A Failure of Imagination

In the comment thread to my recent post “A World in Shadow IV“, theist commenter Jarrod expressed the following objection to the atheist argument from evil:

I have nothing to say against the point that there is much horrible suffering going on; take that and run with it, if you want. But I don’t think we can start making claims about possible worlds with more or less pain. We have one world with a lot of pain. No need to talk about other worlds God should’ve created.

Interestingly, at the time I saw this comment, I was reading the book Piety and Politics by the Rev. Barry Lynn, director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Lynn made an observation that I think quite accurately describes Jarrod’s comment:

“It’s as if to the Religious Right, any attempt to even imagine an alternative world or other realities is an offense against God.” (p.216)

The context of Lynn’s remark was a discussion of the frequent attempts by religious conservatives to ban or censor books whose message they disagree with, especially science fiction or fantasy books depicting worlds whose basic rules are not in accord with the human-centric, God-dominated model of Christian cosmology. As Lynn says, “I’ve had Religious Right activists tell me that any book that features aliens from space should not be read by children because it could give them the impression that God did not uniquely create life on earth!”

Eric von Laudermann, author of the deconversion story “The Joys of Christianity” hosted on Ebon Musings, describes how he held very much the same viewpoint in his fundamentalist days:

My ability to draw is not God’s gift to me. It took years of my own effort to gain that ability, and it’s still not always there when I want it. My art is therefore sinful. After all, I specialize in fantasy artwork: things that God did not create. How dare I enjoy something that God did not create! How dare I create! That’s God’s job! I’m trying to be like God! I’m going to Hell!

So, why is it that religious fundamentalists are often leery of sci-fi and fantasy? One possible answer is that they feel all creative work should pay proper homage to God, which most genre fiction does not. But then again, there are sound narrative reasons for this: it’s almost impossible to write a compelling, suspenseful story when God is a character. The certain knowledge that he will miraculously intervene whenever the heroes are in danger robs the narrative of dramatic tension. (Witness the Left Behind apocalyptic fiction books, which mostly feature their bland, white-bread main characters driving around and making phone calls while they passively watch each item in the end-times prophecy checklist unfold before them.)

However, I think this answer doesn’t go deep enough. A better one is suggested by Lynn’s comment: in the circumscribed imaginations of fundamentalists, even imagining a world where God is not actively in control is dangerous. It is a recurring theme in the speech and actions of religious conservatives that the best way to ensure ideological purity is to cut off people’s access to all sources of information that convey a message different from the one those religious conservatives seek to convey. (See also: abstinence-only sex education.)

Objecting to sci-fi and fantasy is a logical extension of that practice. In contrast to rationalists and friends of free speech who trust that the truth will emerge from open debate, fundamentalists evidently fear that their dogmas are fragile, and must be protected from collision with inconvenient facts – or even alternative possibilities. Merely imagining a world that does not begin with their faith-based tenets, in their view, is a dangerous step toward doubt and questioning. The self-appointed gatekeepers of dogma do not trust people to make up their own minds, and would rather bias the process of belief formation by only teaching those people about the viewpoints they want them to reach.

In essence, what they fear is a competing narrative. (This was discussed in my last summer’s review of The Da Vinci Code.) The stories of organized religion are adapted to resonate with people on an emotional level, and a story that taps the same feelings and inspires the same emotional reactions can all too easily dislodge the religious memes. To the degree that lay believers use their imaginations at all, fundamentalists and church authorities want those people only to imagine their symbols, to possess a mental world as ideologically sterile as the creeds that inspired it. Permitting other ideas and symbols to flourish in the mind alongside the symbols of one’s chosen religion could very likely lead the believer to think of their religion as just one more story among many – which it is – and that is an outcome that defenders of dogma seek to avoid at all costs. In the marketplace of ideas, they do not want fair competition, but victory guaranteed by the possession of a monopoly.

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Chris

    From the viewpoint of a fiction author, evil (or at least suffering) isn’t a problem, it’s a necessity. Go on, try to write an interesting story without it.

    That’s why fantasy with gods is nearly always fundamentally Manichean – either there are powers of good and powers of evil and they need human allies to tilt the balance, or the gods are good but not strong enough to right all wrongs without human help.

    Occasionally there are *only* evil gods, and humans have to struggle against them, but this can be awfully depressing and is fairly rare. Lovecraft comes to mind (although in some cases they merely cause suffering without evil intent, like a hurricane).

