Wouldn’t you know it? Two weeks after I wrapped up this series, I received a request to add another post to it. Ashita is new to the world of aniblogging. I encourage you to check out his site, Ashita no Anime, and to read his wonderfully-written piece below.
How my religious life (now a lack thereof) relates to anime is a bit complicated. I promise you I will get to the point, but I feel there needs to be some background introduced first for this to all make sense.
I was born into a Roman Catholic family and went to a private Catholic school for my elementary and junior high years. But despite this upbringing, I never felt that I had religion forced on me. Mostly I feel my parents went along with the whole church thing because they wanted me to grow up around a higher class of people and so I could go to a school with smaller class sizes. A lot of things the church taught me didn’t make sense, even then. I was encouraged to seek the answers however I saw fit and never met any resistance to questioning my faith, but I was too young to really understand what was going on. Once I started high school, my family and I slowly stopped going to church. But at that time I still felt that I was connected with god.
What really changed me for the first time in my life was reading George Orwell’s 1984 during my senior year. For those of you who haven’t read it, the story introduced a new word into our lexicon called doublethink. What this means is accepting two contradictory ideas as both being true simultaneously. I was horrified that I might be committing acts of doublethink without even knowing it, so I began to look at my own life more closely and started to banish my hypocrisies.
And so I then went on to university the next year. I had recently watched Escaflowne on the old Fox Kids timeslot (yes, the really bad edits and dubs). It had gotten me interested in this “cartoons for adults” called anime. So I sought out the anime club. One day after the meeting, when we had finished watching the main attractions, the club officers showed anime they either liked or would make good discussion. This is when I was introduced to Elfen Lied. My wide-eyed 18 year innocence melted away amid the sprays of blood and nudity, but I wasn’t thinking about such things while I watched. I was feeling a connection to something larger than myself. Even now, I have trouble explaining it because up to then I never had a religious experience like all of my friends at church claimed to have had. So while those gorgeous, delicate female forms slaughtered their oppressors in the most viscerally satisfying ways possible, I felt this was my first connection with god. Whatever started that night in September 2004, I knew I had to see it through. I had to discover the message I was being told.
Coincidentally, at the same time I was taking philosophy, physics, biology, and geology. As Elfen Lied concluded and the classes continued it began to dawn on me that nearly everything I had accepted as true up to that point was woefully inadequate. Looking back now makes me laugh, but I had this crazy idea that college was the place you received training in order to get an easy desk job. As the rush of knowledge flowed into my eager mind I began to completely reevaluate everything. Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living,” and I knew truer words had never been spoken; greater and more powerful even than Jesus’s famous Golden Rule in Matthew 7:12, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” How could I know this was true simply at face value? I had to expand my knowledge through any means necessary and I started with philosophy, science and anime.
I looked for morals on how to guide myself within the shows that moved me. Elfen Lied taught me to always be true to yourself and others. Escaflowne demonstrated that no matter how misguided you are, it is never too late to correct your actions. AIR showed me how easy it can be to hurt people. Kino’s Journey revealed a world where it is possible to live simply taking joy in living. Gunslinger Girl broke the boundaries of what it really means to be alive and human.
And last were three anime that were pivotal during my journey away from faith to the person I am today.
Ef – a tale of memories showed me the folly and shallowness of the Golden Rule that Jesus taught us. I have subsequently written what I now call the Platinum Rule; it goes like this, “Do unto others as they wish you to do unto them.” The Golden Rule selfishly believes that we all want the same. But the Platinum Rule goes deeper and asks us to put ourselves in the shoes of others and then base our actions accordingly.
Many people tell me that the evil in Neon Genesis Evangelion are NERV and Seele. But I couldn’t disagree more. If Evangelion is based on the biblical creation story, then I can only see humanity as Frankenstein’s monster, left cold and abandoned to face the world alone with poor guidance and death lurking around each corner. It is only the natural progression of things that the creations of a cruel god not only CAN rise up against their creator, but SHOULD rise up and be vindicated. NERV and Seele are the heroes who will retake the future and freedom denied to us by the cruel hand of fate.
By now I had progressed quite far towards my path away from religion, but one final title would seal the deal. The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi shows how easy it is to create a god. Finally it all clicked. The fog that clouded my understanding cleared when I realized it was so simple. A god didn’t create us in his image – we had created gods in our image. And we could justify such a god’s existence by simply saying, “she doesn’t even know she’s god,” or “she just created the universe last night with all of our memories and history in place to give the illusion that we have been around much longer.” This solidified for me that religion has no firm basis in reality and was a kind of doublethink that I needed to purge in order to live my life freed from hypocrisy.
I’d like to be clear on this. Anime did not MAKE me an atheist. Science, philosophy and my own critical thinking brought me down this path. But anime certainly had a huge impact on my transformation from a confused catholic to the happy nonbeliever I am today.
P.S. My family knows about my atheism and I am on great terms with them. I love them more than anything else in the world.
- Aniblogger Testimony: Orthodoxy, Anime, & Me (beneaththetangles.wordpress.com)
- Aniblogger Testimony: Christian, Anime, Blogger (beneaththetangles.wordpress.com)
- Aniblogger Testimony: I believe in ghosts, Buddhism, and science (beneaththetangles.wordpress.com)