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The Problems of Religion as Seen Through Monty Python's Life of Brian

Essay by   •  December 17, 2010  •  Research Paper  •  3,781 Words (16 Pages)  •  1,864 Views

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The main teachings of many the world's most popular religions are to spread peace, love, and kindness, yet each of these religions cannot seem to refrain from arguing, attacking, and scapegoating each other. Hardly a day goes by where one cannot turn on the news without hearing about people killing each other in the name of religion. In Israel, Palestinian terrorists suicide-bomb crowds of Israelis. In India, Hindus fight with Muslims. Such violent religious dissent is not only attributed to those of different religions, even people who follow the same religion, but of a different sect, are known to do battle with each other. The Sunni and the Shi'ite Muslims in the Middle East are constantly at odds with each other. Although not violent, all the different sects of Christianity argue about which one is best following God. In the film Monty Python's Life of Brian, directed by Terry Jones, nothing illustrates more how a religion can forget its true goals than the People's Front of Judea. Their main goal is to support each other in unifying the Jews and regaining the rule of the Holy Land of Judea from the pagan Romans, but their anger towards the Romans is forgotten and redirected towards the splinter groups: the Judean People's Front and the Judean Popular People's front, who have identical goals but different methods. As exemplified by the warring religious factions in Monty Python's Life of Brian, many religions in the world today are

hypocritical because they obsess over trivialities and procedure and lose sight of the true goals of group's founders, causing in them to act in a manner that contradicts the teachings of love, kindness, and respect for all human beings.

Early in the film, Brian meets a group of Jews discussing how they are oppressed by the Romans. He also feels oppressed by the Romans and wants to join them but when he mistakenly asks if they are the Judean People's Front he is met with hostility and learns that they are, in fact, the People's Front of Judea. Brian apologizes and assures them that he too hates the Romans. The People's Front say to him, "Listen. If you really wanted to join the P.F.J., you'd have to really hate the Romans. The only people we hate more than the Romans are the fucking Judean People's Front. Splitters. And the Judean Popular People's Front." The P.F.J. shows that despite their common goal, they hate the J.P.F. and the J.P.P.F. more than anybody simply because they split off with different methods of resisting the Romans. In ABC's of Scapegoating, Gordon W. Allport explains what scapegoating is an why people do it. Scapegoating is where "some of the aggressive energies of a person or a group are focused upon another individual, group, or object: the amount of aggression and blame being either partly or wholly unwarranted" (9). So, in other words, when someone is unable to deal with a problem he may take out his anger on someone who had nothing to do with it. Similarly, on a larger scale, when a group of people faces a large social crisis, they may place the blame for that crisis on another undeserving group based on their prejudice for that group. Allport provides a good example of the idea:

In times of social crisis our deprivations are multiplied many times: prices are

high, so too are taxes; war threatens; the H-Bomb hangs over us; we grow fearful. There is no direct action we may take to do away with these deprivations and threats, therefore we respond to our frustrations by scapegoating the Government, the Negro, Labor, the 'Reactionary' or the 'Communist' or the Foreigner, or the religion of the other fellow. (9)

Clearly the People's Front of Judea has misdirected their frustrations. Since they are only a small minority group, there is no way they can challenge the Roman Empire. So they have redirected their frustrations on the Judean People's Front; a much more convenient enemy. But in redirecting their anger they are accomplishing the exact opposite of what their original goal was. Instead of uniting the Jews against the Romans, they are becoming more divided and quarreling among themselves.

One reason for the hypocrisy exhibited by the People's Front of Judea is that their leadership is power-hungry. Reg, the leader, orders his followers in the P.F.J. to take several actions for their cause, but he never takes any action himself. He pretends to bring wisdom to the group to solve their troubles, but really only scapegoats another group for them to hate in order to unite them around himself. Allport illustrates how Reg scapegoats the other Jewish splinter factions and the Romans for his ambitions: "very important as a factor in scapegoating is the demagogue's desire for power. Scapegoating is a useful tool in his attempt to gain power, for it helps to achieve unity among supporters" (12). This, in effect, proves that Reg's motive is not entirely the desire to free the Jews from oppression and foreign occupation, if at all, but rather to gather power for himself. One moment where this is especially prevalent is when Reg says, "Right. Now, uh, item four: attainment of world supremacy within the next five years." This proves that he not only wants to return rule of Judea to the Jews, but that he has ambitions for supreme power.

In one scene Reg further displays that he is misguiding the intentions of his group when he tries to rally them in hate against the Romans. He is asking his followers what the Romans have ever done for them, the Jews. In a humorous exchange that follows, the people name off a list of helpful things that the Romans actually have contributed to the Jews. Still adamant about rallying them in hate Reg finally asks, "All right, but apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a fresh water system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?" After all this, despite the fact that they name off a litany of things that the Romans have done to help the Jews, they all still finally agree that they all hate the Romans. Allport explains that Reg "tells them that the group they hate is in fact responsible for their troubles, and that by rallying around him, the leader, they can most effectively defeat their enemy. The demagogue creates a bogey in order to solidify his own leadership" (12). In effect Reg is promising his followers a quick and easy solution to all the troubles in their lives. In actuality all their troubles are their own. By naming all the good things the Romans have done for them they show that the Romans are not actually causing them much trouble

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