    Because if gods just right everything that goes wrong, there’d be nothing left for humans to do. Which would be rather boring.

  • Jarrod

    Well, that wasn’t quite where I was coming from.

    My issue – maybe my confusion – with possible worlds of more or less pain is this: How would know if we were in a better or worse world? As long as we inhabit a world with some amount of pain, it seems like we’d always be able to say that there could be a world with more or less pain. Maybe the world we’re in right now is a world with less pain then there should be; maybe God cosmically shifted the nature of the world somewhere along the line to decrease the amount of pain humans are exposed to. We’d never know. We’d still complain to God that the world could be better, even when it actually was.

    That’s why I think the concept of possible worlds with more or less pains is unhelpful. The concept of a possible world with no pain, however, is a real issue for Christians. But to talk about a possible world with no pain is to notably change the conversation.

    I have nothing against imagination. It’s an interesting interplay between imagination and truth, between “things as they could be” and “things as they are.” Somehow it all gets subsumed under Reality, with “things as they are” probably being more important. I can’t fault people for picking truth over imagination. That’s a fine principle, I think. I can, however, fault them for the ideas they have of what is true.

  • Reed Ulvestad

    Better isn’t a state of things, it’s a comparison between two things. So there is always a possible world with less evil unless you live in a world with no evil.

    Why would god just make the world a little bit better, why not, in his omnipotence, make the world all the way better?

  • RiddleOfSteel

    The context of Lynn’s remark was a discussion of the frequent attempts by religious conservatives to ban or censor books whose message they disagree with, especially science fiction or fantasy books depicting worlds whose basic rules are not in accord with the human-centric, God-dominated model of Christian cosmology. As Lynn says, “I’ve had Religious Right activists tell me that any book that features aliens from space should not be read by children because it could give them the impression that God did not uniquely create life on earth!”

    Several years ago while visiting some friends, we decided to watch a film called X-Men. The story was derived from a series of comic books, where people developed superhuman powers. The premise was these powers were a result of mutations due to some kind of exponential increase in the rate of evolution. Of course, it had little to do with actual evolution through decent with modification.

    Interestingly, one of our friends decided not to watch the film, due to it’s use of evolution to account for the superhuman powers. It seemed odd, considering the evolution aspect was primarily just a plot point to allow for the characters. This friend happened to be an evangelical type Christian. I have since noticed in other settings, that she in effect shields herself from information that could run counter to her world view. I find it troubling. How is one to ever re-evaluate and make correction, if all contrary data is avoided?

    For those who are not aware, there is actually a type of “parallel world” of religious news services, films and music, radio programming, etc. Combined with religious schools and churches with extended social functionality – it’s possible for a religious person to largely insulate her or himself from the greater world.

  • http://spaninquis.wordpress.com/ John P

    For those who are not aware, there is actually a type of “parallel world” of religious news services, films and music, radio programming, etc. Combined with religious schools and churches with extended social functionality – it’s possible for a religious person to largely insulate her or himself from the greater world.

    Don’t forget the primary purpose of most Christian home schoolers. What better way to protect your children from pernicious ideas counter to your religion, than to never send them to the one place dedicated to exposing them to those same pernicious ideas.

  • http://www.johnnysstew.com/cool/coolwet J

    Long post ahead … the easily bored take heed . . .

    So, why is it that religious fundamentalists are often leery of sci-fi and fantasy? One possible answer is that they feel all creative work should pay proper homage to God, which most genre fiction does not.

    Don’t forget about Orson Scott Card: A fundamentalist (Mormon) sci-fi writer. At first I thought he was good . . . then I read the Memory of Earth series. Five books long, the series starts out strong, compelling and interesting but then around book 3 it goes over the cliff and never really recovers. It becomes an extremely clumsy allegory for various Mormon scriptures, and well-established threads in the first few books get utterly abandoned in the last few.

    Card has complained that few modern novels allow “room” for God. That is, that God does not “act” in novels of any genre. He clearly tried to rectify this in the Memory of Earth series–especially toward the end–but seems to have realized the problem with putting a Judeo-Christian(-Mormon) God in a fictional book, which is that, since He can presumably do anything, He becomes a plot-stopper. How can there be any such thing as conflict (and thus, plot) if the protagonist can just invoke God?

    Card seems to have realized this too late. His heroes in the end pray to God to help them, but, um, nothing happens. So one of the heroines impersonates God to a group of primitive (low-tech) humans using her spaceship. And then the story ends, rather non sequiteurishly.

