God and the Wizard of Oz are One and the Same

Dorothy: We want to see the Wizard of Oz. 
Gatekeeper: That’s impossible. No one has ever seen the great wizard. 
Dorothy: Then how do you know he exists? 

And, as it turned out, he didn’t exist. Dorothy was on her own, as we all are, and responsible for her own actions and consequences as well as how she treated others. No one has ever seen the great wizard.

Was this a movie with a hidden message — a great atheist or humanist tale?

I’ve seen The Wizard of Oz countless times since I was a child and never grow tired of it. It’s a classic and perfect in every way. Last year, I saw it on the big screen for the first time at a beautiful historic theater in my hometown. With the nostalgic ambiance, it was better than ever.  

I'm not the first person that has found hidden messages in this  story. 

Political, religious and social interpretations have been made by lots of diehard fans down through the years. Whether Baum intended to pose questions that would produce intellectual inquiry or not, the persistent need by some of us to assign meaning to the content is a good exercise in critical thinking. Something that most of us could benefit from doing more often.

I'm equally impressed, however, with the level of empathy Dorothy displayed throughout the story. 

She was always taking care of someone who was suffering or had gotten the short end of the stick, often saving the day for them. This is a much appreciated quality that humanists value in society.  Humanists accept that life as we know it can only be improved upon for everyone if we take responsibility for doing so. 

In other words, no god has ever fed a hungry child. It always requires human effort. 

Dorothy invited all of the downtrodden to join her on her journey to the Emerald City where she hoped to fix her current problem, finding a way to return to Kansas. Helping vagabonds along the way seemed perfectly natural to her. There was no judgement involved. Empathy was key and cooperation central to their survival. To finally debunk the myth that there was a great wizard who would fix everything for them was a necessary step before they could fully appreciate their own abilities to take care of one another. 

In the end, personal autonomy and responsibility was far more powerful than the belief in a fictitious wizard.

I can’t remember the first time I saw this movie. It debuted in 1939, long before my time and was shown that same year at the very theater where I eventually enjoyed the big screen version.  I know I saw it at least once before my dad’s conversion. Shortly after he found god, he led the entire family out into the alley to stone our black and white TV. No longer permitted to watch TV while living within a Christian household, the next time I saw The Wizard of Oz was as an adult after I'd left my home and religion behind. It's strange for me to watch this movie and have it trigger that memory of stoning our TV.

It's as though the Wicked Witch stuck her pointy hat in my personal business as well, derailing me from pursuing the life that I wanted to live. 

The journey that I was required to take in order to escape the witch and a life that was not of my choosing followed an arduous path resulting first in disillusionment. Eventually, just like Dorothy, I learned to trust my own instincts and intellect to make choices that were best for me. 

Oh, Aunty Em, there really is no place like home. 

That quote speaks keenly to my never-dying need to always be true to myself, because I'll never be comfortable in my own skin otherwise.

On a side note, besides the above allegories, I was stunned at how much the movie script depended upon Toto. I’ve visited Toto’s grave in the Hollywood Cemetery. That was one perky little dog, let me tell you. 

Did Frank Baum also have a message about other living creatures that he wanted to share. 

Toto certainly took a lively interest in what was happening along the way. Was Baum trying to tell us that the natural world is often ignored by people who believe in the power of wizards? Is the belief among the religious that humans have been given dominion over the planet just another big, fat delusion? Or are we really just animals ourselves struggling to survive like all other living creatures? 

Whether the Wizard of Oz was meant as sheer entertainment for children or written with hidden messages for adults may never be proven one way or the other. 

What I choose to do with the story is up to me. That I find similarities between the search for the great Wizard and the search for an almighty god should be pretty easy for most people to comprehend. Yet, that's not a given. People will draw back the curtain time and time again, never to reveal the god they were told was managing everything. A few will accept the fact that the wizard isn't real and move on to eventually stand on their own two feet. Even fewer people will stand on their own two feet but also extend a helping hand to others. Most will keep hoping against hope that the the wizard is there behind the curtain in the beautiful Emerald City, which is really pretty sad, because in the words of L. Frank Baum, 

"Nobody gets in to see the wizard. Not nobody." 

Teresa Roberts is a myth buster. Her recently published book - Have We Been Screwed? Trading Freedom for Fairy Tales - can be purchased on Amazon.