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Secular Themed Pre Meeting TV and Movie Viewings

Planning Time

1 week

Group Size

Any

Staff #

1

Event Date

Anytime

Introduction:

Several affiliates have let us know that they have begun to promote viewing of selected movies, documentaries, and TV shows prior to their scheduled meetings. Watching educational films or documentaries on the topics you are planning to discuss can add a whole new element to your group dynamic. Watching and discussing films before meetings encourages your members to engage with the material being discussed afterward even if they are at first unfamiliar with it. Documentaries such as Cosmos with Carl Sagan are often particularly salient to freethought groups, and runs in a continuous 14 part series that can be watched in parts for nearly an entire semester. Other good documentary ideas include Planet Earth, Jesus Camp, and Food Inc. While films with a secular theme can tie in well with most discussion topics, many films that are unassociated with the movement can also facilitate debate. The movies or shows you watch don't necessarily have to be educational. Watching something fun and light such as Life of Brian or South Park can be extraordinarily easy to promote, and will bring in people who might not otherwise be interested in secular campus group activities.

How To:

This is the easy part! If you flyer for your events regularly, you could try splitting your flyer into two halves, one promoting the film and the other promoting the discussion. Chalking around your campus can be particularly effective in gaining attention for your group and the movie you plan on watching. Your group could watch the Film/TV Show/Documentary immediately before your discussion, or alternatively you could schedule the viewing for a Saturday night as a social event at someone's apartment or house.

Below is a list of suggested movies that might appeal to your group membership. Links are included to sites where you can either purchase the materials or watch them for free (South Park). These are merely suggestions, and as one might guess there are a multitude of interesting TV and Movie viewing options available to you and your group.

Films / TV Examples:

Cosmos

 In the course of 13 fascinating hours, Cosmos spans its own galaxy of topics to serve Sagan's theme, each segment deepening our understanding of how we got from there (simple microbes in the primordial mud) to here (space-faring civilization in the 21st century). In his "ship of the imagination," Sagan guides us to the farthest reaches of space and takes us back into the history of scientific inquiry, from the ancient library of Alexandria to the NASA probes of our neighboring planets. Upon this vast canvas Sagan presents the "cosmic calendar," placing the 15-billion-year history of the universe into an accessible one-year framework, then filling it with a stunning chronology of events, both interstellar and earthbound.

NOVA

 NOVA's approach, developed over more than a quarter century, is to select a scientific topic of great interest to viewers and then produce a film that is as entertaining as it is informative, using the tools of good pacing, clear writing, and crisp editing. Equally important, NOVA shows the human story behind the science story. Whether exploring a galaxy or an atom, the series delves into the personalities responsible for the discoveries, and the social consequences of events in the lab.

 Jesus Camp

The feverish spectacle of a summer camp for evangelical Christian kids is the focus of Jesus Camp, a fascinating if sometimes alarming documentary. The film follows a charismatic teacher, Becky Fischer, as she trains young soldiers in "God's Army" at a camp in North Dakota. The documentary paints a frightening picture of young children eager to pursue their "calling" as pint-sized preachers; elsewhere, the visions of children speaking in tongues and falling to the floor in ecstasy are even more troubling.

Frontline

 Since its inception, Frontline has never shied away from tough, controversial issues or complex stories. In an age of anchor celebrities and snappy sound bites, Frontline remains committed to providing a primetime venue for engaging documentaries that fully explore and illuminate the critical issues of our times. Frontline remains the only regularly scheduled long-form public affairs documentary series on American television, producing more hours of documentary programming than all the commercial networks combined.

 Mythbusters

It's a tough job separating truth from urban legend, but the MythBusters are here to serve. Each week special-effects experts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman take on three myths and use modern-day science to show you what's real and what's fiction. That's right, they do more than explain how something may or may not be scientifically possible. Through trial and error they actually demonstrate it.

