David Cronenberg Explains How His Atheism Influences His Work

Director DAVID CRONENBERG of the film 'Spider'...
Director DAVID CRONENBERG of the film 'Spider' during the Toronto International Film Festival. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are lots of famous atheists. I don't mean people who are famous for being atheists; there are relatively few of those (fortunately). No, I mean celebrities who happen to be atheists and who have been willing to disclose it publicly.

I sometimes wonder how (or if) atheism might influence the work these celebrities do. In most cases, I'd guess that it probably doesn't have much of an influence. But there do appear to be cases where it might have more of an influence than we realize.

Celebrated director, David Cronenberg, openly identified himself as an atheist during an interview with Reuters (update: link no longer active). Notably, he also offered an intriguing example of how his atheism informs his work in cinema.

While discussing a particularly violent scene in his upcoming film about the Russian mafia, Eastern Promises, Cronenberg had this to say:

"Murder is a serious thing. I am taking it very seriously," Cronenberg told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of the Toronto International Film Festival, where "Eastern Promises" had its premiere on Saturday night.

"I'm an atheist," Cronenberg said. "To me an act of murder is the act of total destruction, it's absolute. There's no comeback, there's no going to heaven, that's it. And it is very easy for that to be veiled or covered up, in a movie especially.

"To me it makes perfect legitimate, artistic and, if you push me, moral sense as well to do that this way."

In other words, murder should be ugly, violent, and shocking. Unlike the theist who deludes him- or herself with fantasies of immortality, the atheist accepts the finality of death. It isn't supposed to be pretty.