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The mythology of reason is far more problematic philosophically than mythologizing man’s origins. It says that reason is a faculty that springs from nowhere, but that reason also rules everything around it. It says that the universe is irrational and unreasoning, but that we can divine scientific principles nonetheless. The mythology of reason is full of internal contradictions and oxymoronic concepts.
The mythology of reason is confusing and nonsensical. And human beings don’t like that which is confusing and nonsensical. We’d rather have clarity.
Unfortunately, traditional mythology – the attempt to use reason to discern our origins and purposes — has been relegated to certain select segments of the popular culture. It has been removed from our politics. No longer can we say with certainty that Osama Bin Laden is evil – evil, says the left, is a myth, meaning that it is useless.
But we like our myths. We believe in good and evil. We believe in right and wrong. And so we buy comic books. We watch superhero movies. We cheer good, and we boo evil. We wish that good were always cloaked with total strength, and evil garbed in the robes of villainy. There’s a certain comfort to knowing exactly where Superman came from, knowing precisely the limits of his powers. There is nothing random in the superhero world. That’s why we like it. We root for Superman, for Batman, for Thor because we want to be them, to live in their world – and we hope that in a moral if not a physical sense, their world resembles our own.
Which brings us to our second need: hope. In today’s world, we are constantly told that there is no hope of rooting out evil. We are lectured about the use of force against evil by pusillanimous liberals, and criticized for fighting for good.
In the superhero world, there are no such conundrums.
In a certain way, then, the superhero world is true to real morality: it has heroes and villains, treachery and valor. We still need our superheroes, even in so puny a form as film gods – with the decline of traditional religion and the rise of alternative moralities, superheroes have become the cultural moral touchstones for many people.
In fact, we need our superheroes now more than ever. That’s why we’ve seen so many of them all over our screens recently. We feel a sense of impotence and confusion from our politicians – the inability to identify and fight evil. We looked for a superhero president, and instead got a namby-pamby in the White House. No wonder we seek relief.
“Do you swear to guard the lives of the innocent and preserve the peace?” Thor’s father asks him. “I swear,” answers Thor. We can only make the same oath if we believe in the terms: innocence and guilt, good and evil. It may be mythology. But it is that same mythology that has preserved Western civilization for thousands of years, and which will enable us to continue on for thousands more.
Ben Shapiro is an attorney and writer and a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, and author of the upcoming book “Primetime Propaganda: The True Hollywood Story of How The Left Took Over Your TV” from Broadside Books, an imprint of HarperCollins.
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