 The God Who Wasn't There

Holding modern Christianity up to a merciless spotlight, this bold and hilarious new film asks the questions few dare to ask. And when it finds out how crazy the answers are, it dares to call them crazy. Director Brian Flemming lays the evidence for his claim that Jesus Christ is likely a fictional character, a legend never based on a real human. Flemming shows how Christian doctrine contradicts itself at every turn, and encourages immorality when it serves the religion. He also discusses his view that the beliefs of moderate Christians make even less sense than those of extremists.

 Root of All Evil?

In this two part documentary, Atheist and scientist Richard Dawkins visits England, America and Israel interviewing prominent people of faith; Islamic, Hasidic Jews, and the new Christian sects popping up throughout the world, and expressing his view of the extent to which this fanaticism has degraded our civilization, and will continue to degrade it.

 The Man from Earth

The plot of this film focuses on John Oldman, a departing teacher who claims to be a Cro-Magnon (or Magdalenian caveman) who has somehow survived for over 14,000 years. The only setting is in and around Oldman's house during his farewell party, with the plot advancing through intellectual arguments between Oldman and his fellow faculty. A shocking twist in this film occurs when John reveals himself to be Jesus Christ.

 Letting Go of God

Letting Go of God is a humorous monologue by Julia Sweeney chronicling her search for God. She begins in the Catholic church, the religion her family raised her in, and takes a Bible study class. What she learns there leads her to new questions, and in search for answers she explores meditation, Buddhism and New Age gurus, then describes what she learned from the sciences and from sharpening her critical thinking skills. She discovers that to accept the truth leads to surprising revelations. She concludes by sharing how this effects her family.

 8: The Mormon Proposition

In 2009, thousands of LGBT citizens are denied almost 200 civil rights their straight, married counterparts enjoy through civil marriage. Some states have signaled progress. But amid the progress, The Mormon Church, with its front-group THE NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR MARRIAGE, has been coordinating, financing and leading the effort to stop the advancement of marriage equality for more than three decades. Through never-before seen documents, recordings & insider-interviews, 8: THE MORMON PROPOSITION, exposes the efforts of the Mormon Church and its members to halt nearly every piece of LGBT legislation on the desks of lawmakers from Hawaii to New York.

 The Atheism Tapes

Jonathan Miller's 'The Atheism Tapes' explores the development of atheism as a singular mode of being, clarifying quite spectacularly the emergence of secular thought over the past 500 years. Featuring interviews with Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Arthur Miller, Colin McGinn and other secular luminaries, it is a MUST see.

 Planet Earth

More than five years in the making, Planet Earth redefines natural history film-making as we know it. The 11-part series will amaze viewers with never-before-seen animal behaviors, startling views of locations captured by cameras for the first time, and unprecedented high-definition production techniques. Award-winning actress and conservationist Sigourney Weaver is the series' narrator in the US; however, in the BBC version, the series is narrated by the always entertaining David Attenborough.

 Inherit the Wind

Even though all the names were changed, the 1960 film "Inherit the Wind" was clearly about the real-life Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925, which pitted Darwin's theory of evolution against creationism in court. Spencer Tracy and Fredric March played Henry Drummond and Matthew Harrison Brady, characters based on the real-life court opponents Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan.

 Religulous

Bill Maher incurs the wrath of multiple religious zealots of myriad faiths in Religulous, a snarky but unexpectedly powerful documentary. Maher bluntly disputes the value of religion in a world made increasingly dangerous, on the one hand, by fanaticism of all kinds and the human race's environmental self-destructiveness on the other. No one is immune from Maher's dogged questions about the illogic and negative fallout of doctrines that advocate violence or shun scientific evidence or marginalize minorities or punish anyone who disagrees with any religion's extreme tenets. Maher takes his inquiries to the Vatican; to small, evangelical Christian churches; to Jerusalem; to Amsterdam (where elements of an increasingly vocal Muslim community have shown violence toward critics); to a large, African-American church in a big city; and to several bizarre theme parks celebrating creationism and the life of Jesus.

