Liam Neeson — great voice, little brain

Liam Neeson, who does the voice of Aslan the Lion in the Narnia movies, has upset people by claiming that Aslan could as easily be Allah or Buddha as he could be Christ:

Ahead of the release of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader next Thursday, Neeson said: ‘Aslan symbolises a Christ-like figure but he also symbolises for me Mohammed, Buddha and all the great spiritual leaders and prophets over the centuries.

‘That’s who Aslan stands for as well as a mentor figure for kids – that’s what he means for me.’

Apparently, despite providing Aslan’s voice, Neeson never read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, nor saw the movie, both of which are pretty accurate allegories for the crucifixion and resurrection.

Still, one can see where someone raised on a steady diet of cultural relativism might try to morph all religious figures into one big loving God-like thingie.   The problem is that C.S. Lewis explicitly rejected this approach in his last Narnia book.  Instead, he made it clear that there is only one God and that’s the Christian God.

In the Narnia series, my favorite book has come to be The Last Battle — which is the Biblical end of the world, Narnia style. Within that book, my favorite scenes take place after the Apocalypse, when the saved are in the Narnia version of Heaven.

When the heroes and heroines of past books arrive in their Heaven, they find there a Calormene. Caloremenes are Narnian’s arch enemies (and, interesting, given that the book was written in the 1950s, are clearly modeled on Muslims out of the Arabian nights). They reject Aslan (the Jesus figure) and instead worship Tash, an evil figure who is clearly meant to be the equivalent of Satan.  In other words, it’s highly probable that Lewis viewed Allah as a Satanic figure or, certainly, the un-God.

The Calormene’s presence in Heaven is, therefore, unexpected. It turns out, however, that the Calormene is an exceptionally honorable character who believes in Tash because he was raised to, but whose values are clearly in line with Aslan’s. Accordingly, when he arrives in Heaven, Aslan welcomes him, assuring him that all of his good acts by-passed Tash and were accorded directly to Aslan — hence his place in Heaven.

Lewis’ point, of course, is that the Christian God — Aslan or Jesus — focuses on man’s acts and is readily able to separate the wheat from the chaff. True religions encourage good behavior, but it is up to God in the afterlife to determine whether any individual actually “got it right” in terms of moral choices. God also has sufficient self-assurance to accept that some might not appear to accord him the proper respect on earth, because God looks at deep acts and beliefs, not superficial behaviors.

So Liam Neeson is totally wrong when he tries to morph Aslan/Jesus/Christian God into some generic good deity.  In the C.S. Lewis world, God is always God.  The only question is whether we humans have met his standards, not whether he has met ours.

Be Sociable, Share!
  • Charles Martel

    Hundreds of millions of people are trapped in the loveless, airless, soul-killing prison of Islam. Despite that, many of them are decent, generous human beings who manage to be so despite their confinement.  

  • Libby

    Great analysis, Bookworm! This reminded me of another actor who responded to the the “what does it mean” type questions about his movies with blunt honesty instead of this one-world-all religions are the same pablum: John Rhys-Davies. When asked what paralleled the strong themes in the Lord of the Rings movies he spoke out about Islam’s war on the West. Really puts moral-relativists like Neeson to shame.

  • Danny Lemieux

    I used to really admire Sean Connery, especially for his portrayal of James Bond. That was until I heard him open his mouth while having to think on an evening talk show. Sheesh! What a disappointment.
    Interesting your description of C.S. Lewis’ “heaven”. It conforms to what Episcopalians and many Roman Catholics believe heaven to be…open to all of us. However, not all choose to enter. Part of that “free will” thingee that we were discussing in DQ’s post.

  • 11B40

    One of the sad epiphanies of my adult life was seeing the “celebrity” editions of “Jeopardy”, the game show where they give the answer and the contestants reply with the question.  Seeing all the wrong things that “celebrities” knew and all the right things they didn’t know, even those in the news business, was the cause of a serious moment of pause.  But then again, for a while, I thought that all movie actors were bigger than me, too.

  • excathedra

    One of the oddities of our culture is that we grant oracular status to people whose chief talent lies in making believe they are someone they are not.


    Once upon a time, the expose magazines generated all the gossip, led by Hedda Hopper and gang. In the 1950’s interviews were orchestrated and managed – heaven forbid, that some doofus actor/actress said something stupid or unintelligent.  Now they can’t wait to share … their brain size, bra size (before and after)  sex lives, surgeries and opinions. They just can’t stop themselves from sharing. I am full. I don’t want another slice of their lives or opinions.

