-Americans--because of course, the us vs. them mentality that these simpletons often have about the world, reduces it to this: They(christians or small cult grup) are chosen(cult mentality as well), enlightened, better, while the rest of the world deserves to die, deserves to go to hell, and should skydaddy show it with mass deaths and suffering, they are pleased with it.

Perhaps the best one is "you're going to burn in hell for rejecting his love!"

Oh no, if god exists, I'm quite sure he doesn't

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