by Robert Klabunde
The classic children's film, The Wizard of Oz, is not a simple story about a girl who travels over the rainbow, but also an allegorical endorsement of atheism. Dorothy Gale is a young girl who was raised in a Christian background and begins to doubt the existence of God. Throughout her journey through Oz, Dorothy learns to trust her own abilities rather than rely on God to save her. By the end, Dorothy is a self-reliant individual, and is ready to go back home to face the problems that she ran from.
At the start of the film, Dorothy lives in Kansas with her Aunt Em and her Uncle Henry. Dorothy's home in Kansas, and her aunt and uncle represent her Christian upbringing. Aunt Em says, "For twenty-three years, I've been dying to tell you what I thought of you! And now - well, being a Christian woman, I can't say it!" Dorothy was raised by her Christian aunt and uncle, with their Christian ideals. Up until the beginning of the film, Dorothy has never had any reason to question her religious upbringing.
Dorothy's dog Toto serves as a catalyst for Dorothy's doubts about religion. After biting Miss Gulch, Toto is going to be destroyed. Dorothy looks to Aunt Em and Uncle Henry to protect Toto. The aunt and uncle are authority figures to Dorothy, and have always been religious leaders to her. Their failure to save Toto from Miss Gulch represents God's failure to save Toto. Toto is on his way to be destroyed, and for the first time Dorothy is feeling that perhaps there is no God. Even when Toto escapes and comes home, Dorothy recognizes that it wasn't a miracle, and that Toto is still in danger. She says to him, "Toto, darling! Oh, I got you back! You came back! Oh, I'm so glad! Toto! Oh, they'll be coming back for you in a minute. We've got to get away! We've got to run away - quick!" Dorothy realizes that if Toto is going to be saved, it's up to her.
When Dorothy realizes that God isn't going to save Toto, she begins to question her religious upbringing. As questions about the existence of God race through Dorothy's head, the audience sees a physical representation of Dorothy's mental whirlwind. The tornado tears through Kansas just as the possibility of a non-existent god tears through Dorothy's mind.
When the tornado ends, Dorothy finds herself in new land, Oz. "Toto - I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore." The first part of Oz that Dorothy sees is a happy place. Here, it's bright, colorful and cheerful, and the natives are friendly. It's the type of place that
Dorothy has always dreamed of, "Somewhere, over the rainbow, way up high, There's a land that I heard of once in a lullaby." This part of Oz is Dorothy's vision of Heaven. This is the part of her that still believes in God trying to show her that God exists.
The two wicked witches represent both eastern and western religions, both are wicked. The Wicked Witch of the East dies early on because Dorothy was raised in western religions and will have more difficulty overcoming those teachings. This makes the Wicked Witch of the West Dorothy's main adversary. The western witch tries to force Dorothy back to Christianity throughout the film.
One of the friendly people that Dorothy meets in Oz is Glinda the good witch. Glinda is an atheist who serves as a guide to the part of Dorothy's mind that doubts God's existence. The Witch has no power over her, "You have no power here." Glinda tells the witch. Glinda sees that Dorothy is confused, so she sends her on a journey to see the Wizard of Oz. Glinda knows that this journey is spurious, but feels that it's the only way for Dorothy to see the truth about God and religion.
Glinda gives Dorothy the ruby slippers to keep them safe from the Wicked Witch of the West. The slippers represent power over the masses. The Wicked Witch craves to have these slippers just as the many religions crave power. Neither Glinda nor Dorothy knows how to use the slipper's power, nor do they want to. They merely wish to protect the slippers from falling into evil hands. Glinda tells Dorothy, "Keep tight inside of them - their magic must be very powerful, or she wouldn't want them so badly!"
The path that Glinda sends Dorothy down is the Yellow Brick Road. The Yellow Brick Road is made up of bricks of gold and leads to the Emerald City, and the Wizard of Oz. This represents the greed of religious institutions, the path of money that leads to church.
Along the way, Dorothy meets three companions, the first of which is the Scarecrow. Scarecrow believes that he doesn't have a brain, but throughout the film it is always Scarecrow that comes up with the plans and ideas. Scarecrow represents a part Dorothy's belief that she needs God's help to accomplish anything. He thinks he needs to see the wizard to have a brain, but actually, he already has one.
Dorothy's second companion is the Tin Man. The Tin Man is another part of Dorothy's reliance on God. The Tin Man is an emotional being, always on the verge of breaking into tears. Despite his emotional behavior,
the Tin Man believes that he needs the wizards help to get a heart.
Dorothy's final companion is the cowardly lion. Lion believes that he is a coward, but when push comes to shove, he is ready to face danger to save Dorothy. Courage, wisdom and heart, are three things that people pray to God for. Dorothy's three companions feel that they need to visit the wizard to gain these things that they already have. The three companions show that people already have the traits they seek to gain through God's help.
The Emerald City is a giant Green Church with massive steeples. People visit a church to pay homage to God, and pray that he grant their wishes. Dorothy and her companions go to the Emerald City to ask the Wizard of Oz to grant their wishes. But first they must get cleaned up and get a make over, because nobody goes to church without dressing up. When they meet Oz, the God figure in the story, he sends them on a mission to capture the witch's broomstick. He doesn't expect them to come back. God has sent them to be destroyed by the western religions.
Now Dorothy sees the bad parts of Oz. The Witches Forest represents Dorothy's vision of Hell. The forest is dark and frightening with a sign that reads, "I'D TURN BACK IF I WERE YOU!" At this point in the story there is still a small part of Dorothy that believes in God. This part of her brain shows her something scary to frighten her back to God. This shows the Christian idea of Hell as a tactic to frighten people into worshiping God. Dorothy finally kills the witch by throwing water on her. This could show that the ideals of western religion don't hold water.
After accomplishing the wizard's seemingly impossible task, Dorothy returns to the Emerald City to have him grant her wish, and those of her companions. When they see the Wizard of Oz again, they see that he is not a powerful being, but just an ordinary mad working a machine to trick people. The Great Oz is a fraud. This is the essence of atheist thought, there is no god.
Shortly after this realization that God is a fraud, Glinda returns and explains her purpose in sending Dorothy on this quest which she knew to be false. Dorothy would not have believed Glinda if she had simply told Dorothy that there was no god. "Because she wouldn't have believed me. She had to learn it for herself." Glinda explains that the power to get home, like the courage, wisdom and heart, was inside Dorothy all the time. She didn't have to rely on God to solve her problems, she was as capable of solving them as anybody else.
The ending, when Dorothy returns to Kansas, serves two purposes. The first is to show that atheists are not immoral people. Dorothy no longer believes in God, but she still loves her family and friends, and is happy to see them. But the situation with Toto remains unresolved. Dorothy is certainly going to try to prevent Toto's destruction, but she may fail. This shows that, while people should always face their problems rather than rely on God to solve them, there is no guarantee of success. Nothing is certain.
The Wizard of Oz takes the audience on a journey with Dorothy the purpose of which is to show that God is not the answer to all problems. Dorothy sees that religion is wicked, and God is a fraud. She sees that Oz, representing both Heaven and Hell, is nothing more than a dream. She learns that the power to solve problems, if those problems can be solved at all, is within her.