[LMB] Belief: Was What makes a character irredeemable?

Damien Sullivan phoenix at mindstalk.net
Thu Aug 1 04:29:28 BST 2019

On Wed, Jul 31, 2019 at 10:17:31AM -0700, Beatrice Otter wrote:

> That is a very Christian-centric notion of what religion is, right
> there, that it's belief.  Most religions, philosophies, and spiritual
> systems throughout the world put more weight on things you do rather
> than on what you think.  They are orthoprax (correct practice) instead
> of orthodox (correct doctrine).  Christianity is deeply, deeply weird
> in valuing belief over practice.  For example, there was a group of

Though Islam has it too.  Rare by religion, but half the global
population between the two of them. :)

> than belief.  Now, Chalion was written by someone who grew up in a
> Christian culture, and took as its seed the history of a Christian
> nation, so it's probably reasonable to assume that the 5GU people are,
> like Christians, orthodox instead of orthoprax.  But we should at

Chalion was also written by someone who has turned to Japan for
inspiration at least three different times before, talks about the
anime she watches, and used a simplified ancestor-reverence +
superstition for Barrayran religion.  So frankly I *wouldn't* assume
Lois is locked onto Christian defaults.  And Quintarian religion makes
me think of the role of Shinto and Buddhism in a lot of Japanese
society: neither orthodox nor orthoprax, at least as a social
obligation.  No one cares what you believe and, as far as I can tell, no
one cares much whether you show up either, unlike the Romans.
Especially since educated elites *know* that they're not in some
covenant with the gods: people showing up to worship isn't going to keep
plagues away or make the crops grow better.  People pray because they
want to and show up to festivals because it's fun.

There was the crusade against the Weald shamans, but that seems more a
crusade against magical practice, one that affected the soul, than
anything else.

> It's only from the Enlightenment onwards that we get people who fit
> our modern definition of atheists

Not at all sure that's true, especially since it was commonly fatal
to be convicted of atheism.  *Skepticism* is certainly found long before
the Enlightenment.  Carvaka were atheists in ancient India.  Epicureans
nominally believed in something they called gods but that were radically
different from anyone else's god, and that might as well have not
existed, and disbelieved in an afterlife.

> early, in the "where do they match actual European history timeline"

Plus, not actually European history.

> If you're interested in the history of atheism in the real world, Ada Palmer had a great blog post about it some years back (part of an excellent series on Machiavelli): https://www.exurbe.com/why-we-keep-asking-was-machiavelli-an-atheist/

I read her book _Reading Lucretius in the Renaissance_; there she says
full-blown atheism is problematic to talk about, especially given how
the label was thrown at what were essentially heretics or believes in
different religions, but she talks about "proto-atheist" ideas we can

. spontaneous creation from chaos
. denial of Providence or design
. denial of divine participation
. denial of miracles
. denial of gods hearing prayer
. denial of immortality of the soul and of afterlife.

All of which describe Epicureanism, and you can find denial of gods or
of divine powers in various Greek plays.  The early Muslim world had
atheist philosophers as well.


Jennifer Michael Hecht wrote _Doubt: A History_, documenting the long
history of doubt and skepticism, and the rise of religions emphasizing
faith as a reaction to doubt.

I note that Palmer's first item is actually Quintarian doctrine.  To a
degree, the second and third as well: the gods don't claim to have
designed the world or the life forms in it.

-xx- Damien X-)

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