Science and Religion: Not an Either/Or Deal

Ron Howard’s thrilling mystery film, Angels and Demons (2009) follows Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, as he and biophysicist Vittoria Vetra attempt to save four kidnapped Preferiti (Cardinals favored to be the next Pope) from being murdered, and the Vatican from being blown up by Vetra’s stolen antimatter. The duo is given clues by someone claiming to be the Illuminati, a group of “enlightened” scientists who have battled the church for thousands of years. Langdon uses this evidence, along with his extensive knowledge of Catholicism, history, and symbology to solve the mystery and save not only a Pfeferiti, but the entire city. Because Galileo was both a scientist and a Catholic, Langdon is atheist, the church offers its “treasures” to Langdon, and Camerlengo Patrick McKenna is antagonized, Angels and Demons argues for the coexistence of science and religion.

At the beginning of the film, Langdon reveals that Galileo, one of the greatest scientists of all time was both an illuminati and a Catholic, which exemplifies the belief that science and Catholicism can coincide.

The fact that Langdon is called upon to save the church from terrorism, and that he chooses to do so even though he claims that “faith is a gift” that he has “yet to receive” shows that academics are no threat to religion.

After Langdon solves the mystery and saves Vatican City, the new Pope gifts him with the only existing copy of Galileo’s Diagramma– a gesture that suggests a peaceful relationship between the church and academia.

Because the film antagonizes and eventually kills off Camerlengo Patrick McKenna, the bishop who attempted to instigate a war between the church and science, it is clear that the film opposes fighting between the two.

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