The Giver and Atheism

Lately the Mrs. and I love a good sci-fi movie. Last night we rustled through the Playstation store and came out watching The Giver (in cheaper standard definition, mind you). Well, in spite of the 36% at Rotten Tomatoes, I found it a tremendous film with a few notable weak moments. The high-powered cast was certainly a head-turner (I mean, who expected Taylor Swift to make a couple quick appearances as an actual character?)


But the story itself was familiar: a dystopian future appearing as a somewhat ideal world with hints of a dark secret – who hasn’t seen this before? But for The Giver, there was a deeper exploration of a specific theme (which is also familiar within the genre). Here in the small, isolated town-world of Jonas, our protagonist without a last name (as everyone else), everyone is the same, and everything is controlled by “the Elders” of the community. They’ve eliminated everything that creates conflict, you know, like color, sex, music, and even emotions (don’t forget your morning injection!) But the onion begins to be peeled as Jonas is chosen to be a unique memory keeper for the entire community. Fast forwarding (so I don’t spoil it), the central question becomes “what makes one a human being?”


I have this bad habit of trolling atheists on Twitter. I like to just put out my thoughts on atheism, just to see who is itching for an argument. Atheists are, in my experience, the most fundamentalist, evangelistic group in the Western world. They seem to keep step with Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons for zeal and self-confidence.

That’s the kind of people I like to spar with – those who are deeply convinced of their own right thinking, yet who have such an obvious, fully-visible flaw in their system of thinking.

For the atheist (or anti-theist), I almost feel bad arguing with them because it’s just so easy to win. They of course never, ever admit when they have been shown the fatal flaw, but that’s OK – it’s not up to me to convince them that deep down underneath the emotions and clever soundbite lines on Twitter, their reliance on the God of Scripture is absolute and inevitable.

What do I mean? Simply put, that there is no justification for using laws of logic and reasoned thinking if human beings are simply star dust in biomechanical suits having the illusion of meaningful lives for a cosmic moment, just before the void of space-time reabsorbs each of us into infinite nothingness.

Yeah, bummer.

They try to undermine the Bible, they attack Noah’s ark, they trash Genesis, they point out all the Christian hypocrisy in the world, and I just fold my arms and smile, breathe, and reply: but you claim to be a collection of blood, bones, and DNA that randomly, by chance, with no intelligent mind having planned for any of it, is having an argument about truth.

*Pause* You might as well be speaking in pure gibberish and eating aluminum nails, for there is no philosophical justification for rationality in atheism: the very thing you are begging we both assume in order to undo my Christianity. I can’t move beyond the irrationality of two specks of ultimately meaningless stardust arguing for who is right about “God,” because that doesn’t explain the universe we live in (at all!) – humans are more, so much more than that…

But what’s the real tragedy for the atheist? His degrading of his own humanity in order to sustain his protest against God’s governance of the universe. He counts himself as worth nothing more than a heap of atomic fruit, and in doing so he undercuts any reason to listen to him.

In The Giver, the Elders decided that what was best for humanity was to severely restrict our expression of our own selves, and our souls, if you will. Even the very color in the world is missing; people are not to touch one another, music is completely unknown, and love is “such an antiquated term it has lost all meaning,” (so said Katie Holmes’s gloomy mother character).

In this world, the only way to save humanity is to deny the essence of our humanness: that we are beautiful in our unity as a race, and in our diversity as individuals. The Elders denied that colorful, beating heart of our race so that they could keep us safe from ourselves… and they essentially denied that there is anything more to human beings than being objects of governance. No ultimate meaning is needed, no goal (or telos) in the community being governed, but to continue forward safely, to flourish in so far as flourishing is the survival of the best DNA… in other words, to perpetuate a genetic coil is the end-all-be-all in The Giver, as it is for the atheist… and neither has a rational explanation for why survival is preferred over annihilation.

If we are but biomechanical suits, and only that, why should we care if we live on to a new generation?

If we are but peons to be governed and managed, why should we care if we are governed and managed?

You see, both the Elders in The Giver, and the atheist in… well, this neighborhood I am sitting in, and those in your neighborhoods, are deeply conflicted between what they say about humanity, and how they actually treat humanity.

In The Giver, the Elders keep one person in a secret house on the edge of the known world, and this person is the “receiver of memory” – this person is the sole possessor of the collective memories of what humanity was like before the Sameness was imposed – and this receiver is the one person to whom the Elders may go to gain wisdom and guidance for difficult questions of policy. But you see – this very idea of a need for direction, for wisdom, for a vision of what is “good” versus what may be “bad,” or “evil” begs the questions of the purpose of human life – and leads to the unraveling of the imposed Sameness! The receiver of memory will be the restorer of memory – for humanness by its nature demands freedom to be all that God invested in us!

And in this real world, the atheist betrays his atheism each time he smiles at his children, each time he closes his eyes to enjoy a particularly cold, crisp swallow of ale, or each time he finishes a poem and can’t wait to share it with his friends and family. In fact, the only thing that might somewhat be consistent with the atheist beliefs would be to simply kill oneself immediately, and to get free of this terrible illusion of life, happiness, sadness, meaning, purpose, and joy. One might quickly end it all to ultimately prove to one’s atheist self that he is not, in fact, afraid of the logical end of his stated beliefs… but even in such an end, the tragedy and the horror would preach all the more loudly:

we are meaningful creatures. we are special creatures. we have a divine origin. we are moral creatures. we cannot escape every moment of our lives, every breath we take from preaching the glory of the One who made us, and of His apparent love and concern for us in our tragically broken humanness.

Will you remember your humanness, my atheist friend? Will you see that your unbelief and denial of your Creator is a giant parade of noise and color: an attempt to blot out the irrepressible voice deep within you, whispering… “I made you. You belong to me. You are not your own. I am your judge. Come to me. Come to me. ‘Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’” – Jesus, Matthew 11:28-30.

Thanks for reading,