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Theology In Fantasy

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Initial post: Dec 13, 2012 9:40:23 AM PST
Theology in Fantasy---Opinions requested. Please read through

Dec. 13th, 2012 at 10:21 AM

Opinions requested. Please read through. Apparently I managed to offend someone by stating that the Christian God did not truly exist. Yeah I know--thems fightin' words. But it's fantasy people. In all honesty I've heaved a book or two across the room because midway through they tried to cram the one god idea down the reader's throat.But this was one line in eight books and it fit the rest of the world(s) theology which this person then proceeded to remember completely incorrectly since apparently I made her see red.

IN eight books --thus far-- I've managed to run through multiple pantheons of gods in what boils down to-- none of them were really gods they were just magically gifted and long-lived people from a world where they were common and eventually that world placed wardens(Hard-case loner type elves) to prevent magical imbalances from people playing god to short-lived largely unmagical humans, so by the time the christian god rolled around nobody was getting away with that kind of role-playing anymore. But humans needed something to believe in so they built their mythology and they wrote their bibles and they created rituals which in the long run had a magic all its own, created miracles, and leant strength to the mythology. But according to this review I claimed all the old gods were real(I guess they were-- of course I also mention they're about twenty Odins off from the original) and the christian god wasn't.(the author of this review did not however seem to have a problem with the idea that hell is nothing more than a demesne filled with demons locked in their homelands by the ruling council--they never get out unless someone is stupid enough to summon them --Or the king of the fairies works a deal with them) Never intended to offend anybody because ...well...it's fiction. Better yet Fantasy fiction.And theology is really just a backdrop( a scarcely mentioned backdrop) for my worlds-- not a hard and fast statement of anybody's real beliefs.

OK having gone through all that there is a point. If you were presented with the line above in the context stated, would it offend you? Should I be concerned that this may be a common reaction?

Maybe I should hope some holy rollers will try to ban my books, a little controversy can be a good thing sometimes but that really wasn't what I was going for. These are meant to be fun light tales easy to read without a lot of thought in them and maybe a little too much sex. I would have thought I'd offend more people with the sex than the religion(or lack thereof) but thus far even the one review I got that seemed to think maybe I could do with fewer sex scenes still rated it five stars, which I figured meant I must be doing something right. :)

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 13, 2012 1:00:03 PM PST
Not entirely sure what answer you're looking for, to be honest.

Personally? Don't worry about it.

Posted on Dec 13, 2012 1:21:48 PM PST
If what someone said about your work upset you (which that's seems to be the case here), let it go. People are offended by Harry Potter and Santa Claus, for "God's" sake.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 13, 2012 1:49:37 PM PST
Nope, didn't upset me, just have a couple more books in this series to put out and I'm wondering if that particular line could be a deal breaker for many people. It's her prerogative but I don't want to lose a lot of readers over one line in a book I'm mostly pondering how many people would get offended enough to say I won't buy book 9 because the MC doesn't believe in my god--you know in this fantasy series I've been reading and enjoying.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 13, 2012 1:52:04 PM PST
Not looking for any specific answer just honest opinions, on whether or not it would affect whether or not you'd read on if you came across this line.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 13, 2012 2:06:04 PM PST
HJ Leonard says:
Me, personally? No, it wouldn't bother me in the slightest. But I dislike reading books with the Christian faith in any way, shape, or form.

Your question is very subjective. If you're writing a story, and that story is dismissive of Christianity, then you're going to get MANY Christians hot and bothered. It doesn't matter if it's fantasy or not.

Bottom line: Write what you want, and what works for your story and MC. You can't please all of the people all of the time. I certainly don't recommend changing your MC due to one person's inability to separate themselves from reality when reading a fictional book.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 14, 2012 9:39:58 AM PST
I misread the intention of your post, then, because I didn't realise you were asking that question.

My answer, therefore, is "no", but then I'm a bit of a heretic, and am not exactly going to be swayed by comments that support or challenge any religion.

Posted on Dec 14, 2012 10:03:47 AM PST
If someone has gotten 8 books into your series that references other pantheons as reality in some way, shape, or form, it is less likely that he/she will be of the hard-line christian sort that burns books for challenging their beliefs. Having said that, yes, telling someone that their deeply held beliefs (be they religious, philosophical, or that Pluto is a planet) are fantasy is offensive. I am not, of course, claiming that that was your intent or your words since I have never read the work in question. It is possible that you will lose readership for such statements. If it is seen to come out of left-field (i.e. "all other gods are real but the one I believe in is b.s.?!"), then even more so. The question is, what is more important to you: trying to please all the people all of the time or telling your story honestly?

