Do Supernatural Horror Movies Scare Atheists?

While surfing the net looking for something new in the world of horror I found this article on the Huffington Post “Do Atheists Get Scared During Supernatural Horror Movies?” by Robert Frost.  My first thought was, what kinda of idiot would actually stop and wonder that?  What level of moronic reason ran through a person’s head that made them ask such a stupid question.  The author of the article, Robert Frost didn’t come up with the question.  He just chose to answer it.  It was asked by someone on “Quora” who obviously has the IQ of a rock.

I started this rant Thursday night.  I have written and re-written it several times.  Changed a word, a phrase, deleted and added paragraphs all in an attempt not to turn this into a passive aggressive slam at religious people. I don’t think that all religious people are stupid and shallow.  I also don’t think that all atheists are full of depth and knowledge.  Yet, when it comes to the question at hand, I can only see this as being asked by a religious person.  However, perhaps, it was asked by an atheist who was looking for his or her reasoning why?  I don’t really see that but it’s possible.  So I want to make it clear that at the core of this rant, I am angry at stupid people not religious people.  So my rant here is an attempt to point out the stupidity of the question as well as answer it, just in case someone should come across this article and not have at least the philosophical depth that nature gave to puddles.

An atheist can be scared by and enjoy a supernatural themed piece of work for two simple reasons.  The first being what is called the Suspension of Disbelief.  It is a term that has been around since the early 1800’s when the philosopher and poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge first coined the phrase.  He felt that if the writer could add “human interest and a semblance of truth” to the story, no matter how over the top it was, the reader could believe it long enough to enjoy the story.  It has since changed somewhat nowadays to refer to the audiences ability to suspend their belief in reality long enough to enjoy the book, the movie, the TV show and so on.

I believe Steven Spielberg inadvertently gave the best description of what this means when he was talking to Peter Benchley.  Benchley didn’t agree with the ending Spielberg had in mind for Jaws.  He thought there was no way an audience would buy it.  Then Spielberg responded with, and I am paraphrasing only because I don’t have time to find the actual quote. “If I can grab the audience for the first two hours, I can do anything I want with the last three minutes.

What Steven Spielberg said was the absolute truth.  It doesn’t matter what a person believes or does not believe.  If the makers of the film do their job right, no matter how fantastical the story, the audience will ignore their own beliefs and accept those of the story being told to them.  Some will do it just long enough to enjoy the film.  Other people will believe what the film told them forever.

Jaws 1975 Artwork

How many of us had no fear of swimming in the ocean before Jaws was released and all these years later we can’t even step into a lake or go into a pool at night with no lights on and not think somewhere in the back of our minds that a shark is going to get us.  We now it’s not going to really happen but there’s always that part, way back in our consciousness, that tells us to be afraid.  For those not old enough to remember when Jaws came out, I was 5 years old and lived on Okinawa at the time.  I was too young to see the movie.  But, the moment that movie came out, I was afraid to go into the water.  I still am afraid but I do go out in the water though there is always a part of me that knows when I step into the water that I am not alone.

In my experience the effect Jaws had on society far surpasses it’s audience.  I have never been to the beach, in the water and not had someone in the group bring up jaws or a shark of some kind.   No one cared or thought about sharks when they went to the beach before Jaws, at least not to the scale they do today.  I saw the change in my friends when I was kid.  We went to the beach all the time before Jaws was released, not so much after. That fear of sharks stems from the movie.  People today who haven’t seen the movie fear sharks because of all that has followed since.

Another great example is the movie Psycho.  That shower scene was so powerful there are people to this day won’t take a shower.  That always lock the bathroom door, even when home alone, with all the main doors locked and secured.

These two films are a perfect example of what the “suspension of disbelief” and having a good imagination can do.  I can understanding not understanding the theory behind a “Suspension of Disbelief”.  But, to not understand the concept shows a staggering lack of intellectual ability.  This is just something you should understand.  At least anyone who is smarter than a hockey puck should naturally understand it.  How anyone could question how another person could not like a work of fantasy is so stupid, it’s offensive.

I just am at a loss for how ridiculous of a question it is.  Has this person ever seen Superman?  How can he or she watch a movie like that and believe an alien baby survived travel from another galaxy, that it only took a matter of days, weeks or months and that upon arriving on Earth now has superpowers because our sun is yellow and his was red.  This allows him to defy gravity?  Yes I know Superman originally couldn’t fly, he could only leap really far but they soon realized how idiotic Superman look would leaping over shit like a frog or Kangaroo.

Can a religious person like Star Wars or Harry Potter?  Both deal with sorcery and magic. Of course they can.  What I find fascinating about the primary question of this rant is that I have never met another atheist who didn’t like supernatural horror movies or monster movies because they knew they were fake.  They may have not liked the movies because they were written poorly, the acting was bad or some other real world reason.  But, they didn’t not like the film because they believed ghosts or gods are not real.  And yet, I have met Christians that wouldn’t let their children watch Harry Potter because it has to do with witches and sorcery.   How completely shallow and stupid is that?

Can an FBI Agent or a cop like a movie like The Godfather?  Can a vegetarian like a movie if the main character eats a hamburger?  The ridiculousness of the question.  It’s hard to get past that level of stupidity.

Ghost stories are among my favorite type of horror movies.  I love a good or bad ghost story most of the time.  I can do this because I am not a complete idiot.  The ability to suspend my logical beliefs in order to appreciate the fantasy I am being sold is easy.  It’s easy because sometimes I have a healthy imagination, sometimes the story is so good I can suspend my beliefs and sometimes it’s both.

What it all comes down to is that if the story is done well, you go with it no matter what your beliefs are.  It doesn’t matter if you are religious or not. A good story can take you anywhere.  A great story can make you believe, at least for a moment, that anything is possible. That is, unless you’re a complete idiot.