My wife and I are big Survivor fans. We've watched every episode of each season. "Survivor: South Pacific," which concluded last Sunday, was one of the most captivating series for this reality show.
Also, one of the most annoying for us, because religion played a much larger role in the interactions between the people trying to outwit, outplay, and outlast (the Survivor mantra) each other on the island until one becomes the "sole survivor."
One tribe was filled with obnoxiously explicitly devout Christians who regularly stood in a circle, held hands, prayed together -- and then proceeded to do their best to screw each other over. But since it was in the name of God, hey, no problem.
For example, good Christian "Coach" (Benjamin Wade) is shown asking God for guidance as he tries to decide whether to vote off good Christian Brandon. In a total non-surprise, God tells Coach to do what is in Coach's best interest.
After the vote is announced, and Brandon prepares to head to Redemption Island, a sort of purgatory where contestants have a chance to get back in the game, Coach hugs Brandon and says "It was God's will."
Total bullshit, which also is an excellent description of religion.
In "Survivor: South Pacific" the hypocrisy of religious believers was on full display. Christians promised to do one thing, and did something else. Christians professed their commitment to one another, then stabbed fellow tribe members in the back (figuratively).
Of course, this happens in every season of Survivor. That's why the show is so watchable: we get to see real people acting like we humans often do: deceiving, scheming, and manipulating to benefit ourselves while establishing enough social relationships to support those unsocial efforts.
This season, religion came to the fore as another tool for deceiving, scheming, and manipulating.
Jon Kraszewski summarizes the details in his post about the spirituality of Survivor: South Pacific. He correctly points out that the most spiritual contestant was non-religious Ozzy, a guy who is comfortable in both his own skin and in communing with nature (also, in Playboy TV sex scenes).
I tune in every week for the joy of watching Ozzy’s genuinely moral, selfless, humble, and spiritual game contrast with Coach and Brandon’s hypocritical one. Both gaming strategies involve aspects of excess, but the different ways to bring excess into the game speak to the split between Ozzy’s genuine game and Coach and Brandon’s phony game. Coach and Brandon’s excess ultimately comes through over-the-top performances of religious faith, which humorously and ironically point out Coach’s ego-centered motives and Brandon’s mentally unstable personality during moments when they claim to be charitable.
Nature-loving Ozzy was much more likable than God-loving Coach or Brandon, a fact that denied him a place in the finals, since his rivals knew that he'd get the votes of the jury (players already voted off) if Ozzy was one of the final three.
Indeed, Ozzy didn't win the million dollar first prize, but he won $100,000 by being selected as the season Fan Favorite, getting a larger proportion of votes than any Fan Favorite in other seasons. This shows that naturalness is more popular than sanctimoniousness, good news for us churchless folks.
I'm pretty sure that even most religious true believers don't enjoy over-the-top, in-your-face proclamations of faith. After all, didn't Jesus counsel to pray in secret? (Not that I believe Jesus ever said such a thing, or anything else attributed to him, but the Bible says this.)
Watching "Survivor: South Pacific," there were times when I did feel some affection for Coach, Brandon, and the other God-obsessed Christian contestants. This was when they seemed genuine, not play-acting how a religious person supposedly should behave.
Admitting that they were flawed hypocritical failures at living up to their Christian ideals -- that's when I found them most likable. In other words, when they came across as normal human beings, not one of God's chosen.
Religion is most ridiculous when people take it seriously.
When religiosity is treated as simply another strange thing that people do, I've got no problem with it. Even Ozzy made some mentions of God when he spoke about how close he felt to nature in the ocean, while climbing palm trees, and such.
But Ozzy's "God" is this world, here and now, not a transcendent father figure. Kraszewski commented on his own post, saying, "I view Ozzy as some combination of Emerson, Kerouac, and a surfer dude in terms of his religious actions and spirituality."
Right on. That's why Ozzy is my kind of saint.