1. stormcat
    Offline

    stormcat Active Member

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2014
    Messages:
    393
    Likes Received:
    26
    Location:
    Somewhere beyond the sea

    Is "Fundamentalism bad" a good message?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by stormcat, Feb 12, 2015.

    I want to share with my readers the idea that getting into the fundamentals of a religion (any religion) is a bad, bad thing.

    But I'm an Atheist, I think all religion is harmful in the modern world. can I still convince more moderate readers that maybe it's not a good idea to trust your holy book over rational thinking?
     
  2. Chinspinner
    Offline

    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2011
    Messages:
    1,918
    Likes Received:
    1,019
    Location:
    London, now Auckland
    Do you mean you want to use your authorial voice in a work of fiction to preach at your readers? I'm an atheist and this would still irritate me.
     
    digitig likes this.
  3. Ben414
    Offline

    Ben414 Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2013
    Messages:
    974
    Likes Received:
    785
    Even if you think all religion is harmful, you need to understand why people follow those religions. Once you find that out, you will be able to identify the good that religion provides for the followers at least and will be able to provide a more balanced view of fundamentalism.

    Story-wise, showing religious characters as evil merely because they're evil is boring anyway. Know your characters better than that.
     
  4. Void
    Offline

    Void Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2014
    Messages:
    303
    Likes Received:
    229
    It depends really. If you are too heavy handed about it, then it just comes across as a different type of preachy. I would say you should delve into the complexities of the issue, rather than just pointing at a church and saying "this bad."
     
  5. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,996
    Likes Received:
    5,505
    I posted in the other thread, because this seems like a discussion that needs context.

    So far, "bad thing" is a very simple idea. How are you going to persuade them? Just presenting people who are simultaneously shown as (1) religious and (2) bad isn't enough to convince one that religion is bad. They could be (1) eating apples and (2) bad; that wouldn't mean that eating apples makes a person bad.
     
    jannert likes this.
  6. Dunning Kruger
    Offline

    Dunning Kruger Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2014
    Messages:
    205
    Likes Received:
    128
    So you want to do for atheism what Ayn Rand did for libertarianism? You'll be preaching to the choir but I am sure the choir will enjoy it.
     
    daemon likes this.
  7. GingerCoffee
    Offline

    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 3, 2013
    Messages:
    17,605
    Likes Received:
    5,879
    Location:
    Ralph's side of the island.
    Sounds like a case for show, don't tell. If in your story the fundies do bad things with bad consequences, as long as you tell it well, there's no issue.

    But if you want to write a 64 page Galt speech about the problem with religious extremism, I doubt you could pull it off and make it interesting to the reader.
     
  8. daemon
    Offline

    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 16, 2014
    Messages:
    1,361
    Likes Received:
    982
    In the broadest sense, fundamentalism is to rationally follow a specific principle even when it contradicts your intuition*. To discredit fundamentalism, you need to identify a principle that seems reasonable and you need to show how it leads to a conclusion that contradicts an intuitive statement that seems even more reasonable. If you do not do that work, then you will probably end up with shallow caricatures of people and straw-man arguments (a common criticism of, for example, Ayn Rand's works) that appeal only to the choir you are already preaching to.

    It relates to chaos theory. Think of ethics as a chaotic system. You can theorize about a chaotic system and try to predict its behavior, but in practice, it will probably behave in a way completely different from what you predicted, due to factors way too complex for a human to understand. The same goes for ethics: you can spend all day theorizing about what is inherently right and wrong, but no matter how much philosophical work you do, you can always think of a situation where it seems intuitively obvious what is right and wrong, but that "obvious" answer contradicts the perfectly valid conclusion you have drawn from your initial assumptions that seemed perfectly reasonable. That is the anti-fundamentalist's argument: ethics itself is a chaotic system.

