Journal of Religion and Film

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Carl B.Greiner

The Rapture: A Challenging Vision of Horror"

From Maria Maisto

[1] "Thank you, Dr. Greiner, for your thought-provoking essay on The Rapture. I find your comments on The Rapture to be just as applicable to The Devil's Advocate, which I have just seen (and which is worthy of a whole separate discussion!).

[2] "My question is: Do you think that most mainstream films (as opposed to art films like those of Bresson or Bergman) which deal with religion need to suggest strongly a psychological interpretation of religion -- in order to be made in the first place and to be taken seriously by critics? The question behind my question is: do you think the religion/psychological thriller/horror hybrid reflects a broader, twentieth-century reductionist attitude toward religion? This attitude sees religion as reducible to psychology and claims religion represents a "pre-modern," anti-scientific superstition. If the answer is yes, and you do think that mainstream film-makers must view religion reductionistically to get films made, I would love to hear your thoughts."

Response to Mario Maisto from the author, Dr. Greiner, M.D.

[3] Your question hits the mark. We are losing our collective capacity to think and feel in religious terms. Psychological language has been used as a "decoder system" for religious experience. Certainly psychology offers many valuable insights for both individuals and group therapy from attention to religious imagery (e.g., explaining Leviticus 16 in terms of scapegoating). And a film, such as The Rapture, that seriously invokes religious language, can be viewed easily as either a limited parochial piece, or as an only effective means to shock an audiences, or as simply a psychobiography of psychosis. However, I do not think this form of reductionism resides exclusively in Hollywood screenwriters, producers, and critics.

[4] Interestingly, clergy themselves are often hesitant to use religious language without some form of psychological translation. Pre-modern religious thought may receive praise as poetic or rich in metaphor. But accepting the claim that religious language may express a genuine reflection of reality is, in our more secular age, another matter entirely.

[5] Importantly, religious language in monotheistic religions can be intended to make radical demands for attention and regard. We have limited experience in accepting deep commitment as a response. A stance of informed skepticism is preferred. Hence an observer might refer to someone else's experience of "the sacred," but it is often only a report about the perception of the subject and not any acknowledgement of a Higher Power.

[6] An improved ability to think psychologically is a valuable too. However, it may have been gained at the cost of appreciating religious experience as a separate language with aspects that are untranslatable and irreducible.

More Discussion on this topic.

The Rapture   The Devil's Advocate

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