    Card also engages in an extremely tortuous round of apologetics trying to show how the “law of the desert” (specifically, death for adulterers and gays) actually makes perfect moral and practical sense. It’s compelling, in the same way that the Nuremberg defense (“I only killed those Jews because I was ordered to”) is compelling.

  • Alex Weaver

    One thing that strikes me about some of the science fiction I’ve read (not as much as I probably should have; I’m taking suggestions) is that when religion is depicted it’s often from a position similar to what Dawkins calls the “know-nothings”, where religious beliefs are held to be psychologically or socially beneficial for humans and thus are practiced and preserved despite a lack of evidence for their factual truth. “3001: The Final Odyssey” in particular struck me this way. Other times characters make reference to god in expletives, expressions of hope, etc. but religion otherwise plays little to no role in the story. More examples of people who’ve become so entangled in their religion that they can’t imagine a society without it?

  • Jim Baerg

    One very interesting SF story in which religious questions are central, is the short story _The Problem of Pain_ by Poul Anderson (in the collection “The Earth Book of Stormgate”. Also see his novel _The Day of Their Return_. SFAIK Poul was not a believer in any religion himself.

    The Wikipedia article on Poul has a bibliography.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poul_Anderson

  • Polly

    I actually have an idea for a religious Sci-Fi book that involves the remains of a literal Garden of Eden…and a certain tree’s preserved DNA.

    I always enjoy hearing about the Book of Mormon from an ex-Mormon friend of mine. It’s like good fiction.

    I think all these stories from the Bible really were meant to be entertaining (perhaps even FOR entertainment and a moral lesson: “edutainment”). Tell me Samson isn’t the Israelite Hercules or Superman. This was rivetting stuff when I was younger…floods, an angel slaying 185,000 soldiers, talking donkeys and snakes, backroom deals between god and the devil, royal palace intrigue and cover-ups, this is prime time stuff! consider what life was like before TV and the entertainment industry. The themes of these narratives, at an earlier point in history, were shockingly original and enthralling.

    Leave it to religion to take all the fun out of epic battles and 9 foot tall giants – and their 12 fingered kin.

  • Jeff T.

    I fail to see how anyone could justify defending an omnipotent god that allows for babies being born deformed, or suicide bombers, psychopathic mass murderers… To try and justify this by saying that it could be worse is not special pleading—it is ignoring the obvious contridiction between omnipotence and reality.

  • Ric

    Great insight. This also goes a long way towards explaining why the American religious right has lost their focus on helping the poor.

  • OMGF

    Jarrod,
    I suggest that you find someone who is starving to death with some horrendous ailments and tell them your theory about how it could be worse. Report back and let us know how it goes.

    For those who are not aware, there is actually a type of “parallel world” of religious news services, films and music, radio programming, etc. Combined with religious schools and churches with extended social functionality – it’s possible for a religious person to largely insulate her or himself from the greater world.

    This reminds me of a site that I’ve seen:

    South Carolina bound

  • http://blog.dmcleish.id.au Shishberg

    But then again, there are sound narrative reasons for this: it’s almost impossible to write a compelling, suspenseful story when God is a character. The certain knowledge that he will miraculously intervene whenever the heroes are in danger robs the narrative of dramatic tension.

    This immediately made me wonder why there’s so much tension and uncertainty in the real world.

    Could it be that God isn’t a character?

  • David Ellis


    So, why is it that religious fundamentalists are often leery of sci-fi and fantasy?

    They should be. I was raised fundamentalist and was (and continue to be) a science fiction and fantasy lover. Science fiction, most of it assuming a naturalist worldview, helped to instill in me a love of science, rationality and critical thinking that was devastating to my religious convictions.

    I think its no coincidence that I, the only science fiction lover in my family, also am the only one who came to disbelieve in the supernatural. I suspect that many other atheists could say the same.

  • Chris

    Also, the more fictional gods you see, the easier it is to recognize one more when you see it. :)

    In most fantasy settings his predilection for massacres, vengeance, oppression and the occasional human sacrifice would have him classified as a dark god, anyway.

  • G

    “I’ve had Religious Right activists tell me that any book that features aliens from space should not be read by children because it could give them the impression that God did not uniquely create life on earth!”

    Yes I’m sure an all wise god would create quintillions of planets just to make life on one of them. Honestly how do these morons have enough brain cells to breath much less ban books?

  • The Vicar

    Tell me Samson isn’t the Israelite Hercules or Superman.

