Back in May I wrote about a streaming series on Hulu, "Under the Banner of Heaven." In the title of that post I called it a compelling story of religion gone bad.
The series is based on a true story, the murder of a young woman and her baby at the hands of extremely fundamentalist Mormons.
Last night my wife and I watched the final episode. It tied things together nicely, and was the most philosophical of any episode in how the characters talked about atheism and religious belief.
Detective Jeb Pyre, a devout Mormon white guy, has a Native American partner, Bill Taba. Taba is a professed atheist. He doesn't even believe in the message of a tribal chant he sings near the end of the final episode.
He simply says that he likes the sound of it, so he sings it now and then.
The Mormons are constantly referring to Heavenly Father this and Heavenly Father that, since "Heavenly Father" is how they refer to God.
What we see in the final episodes is the danger of believing that your thoughts and intentions are coming from Heavenly Father. This is the same risk that comes when anyone of any faith embraces the delusion that God or God's messenger is communicating with them directly.
Sure, people can do crazy things and believe crazy stuff even without believing that God is behind their doing and believing. But fanaticism is more likely to take hold of someone when they think they're doing God's bidding.
That's what happens with the murderous Mormons.
They're discussing how to handle some members of their family who aren't considered to be sufficiently devoted to what the fundamentalists consider the true original teachings of the Mormon Church. Then their leader plays the Heavenly Father card.
He says, basically, "I've heard from Heavenly Father and he wants them to be killed." That pretty much ends the discussion, since no one wants to go against Heavenly Father's will.
Of course, Taba views this as totally bizarre from his atheist perspective, while Pyre is better able to understand what's going on, being a Mormon himself. As the series progresses, Pyre takes an increasingly loose view of Mormonism, since his investigation into the murders shows the danger of religious fundamentalism.
I really liked a scene where Taba and Pyre are driving along in their police vehicle, trying to figure out where the Mormon murderers are going to strike next and how they can be found before they kill again.
Taba gets fed up with all the talk from Pyre about Heavenly Father, even though Pyre isn't a fundamentalist Mormon. Taba pulls the car over in a remote area and stalks away to an overlook. Pyre walks after him.
Taba tells Pyre (I'm paraphrasing), "Look at this beautiful nature, Jeb. That's what it is, natural. No Heavenly Father needed. Stop thinking that you have to invoke Heavenly Father to figure out what's going on with this case. Use your brain. Your natural brain. Forget all that Heavenly Father bullshit."
That leads to a breakthrough, now that Pyre has eliminated some unnecessary Mormonism from his detective consciousness.
After the murderous Mormons have been apprehended, Pyre is shown taking his elderly mother for an outing to a gorgeous spot. I recall it was a pristine lake with mountains in the background. His devout Mormon mother says something like, "Oh, look at what Heavenly Father has given us. It's so beautiful."
But Pyre is looking at life differently now. He tells her, "Mom, forget Heavenly Father. Isn't it enough that you and I are together right now?" She says with a sense of relief while hugging him, as if a religious weight has been lifted from her also, "Yes, Jeb, yes. It's enough."
Here's a You Tube video about the finale, with mentions about the religious aspects.