Pop Culture and the Normalizing of Anti-religion

For some time, I’ve seen trends in the way pop culture turns society’s values upside down. TV has become a favorite vehicle for this process.

First comes humor or sympathetic inuendo, then regularity, and eventually a politically correct attitude and legal protection.

Take abortion for example. First came the stories of back alley abortions. In this case, legal protection came next. Then regularity, or normalcy, followed by a politically correct attitude that sneers at pro-life.

Or pornography. First “adult bookstores” and people that frequented them were joked about. Then TV programs like Cheers and Friends normalized viewing porn, and now it is considered free speech and protected by our constitution.

Go back further to divorce which once was considered something shameful. Along come shows like The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family, and we started talking about blended families as a normal part of the culture. Laws that once limited who could file for divorce soon became “no fault,” and now it is a rare occurrence even for a pastor to suggest divorce is something God hates.

We could go on to sex outside marriage or gay rights or animal rights or spanking children or any number of topics. You get the idea.

Well, the latest subject under attack is … God. Or so it would seem. A new movie is out, starring a good number of A-list actors, called The Invention of Lying. Today our paper (the Whittier Daily News) ran a review. The premise, it seems, is innocuous enough. The characters in the story world do not know about lying. Consequently everyone tells the truth, all the time (no fiction or tact—evidently, “telling the truth” means a person has to say whatever is on his mind). Until one loser writer invents lying.

At that point, however, the movie, according to the review, turns from silly to thoughtful because it begins to address The Biggest Lie—religion—exploring what that one lie can do to help or limit the human race.

Did you catch that? This is not a discussion about whether religion is a lie or not. That, apparently, is a given. We’re moving on, in other words, in the cultural upheaval process, to normalizing this belief.

Coincidentally, I saw something similar, albeit on a smaller scale, last night on a TV show called Lie to Me. Two of the “good guys” were sent to a cult to see if the leader was perpetrating tax fraud. In the process, one of the good guys makes a disparaging comment about prayer or God—I don’t remember which. The other good guy said, What’s wrong with praying when you need help? Good guy #1 says any other time people talk to someone who isn’t there, it’s called delusional. Then the show moved on.

The statement sat there unchallenged.

Seems I remember hearing that book buyers need to hear the title of a book seven times before it really starts to register. I wonder if it’s the same with “God is a lie.”

How long before our culture is adding to the “truth bucket,” alongside such fallacies as gays are cool, God is a lie and so is religion?

Published in: on October 6, 2009 at 4:07 pm  Comments (7)  
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  1. Well, to be fair to the Brady Bunch, it’s not said that the two spouses’ marriages ended in divorce. Greg, the dad, is a widower, and it’s not actually said that Carol (the mom) is a divorcee either. The movie A Very Brady Sequel did say Carol’s husband was dead, but the movies are in a separate continuity from the show. The mom in the Partridge Family was also a widow, and I don’t know if the show had a new father. So I don’t think those shows actually had anything to say about normalizing divorce.

    I now return you to your regularly scheduled program. 🙂


  2. I thought the same thing, Jason, about those two shows. They did help divorce, though in that they said blended families and single parent families are cool. They were conceived for the divorced families, not the widowed, but they did exactly what Becky is talking about here–they introduced their “truth” in an acceptable manner first. First single-parent families with the parent being a widow are fine. And then a few years later it is fine for the single parent to be divorced or never married (Murphy Brown).

    About the “God is a lie” thing–that was the story in the Soviet Union, right? Religion was the Opiate of the Masses. So it’s no surprise that we are accepting that as true. But there will always be a church that will not be overcome by the lies. A church that is the pillar and foundation of truth.

    The world? It will consider God to be a liar or a lie. It always has.


  3. In the just-released movie “The Invention of Lying”, the premise is that nobody ever tells a lie about anything. Then the main character learns how to lie. Apparently the big lie he tells is when he’s comforting his dying mother, and makes up the ideas of heaven and God. Because we all know they couldn’t possibly exist in a world that always told the truth.

    Sad, isn’t it?


  4. Jason, I did know the dad was a widower, but I’ve thought the very silence surrounding her first marriage was a tacit acceptance of divorce—sort of an early, don’t ask, don’t tell policy. I never watched The Partridge Family but was under the impression that divorce was part of the mix. My bad, it that’s inaccurate.

    Sally, I’d forgotten about Murphy Brown. That was a big jump at the time. Then along comes Friends and any number of other shows now, with gay or lesbian parents, and “marriage” and “family” are completely different cultural entities than the pre-media versions.

    And yes, the USSR did propound the idea that God is a lie. Yes, the church will prevail, but will there be a church in the US or will we become like the churches in cited in Rev. 2 and 3?

    Mark, I think that movie, which obviously expresses the thinking of the writers and probably the produces, directors, maybe actors, is very sad. And will probably have an influence on the culture. Recently Ravi Zacharias said (or I heard) that art starts out imitating life, but eventually life begins to imitate art. I think that’s where we’re at.



  5. You might be right about that, Becky. I just thought it unusual that The Brady Bunch would be cited as an example of moral decline. Growing up, I always heard it cited as a premier family-friendly show. The movies even poked some tongue-in-cheek humor at the Bradys being a wholesome group in the more jaded 1990s.

    Murphy Brown did make a splash, though. Then came Ellen, Will and Grace…it was pretty much downhill from there. Of course, with the massive fragmentation of the television universe, networks don’t have the audiences they used to, so fewer people are watching these shows. On the other hand, there is a *lot* of bad stuff in the multi hundred-channel universe.


  6. I totally agree with your comments Rebecca. During my bedrest I watched a lot of TV and was really disturbed by how normal it is to assume that God does not exist, religion is for crazy people, all children will have sex like animals therefore celibacy is impossible, raising a child without a mother or father by choice is just as good as having both, abortion is convenient and less damaging than letting a child live, etc. etc. etc. It’s really amazing how many people like me there are in the US but that we settle for the television and movies created by a small, atheistic, cynical, and black-humored minority that control Hollywood. I have also been reading a lot of books published by Christian and Orthodox Christian publishers and are amazed at the number of miracles that saints have effected over the centuries. These miracles were corroborated by many people, yet the media never reports on them and anyone who believes is automatically assumed to be crazy. It’s a really sad and cynical world we live in.


  7. Thanks for adding your perspective, SE. Jason gave a good sampling of the shows that desensitized us to “alternate lifestyles.” Even that term shows the change. In the 60s my mom took a college class in abnormal psychology that included a lot of what today is considered a choice we are to accept and accommodate.

    And you’re right—the media picks and chooses what they report, seemingly to propagate that which they believe and to denigrate that which they hate. Would Sarah Palin have received so much coverage when her book came out if the media didn’t think they could still poke fun at her? I wonder.



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