 Food, Inc.

Food, Inc. is an eye-opening documentary that discusses the current method of raw food production, and how that production is largely a response to the growth of the fast food industry since the 1950s. The production of food overall has more drastically changed since that time than the several thousand years prior. Controlled primarily by a handful of multinational corporations, the global food production business - with an emphasis on the business - has as its unwritten goals production of large quantities of food at low direct inputs resulting in enormous profits, which in turn results in greater control of the global supply of food sources within these few companies. Food Inc. shows how issues of health and safety are brushed aside by the companies, and are often overlooked by government in an effort to provide cheap food regardless of these negative consequences.

 South Park

Over its amazing 15 season run, the Emmy winning comedy series South Park has managed to confront almost every major divisive cultural issue of our time. Whether it be the bank bailouts, stem cell research, scientology, or drug use; South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone continue to push the envelope as they relentlessly lampoon and satirize many topics people consider to be beyond reproach. Below is a list of South Park's more controversial episodes with a focus on issues related to religion or secularism.

 Monty Python's Life Of Brian

Irreverent satire of Biblical films and religious intolerance focuses on Brian, a Jew in Roman-occupied Judea. After joining up with an anti-Roman political organization, Brian is mistaken for a prophet, and becomes a reluctant Messiah.

 Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed

Academic freedom is being suppressed, says Ben Stein. He contends that professors from around the United States are being fired from their jobs for promoting, or even exploring the possibility of, intelligent design as an alternative to Darwinism. Stein interviews the expelled academics and other supporters of intelligent design. He also interviews the scientists in the mainstream, who support Darwinism. Stein links Darwinism to Nazism, Communism, eugenics and abortion. Vintage clips of educational films and Hollywood movies are used to illustrate points in a satirical way

 Penn and Teller: Bullshit!

Using a combination of set ups, descriptions, rants and film of practitioners, Penn & Teller show the Bull Shit that's everywhere. The initial show covers mediums or Talkers to the Dead. Penn Jillette explains in the first program that while calling someone a liar or a con man is actionable, "Bull Shit" is safe. Each show has a topic such as Mediums, Fenn Shui, or various medical devices. Using humor and experts, they debunk the Bull shit.

Cats Made of Rabbitsrabbit boobs

Cats Made of Rabbits is the brand new Stand-Up Comedy release from Keith Lowell Jensen. Jensen is the renowned "Atheist Comedian" and he returns to his hometown, sells out his favorite independently owned comedy club and spews utterly sincere filth for over an hour. Watch it on Sunday morning. It's almost as funny as church but without the terrible music and constant begging for money. Jensen gives you the best or at least the most obscenity laden yet still scientific arguments to use against creationists, shares his dirtiest, most disturbing and most innocent childhood memories and manages throughout to keep his wretched blasphemy kind and full of love.

Flock of Dodos

In a light-hearted take on the culture wars, FLOCK OF DODOS tweaks egos and pokes fun at both sides in the evolution vs. intelligent design debate. Evolutionary biologist and filmmaker Dr. Randy Olson rides along with jargon-impaired scientists and jargon-rebranding intelligent designers as they engage in the comic theatrics that erupt wherever science and religion clash over the origins of life. From the shadowy, well-funded headquarters of the pro-intelligent design Discovery Institute in Seattle to the rarefied talk of Olson s science buddies around a late-night poker table, FLOCK OF DODOS lends a thoughtfully critical ear to the wonderful personalities and passions driving the Darwin wars. 

The Nature of Existence

Noted for his quirky 1997 documentary TREKKIES, director Roger Nygard has taken his open-minded attitude and aptitude for locating incredible/insane people, and applied it to answering the big question: Why do we exist? By locating beliefs in their geographical origins the link between culture and faith is exposed, and the beauty of the landscape and architecture is just as compelling as the views expressed in them.

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