I love Evangelion but I have so much nostalgia for it that I don’t trust myself to do an unbiased review, hence why I’m doing a retrospect instead. This anime changed my life in so many ways when I was younger. I still have not found an anime which compares to how its atmosphere and themes have affected me. Another thing I should get out of the way quickly is my stance on god, I’m an agnostic-atheist. Do I know for certain there is no god? Hell no, but do I believe in the existence of a god? Another big fat hell no, and Evangelion is one of the main reasons why. Neon Genesis Evangelion (NGE) gives the feel of a complex story but most of its complexity is due to its style of plot delivery. Granted, the meaningful imagery and themes are so abundant that you’ll have to watch the series a few times before you can pick up on just a portion of them, but the story in itself is told as a whole without any details left out. It was the combination of the red herring imagery with its almost abstract way of story-telling in some of the episodes that were one of the main reasons I became an atheist, dominantly because this method of delivery is very thought provoking and it triggered off some deep philosophical questions in me.
Now with a title like ‘Evangelion’ and elements like crucifix-shaped explosions, the Lance of Longinus weapon and the bad guys being called the Angels, along with many other allusions to the Christian bible, one might think that a viewer would become more interested in said religion. And I did. Just not in the way intended. With a website title like Fantasy & Anime it wouldn’t take much imagination to see that I enjoy fantasy. But fantasy can only exist in the world of fiction and something one must come to terms with at a very early age, Santa Claus being a good example, is that there’s a big difference between fiction and reality. After reading the bible (as well as many myths that came before it) I noticed far too many ‘magical’ elements similar between scripture and fantasy. Don’t get me wrong, thinking certain religious texts are fictional wasn’t enough to make me stop believing in god. One can have religion without a god like Buddhists, or believe in a god without a religion like Pantheists. Side Note: I seriously tried both of these outlooks to the point of living in a Buddhist Monastery for a while.
Another aspect of NGE that helped coax me away from this belief is that it’s very brutal, especially for its main characters and if you go by The End of Evangelion film, it doesn’t have the happiest of endings either. These horrific events, when relating to real horrific events around the world (I did this a lot when I was younger) lead me down a similar road as Epicurus’s Paradox. For me this was akin to; if there is a god and he’s all-powerful then he is cruel to A LOT of people, and even if he’s not cruel to me in particular I still wouldn’t worship a cruel god. However, just because I wouldn’t worship a cruel god, working in mysterious ways or otherwise, it still didn’t determine for me whether ‘said cruel god’ existed or not. So without a basis for a belief in a god through a religious text after having decided most of them to be fictitious, nor a basis through morality now thinking that god is cruel from observations of unfairness in the world, all I had to go on was faith and experience. Because of this the final nail in the coffin of my theism from NGE was its affinity with science, which we see throughout the series dominantly through the Evas, the magi super computers and its effect on characters like Rei Ayanami and Ritsuko Akagi.
NGE’s references to certain scientific elements made me more interested in scientific evidence, for in the anime it shows how only the things which we are ignorant about or simply don’t understand, the Angels and the Evas in particular, are what are truly dangerous for us. (For those of you who have watched the anime remember that the magi computers not only run Nerv but work as an effective government for Tokyo-2). Science needs evidence to observe reality and without evidence the only thing keeping my belief tied to reality was faith. Believing in a god on faith alone because of no basis or evidence to go on, I began to wonder, ‘If that’s the case, couldn’t I believe anything undetectable to exist on the same basis?’ After thinking of all the silly things I could believe to exist on this premise, my own fatherly view of a sky god started to seem awkwardly silly as well. This is touched on in Evangelion when you are given a look on what a god could be during the Third Impact, and to be honest, having Shinji with his many character defects becoming a god-like entity as well was a slightly unnerving prospect XD. In the end faith was too flimsy of a reason.
In the end it’s not too much of a stretch to see how NGE helped me to understand that the belief in a theistic god is not only inconsistent with the natural world but that unless you believe in a literal hell or you’re lonely enough to need an imaginary friend, it’s kind of pointless as well. In a metaphorical way it also shows the conflict between god and science and how man shouldn’t use one to mess with the other. And with that I’ll give a link to douchbagchocolate’s video on this topic because despite a few disagreements on his take, without watching it I wouldn’t have thought of putting my own discussion on the table. Hats off to you Demo.
Final Side Note: I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t say that after NGE it didn’t help that I read up on Occam’s Razor theory to understand that simply adding something unobservant or supernatural to the natural world was redundant, and Russell’s Teapot theory to understand proving something wrong with evidence doesn’t just make something else right simply by the contrary, and finally that not knowing something doesn’t prove anything. Though these may have helped as an icing on the cake, at this point they were only reinforcing the ideas already evolving in my mind. I eventually came to realize that everyone is already an atheist in regards to almost every other god there is or was, but for the one(s) they believe in now.