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lozerfac3
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lozerfac3
974 posts
Farmer

I have really enjoyed talking about religion and philosophy with everyone on this site. But I guess that's obvious by how many times I've tried to resurrect a conversation on the WEPR forums. Here we go again lol

This time, I want to do things a little differently. Instead of arguing about the most logical beliefs and attacking each others' flaws, I think we should pull all our collective knowledge and mental power together to find the answer to life, the universe, and everything.

After years of subscribing to religious beliefs fed to me at church, I feel like I'm at a disadvantage compared to many atheists here on this site who have independently researched and ultimately pondered for themselves the meaning to life and what it means to be good. I'm not sure if it was this whole pandemic era or what, but I have learned a ton about just humanity in general. Part of that was learning that many of the beliefs that I took for granted were actually based on very old misunderstandings of religious texts and centuries of manipulated traditions. I know that you guys have been telling this to me for years, but I was just too prideful and young to listen.

That being said, I still hold immense value in the Bible as a literary work that's rich in meaning and beauty and wisdom. Even though translations are rough and the history surrounding the sources' are doubtful, I believe that there is so much to learn from reading it. I still believe in God and Jesus, but the way I understand his existence is a little (yet significantly) different from a couple years ago. The way I understand human relationships and love and life is so much different. If you don't believe in God the way I do, I appreciate your views so much. You don't have to study the Bible or go to church in order to come to the same conclusions I do about what's good and morally right. In fact, much of what I have learned was confirmed by podcasts and videos from people of varying beliefs and backgrounds. Moreover, I don't claim to have all the answers. I might be wrong about a lot of things, but I'm still learning and growing.

School is starting up again in a couple days for me, so I won't be able to keep up as much I probably hope, but I invite you guys to participate in a new kind of "religion debate thread" with me. I hope this one maintains a healthy debate style, but my main goal is that we slowly but steadily learn more about the world around us and how to navigate life. I want to learn more from you guys because I hold incredible amounts of value in your opinions and knowledge.

So let's start with a few questions. How valuable are stories in the shaping of our lives? What books, movies, other media have you digested that has impacted you in the past year? Do you have any personal stories that you are willing to disclose that you think might benefit us? Are there any stories that you need help interpreting whether personal or fictional or whatever? (These last two we might have to warm up for lol but if you feel the desire to share, please do. We are all listening.)

Edit: This post has been on my heart for a while now, and I just gained courage enough to post it. I haven't been active very much though. But just looking through the Forums, it really seems like it's dying :/ But I'm still here! I'll be checking the Forums from time to time in case happens to reply haha

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HahiHa
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HahiHa
8,205 posts
Regent

Concerning stories, they're invaluable to our lives. Humanity has told stories since we could talk, and oral traditions predate written records by, like.... a lot. Stories are what gave birth to legends, myths, and eventually religion. The problem with religion (one of many ) once it's written down, is that it becomes static, which on one hand makes it an invaluable resource for archaeologists etc., but also means it stops being a reflection of our current day and age, and has to be constantly reinterpreted. Which gets increasingly problematic the more specific a text is. This is not to say that certain general ideas wouldn't still be relevant today of course; people today and back then are fundamentally the same. Societies, on the other hand, do change.

As for myself... I don't know if it counts, but I've started playing DnD with a group of friends not long ago, and what is a TTRPG if not a way to experience and tell each other stories? And aside from the mindless fun you can have while playing any TTRPG, acting as a character sometimes makes me think of how I would have acted in the same situation, gives me an occasion for a bit of introspection. It can also show you how different people engage differently with the same story, and with each other while playing, if you pay attention to it. It's really neat.

lozerfac3
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lozerfac3
974 posts
Farmer

Mannn I've always wanted to play DnD but none of my friends have the time. I'm curious, when you tell stories in this type of format, are there literary foundations like an overarching plot, themes, or lessons you can identify upon deep analysis? Or is it purely for fun? Because I agree for the most part. Society changes, but humans are essentially the same. So I'm wondering if the stories you guys come up with have tropes that you might see in existing literature.

What's your favorite quest you've played through so far?

HahiHa
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HahiHa
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@lozerfac3 I'm really sorry about this very late reply, I didn't mean to leave you hanging like that! My apologies.