    Okay, how about this: Samson isn’t the Israelite Hercules or Superman. Good enough?Seriously: the entire book of Judges is a big ol’ wad of propaganda, which is now so far out of date that most people don’t realize it. The story of Samson is the most over-the-top part of the whole thing. Samson is a joke; a musclebound idiot and womanizer and a big failure in just about every way — he hobnobs with Israel’s enemies, only pursues personal goals, becomes ritually impure and covers it up, and in his ignominious ending, he fails to rescue Israel from the Philistines. Examine carefully which judges in the book are successful and which are duds, and you’ll discover that all the good ones come from the region which (entirely by coincidence, I’m sure) produced the rulers who were in charge when the book became part of Jewish canon. Nothing to see here, move along.

  • Jarrod

    I suggest that you find someone who is starving to death with some horrendous ailments and tell them your theory about how it could be worse.

    Hey, I found someone – he didn’t seem too consoled. Let me hit this horse again.

    There is a difference between “God, why didn’t you create a world with less pain?” and “God, why does this world have so much pain?” The difference may not be obvious, but the former question accuses God of metaphysical insensibility while the latter accuses him of physical insensibility. A person can say that there is too much pain in this world without making any claims about possible worlds. The standard that evaluates this world doesn’t have to be a world with less pain; the standard can simply be the natural human reaction to pain.

    I’m not the one positing possible worlds with more or less pain. We should only talk about two worlds: the pain-filled world we do have, and the possible world with no pain whatsoever (because that’s still a useful concept).

    I’m trying to draw out this distinction because it affects the approach to the problem of pain.

  • Loren Petrich

    This reminds me of a thread that I once posted in IIDB: Where is the Christian Science Fiction? in which I described Tim Enloe‘s lament about the rarity of great Xian science-fiction epics; the only one he could think of was C.S. Lewis’s “Space Trilogy”. He discussed Isaac Asimov’s works and Babylon 5 at length, noting what he considered their uncompromising atheism, or more precisely, metaphysical naturalism.

  • Polly

    @The Vicar:

    Thanks for the rehash of Samson. Indeed, I didn’t cross reference the details of the stories. My, much more general, point is that Israelites, like Greeks, Egyptians, and every other culture, created a mythology that, I think, was more a form of literature akin to sci-fi than dogma.

    I am familiar with the attempts to make judges look bad in the “days when each did what was right in his own eyes” thus justifying and amplifying the monarchy with its attendant religious reforms under Josiah and then Hezekiah. I get it. But, the overaching themes probably weren’t invented overnight, just like Santa Claus, they were cynically tweaked and manipulated for specific effect. But, while the tales served as useful propaganda once they were written down, these stories did not originate as text, but as oral traditions maybe even borrowed and adapted from other cultures. I’m sure, gathered around the campfire or out in the pastures, these were interesting in the telling and far less ideologically and politically backloaded. (Maybe, I’m just naive.)

    I don’t think any of this was originally intended or foreseen to become a “holy book.” That probably came about through later prophets of YHWH and the emphasis of Christianity (being birthed in a literate culture) on the WORD both as the god-man and as he was to be found, in the writings of the prophets.

  • ex machina

    I’m not the one positing possible worlds with more or less pain. We should only talk about two worlds: the pain-filled world we do have, and the possible world with no pain whatsoever (because that’s still a useful concept).

    But it is useful . . . when people talk about a world with less pain, they don’t really mean a big pain knob that would be turned down (like your headaches are now only %50 as painful as they once were). Indeed, we would not be able to tell our pain had been reduced in that way, as we would have no reference point. But I can point to a demonstrable failure on (a supposed) God’s part and see how it has caused undue pain.

    For example, I don’t think bullet wounds should hurt less, but God could reduce war due to religious differences by being clear about his message to mankind or encouraging religious tolerance to a greater degree; and thereby reduce the total amount of pain from bullets (and loss of loved ones, and famine/blight, and economic devastation, etc.). In the latter instance, the world would have a concrete way to measure how much more pain they could possibly have and extrapolate that they live in the world with the least possible pain.

  • http://thereisnobeep.blogspot.com heliobates

    I’m not the one positing possible worlds with more or less pain. We should only talk about two worlds: the pain-filled world we do have, and the possible world with no pain whatsoever (because that’s still a useful concept).

