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  1. TheArtfulWeber
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    TheArtfulWeber Senior Member

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    How have novels affected your religion?

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by TheArtfulWeber, Apr 2, 2008.

    I thought this might be an interesting topic to discuss. Have certain novels reinforced your beliefs or almost shattered everything you held as truth? What books have changed your views the most and how?

    I'll start.

    His Dark Materials has been a major influence to what I believe. Philip Pullman's trilogy really made me question my beliefs about God and his relationship with humans. The book does have a lot of fantasy to it, but the message is the important part. If anyone else has read this series, I would suggest we start a seperate thread devoted only to it.

    Life of Pi made me realize that I should not be agnostic. Its better to believe in something that at least has a story than to have a belief based on uncertainty.

    The Sirens of Titan was a fun way to imagine God and I liked the idea of The Church of God the Utterly Indifferent. I thought it very clever of Vonnegut to put the world "utterly" in the title which I am pretty sure alludes to the post-Exodus wars that Isreal waged in order to obtain land.
     
  2. (Mark)
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    (Mark) Contributing Member

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    I'm not a member of a religious group, and I don't much care for religion. Kurt Vonnegut does a good job of writing about it in The Sirens of Titan as you mentioned, as well as Slapstick and Hocus Pocus. I especially like the part in Hocus Pocus that talked about Evangelical Christianity. Vonnegut has most definitely reinforced the way I feel about organized religion.

    While it's not a novel, Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven really reinforced how crazy Mormonism is. The novel was written about fundamental Mormons that believe in polygamy, but it also offered historical insight into the actual LDS church.
     
  3. Aurora_Black
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    Aurora_Black Contributing Member

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    Well, im not especially religious in all honesty, but i think that The Five people you meet in Heaven is an emotionally/religiously impacting view on what it would be like after you die.
     
  4. companionableills
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    companionableills Member

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    That's a really interesting question. I was a serious atheist until a few years ago when I became a serious Christian, and I can think of a few books that have made me stop and think about my faith (or lack thereof).
    Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier deeply influenced my morality because I identified with Rebecca to an eerie extent and had to step back and examine just how much "means-to-an-end" behavior/attitude is acceptable when dealing with other people. She is a beautiful, strong, admired, respected, wealthy, successful and talented woman, but she sacrifices love, compassion, charity, selflessness, and other people (not literally, haha) for it. So that book made me evaluate priorities.
    Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut examines deception by religious authority figures and people's willingness to accept lies for their own comfort. That made me re-realize the importance of personal awareness of accepted truths.
    As a Christian, reading the deeply human and conflicted sacrificial triumph of good over evil in LotR is always empowering and humbling.
    Miranda July's short story collection No One Belongs Here More Than You showed me how I sometimes glorify bitterness or brokenness as artistic or otherwise admirable. I had to really work to undo that.
    Those are all that come to mind at the moment.
     
  5. MarcG
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    MarcG Contributing Member

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    Can't say any have. While it's possible to gain a new perspective on something, I certainly hope that unless one of my ideas or beliefs are proven atrociously wrong, and proven beyond a shadow of a doubt, I would not change. Novels such as The Idiot have certainly changed my views, though--I am now ardently against execution, whereas before I really hadn't considered it... though I suppose that's off track as far as the original question.

    Religion does not play a major role in my life. Actually, it plays none. As much as I'd like to accept it in some way, just because it makes things easier, I can't. Whatever. So even if I did read some kind of influential novel, I'm not sure if it would change my views regardless...
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Religion threads have a way of combusting, requiring deletion. Please be extremely careful to respect ALL viewpoints, Christian and non-Christian, theistic and atheistic, etc.

    This thread will be purged at the first sign of flaming or intolerance, without notice
     
  7. Al B
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    Al B Senior Member

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    Sticking to the religious theme which seems to have attached itself to the thread. I read L Ron Hubbard's Battlefield Earth out of curiosity some time ago, when the film version of it, championed by John Travolta, was on release. This was because the film (and the book) attracted no small amount of derision from reviewers, and rather than take their word for it, as with all things, I thought I'd form my own opinion. I was curious to know how much of their reviewing was genuine reviewing on artistic (or any other) merit, and how much of it had been influenced by any views on Scientology and the generally held view that Hubbard was a fruitcake. I found out that things are not always what they seem...