    * In fact, intuition is very different from rational thinking. A true, pure, fundamentalist strictly thinks perfectly rationally. He begins with a set of axioms, he draws valid (i.e. rational) conclusions from those axioms, and he adheres perfectly to those conclusions. Your argument, as an anti-fundamentalist, is that those axioms are an inadequate basis for human behavior. Your goal is not to promote rational thought. Your goal is exactly the opposite: to show that "rational" thought is inadequate to explain the intricacies of ethics.

    If you pit rational thought against fundamentalism, then you will only fall into a common pitfall, and you will invite endless criticism. If you argue that rational thought is only a crude tool that people use to attempt to explain why some things are right and other things are wrong, then you are on your way toward a critique of fundamentalism.
     
    Mckk likes this.
  9. lustrousonion
    Offline

    lustrousonion Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Oct 7, 2014
    Messages:
    302
    Likes Received:
    132
    Location:
    Germany
    If you're aiming at moderate readers, then they probably think, like you, that fundamentalism is bad.

    Saying "I don't like it, so it's bad" isn't very interesting. I'm an atheist as well, and I would be annoyed to read a book that tells me to take up a religion. I assume it works both ways.
     
  10. Selbbin
    Offline

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2012
    Messages:
    3,247
    Likes Received:
    1,811
    Location:
    Australia
    I don't think moderate readers would be drawn to fundamentalism in the first place.
     
  11. Jenurik Name
    Offline

    Jenurik Name Member

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2015
    Messages:
    59
    Likes Received:
    24
    It's a cliche, so you shouldn't waste pages on it. As an aesop "religion is bad m'kay" is like "war is bad" or "recycle" or "bankers are evil" in modern day Western society. If you're targeting religious readers, how are you getting them to read it? Are you sneaking this into it to catch unwary religious readers? If you're upfront about your stance, they're self-select so that they don't read it.

    And finally the readers who are in it for the reading experience will know you're using the character as a mouthpiece. Sure, it's John Galt's views on capitalism, but everyone knows it's Ayn Rand's, people aren't stupid.

    Share your new and revolutionary insights on religion on Reddit and Youtube comments, leave the moralizing out of your story.
     
  12. BookmarkUnicorn
    Offline

    BookmarkUnicorn New Member

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2014
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    3
    Location:
    California
    Stories that show any worldview to change minds are only really as persuasive as the story they tell and its characters in my opinion. It's also one thing to have a story back a pov and present it to readers, it's another to push it on them and say they have to change their world view\whole way of life because the story says so and implies that they are stupid if they don't. Even if I agree with a stories message if it's pushed on me in a certain tone I start to get annoyed by it or stop reading. But that's just my two cents as a reader.
     
  13. Selbbin
    Offline

    Selbbin I hate you Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2012
    Messages:
    3,247
    Likes Received:
    1,811
    Location:
    Australia
    The best books don't convince readers of an ideolology through preaching. They subtly let the reader discover it on their own
     
  14. plothog
    Offline

    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2013
    Messages:
    639
    Likes Received:
    514
    Location:
    England
    I think with moderates there are a number of likely reactions if you do this heavy handidly.

    1) Well done. You've made a good case that a religion that isn't my more moderate denomination is wrong. Of course because it's not my religion, I already believed they were wrong.

    2) This seems to be yet another atheist pushing a 'religion is bad' message, but it's not very convincing because he's doing it by using a weird extreme interpretation of religion as a straw man. He doesn't understand my beliefs at all.

    3)I've heard this is another atheist pushing a 'religion is bad' message. The target market is probably other atheists. I'll read something else.
     
    Shadowfax likes this.
  15. Shadowfax
    Offline

    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2014
    Messages:
    2,529
    Likes Received:
    1,356
    I think that ... an atheist "preaching to the choir" is a mixed metaphor.
     
    matwoolf, daemon, Void and 1 other person like this.
  16. Steerpike
    Offline

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,123
    Likes Received:
    5,323
    Location:
    California, US
    I agree that if it is heavy handed or clumsy it won't work. Also, if you try to make the point by turning your characters into caricatures, where the fundamentalists are mustache-twirling villains, it also won't work. I think the best approach is to be subtle and let your characters be real people.
     