    The position you’re defending has resulted from a moral agent (GOD) creating a world in which events beyond human control result in misery and suffering. This misery and suffering gets in the way of God’s primary purpose for humanity (to have a personal relationship with each individual). The presumed spiritual meritocracy in which agents with free will have equality of opportunity cannot, and demonstrably does not exist.

  • http://sadielouwho.blogspot.com Sadie

    I have two things to say

    1. I just read a wonderful book titled “The Sparrow” by Mary Doria Russell. Mary was a Catholic that turned to atheism that later turned to Judasim. Her book is science fiction and is basically about jesuit priests that go on a mission to an alien planet. It was amazing! The focus on religious themes and theological quandries was awesome and challenging. I did a review of the book if you would like to read it.
    http://sadielouwho.blogspot.com

    2. There is a fabulous article written by a man I adore named Jerram Barrs. He’s a professor at a popular seminary. He did a paper being critical of Christians that attck science fiction-fantasy. His particular emphasis was on Harry Potter. Take a look–it’s great
    http://www.covenantseminary.edu/resource/Barrs_HarryPotter_Persp.pdf

  • http://none John Nernoff III M.D.

    In Islam one is not supposed to depict humans or any other animals.

    Only “God” can create such forms.

    Including Western fundamentalism , this is a form of “closed shop” anti-competitive mentality which in some cases has developed into a phobia.

    “God” was concocted by priests. They just want all the action and credit.

  • G

    “In Islam one is not supposed to depict humans or any other animals”
    Same with the Bible just noone follows it.

  • Jarrod

    ex machina – This is what I’m hearing you say: if God made his existence more clear to the world, or if God did more to encourage his followers to peaceful ways, then there would be less pain in the world then there currently is. (Not pressing, here, exactly how there would be less pain – that is, how more clearness about God’s existence would entail less pain. Might seem obvious, but I don’t think it is.) You then say,

    In the latter instance, the world would have a concrete way to measure how much more pain they could possibly have and extrapolate that they live in the world with the least possible pain.

    I’m confused about how the world would have a concrete way to measure to measure the amount of pain it could’ve had, but didn’t. Many slight occurences throughout history have had grave consequences – good consequences, that is. Weren’t there planes on 9/11 that didn’t reach their target – that is, weren’t there planes that did not cause as much pain as they were supposed to? It seems like their are many situations that could lead to more pain or less pain. Many times, events occur so that there is less pain then there could be. Should I say God is active and – in sheer love – has already reduced the amount of pain that could/should be present in the world?

    That’s why I’m confused. I still don’t see how we could ever know that we live in the world of the least possible pain. I still see the only significant possible worlds being one with pain, and one completely without pain.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    That seems reasonable enough, Jarrod. So let’s concentrate on that: why does this world have any pain at all? The existence of Heaven in Christian theology shows that the idea of a painless world is conceivable.

  • The Vicar

    Jarrod, do you ever read a newspaper? To quote the old Tom Lehrer song (written in the early 1960s): the Protestants hate the Catholics, and the Catholics hate the Protestants, and the Hindus hate the Moslems, and everyone hates the Jews. All of that hatred — which has been acted on, and is still acted on, and is a source of apparently endless suffering and death — would vanish if god bothered to manifest and said “this is who I am, and this is how you worship.” Even if you assume that atheists would somehow manage to ignore this, it would put an end to sectarian violence.* To say otherwise is to claim that religious people are stupid, and I’m kind of assuming you don’t want to go there.

    * How often do atheists commit acts of violence against theists right now, anyway? The numbers must be dwarfed by the religious violence in the middle east alone.

  • Jarrod

    (First, sorry about having not said anything recently. Busyness and a surprising termination of my internet access kept me away.)

    I’d like to reiterate that discussing why there’s any pain at all is much different from dicussing why there isn’t less pain. One’s a good, hard question; one’s a dead end.

    Two things. Remember, Christians already think many people have ignored God’s obvious manifestations. Also, even if sectarian violence was somehow ended, what’s to say another sort discord among humans wouldn’t replace sectarian violence? The amount of suffering in the world wouldn’t necessarily be reduced. Christians believe in the Fall: Christians believe humans are successful at creating their own problems where problems didn’t exist beforehand.

    I plan on addressing in my next comment the question Ebonmuse asked. I must say that I speak with no authority; this is a tough question. But at least it’s the right question. I’ll mention – probably quote – something by Alvin Plantiga, who addressed the issue. If theological reasons aren’t satisfying when it comes to the existence of pain, maybe purely philosophical reasons will be more so. As far as I know, they’re considered to be good philosophical reasons.

