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AVATAR, the Vatican, and Neo-Paganism

Sam Worthington, Michelle Rodriguez, Sigourney Weaver, Joel David Moore in Avatar
Sam Worthington, Michelle Rodriguez, Sigourney Weaver, Joel David Moore in Avatar (Mark Fellman / 20th Century Fox)

Right-wingers criticize it for its anti-militaristic and anti-imperialism stance. The politically correct accuse it of being racist. Anti-smokers cry foul because of a chain-smoking character. And now comes the Vatican media accusing it of promoting paganism and nature worship. Really, you can't please everyone, but this?

In addition to referring to Avatar as "bland" and "sappy," L'Osservatore Romano complained in its review that James Cameron's sci-fier "gets bogged down by a spiritualism linked to the worship of nature," while Vatican Radio pointed out that the film "cleverly winks at all those pseudo-doctrines that turn ecology into the religion of the millennium," adding that "nature is no longer a creation to defend, but a divinity to worship."

Pope Benedict XVI, who just yesterday called gay marriage an attack on "creation and the natural order" (Portugal has become the latest country to approve the legalization of gay marriages; a gay couple got married in Argentina last week), has already proclaimed against the dangers of turning nature into a "new divinity." The pope also denounced the "supposedly egalitarian vision" that human beings and other living creatures should be placed on the same plane of existence, adding that such a worldview would "open the way to a new pantheism tinged with neo-paganism, which would see the source of man's salvation in nature alone, understood in purely naturalistic terms."

Last year, the Vatican lambasted Angels & Demons and a couple of years earlier it lashed out against The Da Vinci Code. Both films were based on Dan Brown's novels; both were directed by Ron Howard and starred Tom Hanks; and both went on to become worldwide blockbusters.

Avatar opens Friday in Italy. Expect huge grosses.

Quotes: Associated Press

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