Heaven and Nature
By ROSS DOUTHAT - THE NEW YORK TIMES
Added: Tue, 22 Dec 2009 00:00:00 UTC
Thanks to Lucas for the link.
Itâs fitting that James Cameronâs âAvatarâ 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. Itâs at once the blockbuster to end all blockbusters, and the Gospel According to James.
But not the Christian Gospel. Instead, âAvatarâ is Cameronâs long apologia for pantheism — a faith that equates God with Nature, and calls humanity into religious communion with the natural world.
In Cameronâs sci-fi universe, this communion is embodied by the blue-skinned, enviably slender NaâVi, an alien race whose idyllic existence on the planet Pandora is threatened by rapacious human invaders. The NaâVi are saved by the movieâs hero, a turncoat Marine, but theyâre also saved by their faith in Eywa, the âAll Mother,â described variously as a network of energy and the sum total of every living thing.
If this narrative arc sounds familiar, thatâs because pantheism has been Hollywoodâs religion of choice for a generation now. Itâs the truth that Kevin Costner discovered when he went dancing with wolves. Itâs the metaphysic woven through Disney cartoons like âThe Lion Kingâ and âPocahontas.â And itâs the dogma of George Lucasâs Jedi, whose mystical Force âsurrounds us, penetrates us, and binds the galaxy together.â