  • Jarrod

    The question is “Why did God create a world with pain?” Be aware that however much lightness seems to surround a technical discussion of pain, that’s merely a convention for conversation. Pain exists to the extent that, for some people, non-existence seem preferable to existence (but that’s a separate issue). I do not deny the horribleness of such suffering. But talking about suffering in a certain way entails a certain detachment.

    So, my own conjectures. First, I do not think God created a world with pain; I think God created a world with the potential for pain. That’s a very important distinction. Additionally, God’s foreknowledge of events does not render the distinction meaningless. Why, then, did God create a world with the potential for pain?

    The idea of the Fall is the crucial concept. Pain is the result of sin, which is a morally wrong choice; that is, pain is the result of evil. I will quote Alvin Plantinga, one of the best American philosophers, theist or not. He makes a very conservative claim – a characteristic action of philosophers – but I see him as basically saying this: in order for God to grant humans the capacity for good, God had to create humans with the capacity for certain evil. Good chosen in the presence of potential evil is better than good chosen in the absence of potential evil; if God wanted humans to have the capacity for that better good, then God had to have created humans with the capacity for evil. This is from “Possible Worlds” from God, Freedom and Evil.

    The heart of the free will defence is the claim that it is possible that God could not have created a universe containing moral good (or as much moral good as this world contains) without creating one that also contained moral evil. And if so, then it is possible that God has a good reason for creating a world containing evil.

    Some more Plantinga (from the same place):

    The free will defender disagrees with both Leibniz [who says that this is the best of all possible worlds] and Mackie [who says that this is not the best of all possible worlds, and thus that God does not exist]. In the first place, he might say, what is the reason for supposing that there is such a thing as the best of all possible worlds? No matter how marvellous a world is – containing no matter how many persons enjoying unalloyed bliss – isn’t it possible that there be an even better world containing even more persons enjoying even more unalloyed bliss? But what is really characteristic and central to the free will defence is the claim that God, though omnipotent, could not have actualized just any possible world he pleased.

    Now, both Plantinga quotes are from the introduction of his essay; there’s no space here to go into the technicalities. However, I’ve heard that Plantinga was successful in answering Mackie’s claim that pain means the Christian God does not exist.

    We’re very ready to give as full a conception as we can to pain. But we don’t do the same for God’s goodness. Human choices cause pain, and that choice exists so that a certain good can exist. Saying that God should not have created humans with the potential for evil is nothing less than saying that God should be less good.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    From my review of “The Problem of Pain“:

    Despite this confident statement, there is an alternative that excludes the possibility of suffering without excluding life or free will. According to Christianity, and to Lewis himself, there is only one fundamental moral choice a person must make in life: “a single naked choice – of loving God more than the self or the self more than God” (p.20). So why not, then, set up the world so that that is the only moral choice we need to make? Lewis leaps from the conclusion (which I do not dispute) that distinctness and freedom of choice require the existence of an external world of matter, to the conclusion that that world must be set up in such a way as to allow people to harm each other. Once a physical world exists, we can recognize ourselves as separate from others, interact with them and communicate with them. Why then add the additional capability for evil people to use that world to unjustly harm the innocent, rather than structuring the world so that people who made bad choices could only harm themselves?

  • Andrew

    I honestly dont think Christians fear sci-fi and fantasy or even ‘compelling narriatives’. In fact I think its rather telling that the two writers who invented modern fantasy, Tolkien and Lewis, were devout Christians(and if I may add, Tolkien is BY FAR superior to any fantasy writer since).

    I also disagree that stories must be in competition with religious beliefs. In fact it can be an exciting way to explore issues of faith, for example Lewis’s Narnia books explores how God might operate in worlds that are different from ours. Or theres Orson Scott Card(a devout Morman, and if I may add, the greatest sci-fi writer living today), who’s novels, while excellent stories for their own sake, also explore moral issues that we may(or may not) one day have to engage in, as a prime example, one of the major themes of Speaker For the Dead is how to deal with people(or aliens), who are clearly intelligent, but who’s language or customs make it difficult-to-impossible to have any sort of real conversation with some of his books(such as the Homecoming series or Folk of the Fringe) are more explicit in their Morman teachings/symbolisms.

    I dont get Christians who oppose sci-fi and fantasy, really I dont. Thankfully they are the tiniest of minorities. Even the anti-Harry Potter syndrome has died down as of late.