Pantheism – Hollywood’s Religion of Choice for a Generation Now

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Pantheism – Hollywood’s Religion of Choice for a Generation Now

HEAVEN AND EARTH

By ROSS DOUTHAT –   December 20, 2009 –  The New York Times

It’s fitting that James Cameron’s “Avatar” arrived in theaters at Christmastime. Like the holiday season itself, the science fiction epic is a crass embodiment of capitalistic excess wrapped around a deeply felt religious message. It’s at once the blockbuster to end all blockbusters, and the Gospel According to James.

AvatarBut not the Christian Gospel. Instead, “Avatar” is Cameron’s long apologia for pantheism – a faith that equates God with Nature, and calls humanity into religious communion with the natural world.

In Cameron’s sci-fi universe, this communion is embodied by the blue-skinned, enviably slender Na’Vi, an alien race whose idyllic existence on the planet Pandora is threatened by rapacious human invaders. The Na’Vi are saved by the movie’s hero, a turncoat Marine, but they’re also saved by their faith in Eywa, the “All Mother,” described variously as a network of energy and the sum total of every living thing.

If this narrative arc sounds familiar, that’s because pantheism has been Hollywood’s religion of choice for a generation now. It’s the truth that Kevin Costner discovered when he went dancing with wolves. It’s the metaphysic woven through Disney cartoons like “The Lion King” and “Pocahontas.” And it’s the dogma of George Lucas’s Jedi, whose mystical Force “surrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.”

Hollywood keeps returning to these themes because millions of Americans respond favorably to them. From Deepak Chopra to Eckhart Tolle, the “religion and inspiration” section in your local bookstore is crowded with titles pushing a pantheistic message. A recent Pew Forum report on how Americans mix and match theology found that many self-professed Christians hold beliefs about the “spiritual energy” of trees and mountains that would fit right in among the indigo-tinted Na’Vi.

As usual, Alexis de Tocqueville saw it coming. The American belief in the essential unity of all mankind, Tocqueville wrote in the 1830s, leads us to collapse distinctions at every level of creation. “Not content with the discovery that there is nothing in the world but a creation and a Creator,” he suggested, democratic man “seeks to expand and simplify his conception by including God and the universe in one great whole.”

Today there are other forces that expand pantheism’s American appeal. We pine for what we’ve left behind, and divinizing the natural world is an obvious way to express unease about our hyper-technological society. The threat of global warming, meanwhile, has lent the cult of Nature qualities that every successful religion needs – a crusading spirit, a rigorous set of ‘thou shalt nots,” and a piping-hot apocalypse.

At the same time, pantheism opens a path to numinous experience for people uncomfortable with the literal-mindedness of the monotheistic religions – with their miracle-working deities and holy books, their virgin births and resurrected bodies. As the Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski noted, attributing divinity to the natural world helps “bring God closer to human experience,” while “depriving him of recognizable personal traits.” For anyone who pines for transcendence but recoils at the idea of a demanding Almighty who interferes in human affairs, this is an ideal combination.

Indeed, it represents a form of religion that even atheists can support. Richard Dawkins has called pantheism “a sexed-up atheism.” (He means that as a compliment.) Sam Harris concluded his polemic “The End of Faith” by rhapsodizing about the mystical experiences available from immersion in “the roiling mystery of the world.” Citing Albert Einstein’s expression of religious awe at the “beauty and sublimity” of the universe, Dawkins allows, “In this sense I too am religious.”

The question is whether Nature actually deserves a religious response. Traditional theism has to wrestle with the problem of evil: if God is good, why does he allow suffering and death? But Nature is suffering and death. Its harmonies require violence. Its “circle of life” is really a cycle of mortality. And the human societies that hew closest to the natural order aren’t the shining Edens of James Cameron’s fond imaginings. They’re places where existence tends to be nasty, brutish and short.

Religion exists, in part, precisely because humans aren’t at home amid these cruel rhythms. We stand half inside the natural world and half outside it. We’re beasts with self-consciousness, predators with ethics, mortal creatures who yearn for immortality.

This is an agonized position, and if there’s no escape upward – or no God to take on flesh and come among us, as the Christmas story has it – a deeply tragic one.

Pantheism offers a different sort of solution: a downward exit, an abandonment of our tragic self-consciousness, a re-merger with the natural world our ancestors half-escaped millennia ago.

But except as dust and ashes, Nature cannot take us back.

