Shawshank Redemption is my favorite movie ever. I’ve seen it several times and could quote entire scenes to you. And yet, I never noticed the connection between Brooks (the elderly inmate) and atheism until I read it at Talking Liberty:
Forget Brooks’ age. Forget his gender. Forget the literal setting. Brooks is a metaphor of a person imprisoned by his circumstance. He lives in “prison,” as all wondering theists do, and fears leaving its familiar setting. He has friends there. He knows the rules there. They tell him when he can and can’t do everything. In this structure, social network and “protection from the outside,” he is trapped — even as he loves and feeds the little bird of freedom that visits him from time to time.
This is story of every secret atheist and doubting theist in the world. They are trapped in a prison of their own custom, both internally and externally. To leave this prison is to leave everyone (and everything) they’ve ever known, abusive as it may be, behind them. And when the gates slam behind the new atheist, they know there’s no going back; not to their beliefs, and often, not to their family and friends.
Well, now I just have to watch the movie again…