How to Protect Your Children from Spiritual Forces in the Media
By Dr. Ted Baehr, Publisher with Dr. Tom Snyder, Editor
Editor’s Note: This is the second of a series of articles for families with children on non-Christian worldviews in movies and television programs. This second article discusses the pagan worldview of animism.
Animism is spirit worship. It has been heavily promoted by some Hollywood films such as POCAHONTAS and BROTHER BEAR. Animism is the primary religion of millions of tribal people scattered throughout Africa, New Guinea, the Pacific Islands, North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, India, and Japan. Elements of basic animism are also adhered to by many nominal Muslims, Buddhists and others, who do not know Jesus Christ personally and have His Holy Spirit.
Animism involves necrolatry, the worship of the souls of the dead. Tribal people tend to regard the departed ancestors as part of the clan and fear the harm that the departed can do to the living. They especially fear that those who died unnaturally will come back to haunt them. Animism involves spirit worship, believing in the existence of personal spirits or demons, as well as impersonal spiritual forces in nature that inhabit the earth, the air, fire, water, trees, mountains, and animal life. Life for the Animist is dominated by a host of taboos and rituals to placate the spirits.
Animism also involves naturism, the personification and worship of the forces of nature. For example, the worship of the sun in ancient Egypt, the sacred cow of the Hindus in India and the sacred mountain of Shintoism in Japan. Naturism normally involves polytheism (the worship of many gods) and idolatry. In nature worship, rituals and sacrifices are intended to guarantee fertility. Human sacrifices are an extreme example of this.
Animism often involves totemism (“Brother—Sister—Kin”), emphasizing the unity of the clan with some sacred plant or animal. Animism involves fetishism (the superstitious belief that there is some spiritual energy or force in charms, amulets or fetishes). Normally, witchdoctors are involved as Shamans, “expert mediators” who know the proper incantations and sacrifices at times of sickness and disasters to placate “the spirits.” The witch doctors use imitative magic to bring harm to an enemy by attacking a representation of him (such as a voodoo doll) or contagious magic, which uses some hair clipping, nail paring, sweat, spit, or feces to bring a curse on an individual. The blood of an animal (or a person) may be drunk in order to gain the strength of that animal or (in the case of cannibalism) person.
Animism is characterized by the absence of real love and hope. There are no moral absolutes (sin is seen as the violation of culture, custom and spirit forces rather than any personal ethical transgression). The whole of life is pervaded and governed by fear. Animism is pervaded by fatalism and a sense of helplessness in the face of external forces.
Heathenism does not deny God as much as ignore Him by worshipping natural forces and mysterious demon powers through magical ceremonies and sacrifices.
Some elements of animism can be seen in many Chinese and Japanese movies and television programs with a Buddhist worldview, including animated movies and programs, such as the animated 2020 Japanese movie WEATHERING WITH YOU.