Authorguy's Blog

My word

Posted on: July 19, 2010


I’m writing Scripture today.  It feels strange, me being an adherent of no religion.

But that doesn’t mean I have no faith.  All men have faith, they must, too much of the world is beyond our direct experience, and even that assumes that our senses are accurate and reliable, as Descartes pointed out long ago.  We believe, we have faith, that our senses are veridical.  We believe that others are telling us the truth (i.e., beliefs that they hold to be true), perhaps not so much lately.  We believe that while others may not all mean us well, neither do they mean us harm.  These beliefs may not be true but we have to believe that they or some beliefs like them are true, otherwise there is no trust and the systems that make our society function break down.  Law is no substitute for trust and faith.  Neither is religion or government.  These ‘shared faiths’, mere instruments, unify and strengthen that society, but they do not make it.  Mistaking the substitute for the source can even have pernicious effects in the end.

My writing is set in worlds where common action is much more necessary than it is in our own.  Religious and political structures are therefore much more important, but since I also do not write in this world I cannot and do not use our religions.  Religions serve a purpose, and creating one deliberately is difficult work.  I model my religions on some of the religions we have created for ourselves, trying to do justice to the spirit of the enterprise. 

There are people for whom this is not good enough.  The light in their eyes goes out, their faces fall, the instant I use the word ‘gods’ rather than ‘God’.  I consider this unfortunate.  Equally unfortunate is the tendency I see in many fantasy and science fiction novels to either have no religion at all (substituting something else for the substitute) or treating it as automatically pernicious.  This is not helpful.  Priests are not merely power-hungry tyrants manipulating the fears of the peasantry and aristocracy alike in order to…well,whatever, but usually to stamp out the wizards.  Which always struck me as odd, since clearly in worlds where magic worked, any monarch would want to have it in his arsenal, but I digress.  Off the top of my head I can only recall Katherine Kurtz’ Deryni books and C. Dale Brittain’s books as portraying established religion in a more tolerant light.  I would be interested to learn of others.

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4 Responses to "My word"

well, here’s one cheer for polytheism in fantasy. I’m very pro ‘gods’ so long as they aren’t used for rabbit out of hat solutions to plots. Belief is part of human experience, and richness of culture. I have ‘Forest Powers’ in my Estraguil books, they are small, local Gods, some of them more helpful than others.

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Terry Pratchett seems to have no problems selling books (last I read, it was 20 million copies) about a world — Discworld — in which there are multiple gods, some important enough to warrant their own temples and some so small they’re barely noticeable. Of course, Pratchett is a master writer who does all things well, and that includes not going out of his way to offend people with hurtful comments about religion. He can poke fun at his various gods, but he doesn’t demean the residents of Discworld for believing in them.

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Most fantasy is based on mythology and the idea of many gods. I like to have conflicts between pagans and Christians in my stories, but this is a gray area because there is no clear good and bad. I think this surprises some readers who expect one religion to be good and one bad. There is good and bad in everything and usually where you least expect it.

And the gods and goddesses in my stories are far from perfect and usually cause trouble of some kind because of their arrogance.

Great post!

kelleyheckart.com

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“..too much of the world is beyond our direct experience, and even that assumes that our senses are accurate and reliable, as Descartes pointed out long ago.”

I’ve never been to Paris France but I’ve been told it’s lovely this time of year and have no reason to doubt that. If other evidence came to light which would give me reason, then I would have reason to doubt it. I do not have to actually go to Paris to know it exists. I do not believe it exists. I have sufficient evidence to think it exists. The alternative, that there’s some conspiracy of ppl dedicated to convincing me Paris exists is too absurd on the face to even contemplate.

There IS a conspiracy to convince humanity there is a god. At one time I accepted the god theory without question, but based on reason and knowledge, I no longer believe in anything. The alternative that The Church has lied to humanity for millenia, while absurd, as it turns out is less absurd than what I’d believed in my youth. That is based on reasoned knowledge, and not blind faith.

And no, reason/knowledge is not ‘just another religion to believe in’ that’s utter poppycock! How dare you accuse all men of having to believe. I have both reason and doubt that some, if not all of us can someday rise above such platitudes. I’m not placing any bets either way.

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