Agora has been out for sometime, but has only just reached the video store for me. And what a refreshingly tragic and true story that really hits me where I like it. I speak of the emphases of the story, not the vile way which the story ends.
Hypatia is the Greek woman philosopher who is trying, like her many Greek and Roman scholarly predecessors, to further the understanding of science and the world. Leave it to the horrid and unutterably foul nature of religion to screw her studies, along with the advancement of modern society as well.
I generally watch biopics with the purpose of being fascinated by the environments that encompass their protagonists, as well as the delicious drama that often comes with. I generally leave with an enlightened view of the world, especially after I do my research on the validity of the story. In this case, on the contrary, I was truly beyond enlightened, and all my philosophies on how I feel about invisible gods were validated.
The newly found Christianity at the time is represented by a riotous mob. What a visual indeed. Rome is trying to contain the situation without success. The Roman citizens decide to take it out on these out-of-control Christians who run around denouncing everyone else’s religion. The result? The mob wins. Rome declares the Christian mockery of other religions valid, and gobs of Christians raid the great library of Alexandria, destroying all the knowledge that was helpful to the world of science. Hypatia is crushed emotionally.
When the Jews clash with the Christians, matters get completely out of hand in a gargantuan religious bloodbath of death. The Christians win out by force of numbers because there’s too many of them. The Roman prefect has turned to Christianity, fine, but when the self-proclaimed leader of the Christians, the crafty mister Cyril, reads from the mighty, yet curiously invalidated writings of St. Paul, the section of which degrades the sovereignty and value of being a woman, Hypatia becomes instantly deemed a witch. This “witch” is the prefect’s best friend and advisor, so sadly for him, and more importantly, for her, she has to be dealt with. Wikipedia describes in detail the scene of her death, and the movie nearly mimics this description. The end of Hypatia is excessive in unnecessary violence; an utterly horrifying way to die at the hands of a riled-up and clearly misguided group of Christians.
The story spells the disaster of religion. Without religion, the internet and many other scientific advances would have been here years ago. Even clearer is the continued lack of any presence of the God figure. What I find interesting about the notion of God and religion is how this figure only exists in the writings of men. What also rang clear in the movie was how the people blindly followed the words of Paul, a man who never even met Christ. Why do people follow Paul’s writings? Cyril, the Christian leader in this case, used it to control people. The name of Christ is used in the writings, so it must be what Christ actually wanted, right?
Of course it is known that the Greeks and Romans had gods, but it seems this did not affect nor deter the pursuit of science. Their system of gods revolved around mythological tales, and there grew something inherently different between the study and worship of these myth gods, and the presence of people who emerged to claim to know a singular almighty “God” up close and personally; an all empowering god with ulterior motives of his own, motives personified by the people who claim to have found him. The catch here, really, is that the monotheist system is essentially centered in myth as well. Add to all this the notion that American democracy is loosely similar to the Roman Republic in which senators represented districts to hash matters out, irrespective of mythological god input. The arrival of “The Church” changed all that for a long, long time.
I’ve read the Bible, Old and New Testament. I’ve studied theology and Christian science more than I’ve ever professed here, and there’s one thing all these studies all have in common: all the writing is written and printed by men. I’ve never heard anything from an invisible figure. And neither did Hypatia, my forever hero. The poor woman died terribly, all by the horrid nature of religion. If there really is an after life, I would hope to meet her, and I would ask her to marry me, though she would reject me just as she did the Roman prefect, because of the pressing love she had for the pursuit of truth, philosophy and science.
Religion saddens me, and that so many people still to this day believe so passionately, quite frankly scares me. People need inner peace and well being, and maybe religion brings that to them, but why does the world have to continue to abide by the mass majority of religious believers that still cannot prove the supernatural even exists. The atmosphere seems less hostile than ancient Alexandria was at the Agora, but is it really? Do they not still bicker about whose god is better than whose, about who should be “converted” to what? Is not the country rife with hyper-vigilance by the presence of religious fanatics that want to kill people? Do Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc. love people who don’t believe in anything? The last question I can answer from my own, real life personal experience. What is strange is how the Christian is supposed to express love, and in the face of the cold disdain I receive from the people who toss me off as hellbound, I find I don’t feel hostility in return. I am, however, perpetually startled by the insistence that the supernatural exists; I am startled that religion ever pervades in its most archaic, prehistoric forms during the modern age when grown men should simply know better. I take that tone because it seems like people of religion feel like they need to evangelize me.
[My disclaimer for this post: I generally like to spend many hours of contemplation and writing and editing before publishing, but I find I am extremely jammed packed with work currently, thus the essay could include more elaboration. I profess, however, the story of Hypatia may return for a more exclusive discussion of words, especially in light of just how wronged this perfectly blameless woman was.]