Robin Hanson wonders why atheists — lovers of truth, so we say — don’t give up fiction:
A few days ago I asked why not become religious, if it will give you a better life, even if the evidence for religious beliefs is weak? Commenters eagerly declared their love of truth. Today I’ll ask: if you give up the benefits of religion, because you love… truth, why not also give up stories, to gain even more… truth? Alas, I expect that few who claim to give up religion because they love truth will also give up stories for the same reason. Why?
The answer seems obvious: Most of us enjoy fiction because it allows us an opportunity to see ourselves in the characters, to see how they grapple with problems that we face — or will have to face in the future. It’s also fun to use our imagination and explore new worlds through the eyes of a gifted author.
More to the point, though, we enjoy fiction because we know we’re reading stories. People aren’t making the claim that Harry Potter must be real and then basing their lives and creating laws around that. People do that all the time when it comes to Holy Books.
Here’s a related question: Why is it that books described as “Christian fiction” (like the Left Behind series) are so predominant that they get their own shelves in bookstores, but atheist books are overwhelming non-fiction? It’s always about science or arguments against god/religion… I mean, can you even name a fictional book centered around atheism? There have been some, but certainly not many. Is there a reason atheist authors rarely dabble in the fictional world?
***Edit***: Readers point out that there are several other authors of atheist fiction — e.g. Phillip Pullman, Douglas Adams, Gene Roddenberry — so maybe a better question would be why atheist fiction isn’t as popular lately?