The Story of God
From National Geographic
Runtime: 90 min episodes
The story of God is the story of us. If you’re a person of faith, you probably believe that the world around us is the product of a divine Creator. If you’re not, you can still acknowledge that religion itself has been a prime mover in civilization—an integral ingredient in everything from law to literature and a critical component that unified societies in the first place.
National Geographic’s The Story of God with Morgan Freeman makes for fascinating viewing, whatever your outlook.
The Story of God, which begins its third season March 5 on National Geographic, follows Oscar-winning actor Morgan Freeman as he and the show’s crew travel around the globe, exploring fascinating and often hidden facets of the world’s religions. In the first episode, he talks with a man who underwent five years’ worth of exorcisms. In the second, he’s blessed by the Kumari, a little girl deemed a goddess by Hindu believers in Kathmandu, Nepal. Freeman serves as our genial guide through a bewildering labyrinth of beliefs and practices, all of which help us better understand ourselves, our world and, perhaps, even our own faith.
I had a chance to talk with Freeman, along with fellow executive producers Lori McCreary and James Younger, about the show recently. While Freeman says that he’s not particularly religious himself, he says that he’s “always been fascinated” with faith and the questions that faith tries to answer: Where we come from. Why we’re here. Where we’re going.
And that makes Freeman an effective host for a show like this—a show designed to cater to the curious without offending the devout. He seems deeply respectful of the traditions he encounters and the people who follow them, and sometimes the actor marvels at the insight they offer. But Freeman never loses his objectivity, even serving up a dose of skepticism now and then.
Take when Freeman takes a tour of an ancient ruin locked (strangely) in the middle of a prison in Megiddo, Israel. The ruin was once the home of a 3rd-century Christian woman, and a fresco on the age-old floor reads, in part, “To the God Jesus Christ.”
“For the people living here, in this village … they understood Christ to be divine,” Freeman tells us. But he also suggests that Jesus wasn’t always considered so: Christians’ understanding of Christ changed over time.
The Story of God shouldn’t be a mistaken for a search for spiritual truth. But for those who are fascinated by religious history and practice—the National Geographic series is must-see television. The myriad manifestations of faith worldwide we see here is something startling, captivating and even beautiful to behold.
While some would suggest that faith is on the wane in our more skeptical 21st-century society, nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, worldwide, more people adhere to a faith than ever before. As our society grows ever more pluralistic, and our world becomes ever more linked, it’s critical that we understand one another better. But to understand who people are, we have to understand what they believe.
The Story of God gives us insight to that belief—a peephole into faiths we barely know and practices we can scarcely imagine. And as it does so, it might help us realize we’re not so different from one another.
Written by Paul Asay