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Why do we believe?

Querying Faith:Morgan Freeman seeks understanding of religion  

With fault lines erupting across the globe based on differences in faith, religion has come under the scanner for its divisive tendencies. Every religion has fringe elements trying to takeover the mainstream discourse.

In this scenario, National Geographic Channel’s six-part documentary, The Story Of God , anchored by Morgan Freeman, seeks to understand how religion evolved through the course of civilisations and how it has shaped society as we know it. Throwing light on the similarities between different faiths, the show zeroes in on affinity. Each of the six episodes deals with one big question about the divine: creation, death, apocalypse, god, miracles and evil.

Highlighting the need for god and religion, Freeman in a telephonic interaction said, “I think throughout human existence there have been questions. Many of them unanswerable, and in those unanswerables, god dwells.”

Freeman was joined in the conversation by James Younger, the director of the series, and Lori McCreary, CEO of Revelations Entertainment, the producers.

Voice of God

Known for his smooth and deep voice, Freeman has played God in Bruce Almighty and its sequel Evan Almighty ; this makes him an apt choice as host for the show.In the series, he projects genuine curiosity and keenness to learn, exuding surprise without betraying disbelief and scepticism.

To be aired from tomorrow, the series starts with an episode titled Beyond Death, which takes the viewers to the realm of what has perhaps always scared us: mortality and how it is dealt with. The episode begins with an interaction with David Bennet, a diver who shares his near-death experience, remaining underwater for 18 minutes without any air. Bennet recounts encountering colourful light asking him to return as he had a purpose to serve. From there, the action moves to Egypt, to uncover the oldest known belief in life beyond death, within the ancient pyramid tombs. The inscriptions of magical spells found in tombs, ostensibly meant to help the Pharaohs navigate to the other world, proves how just old humanity’s obsession with the afterlife is. The quest continues in the modern day world too, as we get to know about Martine Rothblatt, who has apparently downloaded her partner’s memories and consciousness into a robot, in pursuit of digital immortality.

The Hindu way

Inevitably, later in the show, Freeman makes his way to the city of light: Varanasi. There he talks to Swami Varishthananda at the famous cremation ghats about the Hindu belief in reincarnation and the cycle of rebirth until the attainment of moksha .

When asked how he perceives Hinduism, Freeman observes that Hinduism is “different from other religions, and maybe the most fascinating because of the differences. Monotheism, as opposed to polytheism, gives you pause for reflection about god, gods, and our relationship to them. I was personally really in a spiritual limbo dealing with Hinduism because, for one thing, it seems to be a very up, up religion. Everybody’s kind of happy about it. There didn’t seem to be a downside there, necessarily. You choose what you want and then go for it.”

Agreeing with him, McCreary found it interesting that in Hinduism there are so many gods and the individual chooses one or two from them. Making polytheism sound rational, she says, “In a way it’s like a different manifestation of your experience of god. Whether you say its millions of gods or millions of experiences of god, in a way, I felt there was a deep connection.”

On the other hand, Younger was fascinated with their experiences in a temple near Pishach Mochan in Varanasi. This temple is especially significant during the period of shradh , where prayers are offered to ancestors. Younger found the concept of appeasing departed souls quite different from Judeo-Christianity’s concept of evil.

So do religions divide or unite? McCreary chose to reply on behalf of the trio. Pointing out that if one is looking to divide people, it could be factors like race and region. “I think that ignorance causes a lot of misunderstanding,” she says. “Quite frankly, we think, when we dug deeper, we found that there are much more similarities between us all and we hope that this will start a conversation at a deeper level.”

The Story Of

God seeks to

find similarities between different religions

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 9:31:55 PM |

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