On Thursday night I saw Ghost on the big screen. It’s an older movie, a love story with a supernatural element that propagates the myth of life after death and leverages that myth into a Hollywood drama with a Hollywood ending. The film itself was entertaining and, for its time, the effects were acceptable.

(Completely unrelated, it was clear that Pepsi was a major sponsor with their screen ads.)

Ghost employed the traditional tropes of “moving towards the light” if you been a good person in life, or being drawn down below by dark spirits with deep moaning voices if, on the balance beam, you have lived a life of relative evil.

This is not a review of the movie however, but an observation about the comfort that our belief systems provide. If we assume a life after death, a heaven and a hell, a bright light and dark spirits, in contrast with the reality of nothingness, one can find great comfort. We find relief in the belief of a second chance, another spin, a world beyond that is free of the pains and suffering we experience here.

Patrick accepted the reality that a pile of bricks does not spontaneously collapse into a building, nor that we can find any evidence to support the concepts of heaven and hell, of gods and angels, of devils and demons.

There is without question good and bad, but one should not conflate those concepts with the imaginings of an afterlife. Yes, encouraging people to believe in heaven is a wonderful power structure for getting others to be subjugated and willingly suffer in this life in the hopes of a future pain-free eternal existence afterwards, but the promise of a glorious life beyond the grave should not a sufficient or sole rationale for doing good in our current life.

I don’t believe in karma in the spiritual sense, but I like and follow it as a philosophy. One need not believe in theocracies or religious dogma to encourage people to do the right thing, to be a kind and good person and to manage and redirect anger and sadness and all the other painful emotions of life itself. One need not follow those beliefs to be a good person.

So to ring it back into full circle: While this movie perpetuated myths and stereotypes and was entertaining in its production and presentation, one can be entertained without believing the film to be of some greater significance or pretending to be an illuminating presentation of truth.