[LMB] What makes a character irredeemable?

Beatrice Otter beatrice_otter at zoho.com
Wed Jul 31 05:53:02 BST 2019

---- On Tue, 30 Jul 2019 09:55:51 -0700 Joel Polowin <mailto:jpolowin at hotmail.com> wrote ----
A thing that strikes me as a bit odd is that people in the 5GU 
keep on praying to the Gods -- and in some cases thanking them for, 
after the fact -- for things that the Gods utterly cannot influence. 
And it's not like the temples are making a secret of that, AFAICT; 
Ordol was pretty clear about what they can and can't do, and there 
were services based on those limitations.  I can understand why the 
temples don't push this *too* hard, since someone needs to pay for 
maintaining the system, and the temples unquestionably have value in 
people's lives and towards their afterlives.  But still. 

Beatrice Otter:
There's a Doylistic explanation, and a Watsonian explanation.

Doylistic: Lois grew up in America, which is culturally Christian, and unless you have specific other religious formation, there's a default understanding of religion as being concerned with sin and salvation and heaven and hell and God being all-powerful with the ability to control any physical phenomena, because God created all of it.  Sometimes this comes out in her writing, even when she's inventing a fantasy religion that doesn't share any of these understandings.

Watsonian: One of the things anthropologists have been looking at is "do different sorts of societies have different sorts of religious beliefs?"  So, for example, do nomads have different beliefs than farmers, do civilizations with small towns and no huge cities have different beliefs than civilizations with lots of big cities, etc.  And there does seem to be, based on preliminary research, a correspondence of some sort.  Obviously, this is a huge subject, and requires LOTS of studies and comparisons before it can be considered a settled thing.  And of course take it with a grain of salt, there are exceptions to every rule.  But here's what they've found so far.

Small band civilizations, where you know everyone in your tribe and they know you and you never/rarely have to deal with outsiders.  (This can be nomadic or settled, the critical thing is the size of the group and its insularity.)  These groups tend to have a large number of less powerful deities.  There are spirits/gods/whatever, and you have to be careful with them, but there tends to be less emphasis on spiritual consequences of deliberately doing shitty things to others.  No threats of hell or being reincarnated as a cockroach or whatever.

If you get larger settlements, or have lots of interaction with outsiders, so you DON'T always know everyone you deal with at least by reputation, you also tend to get supernatural punishments for bad behavior.  The theory is that when you know everybody around you and will deal with them your whole life, the consequences of being a known liar or thief or murderer or whatever are enough deterrent for most people, because there isn't a possibility of hurting someone and then not having to deal with them/their family/friends.  When you're regularly dealing with people you don't know even by reputation, you need some kind of assurance that they won't screw you over, and people need outside pressure not to hurt people and "everybody will know what you did" is no longer enough.

If you have a large-scale society with other institutions (police, etc) for enforcing the consequences of bad behavior, even religions with lots of consequences for bad behavior start focusing on other aspects of their cosmology.

The 5GU is in the intermediate stage.  They have large cities and travel, but not much law enforcement (and some of what they have is provided by the Temple, by soldiers of the Daughter's and Son's orders).  "Behave, or the gods will punish you!" is a good way of encouraging not-evil behavior.

Also, people make stories and see meaning when there is none.  We are so good at spotting connections and meaning when they are really there, we even do it when it's NOT there.  "Something happened I don't understand" + "supernatural forces exist" = "the supernatural forces must have CAUSED the thing I don't understand"

As for how they can believe stuff when the actual sources (Ordol, divines, etc) tell them that's not how it actually works, well, as a Christian minister let me tell you that happens ALL THE TIME.  There is SO much stuff that most Western Christians just ... believe that is either nowhere in the Bible or directly contradicted by the Bible.  And there are many Christian religious leaders who teach and preach the extra-Biblical or contra-Biblical stuff.  Of course, the difference between us and the 5GU is that in the US at least, there are a LOT of churches with ministers who have no formal religious training and actively discourage people from getting formal religious training because they think it interferes with the Holy Spirit.  This frees them from dogmatism but also means that there's no protection from people going whack-a-doodle and preaching/teaching really baaaaaaad theology.  The 5GU has a more centralized church structure in which people get formal training (though people serving temples in the backbeyond get less of it than people serving urban centers).  They probably weed out the ones who have whack-a-doodle ideas.

Beatrice Otter

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