Real Gods

Real Gods September 20, 2019

Even before I finished listening to the audiobook of Orson Scott Card’s novel Xenocide, I knew I was going to find and share this quote. Doing so was easy, since others had found it worth sharing before me.

I appreciate the sentiment, and it is one that is theologically rich. Unlike many of humanity’s most classic and best-known depictions of the divine, a real God (whatever that might mean) ought not to be threatened by humans and so feel the need to compel obedience and worship, but would instead generously seek our own progress in the direction of that which they are. Of course, in the context of Card’s own tradition (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) deities are not static but a potential that all beings can hope to achieve.

You can read the larger context of the quote here. See also my previous blog post about whether statements by characters in novels should be attributed to authors in this way, as though they must reflect their own viewpoint.

Since that story by card features a prominent place for an OCD-like condition, this also seems relevant:

Scrupulosity: Where OCD Meets Religion, Faith, and Belief

And emerging from my work on gods on Star Trek, here’s Gene Roddenberry on the notion of ancient aliens (a quote which surprised me, given that Apollo makes an appearance on Star Trek and seems to give credence to the ancient aliens idea).

I actually checked a bunch of books about ancient aliens out of the library recently, with some embarrassment, as I am working on a book chapter about the parallels and relationships between ancient mystical accounts and experiences, and modern accounts and experiences expressed in terms of alien abductions and UFOs. I wondered what the librarian must think. I actually mentioned it, and was told that librarians do not judge patrons for their choices of reading material. I replied to the librarian that if she didn’t judge me, I judged her for not judging me!

Almost entirely unrelated is the article “The Jedi Community: History and Folklore of a Fiction-based Religion” by Markus Altena Davidsen. The same could be said about the New Scientist article about looking for the glow of alien life. And yet I think both may be of interest to anyone who found this blog post interesting…


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  • arcseconds

    I always liked Lister’s explanation for the building of the Pyramids:

    Rimmer: OK, Lister, if there aren’t any aliens, how about the Pyramids? How did such primitive people move such massive, massive blocks of stone?
    Lister: They had whips! Massive, massive whips!

    Of course, pyramids aren’t that mysterious, I mean, they’re just lightly architectured piles of rocks. There’s nothing that amazing about a structure which is much narrower at the top than it is at the bottom — an exact pyramid won’t form naturally, but you can get something pretty close.

    If they were standing up the other way, then I’d be more inclined to to think aliens might be involved.

    Why is it surprising that a science fiction writer should not believe their own stories? Lots of things that are staples of the genre (and can make for good stories) are extremely implausible or outright impossible…

    Orson Scott Card’s quote gives me a better appreciation for Latter-day Saints cosmology. In the past it has struck me as somewhat purile and hubristic to want to be a god, but I had never thought of it from a god’s perspective before.

  • arcseconds

    Did you explain why you were getting them out?

    I used to read in cafés quite a lot, and on occasion really did not want to be seen reading what I was reading – one doesn’t always read stuff one agrees with. I did wonder whether I should invest in some kind of content-hiding dust cover.

    Then I thought there might be a market for a dust cover that was mostly transparent but had a big “I’m reading it but not agreeing with it!” message… that doesn’t quite work for borrower-shame, though.

  • kyuss

    given that Apollo makes an appearance on Star Trek and seems to give credence to the ancient aliens idea…

    How exactly are you making that leap of logic?

    • The dialogue in the episode. For instance, Kirk’s words, “Apollo’s no god. But he could have been taken for one, though, once. Say five thousand years ago, a highly sophisticated group of space travellers landed on Earth around the Mediterranean.”

  • gloriamarie

    It’s a shame that Orson Scott Crd doesn’t actually believe what he says in that meme. If he did, he would not be such a raging homophobe. God loves everyone. Even those we find ublovable.