Over the past year, I’ve taken note of (and been appalled by) the tendency of National Geographic to write uncritical articles about religion, miracles, and God. When I was young it was a magazine I’d devour avidly, for it was full of natural history, fantastic photographs, and travel stories.
Now under the aegis of Rupert Murdoch, the magazine and its parent organization are increasingly going the route of writing about religion. You can’t lose with that, right? Far more Americans want reassurance of eternal life than more information about deep-sea fish.
And so, thanks to Entertainment Weekly (EW; see also here), we learn that respected actor Morgan Freeman has descended to participating in a show that appears to be an uncritical look at “evidence” for God and, especially, the afterlife:
Morgan Freeman’s new National Geographic docuseries The Story of God will premiere April 3 at 9 p.m. ET. Each episode will follow the actor as he discovers the religious experiences and rituals in different parts of the world, traveling to places like Vatican City, Jerusalem, Egypt, Guatemala, and Texas.
“I have always been fascinated by God,” Freeman says. “It’s my quest to understand human faith and discover how our beliefs connect us all in one epic story.” The actor previously played God in Bruce Almighty and its sequel, Evan Almighty.
But this seems far more restricted than the story of belief in God: it seems to be more the story of what we think will happen to us when we die.
. . . The breadth of Freeman’s journey is evident from the very beginning of the series. In this exclusive first look at the first five minutes, the 78-year-old recalls the deaths of his grandmother and brother before he was 18. “Everybody grieves,” he says. “But some people have a certainty that helps them cope with grief — they are certain they will see their loved ones again in heaven. For some of us, it’s not quite that simple. In fact, it’s the greatest question we ask ourselves: What happens when we die?”
As images of Freeman visiting the Mayan temples in Guatemala and pyramids of Egypt flash, he explains his “epic journey” as one “to discover what we believe lies beyond death and why.”
The show really needs to absorb Voltaire’s famous dictum: “The interest I have in believing in a thing is no proof that such a thing exists.” In fact, that’s a statement that hasn’t been assimilated by any religion.
Do you think Freeman will interview any atheists who will tell him that beyond death lies the extinction of consciousness and conversion of our bodies into a putrifying mass that then gets nommed by worms and bacteria?
Have a look at the first six minutes, which EW has as a trailer. Click on the screenshot to go to the video page, where you’ll see that part of the show involves seeing “how science is trying to capture the soul”. And, of course, the show concentrates on near-death experiences.
Oh, National Geographic, I beseech you in the bowels of Ceiling Cat, think it possible you may be mistaken.