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View Diary: Narnia: Right Wing Fundamentalist Version, part 5 (34 comments)

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  •  Except that C.S.Lewis was a bit of an ass (3+ / 0-)
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    adrianrf, skwimmer, Temmoku

    you don't need to re-interpret his stories to see the Christianity Uber Alles attitude in them.  It's right there plain as day.

    •  Well, yes and no. (7+ / 0-)

      I dislike the overt, over-the-head Christianism of his science fiction novels, but I find the later Narnia stories more nuanced, with more shades of grey.  They had a huge influence on my own spiritual thinking.  After turning away from my Christian upbringing as I went into my 20's, they actually led me to regain some respect for Christianity when it is seen as not literal truth, but another set of stories with mythical power.

      For example, I've always liked the part where Aslan says -- (something along the lines of) -- that if people do good in the name of Tash (the scary god), they are really worshipping him (Aslan).

      It reminds me of William Blake's observation that a lot of Christians confuse God and Satan.  They think they're worshipping Jesus when they're really worshipping the devil;  and a lot of people who are accused of doing the devil's work are really doing God's work.

      I like that attitude of tolerance:  whatever cultural forms a person's religious imagery or set of beliefs might take -- Hindu, Christian, Buddhist, atheist -- if they are doing good, they are all right;  they are worshipping the deepest, truest "god."  

      In other words, God is goodness, harmony, truth, healthiness -- whatever the religious form it is given.

      •  Oddly enough (3+ / 0-)

        It was precisely this attitude of tolerance (which is also repeated near the end of The Last Battle) which had a large effect on my religious beliefs and attitude to life. That you to my teachers who read these books to me on Friday afternoons in primary school!

        FOSI: Full Of Shit Information - Both my sister and I are trivia freaks...

        by Spoc42 on Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 04:57:10 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Uh. No. (0+ / 0-)
        For example, I've always liked the part where Aslan says -- (something along the lines of) -- that if people do good in the name of Tash (the scary god), they are really worshipping him (Aslan).

        That's what you highlight as an example of tolerance?  Really?

        It seems to me to be saying something very intolerant, actually.  That BY DEFINITION all good people must be followers of Aslan and BY DEFINITION all bad people are not, and anyone who thinks otherwise is kidding themselves about who they're really worshipping.

        Besides, that's not really the part that pisses me off about the Last Battle, although thank you for highlighting it.  The really annoying thing is that Lewis does the usual bullshit of making it so that unbelief is identical to belief in Satan (Tash).  And since he's the author he gets to force that to happen in his characters.

        •  Yes, I do see it that as tolerance. (0+ / 0-)

          It had a profound, life-changing effect on me, and at least one other person here, so there must be something to that interpretation.

          I think the differences in perception of that passage come from differences in understanding the language of mythology.  Some people -- even those who don't like mythology -- tend to read these things as literally and concretely as fundamentalists do.  It strikes me that you are  doing that.

          It is metaphor.  You use the term "by DEFINITION."  Mythology is not left-brained and definitional.  It's isn't logical, separating, and categorical, with clear "equal signs".

          This is the same conflict that arises when Easterners have no problem saying one can be both a Christian and a Buddhist, or a Christian and a Hindu ... but fundamentalist Christians go into fits at that assertion and fervently deny any such possibility.

          When Blake says people confuse God and the Devil, he is speaking of those things as abstract forces, not as literal beings with a definite identity.  "The Devil" is an image/metaphor for harmful, damaging selfishness.  "God" is an image/metaphor for what is true, good, harmonious and beneficial.  

          One can consciously think one is worshipping the image of Jesus, and go to church, and say a zillion Christian prayers, and think one is acting and "doing good" in Jesus' name -- but if those actions are harmful and damaging, in this sense -- in the deeper  levels of reality -- that person is really "worshipping the devil."  That is, one is devoting one's life and energy to selfishly causing hurt and damage.  In that sense I would have no problem saying that half of the Bible-thumping Republican party is really worshipping the Devil.  

          Same with Narnia:  Aslan is not speaking as "Aslan the Big Lion Being";  he is speaking as the force of good and truth while in the form of a lion.  (I recall that he even says at one point that that's not his real, literal form ... that he has many forms.)  

          Goodness, truth, and healthiness are the real "God."  That can take a million forms, and that is what Aslan is speaking as the personification of.  The names and definitions and imagery are of little importance.  