Yes, there are definitely literary foundations to the stories we're using, whether it's official content like campaign books or entirely home-made stuff. It's not always a conscious decision, but it's very difficult to come up with story beats that have never or rarely been done before. Also, it's usually in a fantasy context and a lot of the typical fantasy tropes can be traced back to a few sources, like Tolkien's Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. Which are in turn heavily inspired by Scandinavian and Old English legends, poems and such. So while e.g. the campaign we're playing currently was written entirely by the DM specifically for this game, I can still recognize certain tropes and themes in it.

Also, we're mostly playing just for fun, really. There is no intended lesson, at least not in the games we're playing; not that it's never done at all, but I think it's difficult for a DM to design a story with an obvious lesson without coming across as moralising too much. It's more probable that the players take home their own lessons from engaging with the story and each other, and the DM can certainly affect this in the way they design the world and the NPCs. Now that I think of it, I guess most stories, even when written just for fun, will carry a few small hidden 'lessons' in them anyway?

lozerfac3
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lozerfac3
974 posts
Farmer

No worries! Thanks for tagging me.

Now that I think of it, I guess most stories, even when written just for fun, will carry a few small hidden 'lessons' in them anyway?

I think so. Even if the author didn't intend for any lesson, I think they still craft their stories based on their understanding of the world around them. With the fantasy genre, it might be a divergence from the author's understanding of the real world.

Is it safe to say then that fantasy stories strive for an ideal world that the author would rather live in?

HahiHa
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HahiHa
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Ideal worlds are boring No but really, one of the strong points of fantasy and even science fiction is that they have the potential to create more exciting settings for stories since you're not bound to the real world. There's an element of escapism to it, but it also gives the author the option to explore concepts and ideas differently. I'm sure the core story tropes are basically the same as in every other genre, but unfamiliarity (such as can be introduced by magic, or far-future technological advancements) can help to subvert or get rid of preconceived assumptions or expectations, get a different angle on things.

lozerfac3
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lozerfac3
974 posts
Farmer

Right. Fiction is a great way to explore the world without having to actually interact with it and deal with the consequences. I think that's why we are drawn to certain genres. I also think that stories, in turn, shape the way we think about the world. It's why the same story patterns show up again and again in our culture.

Stories are what gave birth to legends, myths, and eventually religion. The problem with religion (one of many) once it's written down, is that it becomes static, which on one hand makes it an invaluable resource for archaeologists etc., but also means it stops being a reflection of our current day and age, and has to be constantly reinterpreted. Which gets increasingly problematic the more specific a text is. This is not to say that certain general ideas wouldn't still be relevant today of course; people today and back then are fundamentally the same. Societies, on the other hand, do change.

I wanted to get back to this quote because I mostly agree with you about religious stories being static, and about how they won't be able to implemented in every culture without serious compromises, but I just wanted to unpack everything because you said there is a problem. I want to get to the bottom of what this problem is. I think first, we should establish what type of religious writing are you talking about. For example, the Bible is written in several different genres, but they all serve the purpose of preserving a certain religion. Which writings present a problem to society specifically? Also why is it a greater problem if the text is more specific?

HahiHa
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HahiHa
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I want to get to the bottom of what this problem is. I think first, we should establish what type of religious writing are you talking about. For example, the Bible is written in several different genres, but they all serve the purpose of preserving a certain religion.

Mostly the kind of religious writing that serves as laws, moral compass and codes of conduct. But creation myths also become part of the problem if taken by the letter.
The problem, on one hand, is with how the world is portrayed in those writings versus how it actually is according to our most recent knowledge. The biblical creation narrative is a good example, as it represents how some people back then explained our world and its conception, based on the Hebrew Bible, itself an adaptation of Mesopotamian creation myths. And correct me if I'm wrong, but even later entries in the Bible 'corrected' this worldview by implementing Greek models of a spherical Earth surrounded by outer layers. Writings like these become problematic when still taken literally today, for obvious reasons. It is also why more specific passages are more problematic, because they offer less leeway for interpretation, and are also more easily challenged and thus more conflict-laden.
Laws on morality and behaviour are also problematic because those things tend to change with time. Many passages are harmless, for one reason: religious morals are, in my opinion, always special cases of secular morals, meaning they contain things everyone agrees are good/bad, and in addition things only a particular confession thinks are good/bad. For instance, most people agree that stealing and killing are bad, even though the reasoning (and corresponding penalty) might differ; and yet people can't stop arguing about which animal is considered "impure" or what method of preparation should be used or avoided.
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