Religion in the 'Life of Pi' movie

Last night my sister, wife and I went along to our local cinema, The Luxe Cinema, which is a small independant cinema in Wisbech complete with a plush bar and comfy leather sofas (a fantastic cinema experience) to watch 'Life of Pi'.

The Film

Having not read the book which this film is based on I was taken by surprise by the strong theme of religion that runs throughout the story. Pi is searching for meaning in his life and is searching for God as well as having a fantistical survival journey to live through. Pi ends up with a whole mixture of religions in his life including Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. Indeed, Pi calls upon God during his struggle for survival, he prays and truly believes God is there - although he believes there are many paths that all lead to God, so he believes following any religion is ok.
Pi's father brings some wisdom early in the film. He does not agree with religion and warns Pi that he should stay away from religion because religion is darkness and trouble. And later when Pi was trying to follow several religions all at once he tells Pi that by following every belief that comes along shows he does not believe anything at all - he should choose one belief and go with that.

My Thoughts

In a society where religion is shunned and often ignored I was genuinely surprised to find it in such a popular and main-stream film. Although I do not agree with all the conclusions reached in the movie, I think it does create a platform for a healthy discussion.
I'm pleased that searching for God is still ok. There are lots of people searching for meaning, for freedom, for belonging in their lives. The search will always be there and I believe the answer can only be truly found in a relationship with God through Jesus Christ - I'm glad this aspect of the human condition is explored in this film.
Althoug I am looking at Pi's father's statements from a different perspective in which he made them, what he said is actually good stuff:
1. Religion is darkness and trouble - I agree!
Let me first define religion: 'human effort and endeavour by following rules and ritual in order to try to obtain a man-made holiness so to escape the troubles of the reality of the human experience'. I believe this definition could be applied to any religion. Religion in and of itself is empty and hollow. It only serves to bind up those who try to achieve something that they are unable to achieve through their own efforts, thus heaping guilt and a sense of failure upon them. I also disagree with Christianity as being defined as a 'religion', although there are those who sadly do follow it and treat it as such. For me, Christianity is not a religion. It is a relationship! A relationship with a loving, alive and active God who is interested in participating with us within the human experience, rather than helping us to escape from it. Our vital and alive relationship with Jesus helps us to live life the way God intended it to be before sin entered the world - however we acknowledge that we on our own in our sinful human condition are completely unable to achieve this without the power of the living God working within us, through our relationship, changing us and growing us into who God intended us to be from the beginning.
2. A mixture of beliefs does not work
There is a religion that exists which believes in the plurality of belief called Ba'hai. It follows the thinking that all roads lead to God. That God has revealed himself in a number of different ways in a variety of cultures, so as long as you believe something, you will be alright, you are talking to God.
This opens up a whole lot of problems for me: What do you do with those religions that teach there is only one god with those that believe in a whole host of gods of greater and lesser importance? What do you do with some fundamental differences between religions (eg. Jesus is The Son of God vs. Jesus was only a prophet, someone else is the son of god)? What do you do with exculsive claims/beliefs within religions (eg. Jesus is the only way to God, there is no other door to the Father but through Jesus)
Surely a pick-and-mix belief system is dangerous. It is basically an individual human construct as you are the master of your destiny, you choose what to agree with, what to disagree with, what is truth and what is not. It is all up to you. This is also at the foundation of individualism and secular humainsm - we are the masters of our own destiny. If it feels right to you then it is alright for you to do. This is a purely selfish and exclusive way of thinking that tries to make the individual divine - it just doesn't work because we are not God!

Feedback and Comments

  • So have you watched the movie? What did you think?
  • Do you agree/disagree with the statement that all religions lead to god?
  • Is religion about ritual and rules or about a relationship?
I would love to hear your thoughts on the ideas above. It is good to wrestle with things, to know why we believe what we say we believe. I look forward to reading your comments below.


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