          When people do good in the name of Tash, they are worshipping goodness and truth.  When Hindus do good in the name of Krishna, they are worshipping goodness and truth.  When atheists do good in the name of their moral code, they are worshipping goodness and truth.  If a professed Satanist consistently does nice, healing things, he or she is worshipping goodness and truth.  And so on ...

          If people could see things that way, that would indeed lead to more tolerance ... giving other people some slack instead of getting lost in the images and definitions, and fighting about them as if they were the primary and only thing.

          •  You're not getting it. (0+ / 0-)

            Of course I know it's a metaphor.  It's about a magic land with talking animals for crying out loud.  But what is it a metaphor FOR?  It's a metaphor for Lewis's view of Christianity.  And your idea of what Lewis thinks Christianity is about is completely wrong.  He does not think that God is merely a metaphor for good and right.  He thinks of God as actually existing as a thinking divine entity, and Aslan as a metaphor for that existing god.

            What you call literalism I call a hatred of dishonesty.  To claim the existence of a thinking divine entity of a god and then to dial it back to pretending it's only a metaphor for goodness and light and that's all (not necessarily actually a god then) when it comes time to defend the belief it exists is simply dodgy moving the goalposts.  If that was all god was, then there'd be no reason to argue that god exists.  The reason the term is used is because it's far more than a mere metaphor.  For an example of a mere metaphor, take the fable of the tortoise and the hare.  Nobody actually thinks that rabbit and that turtle really existed and really had that race.  Nobody above the age of 5.  That's because as a pure metaphorical tale, it doesn't actaully have to exist and be real to get the point across, and it is presented as a fiction.  No parent telling the story of the toroise and the hare to a child is actually trying to make the child believe it really happened, that's not the point of a metaphorical tale.  If Christianity was mere metaphor like that, no preacher would bother insisting upon virgin births, 3-day ressurrections, jesus being god's son, and so on.   Christianity is not taught as if it was merely a fairy tale.  It's not taught as if it was merely a metaphor.

            There is no difference between saying "it's all just a metaphor" and saying "it's a work of fiction", yet so many people want to have their bible both ways - for it to be simultaneously a non-fiction story AND for it to be merely a metaphor.

            The vast majority of the 10 commandments, for example, require one to believe God actually exists and is a real being and not just a metaphor in order to follow them.  The bit about the sabbath is irrelevant if there's no god to worship.  The bit about sacrifices to god are irrelevant if there's no god there.  The bit about "have no gods but me" is irrelevant if there's no god there.  The bit about no graven images is irrelevant if there's no god there.  Need I go on?  The few bits and pieces of morality you can glean from the bible that require no belief in the existence of a divine thinking being are bits it cribbed from earlier sources that were already normal human culture before that time.

            Being against that sort of bait-and-switch dodge is NOT identical to being a fundamentalist.  

            Imagine a graph with two axes perpendicular to each other:  The X-axis ranges from "religion A is meant literally" to "religion A is meant just metaphorically".  The Y-axis ranges from "religion A is telling the truth" to "religion A is telling a falsehood".  A fundamentalist is on the "literal" end of the X axis and on the "true" end of the Y axis.  From your post I gather that you are on the "metaphor" end of the X axis (in disagreement with the fundamentalist) and on the "true" end of the Y axis (in agreement with the fundamentalist).  I am on the "literal" end  of  the X axis (in agreement with the fundamentalist) but on the "false" end of the Y axis (in disagreement with the fundamentalist).

            We are BOTH equally in agreement with, and disagreement with the fundamentalist, but along different axes.  By accusing me of agreeing with a fundamentailst while ignoring the fact that you're just as much in agreement as I am but along a different axis, you're being kind of an ass.  I don't accuse you of being as literal as a fundamentalist, so don't accuse me of agreeing with the fundamentalist that the religion is telling the truth.

            BOTH you and I think a literal interpretation of the relgion is not in accordance with the real world.  We just don't take the same approach of how to respond to this information.  You respond to it by claiming the literal interpretation conflicts with reality because such a literal interpretation was never the intent.  I respond to it by claiming that the literal interpretation conflicts with reality because telling the truth was not the intent. (i.e.  it had dishonest authors falsifying history to push an agenda).

    •  I think Lewis wanted to be balanced (1+ / 0-)
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      He got people complaining the books were not Christian enough and people complaining they were too Christian.

      They were about balanced, so he figured they were OK as allegories.

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