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  • Deacon Dan Wright serves the Diocese of Austin, Texas. His work outside the parish is as a special education teacher serving students with significant cognitive disabilities.



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January 13, 2010


Elias Chapelle

You seem to have missed a major plot point in the film 'Avatar'. Perhaps you need to see it again. James Cameron borrowed extensively from other SF source material (including his own SF films of the past) that clearly illustrate that the faith of the Pandoreans is not pantheistic nor neo-Pagan. Religious SF, what there is of it, often explores the idea that there is more than one path to God. Did you miss the part of the film where our tree-hugging hero Pandorean convert realizes that the entire planet is one living organism? If that is not God I guess I don't know what is.

Deacon DW

Well, Elias, thanks for your comment--actually, I did realize that there was a lot of borrowing going on in "Avatar" and not all of it was SF. For example, my 15-year-old mentioned "Dances with Wolves" and "Pocahontas." My wife seemed to think it had a thread in common with "The Last Samurai." She also mentioned "Smurfs."

Now, as far as the whole planet being one living organism, wouldn't that more indicate that it's something biological and not God? This seemed more to be the science point of it. Furthermore, saying that the entire planet is one living organism and therefore is God, is, by definition, pantheism. You might say the same thing about earth--one living organism--but the moment you say that makes it God you've identified yourself as a pantheist.

I think there have been films that minimally point to "more than one path to God." "Contact" comes to mind, but it too juxtaposed science with faith in such a way to force the question regarding belief. We end up, by the design of the writer, asking is it God or is it something natural that we do not yet understand completely?

What I found to be neo-pagan about "Avatar" is precisely that the Pandoran's divinized and worshiped nature. An identifying mark of a pagan system of belief, depending on how you define paganism, is that it is a pantheistic or nature-worshipping religion. This is clearly the case among the Pandoran's practice.

While Sci-Fi writers may from time to time explore religious pluralism (more than one path), I don't really see it as being intrinsic to the plot of "Avatar" though that might be your subjective take on it. Keep in mind that pluralism is not compatible with every religion, few actually, but tolerance, by comparison, goes a long way.

R MacGowan

To start off with...they were mercenaries not US military. The state of our moral conscience could easily lead us down the same pathway as it has so many times in the past. If that reflection bothers you, I think that says more about you instead of the film.

Again, you missed the important fact that they, as do most Pagan religions, do not 'worship' nature but revere all life and see divinity (God, Goddess or Both) closely intertwined with it. A lesson you should learn yourself.

The fact that there are those of you who oppose a movie that shows the big corporation that wants to commit genocide on a people so they can take what isn't theirs as being the victim frankly disturbs me.

We are doomed to repeat ourselves and past wrongs if we do not open our eyes and see the world for what it is and what it has become. I think this movie has made a great number of people think and that is what scares you the most. People who may start thinking for themselves.

Deacon DW

R MacGowan - no, actually I was sort of hoping that people would start thinking for a change.

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