Religion in fiction
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08-11-2014, 12:49 AM (This post was last modified: 08-11-2014 07:37 AM by Stuffed_Assumption_Meringue.)
Religion in fiction
below in spoilers is the original OP. It's poorly focused and doesntly effectively comunicate the point of "Hyopthetically. How innacurate can a holy book be before it no longer leads to worship of an actual deity.

Another better attempt:
In fiction the doctrine of any religion can be factually true. If the teachings contained in a religion aren't accurate to the way that world functions. (So say, in Greek mythology, Aeres isn't Aeres but Helena and "Aeres" is the title she wears while doing her god of war jam.) but somebody is still fufilling the role of the deiety being worshiped. Is that religion wrong?

If the doctrine of that religion isn't accurate to how the world works (So the cosmos was born billions of years ago while the scripture says 6000.) but a being still fufills the role of the deity being worshiped. Is that religion wrong?

If the world contains things that are similar to elements in doctrine (So Leprecauns and Djinn and Kirrun exist.) that aren't described in scripture or covered by that belief system but the deiety of that belief system exists. Is that religion wrong?

If an fundamental force of the universe does exist and it does work while the magic listed in a religions doctrine doesn't work. But the god does still exist in a form oulined by that doctrine. (So some kind of nordic rune carving spell works but prayer doesn't.) Is that religion wrong?

If the afterlife as described in a religions scripture doesn't exist (So souls don't go to heaven, they go to Sheol or get reincarnated or something.) but the god exists. Is the religion wrong?

How many of those things can be wrong before the religion is entirely invalidated, despite accurately describing that god? (All loving, all wise, all powerful creator of the universe who didn't talk to moses, sent no son to die, no heaven, no angels, no eden, no satan, no souls.) what combination would still be accurate enough to count?

Bonus question. Occured to me while I was writing:
Is everybody single in the christian hell and heaven? It's fairly simply described; "I love you. To have and to hold. In sickness and in health. Till death we do part."

I've been reading The Dresden Files books (they're pretty good,) which exist in a fairly generic urban fantasy setting. What's pertinent to the discussion is outlined below.

Don't read the spoiler if you like a neo-science hero/ pulp asthetic, detective stories and zombie dinosaurs. You'll probably enjoy the series and I'm wanting to create a talking point around things that will almost certainly matter in the future.

[spoiler]The history that's known to most people is basically the same as it is now. There's been a couple more global scale atrocities, the exact nature of how WW1 and WW2 started and concluded is slightly different. Doesn't really matter. A dude on the street isn't going to be experiencing a fundamentally different world is what I'm saying.

What is different is that if it's in any way supernatural, it exists. Ghosts, Santa Claus, Sasquatch, four types of werewolves, 8+ different varieties of vampire, the Greek Pantheon, The Norse Pantheon, Elves and all the gods of the religions that are still in practice to avoid offending people. Everything.

The world, our world, is under constant attack from "Outsiders," basically demons. (But they're not demons. It's dumb.) They hate everything and want to destroy everything because the writer needed a world encompasing threat that can't be reasoned with. What's stopping them from attacking our world is a group of faeries called the Winter Court. Who fight them at the boarders of the spirit world to protect everything and everybody.

The Winter Court is lead by the Winter Queens and the Winter King, (Mab, Mother Winter and Molly, a human wizard who has assented to the position, and Santa.) the Fey are as close to being human as a supernatural being can be while still lacking a soul. The most human like of them can even interbreed and as mentioned it is possible for a human to become a fairy. (Which raises all sorts of questions.)

But most importantly: The fairies haven't always been doing this job. It hasn't been said who or what was acting as "Warriors in the Oblivion War" but they did swap over at some point.

The christian god, called The White God: did make the world and did make it this way. It has been manipulating most of the events in the series thus far in a fight against a being called Nemisis. Who isn't Satan btw.

All supernatural beings are in some way powered by our belief and our understanding of them. The White God is a possible exception. The paladins (They're all descendants of famous kings because throwing "divine right to rule" into this mess as another flavour of crazy bullshit is fine.) aren't even able to invoke the powers of christ. Their various abilities are powered explicitly by their own personal magic. Their "faith."

(The only example in the series of somebody who is able to invoke the power of "The White God" is the protagonist because he rejected the influence of a fallen angel (Still not a demon. It's complicated.) and lost some of his magical power because of that. It's primarily to show how fucking special he is.)[/ spoiler]

So yes. Now that I'm done with my case study I'm to the actual conversation topic: In a setting where religions still have all the same problems as they do now, their mythology isn't how the world actually works, the various spells and prayers that they invoke only work sometimes because they lack specific, very important instructions and there is still things like the problems of evil.

So when the doctrine is evidently wrong and the god that is replying to their prayers (or not replying to their prayers because fuck you) is a fundamentally different being than what is described in their holy script. Are they still worshiping that god?

Faith is powerful, a power in it's own right in the specific example because all magic is powered by our beliefs (a version of "magic" I dislike but fine. Sure. Whatever.) but why would faith still hold that power, heck, why would it still be called faith, when there is demonstrable proof of that belief? It's no longer faith.

