Avatar is Pagan, and Boring

Steven Koster

Matt The Church Of No People
January 18, 2010

Of course I saw the paganism. The characters were supposed to be akin to Native Americans with their nature worship and whatnot.

What I can't understand is why the Vatican thinks this is worth commenting on. As if Avatar is really going to lead people to paganism. If people are that gullible, it should be rather easy to bring them back anyway. What does the Vatican expect from movies? That all the characters are Christians and the films are rooted in reality? That would make for some rather boring movies. James Cameron made up a race of people, and naturally, part of making up a culture involves making up a religion.

January 18, 2010

Thank you for saying what's been on my mind too! So many Christians are flocking to this 'visual feast' and while it is stunning, its message left me cold. Nice analysis!


January 18, 2010

"North America has historically been dominated by monotheism" - well, I think you forgot the history of North America didn't start with the discovery of the "New World". As far as I remember, there has been a long tradition of Indian religion, that hasn't been too monotheistic! ;-)

January 18, 2010

Many of the movies in America are not Christian or Christian like...d movie too me is a great movie and very intresting if I might add

January 18, 2010

Actually, a fair number of Native American (and west African) religions are montheistic, although in practice they get cluttered up with all kinds of intermediaries, not unlike Roman saints. Check out the conversation between the Anglican missionary and the local chief in Chinwa Achebe's Things Fall Apart.

I would find it odd if a totally fictional book about a totally fictional culture had our understanding of God front and center. I've noticed that fiction such as Ursula LeGuin's doesn't either have a pagan pantheon nor some analogue of Christianity, and that's fine with me. Even C.S. Lewis said that he did not set out to write a thinly veiled Christian allegory, he just set out to write a story. Where I would expect to see a Christian sense of God is in movies about communities in North America that have a substantial Christian population. Everyone in those movies shouldn't be a de facto agnostic, and the roles of Christians should be about in proportion to, and modeled after, their role in real life.

Chris Ruch
January 19, 2010

I strongly believe the key point of the film wasn't religion specifically, so much as taking care of the resources our planet provides... not abusing what we've got to the point that our race is on the brink of collapse. Additionally, how we should handle the need/quest for resources if ours are depleted or nearly so... and that we shouldn't go after it regardless of any costs to what we may feel are "lesser species" than ourselves. Like it or not, there's a delicate balance in ecosystems... you throw something off with carelessness, and there's bound to be nasty repurcussions. This is a message everyone really needs to consider regardless of our race or religion. Lastly I think the film not so subtly points at how we in America (in our history) very poorly "took over" the US territories and very nearly destroyed a culture (Native Americans) who had just as much right to use the land. I'm surprised how much of a rant this article conveys, considering this blog has typically tried to open discussion in a more positive way... rather than complaints about hollywood and other religions, it often poses questions like: "what can we do in a positive way with our faith in spite of the things we disagree with or believe are unhealthy?". I almost imagine you went into the film with your arms crossed, brow furrowed, waiting for the first opportunity to critique... instead of allowing the characters, subtexts, and overall mission of the film to inspire and entertain you.

January 19, 2010

While Avatar is the popular movie to criticize today (which makes sense as we've grown to be a society where it's "cool" to criticize the popular), I thoroughly enjoyed it on two levels:

1. art. it's simply stunning. those who have seen avatar (especially in 3d) have witnessed the next step in visual effects; much like the star wars of old.

2. Avatar is monotheistic in nature. The "all mother" is the deity. Only one deity. One. All things contain the energy/life that has it's root in one deity. I'd say that - while not using the same language - i'd say my Christianity is very similar

Pagans believe that many things have their own - individual - spirit. very different from the system described in Avatar where everything is interconnected in it's existance (as I'd say is true for Christians) and there all those interconnections ultimately fall under one deity (which I'd say is true for Christians).

January 19, 2010

@AdamLehman & SiarlysJenkins:

Sorry, but that isn't correct at all. What you're describing has very little to do with monotheism - it's simply pantheism / panentheism.

January 19, 2010

Sorry - I should have mentioned that "Theolobias" and "Tobias Lampert" is very much the same person ... ;-) Just couldn't stand that Disqus-thing any longer.

January 19, 2010

What I found frustrating in Avatar was not the paganism per se, but the idea that pagan beliefs somehow "elevated" the native people over the invaders. Why add an incoherent gloss of an ill-defined religion? It is the use of the "simple pagan people = good" and "sophisticated foreign people = bad" stereotype that is frustrating. Why not elevate the connection of the people and animals to nature along the lines of the elves in the Lord of the Rings series? Having the natives praying to a tree, after showing their incredible ability to use a physical and mental connection to animals and to manipulate their environment in general, simply diminished them in my eyes. Why not give them an understanding of the tree and root mechanism as a knowledge storage and transmission device?

January 19, 2010

I think you have that about right. Of course its not The Christian God, because we have no idea what this would look like in a totally alien culture. It is a work of speculative fiction, and the author naturally makes it as unlike us as possible. But to the extent that there is any symbolic allegory or parallel, this really is congruent with the reason Elohim is plural: because all the natural forces pagans worship individually flow from and are at the command of a single deity.

January 20, 2010

Panentheism. Thanks Tobias! I learned something today. That’s exactly what it represents.

To be honest, my first impressions were that it was a first rate Disneyland thrill ride. It was disorienting and disconcerting to have bugs flying through the theater over my head. The forest was magical in the way that Fern Gully or the Ewok Village was. I kept thinking that I’ll bet George Lucas is completely envious. That said, if you strip away the special effects, the movie was a one dimensional morality play with the usual heros and villains. White man corporations bad, gentle primitive natives good. No nuances, no thought provoking issues. The standard plot of 90% of Hollywood films of the last 20 years. In reality I felt the novelty of 3-D got in the way of any character development and narrative. A good film allows for a little bit of distance between the viewer and the medium, to provide space for contemplation. This felt like being caught up in a video game.

