That snippet from Daniel Pipes raises one of my general peeves about when theology becomes synonymous with magic. I understand the importance of rites and rituals when it comes to dealing with the dead. Judaism is full of them. I think the Catholic sacrament of last rites makes lots of sense and is a beautiful thing, as far as I understand it, in that it lets the individual make peace with God and all that. But I’ve never understood how anyone could believe that God would keep a deserving person out of heaven because a murderer — or some evil-doer — did something terrible to them or somehow prevented the correct incantations from being made. I mean the idea that a God with a divine sense of justice would say “Rats! That’s bastard cut off Aasiya’s head, now I’m powerless to let her into heaven” is just preposterous to me.
Yes, this is an old gripe of mine. See, for example, my Indiana Jones lament (posted before the fourth, and awful, Indy movie came out).
Update: From a reader, speaking for many:
“The idea that God would let Hitler — Hitler! — use the Ark of the Covenant or the Holy Grail for evil purposes always struck me as hilariously blaphemous.”
Wasn’t that the whole point of Raiders? Indy, after all, while maybe thinking that the Nazis would be able to use the Ark, failed utterly and ended up delivering the Ark to the Nazis. And then God smote every Nazi on the island when they tried to use it. Similarly, the Holy Grail was protected in such a way that it could never be used for evil, because it couldn’t be removed from the cave.
So the upshot is that the Nazis were blasphemous (duh), Indy may have confusedly thought that the Nazis could use the artifacts (or not–he may have just wanted to keep the artifacts out of their hands for the sake of archeology), and Lucas vindicated your viewpoint at the end of both movies. All is right, at least until Crystal Skull.
Yes, yes, but then why even bother to try to stop Hitler from getting his hands on the Grail/Covenant? The movies are set up by the premise that the bad guys better not get their hands on such powerful Godly objects or Really Bad Things Will Happen.
Update II: From a friend:
You guys are on the same page: the premise of the movie is the belief by Indy, et al., that the Nazis might be able to use it as a weapon. He’s not precisely a materialist, but he’s not religious either. His belief, and the magical-mechanical premise, turns out to be mistaken: the Nazis couldn’t have used it. (Because God exists and He is just. Also pretty damn wrathful.) But who knew that?
Or…perhaps…he was right, and it is an incalcubly powerful weapon based on magic or the proverbial sufficiently advanced technology, and they just used it *wrong*. I mean Moses screwed up when he was constructing it and he had to wear a veil front of his (burnt & disfigured?) face from then on, right? And it periodically smote people who brushed up against it or looked at it wrong, right? So clearly it was a really temperamental device…
Whatever. Just thank the monks of Axum, Ethiopia, for keeping the rest of us safe…