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Is Batman an Atheist? Does It Even Matter?

So Batman is an atheist now. At least that’s what the internet is saying. But really, what did you expect?

The uproar has been real! Batman is an atheist. It’s a scandal, the likes of which haven’t been seen in the DC universe since a few weeks ago when Batman and Catwoman (nearly) got married. But what does it really mean, if anything, to the character of Batman and our reading of him?

I must admit, I don’t think I ever thought of the spiritual alignment of the Batman, let alone Bruce Wayne. Bruce the golden boy of Gotham—not to mention its nightlife and excess and Batman—the caped crusader, the dark knight, doesn’t strike me as the repentant pilgrim you’d expect of a character under God.

If I’d had to pick, I would have pitched Batman as agnostic. Rather than a disbelief in the existence of God or gods, it feels to me more like Batman would more likely pick the path of nothing being known beyond the material phenomena. Remember, Batman fights alongside gods every day, and arguably as the world’s greatest detective, he still doesn’t “know” them, though he’d never admit that.

Batman’s supposed coming out as an atheist is not a hard “line in the sand.” It’s a statement of where his head is currently. Some context is required here. For years, Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo put Batman through his paces, tried by the “Court of Owls,” an underground sect with the run of Gotham, “Death in the family” and “Zero Year.” Tom King, Batman‘s current helmsman, did not take his foot off the gas one iota, helming Batman through DC’s Rebirth. Then only a few issues ago, Catwoman, an on-again, off-again love interest of Batman’s, leaves him at the altar. As you can imagine Batman isn’t himself right now. But was he ever?

There is an adage that Clark Kent puts on a costume to be Superman, and Diana Prince spins herself up to be Wonder Woman. But with Batman, Bruce Wayne is the secret identity. However, right now, neither Batman or Bruce entirely know who is who. Bruce is on a jury, in the trial against Mr. Freeze and questioning Batman’s (his own) fallibility.

God is above us…and he wears a cape.
-Bruce Wayne

This is Bruce commenting on his current headspace. He’s deferring to his alter ego and the opinion he has had of him all this time. That while studying, training, being the “very best that no-one ever was” detective, Batman is responding to the death of his parents and the needs of the city. That has been a selfless act, but what is he left with? Bruce, the Batman, has become arrogant and placed (misplaced) his faith in a symbol. A symbol he is no longer sure is as incorruptible as it once was.

And in this moment Bruce is becoming just like the thing he’s tried so hard to avoid: he’s become human. Not a god, nor a symbol. He’s become a man, wrestling with gods, wrestling with who he is in light of his own headspace.

In a post-truth society such as ours, Batman, once the bearer of absolute truth, with vengeance swiftly behind, has been written to finally wrestle with his own moral compass. And what a relief it is. I can’t imagine the time it took him to train, or the brainpower it requires to be the world’s greatest detective. I can however wrestle with my own humanity, my self-righteousness and the judgments I pass upon people. Maybe, I am, maybe you are, becoming just a little more like our hero. And maybe that’s a good thing.

Tim Cleary has worked as a creative for more than a decade, applying his unique talents to a wide array of fields, from ministry to game design to consulting. As a youth leader and international public speaker, Tim is as comfortable on a stage before thousands as he is around a board table or a camp fire. Youth ministry in Auckland, New Zealand, is where Tim first found his feet. As a fan of great fiction and as a creative writer himself, he worked at the intersection of faith and imagination, retelling the stories of scripture for a generation hungry for a more dynamic way of engaging with the world and with issues of spirituality. Inspired by C.S. Lewis and Tolkien, and swept up in the worlds of fantasy and scifi by the likes of George Lucas, Tim began to develop his own stories.

Tim was the creative mind behind The Aetherlight, an online game that retells the story of the Bible to pre-teens in a fantasy, steampunk world governed by a wicked emperor, an army of automaton hordes, and a corrosive, insidious fog. The Aetherlight has taken Tim to the US, where he fronts the campaign to introduce new players to the game, via public events, conventions, TV and radio spots, print media and blogs. All the while, Tim continues to develop new fictional worlds for future release.

In a nutshell, Tim is a worldbuilder, crafting new worlds that others can enjoy in gaming and fiction, but also helping churches, businesses, creatives and individuals, reimagine their own worlds in new, exciting and dynamic ways.

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