Please share:

Deborah (Discerning the World)

Deborah Ellish is the author of the above article. Discerning the World is an internet Christian Ministry based in Johannesburg South Africa. Tom Lessing and Deborah Ellish both own Discerning the World. For more information see the About this Website page below the comments section.

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7 Comment authors
AmandaDavidceciliaYolandiMichael Anthony Recent comment authors
Elmarie A
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Elmarie A

Very good article. Thanks Deborah !!!

Michael Anthony
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Michael Anthony

From another source – “Al Gore wrote the script for “Avatar,” not James Cameron….”

http://www.devvy.com/new_site/avatar_121609.html

Ted Baeher is an excellent movie critic and has written a powerful statement as to the dangerous message contained in that film: ‘Avatar’: Pagan, communist, anti-American, insane.

“If you think this sounds as if Al Gore wrote the script for “Avatar,” not James Cameron, you may be right. This theme of kill all the humans, especially the pro-American, capitalist humans, has long been an underlying message of the left-wing, environmentalist movement, beginning with Rachel Carson’s hysterical plea to ban DDT, even though, to this day, there is no evidence that DDT is harmful to humans or the environment, and even though the use of DDT can save millions of human lives from the deadly disease of malaria.

“For hundreds of years, the pagan, communist ideas expressed in this movie circulated among a threadbare group of outcasts with dirty fingernails and greasy hair, who shared their obtuse, occult ideas amongst themselves with manic, alienated glee. Now, James Cameron has made these insane views the major bulwark of a very spectacular movie, but the spectacle does not make these Neo-Marxist views any more coherent, rational or uplifting.”

[Edited: Just edited comment and moved url link a bit further down so it fits in the scolling comments nicely”

Michael Anthony
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Michael Anthony

Watch this

Qoute from an article:

The Avatar, master over the elements, is really Lucifer, the angel of light. Just as the Avatar has power over the 4 elements, Lucifer has power over Satan (also known as the Demi-urge). According to the Illuminati, he will ultimately free us from the physical elements so that we can merge with him as one collective consciousness.

Maitreya also claims the title of “Avatar”. He is admittedly the servant of Lucifer inasmuch as his movement’s founder, Benjamin Creme, is an admitted Luciferian. Just like Nimrod was a Luciferian- Satanist and his wife as well.’

—- When I read this I thought ‘OK’… interesting insight but then look at the rest of the article

http://moneyteachers.org/Deadmanmusings8.htm

These guys do a nice job on giving a plausible outline to avatar but then implode when they deny that Christ rose bodily from grave and completely distort the Nicene creed. More false teachers exposing false teachers.

Yolandi
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Yolandi

Most Hollywood movies have some sort of evil lurking in them esp fantasy films …Harry Potter is about spells and magic any kind of witchcraft is unbiblical . Also animations like monsters inc for ex is another way for satan to come in and toy with our children’s minds.

cecilia
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cecilia

went to see “Avatar”. want to go again, this time with a pen and scribbler. oh, what lingered with me is the group meditation … and the witch in control… with forefather worship.

overall the film is about mass mind control. fullstop.

but I want to go see it again and write down; for now I’ll read up about it and the writer etc.

what it plain to see – it hit the movies at the right time…

only thing worthwhile afterward: you can keep the nice 3D-glasses!
cecilia

David
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David

Avatar’s Christian theme – By Mark Silk from spiritual-politics blog

Avatar – More Spiritual Than You’d Think
You Can’t See Nothing If You Close Your Eyes – by Mike Furches
http://live.hollywoodjesus.com/?p=4875

The True Avatar by Lane Palmer
http://www.youthministry.com/?q=node/24790

cecilia
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cecilia

mmmm DTW, i’ve every now and then I allow myself to “remember” what I saw in the movie. I want to ‘highlight’ two things:

the way is to “connect”, or “to tap into” – in plain common words: to become one. notice the object you “tie” youself / your spirit to, has an immediate effect on you. It might seem that YOU have the control, but in the end this object has the control.

then
in the same breath: this (poor) guy was “sent” / “Planted” to get to know this other culture – (like some wants to get to know other religions eg Islam – and end up becoming one with it (her) and defending it (her) to death.
fullstop.
cecilia

Amanda
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Amanda

Not me! The emerged, now mainstream ones! My dualistic thinking – truth vs lie – is working just fine.

cecilia
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cecilia

yip, agreed! truth lie
c