Exhibit A is this insightful bit of prose written in response to the plot of James Cameron’s Avatar :
The question is whether Nature actually deserves a religious response. Traditional theism has to wrestle with the problem of evil: if God is good, why does he allow suffering and death? But Nature is suffering and death. Its harmonies require violence. Its circle of life is really a cycle of mortality. And the human societies that hew closest to the natural order arent the shining Edens of James Camerons fond imaginings. Theyre places where existence tends to be nasty, brutish and short.
Religion exists, in part, precisely because humans arent at home amid these cruel rhythms. We stand half inside the natural world and half outside it. Were beasts with self-consciousness, predators with ethics, mortal creatures who yearn for immortality.
This is an agonized position, and if theres no escape upward or no God to take on flesh and come among us, as the Christmas story has it a deeply tragic one.
Pantheism offers a different sort of solution: a downward exit, an abandonment of our tragic self-consciousness, a re-merger with the natural world our ancestors half-escaped millennia ago.
But except as dust and ashes, Nature cannot take us back.
When, when, besides this, are the readers of the New York Times going to get a more true characterization of the Christian hope for mankind?
You can read the full column here .