First of all... ***SPOILER!*** If you haven't read the book and want to... don't read this.

How did you, as a non-believer, take the ending of "Contact"? At first, I was kind of annoyed. Knowing that Sagan was a non-theist, why would he include a proof of a god, or some kind of design, at the end of his story? Isn't the universe beautiful without it?! Does he want to believe?

As I thought about it more, I became much less annoyed! After all, a good skeptic will keep his or her mind open to possibilities that can be proven or disproven. What I think Sagan was trying to say was that, look, you'd need some darn good evidence, such as a pattern in pi, to even begin to prove some kind of design in the universe. So if anything, it's a good counter argument to the claim "you atheists are just as dogmatic!" Show us the evidence, please, we'd be happy to consider it.

Thoughts?

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I think Sagan tried to present in the movie a fair approach to the question of the existence of God. The movie has Christian characters that are reasonable--there are some--and at least one "crazy" Christian. Real life.

Aside from the fact that Sagan was a fair man, there were practical reasons for not making the movie into a sales pitch for atheism. He wanted the movie to be shown in theaters!

It's been a while since I saw "Contact", but it is one of my all-time favorites and a DVD of it is on my shelf.
I do have a friend who became a devout Christian in the time that we were friends (when we first met, we both were kind of new-agey)...we've talked about religion sometimes but she's straight up told me she doesn't want me to feel uncomfortable around her and for me to tell her if she is. She accepted me when I did become atheist too. So, there are some religious people who still have respect and sensitivity for others who arent:)
Mostly what sticks out in my mind about the ending was her finding out that the man she thought was her stepfather was actually her real father, and her thinking back to all the times she'd fought with him and told him he wasn't her real father. So, she'd traveled across the universe but in the end, what affected her most was something in her local, everyday life.

Sagan was an atheist, but I don't think he was a hardcore atheist. I wouldn't assume that he was censoring himself or not speaking his mind. I haven't seen any of his writing focusing on god's nonexistence or religion being intrinsically evil, although he did write things about skepticism and about the dangers of superstition. I think it was a mental exercise for him to try and express the feelings of theists--and we can say "why bother trying to understand theists? they don't try to understand us", however, getting into the heads of someone different is part of what good writers do (I also loved that he wrote it from a woman's viewpoint). It also had to do with beings who created planets and space-highways, which bring up questions of what qualifies something as a "god".

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