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ATHEISM vs.

THEISM IN FANTASY By Karlton Douglas 2005

I have a number of concerns regarding what Christopher Paolini has done with his fantasy book: Eldest. He has a lot of influence among young fantasy fans, and h as earned quite a following with his first book (Eragon). To take that influence and to use it to present atheism as a form of enlightened thinking in his second fantasy book, Eldest, this is, in my opinion, a shame. It is a disservice to tho se who have been enthusiastic for this young writer, and who did not find atheis tic ideology in his first novel. There is plenty of relativism born out of athei sm in the world, without Mr. Paolini feeding the fires of such foolishness throu gh his book. It is not, in my opinion, a safe philosophy for young minds to inge st, especially as fantasy books, by their nature, require a willing suspension o f disbelief, and are thus open to influences in ways they might not be otherwise . If he is going to mimic J.R.R. Tolkien, why not copy the best that is found in J .R.R. Tolkien s, Lord Of The Rings? Mr. Tolkien's elves were the closest ones to t he religion of Middle Earth. They came from the west, were immortal, and could g o back to the west, and to Iluvatar (the deity of Middle Earth). Paolini turns t hat important religious concept of the Tolkien-model on its head. I believe this about Paolini s blunder in the fantasy realm: I believe he has dama ged his work. It is hard to maintain a mythology if you remove myth from the sto ry--you kill the magic of fantasy when you remove its underlying mythic power. O ur young Paolini has broken the spell of his fantasy. He has left the Tolkien-mode l, and it was the Tolkien model, above all, that drove his success in writing fa ntasy. He is no longer a fifteen-year-old wonder; he is a young man that must be judged by the actual art he produces. Perhaps he will please those who want to remove every form of godliness from every aspect of our culture, but J.R.R. Tolk ien's fantasy was built of stronger stuff, strong imagery, and strong mythology with deeply religious overtones. Paolini has mocked that by making the, arguably , highest race of beings in a Tolkien-type-world (elves) into a group of vegetar ian atheists who think they are superior to all others. In addition, an atheistic model of a Tolkien-type-world leaves only a relativism that has no foundation for moral absolutes, no solid ground for a good vs. evil battle. For who is truly evil, and who is truly good? It loses the quality that J.R.R. Tolkien set forth, and leaves something unwholesome in its wake. In my o pinion, it becomes something else altogether--a useless travesty. Does it matter? That is a good question. Some will think that it doesn t. But for those who understand the power of mythmaking and the importance of heroic storie s and ethical tales of wonder--it does matter. Without getting deeply into the d angers of atheism, I will simply state again that without moral absolutes, and w ithout a foundation that supports moral absolutes, all that we are left with is relativism, without any foundation to determine moral choices. Stories can have great impact on young minds, for young people want to mimic what they admire. A

godless hero, or race of heroes, in a fantasy story may seem of small relevance to some, but to a young person forming larger beliefs and ideas, this can do dam age to a newly forming belief system. Of course, if you are an atheist intereste d promoting your ideology, I am sure you disagree. I thought that Christopher Paolini s first book, Eragon, was a flawed, but good ef fort for a very young, first time author. I expected more from him with his seco nd book, yet, (SPOILER WARNING FOR ERAGON) through his second book, we now know that the mysterious voice who spoke to his main character at the very end of his first book was that of a godless atheist, who was to become Eragon's mentor. In my own view, Paolini has moved into the category of a Philip Pullman (author of the fantasy series: His Dark Materials), another writer of fantasy who has in volved unbelief, and anti-God agenda in his fantasy writing. Read more about Pullman Here: http://crowhill.net/journeyman/Vol1No1/Darkmaterials.html And here: http://film.guardian.co.uk/news/story/0,12589,1368984,00.html I can think of two other atheists who write fantasy, and have not, to the best o f my knowledge, felt compelled to bring their atheism fully into their art, and that would be Ursula K. Le Guin, and Susan Cooper. Though Susan Cooper did make a statement through one of her characters at the end of her Dark Is Rising serie s that seemed filled with hopelessness, she, nevertheless, made use of mythology and wove her stories around Christmas and symbols that did not seem to reflect her unbelief. Le Guin did a decent job with Earthsea, and I cannot think of anyt hing specifically atheistic in her characters or their worldview. Dennis McKiernan has made a variety of gods a part of his Mithgar series. Though he involves philosophy through some of his characters, I do not remember any in stance where atheism is pushed to the forefront among them; actually, my underst anding is that he is an agnostic who does not rule out the possibility of God. In Terry Brooks' book about writing, it begins with him in church, holding his b ible, and toward the end, he invokes God a couple of times. I would like to know more about his specific beliefs. I do not know of any instance where he promote s anything resembling atheism in his Shannara or other fantasy series. The bottom line is that we need more fantasy authors willing to use the Christia n model in their world-building, or at least willing to involve a Christian them e, and/or ethics within their stories. We base fantasy upon many of the solid th ings found in the real world, even as we weave fantastic stories. It is not hard for me to envision fantasy stories with stronger Christian elements; after all, Christians gave modern fantasy stories their birth, from J.R.R. Tolkien, to C.S Lewis, to George MacDonald. It is a shame that such a marvelous foundation is n ow being tarnished by godless ideologies that are unworthy of the wonderful foun ders of modern Fantasy. And it is my belief that Atheism is anathema to the Tolk ien-type fantasy story, yet, if my guess is correct, these atheist fantasies wil l be short-lived and never rise to the level of those founded upon a powerful my thology and Theism. I have no doubt that Theistic--in the broad use of the term-rather than Atheistic fantasy stories will carry the power of the Tolkien-type fantasy forward. My hope is that Christians writers will seize upon the opportunity to further Ch ristian truths through the gift of fantasy stories.