Director: Tommy O’Haver
This film has been on Netflix for two months or so, but I only watched it now. It is certainly worth watching because it tackles an important issue.
That important issue is secularism. Thus, in the US it used to be mandatory to pray in schools and morning prayers were imposed to all children whether Christian, atheist or even of some other religion. Therefore, crusade lasted much longer than history records it.
Madalyn Murray O’Hair came to school one day in 1963 and realised that this is happening. She immediately kicked off and asked how other children, non-Christian in particular, feel about this and whether their parents know they are being forced to pray to a divinity they do not believe in. This is how American Atheists were born. The organisation exists until present day (official website) and tirelessly fights for strict separation of religion and the state. In the US, this is possible because of the 1st amendment in the US Constitution that grants this right. However, in practice religion (and as organisation states, Christianity in particular) is imposed on everyone. The role of the organisation, since its inception, is to challenge this and file lawsuits whenever political institutions do anything that promotes religions. The film has shown this vividly, and it has correctly portrayed Madalyn’s appearance in the media. It also portrayed her abduction and murder by her former staff member, a convicted felon she stupidly trusted.
The film has come in a good time, for now again we are witnessing the same issues Madalyn was fighting since 1963 when her activism first started. Once again there is the Far Right that is trying to impose religion in the public sphere. In doing so, they are advocating martyrdom of Christians who are allegedly not allowed to celebrate Christmas while in reality nobody is trying to ban Christmas except that some want to opt out and not celebrate it, because they are either not Christians or they come from Christian background but consider themselves to be atheist or agnostics.
I am personally religious and I like observing my holidays and traditions and attending services whenever I can. These traditions are holy for me, but what is also holy for me is the right for everyone to refuse to be the part of that or any other tradition, as well as my right to refuse to be part of traditions I do not believe in. This is now challenged by the Far Right and by those who would want things to be the way they were 50 or 60 years ago when Christianity was imposed even more aggressively than today on anyone and when racism was a normality.
A very timely film reminding us that some values should not be compromised and what are those who claim to be religious capable of doing for enforcing their views. While Madalyn was not murdered by a religious fanatic, these fanatics were trying to intimidate her into submission and scare her from fighting for freedom to refuse to be religious.
I have never been a Marxist, but I still remember childhood during Communist Yugoslavia when ALL religions were banned in the public sphere but we were allowed to attend services and celebrate quietly in our homes. I understand some people would find this oppressive but I actually think it was nice now when I can compare with what is happening today.
Anyway, a timely film and a must watch for all people who believe in the freedom of choice and equality. Hasta la Victoria Siempre!
Thank you for reading.