I have always found Woody Allen to be an honest atheist. He
does not sugar-coat his atheism in either his movies or his interviews. He does
not try to convince people that atheism will make them a better person, that
they will be happier if they choose atheism, or that the world will be a better
place. His movies show the stark reality of seeking to live by an atheistic
philosophy. Stardust Memories (1980)[1]
is an example of Woody Allen struggling to – and failing to – understand life. The
closest he gets to solving the problem is near the end of the movie where he is
seen resorting to existential moments of bliss to get himself through life. But
the moments are short-lived and the final scene shows him back on the same
train as he was on at the beginning of the movie, with the emotional and
philosophic angst of the opening scene still present. The movie is one of my
favourites, not for what it teaches, but for the questions it asks. They are
questions that all of us must ask and they are questions that just might cause us
to reach out to God. It may be a little difficult to find this older movie, but when
you do find it I recommend watching it with a discerning eye. The following scenes
are some of the key moments in the philosophical arc.

Many have interviewed Allen as they seek to understand
his funny, yet dark, persona. Here are a few of his responses to questions about the
meaning of life.
“This is my perspective and has always been my
perspective on life: I have a very grim, pessimistic view of it. I always have,
since I was a little boy. It hasn’t gotten worse with age or anything. I do
feel that it’s a grim, painful, nightmarish, meaningless experience, and that
the only way that you can be happy is if you tell yourself some lies and deceive
“You start to think, when you’re younger, how
important everything is and how things have to go right—your job, your career,
your life, your choices, and all of that. Then, after a while, you start to
realise that – I’m talking the big picture here – eventually you die, and
eventually the sun burns out and the earth is gone, and eventually all the
stars and all the planets in the entire universe go, disappear, and nothing is
left at all. Nothing – Shakespeare and Beethoven and Michelangelo gone. And you
think to yourself that there’s a lot of noise and sound and fury – and where’s
it going? It’s not going any place… Now, you can’t actually live your life like
that, because if you do you just sit there and – why do anything? Why get up in
the morning and do anything? So I think it’s the job of the artist to try and
figure out why, given this terrible fact, you want to go on living.”[3]
Allen is a comedian who asks questions about the meaning of
life and why we would want to go on living. This is the Woody Allen many have heard
and not completely understood. This is the writer, philosopher, actor, and
comedian who makes such interesting films. This is the same Woody Allen who
also has said, “
I don’t believe in an
afterlife, although I am bringing a change of underwear.

[1] IMDB, Stardust Memories; http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0081554/
[4] “Conversations with Helmholtz,Getting
Woody Allen,
Vintage Books, 1978.

Dive in!

Join The Great Journey with KeithShields.ca subscribers, and see new posts as they happen.

We promise we’ll never spam.