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The Green Life: The Vatican Pans Avatar

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January 20, 2010

The Vatican Pans Avatar

The pope warns against nature worship James Cameron's new eco-themed movie, Avatar, is wowing moviegoers with 3-D CGI magic, but the film hasn't won any converts in the Vatican. L'Osservatore Romano, the official newspaper of the holy city, and Vatican Radio call the movie "bland" and say it "ends up falling into sappiness." The Vatican's criticism seems based, in part, on the movie's portrayal of a nature-based religion. According the Huffington Post, L'Osservatore Romano said that Avatar "gets bogged down by a spiritualism linked to the worship of nature."

The Christian Science Monitor reports that the Avatar review is part of L'Osservatore Romano's effort to become more accessible by weighing in on worldy topics like Harry Potter, the Simpsons, and the Beatles. In a 2008 article, the newspaper even forgave John Lennon for his infamous "more popular than Jesus" comment.

A Vatican spokesman said the criticism reflected Pope Benedict XVI's view that environmentalists should be careful to avoid "neo-paganism." While the so-called green pope has declared environmental offenses a sin, he has also warned against "considering [nature] more important than the human person," reports the Huffington Post. 

Mother Nature may, in fact, be edging in on the pontiff's turf. A U.K. court recently ruled that environmentalists are covered under the same law that protects people from religious persecution. In 2008, Ecuador ratified a constitution with language granting inalienable rights to nature. Some scholars have called environmentalism a religion outright. And then there's the matter of a seemingly unstoppable blockbuster that glorifies a tribe of attractive, nature-worshiping blue people. The pope's got nothing to worry about, right?

--Della Watson


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