religion/non religion in fiction

robj101
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religion/non religion in fiction

I read a lot, I mentioned in another post a Piers Anthony book actually had the biggest impact any book has had on my thinking on religion. He is a fantasy/sci-fi writer.

Has anyone else been swayed by fiction? The bible does not count lol.

Faith is the word but next to that snugged up closely "lie's" the want.
"By simple common sense I don't believe in god, in none."-Charlie Chaplin


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I've always been atheist, so

I've always been atheist, so never 'swayed' by fiction per se. However, there've been some things that gave me an interesting perspective on religion. Probably the first and most obvious were when I read the Greek myths, starting with Jason and the Argonauts. The fact that these myths were treated as 'fiction' but the myths from the Bible weren't, has always boggled my mind.

One of my favourite SF books was Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke. Very interesting take on religion there.

Probably the biggest shift I got was reading Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, in which he takes such an irreverent attitude towards everything. It kind of opened up the 'humourous' side to the whole thing for me, whereas prior to that it was just plain 'bizarre'. I think after reading HHGG and the sequels, I was able to put things in a bit more perspective. It helped that one of my best friends at the time was a fundamentalist, and he also loved those books. If he could have a sense of humour about it, perhaps all was not lost.

However, looking back now, I guess that optimism was misplaced. I long for some fiction that takes the problem of religion seriously without pulling the old, "Well, we all need some sort of faith anyway, right? Can't we all just get along?" kind of crap.

Usually fiction takes one of two positions: 1) Religion is retarded, so let's not even bother with it except to chuckle and move on, or 2) Some bad apples corrupt religion, but religion is essentially good, so let's not knock it.

Very few works have taken this position: Religion is retarded, but it's real and has real consequences, so let's do something about it. In fact, I can't think of any such works off the top of my head.

I was originally very into cyberpunk, until I realized that the authors had no solutions of any kind, and it was a kind of wallowing in failure and decay. I grew tired of that pretty quick. I started to look for something else, and ended up turning to older 'classic' SF to see what they had come up with already.

At the top of my list would probably be something like Foundation by Asimov, and the first couple sequels. The idea that the corruption cannot necessarily be fixed from the inside, but requires a kind of 'seed' of renewal to take root before civilization collapses, is the kind of idea I would most support.

Lucifer's Hammer by Niven and Pournelle was fairly good, also, and The Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler was also pretty good, though she kept the positive angle on religions.

An interesting pre-cursor to the whole meme angle is Babel-17. It's a bit 'incomplete' for my tastes, but I love the basic idea that a 'language' could alter your mind and therefore alter your behaviour. Replace 'language' with 'religious mythology', and you've got our present-day problem.

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Although apparently disliked

Although apparently disliked by fans, the books of Frant Herbert & sons before and after Dune are very much about religion. Religion is there used in form of fanatism, that might win a war against machines. What I like there, is the idea that religion is completely fake, just an artificial ideology to control people, is manufactured and indoctrinated publically by rulers, and secretly by the order Bene Gesserit. Gods are just deified people...

What I dislike there is a very short-sighted look on religion. Frank Herbert describes the organized religion into detail, but he writes nothing of mysticism, and inherent spirituality in all people. Spirituality is there represented mostly by drugs, which is quite a materialistic approach. So I can't say that Frank Herbert would describe religion in it's wholeness. It's basically all about fundies and war.

I'll try to check out Piers Anthony, he seems very interesting.

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robj101
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Luminon wrote:Although

Luminon wrote:

Although apparently disliked by fans, the books of Frant Herbert & sons before and after Dune are very much about religion. Religion is there used in form of fanatism, that might win a war against machines. What I like there, is the idea that religion is completely fake, just an artificial ideology to control people, is manufactured and indoctrinated publically by rulers, and secretly by the order Bene Gesserit. Gods are just deified people...

What I dislike there is a very short-sighted look on religion. Frank Herbert describes the organized religion into detail, but he writes nothing of mysticism, and inherent spirituality in all people. Spirituality is there represented mostly by drugs, which is quite a materialistic approach. So I can't say that Frank Herbert would describe religion in it's wholeness. It's basically all about fundies and war.