  • Ymarsakar

    Danny, I got that after I read Old Man’s War and the author’s other sf novels. Then you have Scalzi, who is doing quite well financially, talking about how America needs Obama because Republicans spent too much or did something bad to the economy. Same with David Brin. Circa 2007-8 of course. They’re too busy marketing their books to comment on the economic collapse these days. Funny how that works. Course if they do comment, they’ll blame it on somebody other than themselves and their glorified pillboys.
    A lot of the quirky “Vietnam military” vibes I got from Scalzi’s novels now make perfect sense. There were some clear and explicit logical contradictions, but because Scalzi was weaving his own world, it didn’t appear like logical contradictions. It just felt like it when I compared it to my own life experiences.
    An author’s ability to create a fictional and internally consistent world, to external observers, is also an implication that the author can create his own fantasy world and not care about how it contradicts with reality. LibProgs tend to fall into this zone very easily. Especially if they are making money whether Obama is the President or not. They’re not in a position where they will lose their income when Obama nationalizes companies and destroys the US economy. They have no skin in the game, even though it is the American economy that made them rich and successful. Just like a lot of the anti-war protesters. They had no skin in whether the outcome of the war was a success or not, even though they lived in one of the countries that are combatants in the war. But it’s especially hypocritical of them to talk about how they “care” about the little people, unlike Republicans, and that is why they are boosting for Obama and Democrats. Especially hypocritical and worthy of despisement (grammatically correct word, yet not in spellcheck).
    I find that the better the actor, magician, or author you are, the more susceptible that person becomes to self-serving bias and believing in their own propaganda. An actor, for example, has to become very good at generating and believing in their own illusion, otherwise the audience will notice something is wrong. For example, if an actor hates the other actor, but he has to say the line “I love you”, everybody is going to see his body language and realize that what he is saying is not consistent with the way he holds himself. Actors, thus, need to sublimate their own desires and feelings and generate “false” ones, solely in order to present the “accurate” body language gestures.
    The single thing I have kept in mind as I have studied the arts of illusion and psychological manipulation is “you too are mortal”. As was the same for H2H training, so was the same for mental vulnerabilities as well. It keeps the practitioner honest to know that what he is learning works just as well on himself as on others.
    Book, great expose of true religious dynamics. Not many people understand the subtle points intersecting these manifold fields. This is also featured predominantly in David Weber’s Safehold. Which, I believe, Mike Dev is a fan of.
    Many people are unwilling to accept an objective truth or omniscient God. They want something that benefits them. So if they don’t like the God of War, they’ll pray to the God of Fertility instead. This is not so bad if you have a dominant culture, like Roman culture. When you have warring tribes out there, then you have issues. Because with every layer of difference there exists between one group and another, the likelihood of one group slaughtering the other increases exponentially. Christianity, thus, was often a response to stop much of the violence in the world, between individuals, groups, or nations. Like Buddhism, Taoism, and Confuciasm, it was part of the progress to a more enlightened or peaceful goal, from centuries of conflict and bloodshed.
    People now a days, living in peace and plenty, often don’t understand a single thing of where such concepts and systems came from. All they know is what they are told is true. But what they are told, isn’t necessarily the truth, now is it.

  • Ymarsakar

    Islam is the only major religion I am aware of, that spread by the sword. Meaning, it started in Arabia and ended up completely conquering the regions around it and putting non-believers to the sword. To the point where Zoroastrianism, the major religion of Iran, now no longer exists for all intents and purposes.
    What do you call that, the religion of peace and tolerance?
    Total bunch of idiots on this planet trying to tell me they know more than I do. They don’t even know how to tie their shoelaces without a servant around.

  • Mike Devx

    I’m with Danny in #3.  If I were an actor, I’d zealously guard my privacy and make few public statements.  Movies are illusions, and your fans will project onto you (the actor) many different personas.  As soon as you open your mouth – especially if you end up spewing this Liam Neeson-like idiocy – you shatter the illusion.  And you lose your fans.
    I really liked the characters Liam Neeson played in Schindler’s List, and Taken. I got into both movies big time.  But now if I see those movies, I’ll be jarred out of being able to enjoy them by being able to see only Liam Neeson the fool.  I won’t be able to plunge into the movies, which have been harmed by his public idiocy.  What a shame.

