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Friday, November 26, 2010

November meeting program


imageThis month we will watch Agora, a beautiful movie about Hypatia of Alexandria and the rising Christianity that murdered her. Afterwards we will briefly discuss the movie.
Those of you who are older will remember Christian movies such as Ben Hur, movies that glorified the Christians as loving victims and demonized the pagans as cruel beasts who found pleasure in watching the lions eat Christians. A few years ago Kingdom of Heaven presented the Crusades from a secular viewpoint, as struggles between two cultures to control the wealth and power of the so-called Holy Land. Now Agora presents the story of the rise of Christianity in Alexandria, the intellectual center of Egypt, and as such a part of the Roman Empire. Christianity, formerly banned in the Empire, has been blessed by the Emperor Constantine, and is spreading even in Alexandria. The city's famous library houses scrolls containing the works of the greatest minds in history; it also serves as a center for pagan worship. Inside the library, Hypatia teaches philosophy, astronomy and mathematics to her young pupils, some of whom are Christian. Pagan fundamentalists become enraged at the blasphemy of the Christians and attack them, against the advice of Hypatia. The Christians fight back, and surround the pagans inside the library gates. The Emperor grants the Christians possession of the library, and safe passage to the pagans. Christian mobs destroy all the vestiges of pagan religion and knowledge, including the remaining scrolls in the library.
A number of years later, the Christians have gained so much power that even the head of Alexandria's government, a former pagan and pupil of Hypatia, has converted. The Christians press their power, finally turning on Hypatia as a sinner. After all, the Bible says that women should not teach men, as women are inferior to them. Meanwhile Hypatia is portrayed as truly challenging dogma in trying to understand the relationship of the earth to the sun. She says:
"What if we dared to look at the world just as it is? Let us shed for a moment every preconceived idea. What shape would it show us?"
So not only does Hypatia sin for teaching men, but she sins by challenging the methodology of the Bible, revealed dogmas considered Absolute Truth. A Christian mob murders her, providing a metaphor for the destruction of science by a virulent Christianity.
Since this is a full length movie, we will begin showing it soon after 4:30. Please arrive promptly so that you won't miss anything.

Saturday November 27 at 4:30,
Schroeder's Restaurant 240 Front St San Francisco, CA 94111
the restaurant is two blocks north of Market Street, between California and Sacramento Streets.
Use California Street cable car, or BART/MUNI Embarcadero stop. Parking on street or at nearby Embarcadero garage.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hope you all enjoy the film. I saw Agora when it first came out in NYC and loved Weisz' performance as Hypatia. The film was beautifully shot and a bit uneven. Amenabar also distorted some history in service to his art (the Library didn't end that way and Synesius wasn't a jerk), but that's what artists do. I go to the movies for entertainment, not history. For people who want to know more about the historical Hypatia, I highly recommend a very readable biography Hypatia of Alexandria by Maria Dzielska (Harvard University Press, 1995). I also have a series of posts on the historical events and characters in the film at my blog - not a movie review, just a "reel vs. real" discussion.