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 14, 2012 1:34:32 PM PST
I do believe you have a point. I'm going to ignore the people who can't tell fiction from nonfiction and leave my story alone.

Posted on Dec 14, 2012 2:05:38 PM PST
On a positive note, it does mean people are paying attention to you. Some may scream and curse your name...but not everyone that hears them will agree and may give your work a try.

Posted on Dec 14, 2012 3:01:14 PM PST
thule222 says:
It's kind of annoying that every religion is true except Christianity. It's the singled out part that's the problem. But it's not a deal breaker to me, and the people who would find it a deal breaker aren't going to be fans anyway.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 14, 2012 4:44:12 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 14, 2012 4:44:55 PM PST
The problem with many religions is that they generally consider themselves the "spiritual elite". All others are a sub-standard, wrong thinking, heritics. You see it from faith to faith, and denomination to denomination within each faith. I don't discuss my own faith, but I can say that this trend (that's not really a trend, being that has gone on as long as there has been faith), causes a backlash. You turn athiests into anti-theists. I don't think it's right.....just true.

Posted on Dec 15, 2012 1:00:13 PM PST
In the context of this discussion, it's worth recalling that Roger Zelazny's Lord of light deals with competing religions, and far from being controversial or criticised has always been highly praised.

As it should be.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 25, 2012 2:29:09 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 25, 2012 2:29:57 PM PST
Jim Webster says:
In reality you have discussed your faith. You tell us that you think all religions are equally valid/invalid, and you have problems with people who disagree with you :-)
(here I'm teasing, pointing out the difficulties presented by the minefield we're tapdancing around.)

Some religions are mutually exclusive. Hence Islam does not accept the divinity of Christ, therefore there can be no theological agreement there because in the eyes of Islam, the core of Christianity is error. No ifs or buts, it is simply considered wrong, and believing the wrong thing can imperil your very existance for all time. Similarly Christ said that "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." So whilst the faith groups can (and do) work together in places as part of community projects etc, it is difficult to see how they can accept each others core beliefs as valid.
As Will says, Roger Zelazny's Lord of Light was praised. To achieve this I think you have first to be really up on your subject matter. Secondly Zelazny set his work within a Hindu-Buddhist context, and I think managed to be true to the rough parameters of the context.

I know in my own work characters will rarely refer to religion. Actually in fantasy your characters regularly do things which are abhorent to most modern major religions (such as practicing magic, consulting fortune tellers etc) so within a fantasy setting, if you're going to introduce religion you really do have to build it in from the start and give it some very serious thought, because what people believe will impact on an awful lot of things.

Posted on Dec 26, 2012 8:06:53 AM PST
Kristen Reed says:
I personally wouldn't be offended. I could see others being put off if you marketed this as being your religious/spiritual manifesto, but it's a work of fiction.

Posted on Dec 26, 2012 11:20:09 AM PST
I haven't run into all out hostility, but I have been asked as to character relationships to Biblical figures. In case you wondered (which you probably didn't), there are none. But still, it's always a touchy subject.

Posted on Dec 26, 2012 1:42:13 PM PST
Kristen Reed says:
I've always found it interesting that people look for religious meaning/parallels in fiction.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 26, 2012 1:44:43 PM PST
Jim Webster says:
I suspect it may be because writers have used fiction to pass on a religious/political message. Think of CS lewis and his Narnia books for a religious message, and think how many modern novels carry a political message.
It's a bit rough for the poor writer who hasn't any intention of including a message in that people might assume they've found one even when it was never intended :-(

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 26, 2012 2:18:30 PM PST
Kristen Reed says:
Definitely, but I think it affects a reader's ability to enjoy the story for the story's sake if they're constantly looking for/questioning the meaning behind it.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 26, 2012 2:36:56 PM PST
Jim Webster says:
You are probably right, but I think it is just something we have to live with. After all, when you read a newspaper or watch a news broadcast you mentally adjust for the bias of the media outlet.
With a book I think you have to be aware that this could be an issue, and I think as a writer you have to be careful about how you tackle various issues.
For example, I'm UK based so could be wrong in this, but I would suspect that if I wrote a book in which 'gun control' or 'abortion' were core issues, it might well be read differently in the US than it would be in the UK.
Religion is another of the topics where as a writer you can unwittingly proke reaction and readers look for something you didn't intend to be there, and even find it.
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Discussion in:  Fantasy forum
Participants:  9
Total posts:  20
Initial post:  Dec 13, 2012
Latest post:  Dec 26, 2012

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