  • Ymarsakar

    This is one of the reasons why I watch japanese tv, movies, and read Japanese novels and what not.
    Even if the Japanese authors say something about politics, I won’t come across it because I’m in the English internet, not the Japanese internet. And, of course, if they did say something about Japanese politics, most of the time it won’t have anything to do with American politics. And, of course, most of the Japanese authors actually creatively control their work so I can read it in its original production form without hearing from “actors” that were hired to portray the characters created by the real artists. Also, laws in japan are far stricter on how a name brand idol or voice actor can behave or speak in public. Japan in 2010 actually is a lot like America in 1950s. Strangely enough.
    Take the original story and see how Hollywood butchers it. Is Frodo the actor or is Frodo the character created by somebody named….? Not to say Hollywood did a bad job on Lord of the Rings, just making a point on what’s real and what’s not real.

  • Ymarsakar
    Another example to go with Book’s. This time on Glen Greenwald.

  • Pingback: “Liam Neeson: Narnia’s Aslan the Lion could be Muhammad as well as Christ” and related posts | Sabale()

  • Mike Devx

    Ymar says,
    > Also, laws in japan are far stricter on how a name brand idol or voice actor can behave or speak in public. Japan in 2010 actually is a lot like America in 1950s.

    Does Japan really have laws controlling how their portrayers can behave or speak in public.  I personally don’t like that at all, if it’s true.  I’m talking about actors and actresses, back in the day, who recognized that it was a part of their job to maintain the illusion on the screen.  They were wise; they *knew* that it was simply the nature of their business.  That to violate it would actually harm their careers.

    I’m trying to come up with examples of actors and actresses from the 40’s through the mid-60’s who violated that business rule and whose careers flourished.  Can anyone come up with examples?  I’m not an aficionado of those decades, but I can’t think of one.

  • Ymarsakar

    Does Japan really have laws controlling how their portrayers can behave or speak in public.
    It’s part of their contract, I believe. For example, if the company that employs you did so because you presented a clear and fresh image, found out you were publicly trashing that reputation with doing drugs, they’ll do more than fire you.
    I’m not an expert on this subject, of course, so there are a lot of legal details left out. That’s just the impression I get. This is much consistent with the Japanese and Chinese need to “save face”. Sometimes saving face, by presenting a just and righteous countenance, counts for more than dollars. In this essence, reputation and dollars are the same thing. Lose one, lose the other.

  • jj

    I’m uncertain why you would find this surprising.  “Actor;” like “cop,” “bus driver,” “plumber,” or just about anything else, is a job description.  It presupposes nothing whatever about the intelligence, erudition, breadth or depth of the people who do it for a living.  All it means is that the person in question is sufficiently good at that one thing to make of it a career.  It doesn’t speak to any other aspect of that person, or his/her life – he may be a stone moron in every other respect of his/her life.  Acting is something that he/she can do (probably, most of the time) better than you can.  I’m perfectly willing to fix a leaky faucet myself, but when the cellar’s awash let’s get in the pro.  I have appeared in many amateur and some professional theatrical outings (stage & TV) but it isn’t what I do.  I am not a professional.  When you want it done right you don’t get me, you get someone who is.
    But I have never understood why western society (because it isn’t just us, Europe puts these idiots on pedestals too) values the opinions of people who act for a living more than they do, say, those who plumb for a living, or harvest apples, drive buses, Formula 1 cars, or direct traffic.  The ability to – on command – artfully speak the words someone else has written for you in the midst of the chaos that every set is, while wonderful in its own way, is not at all a marker for intelligence or profundity.  Michael Curtiz (Academy Award winning director) once remarked that the last thing he wanted was an actor trying to think – just say the lines and do what I tell you.  I get paid to think – you don’t!
    It isn’t – or shouldn’t be – a surprise that Liam Neeson does not think well.  He is not a philosopher, he is not paid to think.  When you stick a microphone in front of him – or just about anyone else in that profession – you will get opinions of no more value than you would get from the mailman, or the dog-walker.  The only question is: why would you suppose you might?


    The comments more than make up for the nausea you will experience after the video.

  • Pingback: “Outrage: Actor Liam Neeson claims Christian Narnia movies could be Muslim” and related posts | Sabale()

  • Ymarsakar

    That’s a WMD you are proliferating Sadie. How’d you get it past the TSA guards at the airport.

  • Bookworm

    Incidentally, a friend of mine says that I’m wrong, because Lewis was just creating a medieval world in Narnia, so that the logical foe would be the Saracen.  In other words, this was a romantic literary trope, not a statement about Islam.  I think she’s right in the literary sense, but I think she errs when she holds that Lewis had no understanding about the nature of Islam and its hostility to Christianity.  He was an extremely erudite man, and he fully understood the implications of Islam versus Christianity.  And while he wasn’t thinking about the 21st Century, he was prescient in seeing the conflict play out as it did.