http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Alfonso_Cuaron_by_Gage_Skidmore.jpg

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Alfonso_Cuaron_by_Gage_Skidmore.jpg

Jeffrey Weiss’ sharp analysis of the None religion of Sandra Bullock’s scientist-astronaut in the movie “Gravity” leaves out a few religious references that deserve mention. Spoiler alert.

When mission leader George Clooney floats off to his certain death in orbit above the Earth, he remarks on the beauty of the sun rising over the (sacred Hindu) River Ganges. Then there’s the Russian Orthodox Theotokos icon, the Virgin Mary and Jesus, affixed to the console of the Soyuz module. And the Buddha in the Chinese space station.

The impulse to do religion in space is not hard to understand, and it’s well-attested. The astronauts of Apollo 8 read the first 10 verses of Genesis in a Christmas broadcast during their 1968 mission around the moon. And Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, conducted a religious ceremony from its surface, radioing, “”I’d like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours, and to give thanks in his or her own way.” The Presbyterian elder then secretly gave himself Communion.

For its part, “Gravity” partakes of the New Age sensibility of writer-producer-director Alfonso Cuarón. (His forthcoming TV series “Believe” threatens to be a Metaphysical version of “Touched By an Angel.”) The movie ends with Bullock, successful returned to Earth, emerging from the water and rising to her feet on the mucky, gravity-ridden shore. Personally, I prefer the Nietzschean mystery of Kubrick’s “2001.” Now that’s None Space Religion with a vengeance.

Categories: Beliefs

Beliefs:

Mark Silk

Mark Silk

Mark Silk is Professor of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College and director of the college's Leonard E. Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life.

9 Comments

  1. Jeffrey Weiss

    True dat about explicitly religious stuff in the film. But Bullock’s character didn’t seem to react to those items, so that got too far outside my focus. As for the religiosity of “2001.” Not so much, I think. That was a techno-tale. Whatever non-materialistic theme you want to read into it seems more in keeping with Clarke’s Third Law: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” And that’s particularly true if you read the book.

  2. Jeffrey Weiss

    Not so much. The “starchild” was clearly created somehow by whatever it was that created the obelisks that keep singing at us. Nothing supernatural necessarily in play. Yeah, it looks like magic. See my first comment…1:-{)> Now, does it have implications that trend into the philosophical? Yup. But good SF — even the tech-iest — does that frequently.

    (And in Clarke’s novelization of the movie, the connection between the obelisks and the spacekid is made more explicit. Whatever is going on is physical. )

  3. Most people I know feel deeply about the earth, and certain parts of it in particular. My special place is a wilderness area in Northern California. Seeing the sun arise over the Ganges must have been beautiful, with or without the character’s awareness that it is sacred to Hindus. Religious icons have significance for some people, not all. If those icons are visible in the movie (doesn’t sound as though they are), they had meaning for the
    person(s) who put them there. Others may have just put up with them.

    “…Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, conducted a religious ceremony from its surface, radioing, “”I’d like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours, and to give thanks in his or her own way.” The Presbyterian elder then secretly gave himself Communion.” The first part of that is not necessarily religious. The second part of was conductedprivately by the astronaut. If a religious ceremony must be conducted in space, it should be done in quiet and secret.

  4. I don’t mind the spoiler alert because I doubt I would have caught those references without you. I’m planning on seeing the movie (the trailer looked terrifying) and I’ll get back to you with thoughts! What is the “None religion”? I’m extremely intrigued by this article and I wish it was longer.

  5. Texas Dervish

    Everyone so far seems to have missed, or is ignoring, the most telling spiritual/religious reference: after landing, before standing up straight, Ryan Stone (Bullock’s character) puts her forehead to the ground and says, “Thank you.” Whom is she addressing? The missing-presumed-dead Matt Kowalski (George Clooney)? The anonymous voice on the radio with whom she shared a moment, if not a language? God? It’s not made clear, and doesn’t really matter: she knows she did not arrive on her own, and she owes someone a debt of gratitude. That is one of the essential spiritual yearnings of humanity: thankfulness for the undeserved, unasked-for gift of existence.

    • very beautiful comment. I particularly liked “That is one of the essential spiritual yearnings of humanity: thankfulness for the undeserved, unasked-for gift of existence”

  6. It has been said that most of the Oil an Gas facilities in the Western region of Venezuela have been named with numbers and letters like R-10, H-7, etc. based on a unique geographic reference: a Cathedral in the city of Maracaibo called La Basilica, as if former American Oil and Gas companies like Standard, creole, Shell did that for divine protection.

  7. He said: “I will not suppose there has ever been a doubt about the level of quality (belonging to the gamers) but there is no position obtaining level of quality without the need of application. The boys have truly used them selves brilliantly as we came in.
    http://www.sjorovaren.se/readnew.asp?p=17 http://www.sjorovaren.se/readnew.asp?p=17

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Comments with many links may be automatically held for moderation.