Possibly relevant: The author (Jim Butcher) specifically rejects the idea that his religious beliefs informs the work and how the fictional world works and has abstained from disclosing his beliefs. He says that he's focusing only on religions he's familiar with in order to be fair. He doesn't have much understanding with say, Hinduism, and hasn't included them because he can't represent it well.

I suspect he does have some kind of faith thanks to how he treats his only a-religious character:
[spoiler]One of the paladins, a man named Sanya, is an agnostic. He holds the belief that he can't verify exactly what the things he is fighting are. He's been told that they're demons and he's talked with beings that refer to themselves as "angels" but he only has their word for it and there are many other possible explanations for what is happening.

He fights "for Jesus" because he sees that he is doing good and that the people he's fighting beside are also doing good. They're helping people. I find that to be an admirable sentiment.

Every character who finds out about this finds it to be funny, verging on ridiculous.
[/ spoiler]
I kinda hate that.

Soulless mutants of muscle and intent. There are billions of us; hardy, smart and dangerous. Shaped by millions of years of death. We are the definitive alpha predator. We build monsters of fire and stone. We bottled the sun. We nailed our god to a stick.

In man's struggle against the world, bet on the man.
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08-11-2014, 03:20 AM
RE: Religion in fiction
Consider You lost me. Perhaps I need to read the books to get what your asking.

My instinct tells me that they character that everyone laughs at often ends up as the hero. So there's that.

Has the series been concluded?

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08-11-2014, 05:14 AM
RE: Religion in fiction
Your right. There's a lot of exteranious detail there and it obfuscates the point. I got caught up in talking about Stuff I Like™. Let's try again:

In fiction the doctrine of any religion can be factually true. If the teachings contained in a religion aren't accurate to the way that world functions. (So say, in Greek mythology, Aeres isn't Aeres but Helena and "Aeres" is the title she wears while doing her god of war jam.) but somebody is still fufilling the role of the deiety being worshiped. Is that religion wrong?

If the doctrine of that religion isn't accurate to how the world works (So the cosmos was born billions of years ago while the scripture says 6000.) but a being still fufills the role of the deity being worshiped. Is that religion wrong?

If the world contains things that are similar to elements in doctrine (So Leprecauns and Djinn and Kirrun exist.) that aren't described in scripture or covered by that belief system but the deiety of that belief system exists. Is that religion wrong?

If an fundamental force of the universe does exist and it does work while the magic listed in a religions doctrine doesn't work. But the god does still exist in a form oulined by that doctrine. (So some kind of nordic rune carving spell works but prayer doesn't.) Is that religion wrong?

If the afterlife as described in a religions scripture doesn't exist (So souls don't go to heaven, they go to Sheol or get reincarnated or something.) but the god exists. Is the religion wrong?

How many of those things can be wrong before the religion is entirely invalidated, despite accurately describing that god? (All loving, all wise, all powerful creator of the universe who didn't talk to moses, sent no son to die, no heaven, no angels, no eden, no satan, no souls.) what combination would still be accurate enough to count?

Bonus question. Occured to me while I was writing:
Is everybody single in the christian hell and heaven? It's fairly simply described; "I love you. To have and to hold. In sickness and in health. Till death we do part."

Soulless mutants of muscle and intent. There are billions of us; hardy, smart and dangerous. Shaped by millions of years of death. We are the definitive alpha predator. We build monsters of fire and stone. We bottled the sun. We nailed our god to a stick.

In man's struggle against the world, bet on the man.
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08-11-2014, 05:18 AM
RE: Religion in fiction
(08-11-2014 03:20 AM)DLJ Wrote:  Consider You lost me. Perhaps I need to read the books to get what your asking.

My instinct tells me that they character that everyone laughs at often ends up as the hero. So there's that.

Has the series been concluded?
Please ignore Sanya, though he's awesome, I got sidetracked.

The series is over half done. 13 books of a planned 20-ish.

Soulless mutants of muscle and intent. There are billions of us; hardy, smart and dangerous. Shaped by millions of years of death. We are the definitive alpha predator. We build monsters of fire and stone. We bottled the sun. We nailed our god to a stick.

In man's struggle against the world, bet on the man.
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08-11-2014, 07:11 AM
RE: Religion in fiction
Many Christians consider the bible to be inerrant, so if one thing is wrong, that would invalidate it. This is the bible's downfall, then the believers; even knowing it has errors, continue to wave the apologists flag making excuses for why it's still right. (You just aren't interpreting it right)
And so here we are saying the bible is so riddled with errors, it's essentially useless and fundamentally untrue.

From a pragmatic standpoint, if any belief system describes rituals or actions that do not produce consistent results in the real world, then it is wrong, why waste time with it?

Interestingly enough though, if theses religions were right and you could effect things in the real world with prayer, then the world would be similar to the one described in the books.

