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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

An unlikely 'Avatar' of spirituality

It's the title of today's outstanding article from author and columnist, Jonah Goldberg. If you plan to see the movie in the near future and would like to enter the theater with "eyes wide shut" and completely unaware of any of the storylines, then avert your eyes as some of them will be mentioned. Me personally? I was highly suspect after viewing the trailer for the first time. I immediately got the impression that the movie would be, HUMANS=Bad, Cat People=Good, Humans are out to destroy everything and anything in the name of the almighty dollar, yadda, yadda, yadda. Some of the more interesting excerpts from Goldberg are as follows.....

"The film has been subjected to an assault from the right, notably by New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, as an "apologia for pantheism." His criticisms hit the mark, but the most relevant point was raised in The Weekly Standard by John Podhoretz. Cameron wrote "Avatar," says Podhoretz, "not to be controversial, but quite the opposite: He was making something he thought would be most pleasing to the greatest number of people." What would have been controversial is if -- somehow -- Cameron had made a movie in which the good guys accepted Jesus Christ into their hearts.

Of course, that sounds outlandish and absurd, but that's the point, isn't it? We live in an age in which it's the norm to speak glowingly of spirituality but derisively of traditional religion. If the Na'Vi were Roman Catholics, there would be boycotts and protests. Make the oversized Smurfs Rousseauian noble savages and everyone nods along, save for a few cranky right-wingers.

But what I find interesting about the film is how what is "pleasing to the most people" is so unapologetically religious.

Nicholas Wade's new book, "The Faith Instinct," lucidly compiles the scientific evidence that humans are hard-wired to believe in the transcendent. That transcendence can be divine or simply Kantian, a notion of something unknowable from mere experience. Either way, in the words of philosopher Will Herberg, "Man is homo religiosus, by 'nature' religious: as much as he needs food to eat or air to breathe, he needs a faith for living."

Goldberg again hits one out of the park (as he usually does) with his well-written, timely and precise article. I would recommend anyone reading this to click on the above link and read the article in it's entirety. Once doing so, please feel free to use the comments section on this thread to discuss the topics raised in the above cited article.


photogr said...

I have heard that the special effects in this science fiction movie are of top rate quality. I wasn't aware of the political or religious tones this movie presented. I would imagine it had to present a theme of some sort so that it had a story line.

Not having seen the movie,I would consider it seems to be the futuristic version of the old west white man invading the Indian teritory story.

photogr said...

Or the movie " Dancing with wolves".

Ross said...

I haven't seen Avatar yet, but have heard a bit about its pantheistic, pagan religious themes and political subtext. Friends of mine have raved about the visual effects, and that's what I'll be seeing it for.

JD Curtis said...

"apologia for pantheism"

Who ever would have thought?

Ginx said...

Eh, I'm waiting for Clash of the Titans.

Anonymous said...

Jonah Goldberg: "What would have been controversial is if -- somehow -- Cameron had made a movie in which the good guys accepted Jesus Christ into their hearts."

It's not controversial that Jake Sully is a Christ figure?


Avatar's Christian theme
By Mark Silk

More Spiritual Than You'd Think
You Can't See Nothing If You Close Your Eyes
by Mike Furches

A Must-See Cinematic Spectacle
Our Spiritual Desire On Display
Yo | 12/21/09
Jonah Goldberg: "Wade argues that the Darwinian evolution of man depended not only on individual natural selection but also on the natural selection of groups. And groups that subscribe to a religious worldview are more apt to survive -- and hence pass on their genes."

Natural Selection - A Creationist's Idea
Share this Articleby Paul G. Humber, M.S.

Darwin’s illegitimate brainchild
If you thought Darwin’s Origin was original, think again!
by Russell Grigg, Australia

JD Curtis said...

It's not controversial that Jake Sully is a Christ figure?

I guess Sully is "reborn" in a manner of speaking however I wouldnt call him "Christ=like" IMO. I'm going to see it on SAT. and I'll post my unadulterated thoughts on the matter here.

JD Curtis said...

I'll check out the other links you posted later.

Anonymous said...

Pay particular attention to the scenes where 1) Jake jumps into the water to escape the ferocious beast; then later that night 2) dozens of woodsprites ["very pure spirits"] light on Jake. It echoes Matthew 3:16 "As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and
lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with
him I am well pleased."

JD Curtis said...

All right ENOUGH! I want at least SOME element of suprise.

Tracy said...

I watched it with my youngest son (age 15) on Tuesday; mostly just because I was delighted that he wanted to go with me so I was happy to watch whatever he liked.

We watched it 3-D and I would highly recommend that version to anyone. The story is captivating and the special effects are great.

I've always had this thing about fiction movies being just that - fiction. I've never agreed with the folks who have problems with Harry Potter or Twillight. But in this movie's case I can see why the complaints. Even I found myself being annoyed by what I felt were pantheistic and liberal political values that were preached at me. Nonetheless I'm glad to have watched it and my son and I had a great opportunity to discuss those very religious and political themes. I don't always have to watch or hear things with which I agree.

I don't want to say anything that will be a spoiler so I will leave it at this - the one problem I did have was not so much the "preaching" as the fact that parallels were drawn to our current world that I do not think were fair paralells. What I mean by that is that I, and most likely everyone who watches the movie, totally got behind the main character Jake and the living beings he defends - but I do not think that reality that was created by the writers is the same as our reality. I do not believe that trees are living in the same sense that we are or that all plants and humans are related in a soul manner. Nor do I see the conflict that was portrayed in the movie at all the same as the conflict in the middle east currently (yes we want their oil but no that is not all that it is about).

JD Curtis said...

Thank you for your pos Tracy.

Off Topic.. Has anyone out there seen District 9 yet? I heard there were some underlying themes in that movie as well.

Tracy said...

My husband John & I saw District 9 and at first he was looking over at me like - why did you get me to come with you to this movie. But by the end we were both totally hooked into it. Yes that movie is definitely a social commentary but I found the commentary to be thought provoking and actually agreed with most of the thoughts.

Ginx said...

Liberal ideas... NOOOOOO!

Also, forgot to mention earlier: Avatar is a sanskrit word with strong Hindu overtones (it is the form a god takes on Earth).

I'm reminded of the difference between atheists and monotheists when discussing this movie. It tends to be monotheists who oppose (or simply be bothered by) any outside ideas. It's nice to know there are still plenty who are able to see it for the entertainment value, like Tracy. Pantheism is as wrong as monotheism, in my estimation, but I don't let it bother me. Maybe atheists are just used to being bombarded with religious nonsense, so we don't always notice it or let it bother us.

Christians with tolerance for other beliefs... dare I dream it? Thanks for giving me some hope, Tracy.