It would have been hard to grow up in America during the past 40 years having never seen or heard the name of Roger Ebert. The Chicago-based 69-year-old film critic was the first movie reviewer to win the Pulitzer Prize, in addition to hosting numerous television shows and penning a syndicated newspaper column.
Mr. Ebert is paid to give his opinion, a job he takes very seriously. Although I prefer to get my reviews from our award-winning Plugged In team, I wouldn’t begin to wade into the deep waters of the movie review business. However, I have been intrigued by Mr. Ebert’s recent comments about faith, inspired, it would appear, by his nearly decade-long illness.
In 2002 Roger Ebert was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Years of surgery followed, culminating with the removal of his jaw in 2006. Doctors didn’t expect him to survive, but thankfully he rallied and, although unable to speak, he is now able to communicate with the assistance of computer software.
Raised a Catholic, he has always appeared to respect people of faith – although he does not claim a personal belief in a living and loving God. Over these last few years, Roger Ebert has grown more blunt about his worldview, but also somewhat defensive. In 2009 he balked at the suggestion that he didn’t believe in a divine Creator, responding:
I have never said, although readers have freely informed me I am an atheist, an agnostic, or at the very least a secular humanist—which I am.
It has recently struck me that Mr. Ebert has devoted his life to judging the quality and creation of film, and yet he believes that he is living in a world not only without a judge, but also without a Creator. In his new memoir, Life Itself, Ebert appears to leave no room for the existence of God. Speaking of death he writes:
I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear.
Many readers have informed me that it is a tragic and dreary business to go into death without faith. I don’t feel that way. “Faith” is neutral. All depends on what is believed in. I have no desire to live forever.
What I expect to happen is that my body will fail, my mind will cease to function and that will be that.
I have never met Mr. Ebert, but I have met many people who think and believe as he does. So have you. Secular humanism is a faith alright, but it’s a faith without any roots.
It’s a faith based upon trust and confidence in oneself, which is dangerous and, ultimately, catastrophic given the sinful nature of mankind. Unlike Christianity, secular humanism is defined by shifting and subjective standards. When pressed the secular humanist will acknowledge that life is random and without reason, even accidental. This is why when faced with tragedy and strife, the secular humanist is left with nowhere to turn, because in the end, well in Mr. Ebert’s own words, “that will be that.” All pain is relative and like secular humanism not redemptive, even hopeless.
This stark contrast – the clash between Christianity and worldviews that deny God – is the greatest contest of our time. In whom and in what do you trust? Here at Focus on the Family we believe that the purpose of life is to know and glorify God through an authentic relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ. This purpose is lived out first within our own families then extended, in love, to an increasingly broken world that desperately needs Him.
Please join me in praying for Mr. Ebert and for those who are searching for ultimate meaning and purpose in life.
As always, I welcome your thoughts, perspective and feedback. Please let me know what you’re thinking.