Following APA Guidelines
Kingdom of Heaven, directed by Ridley Scott, served against its title as an anti-religion humanist piece. The moral of the film was that being human and showing humanity was greater and more powerful than religion. Kingdom of Heaven used a traditional storyline, showing a believing hero, or in this case, a Christian. He is easy to sympathize with and gives the film a religious undertone. However, after Balian, the hero, begins to see the world through the bloodshed of the crusades, he begins to understand that religion is not doing anything good for humankind and rejects is former views for that of the humanist way of life.
The ethical philosophy of humanism states that the quest for a moral center, and truth, are purely for human means. This morality and truth should only be used in the interest of human progression. Humanism defiantly rejects the transcendental explanations offered by religion, and offers humanity’s self-determination as a replacement. Divine exposures such as the Bible do not have a place in humanism. Humanism is also traditional egalitarian, seeking to put all humans on an equal playing field in terms of power and wealth. Balian, a devout Christian in the beginning of the film, reasons that Christianity and God will do right by all men. Throughout the crusades, he begins to see how war-torn humankind has become and takes on a more traditional humanist view of the world. These humanist views are represented fully in the film.
The film begins by displaying that religion is wicked and vengeful. Balian’s wife commits suicide. Theologically it is understand that for the timeframe of the film, committing suicide was considered a wicked act against god, as well as an unforgivable sin. People of this time believed that if an individual committed suicide they were immediately sentenced to an eternity in hell. Though he is suffering greatly over the loss of his wife, and she was seemingly a decent person, the village priest, acting as a symbol of religion, refuses to grant her a burial service. Not only that, but the priest also punishes her after her death by cutting off her head.
Kingdom of Heaven is not just anti-Christian, but anti-religion. Christians throughout the film are depicted as nothing short of monstrous. They are fanatical extremists, barbaric, and generally repulsive. The Muslims in the film are not depicted in this way but religions as a whole is still not granted any favors. This is further illustrated in a confrontation between a Muslim extremist and Saladin. Saladin is a Muslim leader in the film. The Muslim extremist implores that Saladin rely on god to grant him victory over his enemies. Saladin replies that humans should rely on their own wisdom to see them through to their victories. The Muslim predicts that Saladin will not be a ruler for long if that is what he thinks. Though Saladin is a Muslim leader, he has transcended the boundaries of his own strict religion, understanding that he must rely on his own wits in order to gain victory over his enemies. Though the Muslims in the film are not portrayed the same as Christians, as bloodthirsty radicals, the film still manages to point out that religion inevitably becomes the enemy. Saladin remains a secular Muslim in outward appearance but seems to start inwardly renounce his faith as he slowly reveals his humanist views.
In sum, Kingdom of Heaven is an anti-religious humanist film. Sometimes it is subtle about its opinions and other times it is not. The ideas behind humanism are represented clearly in the film, through the storyline as well as the landscape presented by the crusades. Balian’s rejection of the religion he once held dear and his wife’s posthumous beheading are obvious examples of why the film is anti-religion. The exchange between the Muslim and Saladin is a more subtle example of why Kingdom of Heaven is nondiscriminatory about the religions it rejects while promoting that all people are capable of humanism.