The Church of Batman the Redeemer needs YOU!

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3 years ago

Bored of Buddhism? Sick of Scientology? Then the Church of Batman the Redeemer needs YOU!

So says a digital billboard in a futuristic street scene in Terry Gilliam’s 2013 film, The Zero Theorem.

I liked the film.  Whether you like it or not probably depends on whether you like Gilliam’s work or not. I won’t ruin it for you by telling you the plot or the moral, but basically it’s classic Gilliam.

Weirdly, the most persistent brain-worm I got from it was that throwaway line ‘The Church of Batman the redeemer’. Weirder still, it seems I’m not alone. Google ‘The Church of Batman the redeemer’ and you’ll see there has been quite a bit of interest.  It’s even got its own Facebook page.

Gilliam’s own explanation for ‘Batman the Redeemer’ comes from an interview with IGN. "We have to believe in something, don't we?  And I think comic book heroes are the new apostles, the new prophets. They're all there!"  He continues (mixing Marvel and DC) "Come on, I mean how is Marvel surviving? It’s because people believe in Batman and Superman and Marvel comics more than they believe in anything else."

He’s right.  Stories resonate or they don’t.  This single line resonated because everyone who hears it sort of gets it. Yes, you could probably build a philosophically consistent religion based around the Batman story.

So, tentatively circling the rabbit hole, what would the philosophy of The Church of Batman the redeemer look like?

Well, existentialism is a given.  Between the cold, indifferent streets of Gotham and its dark, starless sky there is no innate meaning or purpose. No divine justice.  No God. 

Is The Church of Batman the redeemer a religion for atheists?

“Without myth, however, every culture loses its healthy creative natural power: it is only a horizon encompassed with myth that rounds off to unity a social movement.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy

Nietzsche is one of the primary patriarchs of modern atheism, and there is definitely something Nietzschean in the Batman mythology.  Gotham itself is a metaphor for the Will to Power doctrine.  Each value system or morality is embodied in a villain, and they all war for supremacy e.g. Greed = Penguin, Nihilism = Joker.  Batman himself, just one more costumed character who is distinguished only by his victory. This is the key Nietzschean point.  Batman is right because he wins.  He does not win because he is right. There is no higher power or external morality system to validate him. No justice beyond what he imposes.

“The higher man is distinguished from the lower by his fearlessness and his readiness to challenge misfortune.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche, The Will to Power

But just how Nietzschean is Batman’s justice? Is he really an Übermensch? The morality he imposes on Gotham seems to be a herd morality.  Batman seems driven by the pain of his parent’s murder and a desire to protect the vulnerable. A real Nietzschean would embrace their strength and superiority. They would learn to love every aspect of their fate, even the tragedy.  Nietzsche’s ultimate doctrine, Amor fati, is forever beyond Batman’s reach.  In the end he chooses to remains that most un-Nietzschean of things, a tortured soul.

So if not truly Nietzschean then what?

No one saves us but ourselves”

― Gautama Buddha

Both the young Bruce Wayne and the young Buddha were members of the pampered elite.  They both had their illusions shattered by witnessing the ugly reality of the world.  They both were driven by their suffering and compassion to journey away from their homes to find a solution which they went on to share with their world.  The Buddha identified the cause of suffering as craving, Bruce identified it as injustice.  The Buddha went on to teach meditation and philosophy.  Bruce went on to beat the crap out of criminals each night.

So, what conclusion can we draw from all this silliness? 

I don’t actually want to convert you to a Batman religion. As far as I know no one does.  Even The Church of Batman the Redeemer’s Facebook page seems just to be about the memes.  But, if you did decide to start a major world religion, then you could do it with Batman as your founding mythology. Let’s face it, over the last 2000 years there have been some highly successful religions founded on far less ;)

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Written by
3 years ago