    It's probably worth pointing out some things here for those unfamiliar with the book or the film, and the controversy which surrounds them. First, the Church of Scientology was accused of bulk buying copies of the book to get it onto the New York Times best seller list, and it seems likely that the accusation is true. Second, the film is actually only half of the book; it had been planned to film the other half, but when the first installment bombed at the cinemas, the idea was shelved.

    Battlefield Earth is certainly no classic by any stretch of the imagination, but neither is it as bad as many suggest, in actual fact, for what it is (an airport novel in a sci-fi style), it's quite a 'page turner'. Reading it highlighted what I had suspected; that many reviewers had not tempered their views on Scientology enough to review it in isolation, at 1000 pages, I suspect many had not read it all the way through either. Many forgot that Hubbard was a contemporary of Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov et al, when they were writing for pulp sci-fi magazines, and was on occasion, held in equal regard, so there is no doubt he knew how to spin a yarn.

    On the other hand of course, many have suggested that Battlefield Earth contains some thinly veiled Scientology messages (it does, but only the laughable aspects), so I didn't find that to be the case, at least not in any really worthwhile subliminal way. I'm certainly no fan of Scientology, I even made a film once, taking the mickey out of it.

    Because of that experience, I delved a little deeper into the history of L Ron Hubbard. Now, lots of people are aware that he wrote his 'Dianetics' book as a precursor to inventing his Scientology 'religion' (or 'business' if you are of a cynical nature), but what they may not be aware of, is Hubbard's history of mental illness (which of course is no barrier to writing fiction a lot of the time, if it was, we wouldn't have ended up with Blade Runner courtesy of Philip K Dick). To understand that illness, you have to delve a little deeper still.

    Hubbard served in the US Navy in WW2, being briefly in command of the 173-foot submarine chaser, PC-815, in which, he erroneously instigated a battle against a suspected Japanese submarine that was, in all probability, never there. Following this incident, he later mistakenly anchored in Mexican waters and conducted firing practice, causing an international incident. Several other gaffes led to him being relieved of command and in some ways his service was reminiscent of the breakdown of Queeg in Herman Wouk's Pulitzer prize winning novel The Caine Mutiny.

    As a result of psychological treatment for mental illness whilst still in the Navy (something Hubbard always refused to accept was the problem), he developed a deep felt hatred for psychologists, and this manifested itself in much of his writing in later years, and forms a lot of the basis of Scientology through a gradual shift from sci-fi, to putting forward his problematic beliefs.

    So when moving back to sci-fi, with the publication of Battlefield Earth (1982) we have the 'psychlos' as the villains, a not very thinly disguised dig at the psychologists whom he despises, as they remind him of his failure in his desire to serve with distinction in the war, even though that was not really his fault, because he was mentally ill.

    So after that somewhat circuitous, but mostly necessary explanation, what did reading Battlefield Earth change for me? Well, because of the investigative train it put me on, it changed my opinion on what L Ron Hubbard's motivation for the creation of Scientology was. I still have no time for Scientology at all, but I understand that Hubbard was not merely a cynic in creating it, for him it was part of self-treatment for a mental illness brought on by what initially had been a noble undertaking; that being his desire to serve his country in WW2. That he was not suited to do so takes nothing away from his desire to serve.

    The notion that the road to hell is paved with good intentions is not new, but if you want an illustration of that notion, one which moves from the real world, to the fictional world and back out into the real world again. There it is.

    Al
     
  8. LibbyAnn
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    LibbyAnn Contributing Member

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    I can't say that any fictional novels have influenced my beliefs at all. My Christian roots go deep and when I read, I read for pleasure. I realize that there are books aimed at sending a religious message (be it towards or away from God), but I can't say that a fictional story has ever made me question my beliefs.