    GingerCoffee likes this.
  17. Void
    Offline

    Void Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2014
    Messages:
    303
    Likes Received:
    229
    I might also add, that I feel you need to ask yourself why you want add this particular message to your story. Is it because you find philosophy and theology to be interesting topics to explore and incorporate into the story, or is it mainly to make a point to the readers?

    If the first option, then you should explore how religion fits into the world, which will depend on genre. Sci-fi and fantasy are probably the best avenues to explore theological concepts, since you can tailor the world, society and faiths to suit your purposes.
    I'm not going to say that real world religions are off limits for deconstruction, but I do think you'll definitely have to try extra hard to avoid making any ideological points come off as distasteful straw-man attacks (even though a fiction faith has greater potential for that sort of thing). It's basically the same with politics. People are generally much less offended by a nation of elves running a regime that's an allegory for Nazism, than if you write an alternate universe where a real world nation has become a bunch of evil fascists.

    I think, ultimately, if you have to force a theme into a story, then don't.
     
  18. Link the Writer
    Offline

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2009
    Messages:
    11,222
    Likes Received:
    4,228
    Location:
    Alabama, USA
    Erm...you're gonna have to be subtle, and really plan this out to the most minute detail. At best, you'll be preaching to the same crew and in a very John Galt-y way. At worst, you'll piss off a lot of people if you paint their religion as a flat caricature, complete with cardboard villains with top hats and twirly mustaches. If I were a Christian, I'd feel like you were lumping me in with the nutjob Christians and saying all Christians were bad.

    Look at it this way: How would you feel if I wrote a book where I depicted Atheists as cardboard cutouts to prove what I found to be an already established fact about God. If I were you, I'd try to find a middle ground and attempt to not sound antagonistic to the side I'm trying to convince. Nothing turns off people more than feeling like they're being made out as the bad guys in an argument.

    I'm Agnostic, by the way.
     
  19. jannert
    Online

    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 7, 2013
    Messages:
    7,827
    Likes Received:
    7,353
    Location:
    Scotland
    Yes. I couldn't agree more. A novel should give readers a slice of 'life' to look at ...and allow them to draw their own conclusions. Anything else is, indeed, preaching—which rarely works.
     
  20. Void
    Offline

    Void Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2014
    Messages:
    303
    Likes Received:
    229
    To be honest, I find preaching to the choir to be annoying regardless of which choir is being preached to.
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2015
    Link the Writer likes this.
  21. Dunning Kruger
    Offline

    Dunning Kruger Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 24, 2014
    Messages:
    205
    Likes Received:
    128
    There's only one metaphor there so I am not sure how it can be mixed. However, it is an intentional juxtaposition.
     
  22. Void
    Offline

    Void Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2014
    Messages:
    303
    Likes Received:
    229
    I think it was intended as a joke, due to the fact that "preaching to the choir" would normally mean "to people of the same beliefs trying to convince each other of said beliefs". Yet, the literal interpenetration of an atheist preaching to the choir would be the opposite of what the metaphor means, since the choir would presumably have a different theological alignment.
     
  23. shadowwalker
    Offline

    shadowwalker Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2011
    Messages:
    3,299
    Likes Received:
    851
    Atheists don't have choirs?
     
  24. Chinspinner
    Offline

    Chinspinner Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2011
    Messages:
    1,918
    Likes Received:
    1,019
    Location:
    London, now Auckland
    I don't have a choir.
     
  25. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,996
    Likes Received:
    5,505
    I realize I'm going all pedantic in a discussion about a joke, but "preaching to the choir" clearly implies a church choir, or the saying wouldn't have its meaning. So in the context of the saying, no.
     

Share This Page