Of course, you could say all the usuals about new age religion, demonic imagery and pagan themes but I will leave that to someone else. A fun Disneyland ride.

January 20, 2010

Well, it certainly wasn't Christian, so Pagan would be a good word to describe it. Though Eywa did seem to be a personal deity, and the connection with nature was part of their relationship with her. I was still moved by the worn out narrative of the greedy imperialists vs. the primal, "innocent," peace-keeping, earth-loving "others." Learning to "see" the "other" is a powerful and important lesson whenever and wherever it is conveyed.

January 21, 2010

The moment of the film that hit home to me (besides the thrill of riding a giant bird) was when Grace Augustine was in the control room with all the skeptics, imploring them to understand that their deity isn't just make believe, it's REAL! I have found myself defending the Truth of Jesus with similar frustration/zeal/confoundment at the inability of my listeners to "get it", and I have been hit with some version of Giovanni's response, "What have these guys been smoking?"

January 22, 2010

Yes, and it's amazing how North American Christianity is most often cinematically portrayed in a negative light when it is portrayed.

January 22, 2010

Quite frankly, I would much rather watch a non-Christian movie, than a Christian one. With few exceptions, every Christian movie I have seen has left me wondering if the writers, the director, and the actors have ever even read the bible. At least if I know it is something I don't believe, I can see it as pure fiction.
I saw Avatar and found parts of it exceptionally beautiful, especially the nature scenes. I saw no need for the 'sex' scene, other than that it was expected. And I found the battle scenes so violent that I was actually nauseated by some of them.
Overall, a movie that in some respects made me think, in some left me wanting, and without doubt, much longer than it needed to be.

January 24, 2010

As someone who currently lives in northern Canada, the story conveyed is all too real, and frankly, continues up here -- discussions of pipelines, natural resource extraction, with at best a token expression of interest in what the land means to the aboriginal people (and should probably mean to all of us!) who have lived here for thousands (yes, thousands - unless you're a strict creationist, I suppose) of years. There are intricate and fragile eco-systems which multinational companies Just.Don't.Get (or presumably, care about) and while they are not led by such obvious assholes as the character in the film, the destructive, oblivious approach is just as real.
Someone said "all truth is God's truth". This movie portrays truth about human nature, greed, and the nature of power. To me, that made it a movie worth watching.

Andrew Hocking
January 24, 2010

For the most part, the film presents panentheism. For a quick definition, panentheism is the belief that God is the physical universe but more than just the physical universe. It's sort of like the idea that God incarnated himself (or herself) as creation, so it must be perfect just as it is, i.e. both good and evil are perfect. For this reason, when the female lead said that Eywa (God) doesn't take sides, she was expressing a more typical panentheism.
But, when Eywa intervenes, which in my opinion is the best part of the movie, it disregarded the panentheism, but presented the God who fights on behalf of the oppressed, i.e Judeo-Christian monothesim. Didn't we all rejoice when that happened? In the end, the love story of God redeeming and fighting for a people is better than a story about an impartial universe. The story of the passionate, intervening God is what speaks to our hearts.

January 28, 2010

What I really like in this discussion is the idea that to create a new culture James Cameron had to also create a new religion. It just goes to show that all life is religion. All culture is a response to one's religion.

February 8, 2010

I didn't mind that the blue people were pagans... found it annoying that this WAS "Dances with Smurfs" (coined by 'South Park' lol) -- I've seen this movie b4. I found it very "icky" that it was a bunch of mostly white, westerners that saved the day. Why can't someone write a story where the native people save the day for themselves? Is that radical?!

Haydn Peters
February 19, 2010

well well, the vatican is chucking a hissy. If everyone starts worshipping nature they might have to get real jobs or maybe they can just start killing everyone again that don't agree with their stories. Listen it is all just a bunch of people writing stories a long time ago. At least people can see and be around nature rather than believing stories about a bloke 2000 years ago. its funny that the story of jesus is parralleled in other religions. Come on guys if i asked you to jump in the canal would you? No of course not. we die thats it whats the problem as long as you have had a decent innings thats fine. There is a massive release of hormones in your brain at death that is akin to an acid trip(the light) then thats it. like going to sleep. enjoy yourself , cut loose a little because you only have one chance.

March 15, 2010


What I'm describing has everything to do with monotheism. One God. One deity. One set of ears that I share my life with.

By simply stating, "sorry, but that isn't correct at all." does very little to add to the discussion.

August 3, 2010

I feel like ever since Avatar came out, people have been making too much of a big deal over the religious aspect of the movie. seriously, who cares? it's a sci-fi action film with a little romance tied into it. it's not asking you to believe in nature worship.
I feel like if people learn to move past critisizing a movie because of their own religious bias, they can learn to appreciate the time and effort and talent it took to produce such a wonderful film.
of course we all have our own opinions, but I feel like a lot of opinions on Avatar regarding religion are based on bias. you might as well be mad about every movie that includes religions other than your own.

JoJo Langridge
July 13, 2014

Paganism falls side by side with science the more it progresses. Paganism is an understanding and faith of the quantum aspects of life. Christians stole our holidays, stole egypts idols to embellish a bloke who did some good stuff called Jesus.

Now what's more logical? A belief that all of life is connected even at a molecular level ( proven in science ) or that an entity magicked us here ?

Oddly there are many Christians leaving the faith like droves to practice paganism, it doesn't judge, it doesn't segregate, it does not consider sexuality or morals, because u morals u need to preach come baturally with an understanding of paganism and science .

Add your comment to join the discussion!