November 25, 2007

Contradictions, False Assumptions, and The Sword of Truth Finale

I'm agnostic, so two groups that really tend to get on my nerves are religious firebrands and evangelical atheists.

Having finally finished reading the last book of Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series, something didn't fit.

The events of the last few years seem to have caused Goodkind to blend the early socialist/communist ideals of the Fellowship of Order (his corporeal bad guys) with the death-cult mentality of Militant Islam.

I've already written about Goodkind's distinct distaste for socialism/communism, but in his last book (and an epic case of target drift), <hyperbole>he's decided to lump in anyone who isn't a God-hating atheist in with the rest of the commie scum.</hyperbole> I don't think he was paying enough attention to potential contradictions and false assumptions when he was putting the end together.

I said something didn't fit, then I remebered a long ago discussion I had on wotmania about the lack of religions as we know it in Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series.

The number of parallels between the two series is astronomical (nearly criminal in the first few book, if you ask me). The primary parallel is the concept of one Cosmic Goodguy who locked away one Cosmic Badguy in the great beyond behind a seal/veil/barrier/etc., and that if Cosmic Big-Bad ever gets loose it's going to be a huge problem. Cosmic Good set things in motion and takes a hands-off approach, while Cosmic Bad keeps trying to drive a stake in the spokes. The world he created is filled with tangible concrete evidence of that One Supernatural Order. There's no reason for them to have 100 different explanations for how/why the world came to be.

Religion and Faith are ways for humans deal with fear, unknowns, and the ultimately unknowable. Reason and Science can answer a lot of the simpler questions. God didn't make the sky blue, Physics did. But the scientific method may not be able to answer the really big series of questions: "Why1, Why2, and Why3?" 42 (Parents deal with a slightly less weighty series.)

The answer to each proceeding question can drastically affect the answer to each subsequent question.

1 Why, as in, why are we here? Are we a statistical fluke in a purely mechanist universe, or is there something more to it? 42

2 Why, as in, why were we created? What are we supposed to do with our lives? What is our purpose? 42

3 Why, as in, why should we follow through on that purpose? Is there some reason things have to happen that way? 42

Do you believe in the existence of a U.S. Constitution? Kind of a stupid question... With enough time and money, you can go see the thing if you want. It's not right there in the room with you, but its effects are all around. That doesn't stop us from arguing daily over how to interpret its words.

Goodkind's world contains tangible evidence of a divine creation and otherworldly beings. They already know the answer to Why1. That doesn't stop humans from fighting over Why2.

In the absense of clear direction from Goodkind's Creator:

Richard (the protagonist) thinks Why2 is answered through a devotion to individual liberty and achievement in the here-and-now with no real regard for Why3 (Believing, based on the experiences he's had with various supernatural forces, that it will all sort itself out in the end).

The Order preaches that Why2 is answered through self-sacrifice (economic, and your life, should it come to that) now, with an eye toward rewards in the next life (remember, it's known to actually exists) as the asnwer to Why3.

The fact is, in our world, we don't have Why1 answered yet. We don't have that luxury, and we probably never will. Why1 only has an answer in fiction (or if God decides to decend Paul Anka-like and put us all some fucking knowledge).

The problem for me lies in the way Goodkind lumps anyone who isn't a die-hard atheist into the Orders camp. There are a lot of damned-good people who think God answers Why1 while also believing that Richard's way (Classical Liberalism) answers the remaing two questions. Instead, he could have focused his rage at the hypocracy amongst the leadership of the Order and the real-world Fundamentalist and Socialists he meant to skewer. He rants on about Faith being evil in the face of Reason while forgetting that he's already cheated and answered the one question that Reason can't definitively answer. Why1? 42

Posted in Books by: Will at 03:07 PM | Comments (4) | Add Comment
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I've never understood why it is that some atheists feel they must become anti-theist.

I've argued against that point, myself.

Posted by: Steven Den Beste at November 25, 2007 05:57 PM (+rSRq)


There was a time back in high school where I developed a bit of an anti-theist streak. I think it had a lot to do with the experience I had with my neighbors I mentioned in your comments a while back. Since, then, I've mellowed quite a bit.

I'd like to think there's something out there waiting for us, and that if we're simply good to each other, we'll be welcomed warmly when our time comes. Then again, I'm not about to believe that that same something has decided I can only eat X, Y, and Z on days starting with T as a sign of my faith.

(aw damnit... I just realized I misspelled atheist all over the place... time to fix that...(and Sky Daddy can have my vulgarity when he prize it from my cold dead hands))


Posted by: Will at November 25, 2007 10:32 PM (E3UGR)


I used to be "anti-theist", in my younger days, like 10-15 years ago.  Over time, I came to realize that while I had my own belief system, I had no idea if it was right

Nowadays, while I'm still not a believer in any sort of higher power at all (save the Big Bang and the Gnab Gib), I no longer look down my bill at those who do.  If it works for them, great... and they might be right.

Posted by: Wonderduck at November 25, 2007 11:57 PM (glRev)

4 That's basically been my attitude for a while. We'll al find out who's right eventually, so why really bother? If there's really any there there, I think my immortal soul will be ok. If there isn't any there there, then we're all screwed.

Posted by: Will at November 26, 2007 12:43 AM (E3UGR)

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