I'll try to check out Piers Anthony, he seems very interesting.

If you look into Mr. Anthony's stuff I reccomend the incarnation series, "on a pale horse" in particular.

Faith is the word but next to that snugged up closely "lie's" the want.
"By simple common sense I don't believe in god, in none."-Charlie Chaplin


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Yea, on a pale horse was

Yea, on a pale horse was neat.  It has that one part where the atheist dies, I always liked that.

 

Actually, I think the sci-fi I read as a kid was a major influence in my life and my beliefs.  Star Trek, Heinlein, Asimov, Clark...geeze, all of it.  A reoccurring theme is critical thinking, Independence and skepticism. 

Also, there is a lot of innate humanism in science fiction...the idea that a person can be great all by themselves.

Everything makes more sense now that I've stopped believing.


robj101
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Fredric Brown was one of my

Fredric Brown was one of my fav's, he wrote the slickest short stories. Nowdays I enjoy Simon Green's wit, I love his anti hero heroes, it's not terribly intellectual but fun to read. Blue moon rising was probably my favorite fantasy novel, but I would be hard pressed to point out a favorite sci-fi, so many good one's.

The first fantasy/sci fi I can still remember reading was "The dragon and the george" by Gordon Dickson. I was 6 at the time. I actually got in trouble constantly for reading in school years later, what irony.

I think you are right on the critical thinking and skepticism, it probably had a bigger influence than I would imagine.

Faith is the word but next to that snugged up closely "lie's" the want.
"By simple common sense I don't believe in god, in none."-Charlie Chaplin


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i'm not sure if one could

i'm not sure if one could say he touches on religion in any specific sense, but anyone who loves intelligent fiction in general should check out jorge luis borges.  i recommend the penguin anthology collected fictions.  anyone who enjoys mind-bending stories about humanity up against a frightening, unfathomable, and chaotic universe a la lovecraft will really like him, especially since he's much more engaging, intelligent, and readable than lovecraft.  in fact, the man was just a really great fucking writer, in the craftsman's sense.

anyone who would like to read a strongly religious writer with a veeeery interesting twist on how humans can apprehend god should read flannery o'connor.  she was part of the southern renaissance along with faulkner, welty, et al.  a strict roman catholic who believed there was no salvation outside the true church, she ironically used characters who were crazed southern protestants in an attempt to "shock" her readers into an encounter with god.  she was very outspoken about the intention of her work being to proselytize in a sort of weird existential way.  another great fucking writer, when it comes to character development and producing a gnawing sense of unease in the reader, no one tops her.  i've read her entire oeuvre twice and will probably read it at least twice more if i die a natural death.

also, i highly recommend nick cave's novel and the ass saw the angel, a bizarre look at a community of mormon-like fanatics in an unnamed area of the southern united states in the 1940s, narrated by a mute boy who slowly goes insane.  it's like flannery o'connor on heroin.  i just recently read it for the second time, and i accord that honor to very few books.

 

 

"I asked my father,
I said, 'Father change my name.'
The one I'm using now it's covered up
with fear and filth and cowardice and shame."
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robj101 wrote:Fredric Brown

robj101 wrote:

Fredric Brown was one of my fav's, he wrote the slickest short stories. Nowdays I enjoy Simon Green's wit, I love his anti hero heroes, it's not terribly intellectual but fun to read. Blue moon rising was probably my favorite fantasy novel, but I would be hard pressed to point out a favorite sci-fi, so many good one's.

The first fantasy/sci fi I can still remember reading was "The dragon and the george" by Gordon Dickson. I was 6 at the time. I actually got in trouble constantly for reading in school years later, what irony.

I think you are right on the critical thinking and skepticism, it probably had a bigger influence than I would imagine.

All RIGHT!!  The Dragon and The George - one of the funniest books ever.  He wrote some other stuff, but the George was the best.  Yeah, I got in trouble for reading in class and because it was usually sci-fi/fantasy.  Until my junior year in high school and a very wise teacher turned me on to Edgar Allen Poe.  And then I found HP Lovecraft and Arthur Morrison and other old timey fantasists.

For far out religion, try Sherri Tepper.

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