If you’ve seen Avatar, I guess you have also heard of the Vatican’s comment.
The Vatican newspaper and radio station are criticizing James Cameron’s 3-D blockbuster for flirting with the idea that worship of nature can replace religion – a notion the pope has warned against. They call the movie a simplistic and sappy tale, despite its awe-inspiring special effects.
In the same webpage it continues:
Most significantly, much of the Vatican criticism was directed at the movie’s central theme of man vs. nature.
L’Osservatore said the film “gets bogged down by a spiritualism linked to the worship of nature.” Similarly, Vatican Radio said it “cleverly winks at all those pseudo-doctrines that turn ecology into the religion of the millennium.”
“Nature is no longer a creation to defend, but a divinity to worship,” the radio said.
Now this is what I dug up from a Pantheist website:
Towards a naturalistic spirituality
In the WPM we revere and care for Nature, we accept this life as our only life, and this earth as our only paradise, if we look after it. We revel in the beauty of Nature and the night sky, and are full of wonder at their mystery and power.
By spirituality and spiritual we don’t mean any kind of supernatural or non-physical activity – we use the terms in a wider sense. We mean that part of our lives that relates to our deeper emotions and aesthetic responses towards Nature and the wider Universe – to our sense of our place in these, and to the ethics that these feelings imply.
We take the real Universe and Nature as our starting and finishing point, not some preconceived idea of God. We feel a profound wonder and awe for these, similar to the reverence that believers in more conventional gods feel towards their deity, but without anthropomorphic worship or belief that Nature has a mind or personality that we can influence through prayer or ritual.
Our ethics are humanistic and green, our metaphysics naturalist and scientific. To these we add the emotional and aesthetic dimensions which humans need to cope with life’s challenges and to embrace life’s joys, and to motivate their concern for Nature and human welfare.
Now just google “vatican avatar pantheist” and see all the webpages where it seems that it is Pantheism that the Vatican is worried about. Avatar is fiction, why should the Vatican be so worked up about it.
Here’s a lighter take on the subject:
Ok, now seriously, can a fictional movie like Avatar really influence people’s beliefs to such an extent that they will change their view of spirituality? Actually I truly think that this is possible. When you think of it, a lot of things people believe their religion isn’t really due to logic. A lot of them have been born into their religion. But putting that aside. What common factors would a religion or spiritual belief system have in order for someone to be swayed into it.
A person’s tendency to accept a spiritual belief system or religion could be due to one of the following things:
Hope for a system of morality which will help people become good.
Avatar is a beautiful movie. It espouses environmentalism, camaraderie, all under a theme of oneness. Its message is clear and it’s message of oneness is one of themes which is most prevalent in almost all if not all of the religions and other spiritual belief systems. This rule of oneness is also sometimes known as the “golden rule.” Some of the religions’ sayings are stated below:
“…a state that is not pleasing or delightful to me, how could I inflict that upon another?” Samyutta NIkaya v. 353 Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” Udana-Varga 5:18
“Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12, King James Version. “And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.” Luke 6:31, King James Version. “…and don’t do what you hate…”, Gospel of Thomas 6. The Gospel of Thomas is one of about 40 gospels that circulated among the early Christian movement, but which never made it into the Christian Scriptures (New Testament).
This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you. Mahabharata 5:1517
“Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain, and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss.” T’ai Shang Kan Ying P’ien. “The sage has no interest of his own, but takes the interests of the people as his own. He is kind to the kind; he is also kind to the unkind: for Virtue is kind. He is faithful to the faithful; he is also faithful to the unfaithful: for Virtue is faithful.” Tao Teh Ching, Chapter 49
While the ‘golden rule’ is a rule of reciprocity between humans, Avatar seems to exceed it. The Navi are not only respectful to other Navi, but to the animals as well. This is a plus point to environmentalists and possibly even vegetarians.
Trust in what the majority believes in
Sure the public may not exactly believe in it since it is fiction, but with such a beautiful ‘romantic’ theme I can imagine people falling in love with the ‘spiritual system’ of avatar. In case you don’t know, a lot of people have become depressed with the film since they find the film so beautiful when they compare it with their daily lives. With Avatar exceeding the one billion dollar mark, one can imagine that a small but substantial percentage of the viewers may attempt to make it into their own ‘spiritual system.’
Trust in what authorities believe in
Let us assuming that Avatar does have a spiritual system similar to Pantheism. Guess who are the famous Pantheists.
One grand great life throbs through earth’s giant heart,
And mighty waves of single Being roll
From nerve-less germ to man, for we are part
Of every rock and bird and beast and hill,
One with the things that prey on us, and one with what we kill. (Oscar Wilde, Panthea)
A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, of the manifestations of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty – it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute the truly religious attitude; in this sense, and in this alone, I am a deeply religious man. (Albert Einstein)
A religion old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science, might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths. Sooner or later, such a religion will emerge. (Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot)
I believe in the cosmos. All of us are linked to the cosmos. So nature is my god. To me, nature is sacred. Trees are my temples and forests are my cathedrals. Being at one with nature. (Mikhail Gorbachev)
Aside from Einstein there are so many other scientists who are said to be pantheists.
A kind of spirituality which is believable
Religion has always been at odds with science. But just in the few paragraphs above we see scientists who aren’t exactly religious, but possibly spiritual. Atheism hase grown in number in the past few decades.
In a 2008 Gallup survey, 15 percent of Americans claimed no religion at all. That is up from only 8% in 1990. That is almost a doubling in the number of “non-religious” in less than 20 years. That is explosive growth! In fact, the “non-religious” now outnumber all religious organizations in the United States except for the Catholics and the Baptists.
But the U.S. cannot yet match the enthusiasm of British atheists. More than 100,000 people in the U.K. have recently downloaded “certificates of de-baptism” from a website that seeks to assist the non-religious in renouncing their Christian faith.
The de-baptism certificates are being distributed by a group called the “National Secular Society”. This campaign comes on the heels of a highly successful bus advertising campaign by atheists in the U.K. that promoted this slogan: “There’s probably no God.”
I feel that if there will be any spirituality which will surge, it is one which should be believable. Although the spiritual system in Avatar is still quite unbelievable for some atheists, I feel that they would find it more believable than a lot of old religions which are still flourishing today. In the film, even Grace the human scientists is excited with the prospect of being able to unravel the mysteries of the Navi’s religion, she even said, “its more connections to the human brain, get it, its a network, its a global network and the navi can access it, they can upload and download data, memories….”