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

Beatrice Otter beatrice_otter at zoho.com
Wed Jul 31 18:17:31 BST 2019

---- On Wed, 31 Jul 2019 04:51:25 -0700 Gwynne Powell <mailto:gwynnepowell at hotmail.com> wrote ----

Just pondering....: 
In the 5GU there's a huge schism between Quadrenes and Quintarians. 
But there doesn't seem to be a lot of atheism. I can't remember any character 
that discusses it. 
They might worship the gods, argue 4 vs 5, hate the gods, blame the gods, 
ignore the gods or chat with them regularly. One thing nobody seems to do 
 is to not believe. 

Beatrice Otter:

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 Jewish rabbis in the late 40s, after the holocaust, that came together for a discussion on what the Holocaust said about God and related issues.  They came to the conclusion that God did not exist, and then do you know what they did?  It was time for prayer, and so they prayed.  Belief and practice usually go hand in hand, but when there is a disconnect, most people and groups weigh practice more important 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 least be aware that it is an assumption, and not a great natural law of all universes that religions are mostly about belief.


Maybe that's because the gods do show up, now and then, in a very personal 
and recognisable form.

Beatrice Otter:

Yeah, but with trained animals and deceitful temple grooms, you could fake the funeral miracle easily.  Christians have always believed that God and/or saints come to some Christians in visions and dreams; what is to stop people in the 5GU from being just as skeptical about claims of visions as people in our world can be?


But it wouldn't be easy to be an atheist, anyway. From what we see of society, 
it's very strongly linked to religion; times of the year are linked to festivals for 
each god. The legal system, health, education, and the military are all run through 
the temple, mostly by divines, dedicats and acolytes, as well as lay personnel. 
The temple trains you, most higher-level jobs require you to join the temple. 
And of course the Temple has birth, death and marriage, too. 
So you have to at least go through the motions, to survive in that  society. 
And when you're worried, and desperate, and you pray or donate or go on a 
pilgrimage, at least you can feel that you're doing something. You're no longer 
just helpless. 

Beatrice Otter:
Again, this only becomes a huge and pressing issue if you're holding belief as the most important thing.  If belief is the most important thing, and you don't believe, and you have to participate anyway or risk social ostracization, it causes lots of internal conflict.  If nobody really cares what you think about it as long as you participate in the correct rituals, then things are much different.

Also, let's define our terms, here: what do we understand "atheism" means?  Because, believe it or not, the word has had several different meanings.  In ancient Rome, for example, Jews and Christians were considered "atheists" by the pagans because they didn't worship all the gods, but only one.  (And even there, the problem the Romans had was not "which God do you worship and what do you think about it" but "Holy crap, these people don't participate in the rituals that propitiate the gods and bind our society together.  They're antisocial, and what if some god or spirit gets angry that we aren't doing the correct sacrifices or feasts or whatever?")  In the middle ages and Renaissence, anybody identified as a great sinner or evil person got accused of atheism, on the logic that if you believed in God, you would believe in hell and damnation, and you would not commit huge sins.  So, for example, Lutherans accused the Pope of being an atheist, and Catholics accused Martin Luther of being an atheist.  It's only from the Enlightenment onwards that we get people who fit our modern definition of atheists ... and even CoC and PoS are too early, in the "where do they match actual European history timeline" for that.

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/

Beatrice Otter

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