Gods derive their power from post-hoc rationalizations. -The Inquisition

Using the supernatural to explain events in your life is a failure of the intellect to comprehend the world around you. -The Inquisition
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08-11-2014, 07:15 AM
RE: Religion in fiction
I'm not exactly sure what you're asking or getting at either. If the guy has a deep seeded knowledge of the christian stuff first and foremost, he probably was the child of a preacher or something similar. It doesn't mean or matter if he does really take christian things seriously.

There's always going to be religious people who say, even if half the stuff is wrong, the message or little things that ARE right are enough to belief the religion. There is plenty of people who are non-denominational I see who say, all the religions have some ideas right, just the stories are embedded in culture so details don't matter. And what could make a religion wrong in fiction? They're all fiction either way but some people view the stories one way or another way.

I know of, some I've read, other stories that are interesting in ways that involve religions and deities as they were mixed around in fiction. They do similar things to what this sounds like from time to time.

"Allow there to be a spectrum in all that you see" - Neil Degrasse Tyson
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09-11-2014, 07:50 AM
RE: Religion in fiction
(08-11-2014 07:15 AM)ClydeLee Wrote:  There's always going to be religious people who say, even if half the stuff is wrong, the message or little things that ARE right are enough to belief the religion. There is plenty of people who are non-denominational I see who say, all the religions have some ideas right, just the stories are embedded in culture so details don't matter.
(08-11-2014 07:11 AM)TheInquisition Wrote:  Many Christians consider the bible to be inerrant, so if one thing is wrong, that would invalidate it. This is the bible's downfall, then the believers; even knowing it has errors, continue to wave the apologists flag making excuses for why it's still right. (You just aren't interpreting it right)
And so here we are saying the bible is so riddled with errors, it's essentially useless and fundamentally untrue.
That's not quite what I was after but they are complete and informative answers to the questions in a general and a specific sense. Which is exactly what I should have been looking for rather than looking for specifics on an entirely abstract judgement call.

Thank you.
(08-11-2014 07:15 AM)ClydeLee Wrote:  And what could make a religion wrong in fiction? They're all fiction either way but some people view the stories one way or another way.
Same way it can be demonstrably wrong in real life: If it's doctrine isn't accurate to reality (defined in the context of a fictional work below)

Cis-realism: Holding to consistent breaks from reality within a work of fiction. (People can't fly but Superman can. So conflicts that Superman faces that can be solved by his ability to fly should be solved by his ability to fly.)

Realism: The appearance of a world like ours in a work of fiction. (Superman isn't punching a dude on a mountain. Henry Cavill is pretending to punch a stunt double on a green-screen set.)

Non-realism: Breaking either of the above forms of realism for any reason. (Superman falls into the lava because the writer forgot he could fly. Superman is directly addressing the audience and walks off set to best communicate *wank wank art*.)

It's important that any story have all three types of realism to the degree that best serves the narrative. If a story contradicts itself in how it portrays it's using the first two forms of realism, it's called a plot hole.

Non-realism is ultimately a matter of theme and auteur intent but it's where we can define an element in a story as being "wrong" rather than a plot hole.

So the specific example of religious beliefs: If the stories setting presents a problem or an inconsistency in a religious teaching that isn't in some way justified by the stories content. So in Bruce Almighty an all loving, if generic, god allows Bruce to induce great harm onto people without apparent reason. This is both a plot hole and demonstrates that the religious beliefs of people who worship that god, in that world are in some way wrong. (It's also possible that Freeman god only cares about upper middle class white American males.)

In Noah, (that Aronofsky movie) they incorporate that into the movies theme. There is a monologue part way though the first act. It describes a version the Genesis creation myth and plays over a montage of what we actually know to have happened. This is a cornerstone of the movies narrative conceit, one is metaphor for the other. The movies plot undermines that point. It portrays a group of humans, humans that are like us in every important way, existing at a time before the movie told us that humans evolved.

That still makes it a plot hole and undermines the validity of the religious text as an accurate representation of the films world. Making that doctrine wrong.

I'm honestly not sure if that helps.
(08-11-2014 07:11 AM)TheInquisition Wrote:  From a pragmatic standpoint, if any belief system describes rituals or actions that do not produce consistent results in the real world, then it is wrong, why waste time with it?
Watsonian: Peole do that in our world. Why wouldn't they do it in a work of fiction?
(08-11-2014 07:15 AM)ClydeLee Wrote:  I know of, some I've read, other stories that are interesting in ways that involve religions and deities as they were mixed around in fiction. They do similar things to what this sounds like from time to time.
I decided the other week that I watch too many films and play too many video games so I'm pulling together a reading list. Recommendations?

Soulless mutants of muscle and intent. There are billions of us; hardy, smart and dangerous. Shaped by millions of years of death. We are the definitive alpha predator. We build monsters of fire and stone. We bottled the sun. We nailed our god to a stick.

In man's struggle against the world, bet on the man.
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09-11-2014, 09:05 AM
RE: Religion in fiction
I think there's a typo in your thread title. It should read, "Religion IS Fiction."

We have enough youth. How about looking for the Fountain of Smart?
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