When I first heard about the Matrix I was at a family party, on the "devout" side of the family. The discussion I came in on was how the movie is filled with Christian symbolism, and the platonic notion of the universe as a mere dream. Christianity lines up to this nicely- our lives are a temporary illusion, we must be enlightened ("saved") in order to validate and enjoy our experience in the real world ("heaven"). Neo is Jesus Christ, come to save us all from our ignorance. I bought this, and bought the DVD to match. Four years later, I look back on how my life and my mind have changed.
There is no doubt in my mind or the minds of those who know me that I have become more worldly, more humanistic, and if I daresay, more of a realist. Sadly some would call this a loss of faith; I admit that my faith is in doubt, but not altogether lost. But the interesting question, to get back to the movie, is of purpose. Those who would, will feel I am somehow less for this, and I can understand their nobility. But why fight something that is for all demonstrable ways good? the Matrix takes care of you. It gives you something to do. It keeps you alive and experientially prosperous. The only thing it does it deprive your "true" freedom- but the illusion of freedom it grants is arguably stronger than the freedom most of us have now.
The ultimate issue this raises is one of epistemology. What is truth, and what is its value? The quest of Neo and Morpheus is to have reality for its own sake, because the fact that it is "real" makes it better. The fact that we are "slaves" is a problem in itself, nevermind that we are happier as slaves than most people ever get to be in the "real" world. I suppose I don't know this for sure, not yet having seen Zion. In the world of the Matrix, though, the Machines have distinctly earned their place at the top. Mankind has officially destroyed the Earth, scorching the skies to extinguish all machine life but in effect (surely) exterminating most plant and animal life. The machines on the other hand have done their part to preserve life, keeping us alive and reproducing us, perhaps even waiting the millennia for the planet to rebuild itself. We actually know very little about them- they may have preserved genetic samples of all life, for instance; the backstory tells us that their First colony had quite the economy.
So as far as I can tell, the only thing measurably bad about the Matrix is that it subjugates mankind. What, I wonder, would Neo say to the option of mankind merely knowing and choosing? What if the "real world" were presented as an option, but like Cypher, everyone chose to stay in the dream? Would the proliferation of truth be sufficient? I wonder.
But for now it is enough for me to note that my perspective on the matter has distinctly changed. I say indeed, if the Matrix is better, perhaps I aught to stay in it. But I'm not quite over the edge yet.. I'd still take the red pill.