    I try to let the only thing that influences my beliefs in the slightest be the Bible.

    That being said, I loved The Chronicles of Narnia series. It did not strengthen my beliefs, but I thought the allegory portrayed was very interesting and intriguing!
     
  9. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    This is actually a very good question. As an epistemology, religion does not answer to reason. Under the umbrella of religion virgins can give birth, planets can sit on the back of great tortoises, and gods can dance the universe into existence and back out again. Anyway…

    I would have to say Dune by Frank Herbert, and the rest of the series that goes along with, is the most impactful book(s) I have read concerning the power of religion. Herbert had a true understanding that you can tell the people almost anything and have them believe it, so long as you remember to wrap what you say in the robes of religion. You can even get the people to believe that a giant, hydrophobic worm with the face of a man is, in fact, a god so long as you sell the idea the right way. He also made a universe-wide ban on complex computers a functional idea within his storyline by making the concept a sin.
     
  10. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    I can't say I am very religous (I used to claim I was a buddist, but lataly, I have withdrew this claim) But Johnny Got His Gun turned me into an avid Pacifist. I don't know if this counts however.
     
  11. tm10
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    tm10 New Member

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    No novel has ever swayed my religious beliefs. The biggest reason being that music hit me long before I was interested in reading for recreation. Bad Religion turned me into an atheist, and research along with science has kept me there.

    I must say that religion does interest me more than most, even more than the Christians who live around me. I am taking World Religion as an elective course for my school; however, I throw it in the same category as mythology. Faith was just never my thing, and I have always needed logic and evidence above all else; religion does not fill that niche.
     
  12. ugu
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    ugu Member

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    Why the hell would you let novels affect your religious beliefs? Nonfiction books I can understand, but novels? As in made-up stories? It did amuse me back in the days when some people actually brought up The Da Vinci Code when they argued against Christians.

    Needless to say, no novel has influenced my religious beliefs in any way. I am apparently an implicit atheist (at least for now), but I gave up Christianity after considering every aspect of it for years, not after reading a book or listening to some music group. I'm not that impressionable, unfortunately.
     
  13. companionableills
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    companionableills Member

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    I think some people have misunderstood the question - to allow a novel to influence one's beliefs doesn't mean it directly alters one's religion, and it doesn't make one "impressionable". Humans learn from art and humans express ideas and desires through art with the intent to pass them on. The original question referred to "beliefs" and "views" - not always religion. I mentioned the influence of Rebecca, which had nothing to do with how I saw or understood God or faith, but rather how I interacted with others and prioritized my goals.
    Great books influence our beliefs tremendously. Traditional romantic ideals are upheld or altered through famous books centered on love, passion or sex. Every child grows up knowing they want to be the "hero", not the "villain". Certain characters and stories speak to certain people, whether it's learning the powers and pitfalls of revenge from The Count of Monte Cristo or learning the value of independent thought from dystopian novels such as 1984. Beowulf and other epic poems reinforced accepted standards of masculinity. One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest humanized the mentally ill and sparked a movement against things like forced ECT. It is no surprise that many religious texts, then, come in the forms of narratives and often recount battles and characterize heroes. Why would people seek to ban books unless they feared that the ideas in them would influence the beliefs of readers?
    I write because I want to change the world and I believe that novels can bring about social reform by transforming reader's outlooks. I think most of us can name a book that has changed the way we see the world around us. The tone of this discussion became religious because of the first few answers and the wording of the question, but to claim that only "impressionable" people allow fiction to influence their views on a broader range of topics is false. None of the people who replied discussed changing their direct beliefs in regard to higher powers or religion in response to a novel - the theme is more a changed understanding of the self and the fellow man.
     
  14. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Agreed. People tend to question their beliefs, unless they fear the change that that questioning may bring, and other viewpoints can be significant.

    For my part, I was attending confirmation classes (Protestant Congregational) when I was in high school. I can't point to one specific book, but my contemplations went down a path of quantum physics, and my beliefs became crystal clear. It was astonishingly abrupt - it almost audibly clicked for me. I have been a devout atheist ever since.
     

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