Sea Dragon

There are no religions in the story?

59 posts in this topic

31 minutes ago, Lady Blizzardborn said:

People fight for other reasons as well. But there's no need to open a can of worms about real life when we could stick to discussing the story.

It was just a relative comparison. The andals showed up and started cutting down and burning the literal representation of the old gods. Just like how the christians would burn the groves and temples pagan's worshiped in, or how the muslim taliban toppled and destroyed 2 thousand year old statues of the buddha. the parallels to the real world are evident, like Septon Utt having a penchant for buggering little boys is reminiscent  of the catholic church, and how Benero is literally preaching fire and brimstone. Even now, there are Jews, Christians and Mulsims that refuse to admit they worship the same god

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I prefer to think that there is magic in GRRM's world and those who know how to use it.  When you can command magic in ways that ordinary people can't; you become godlike and enter the oral history as gods of the legends.   

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Looking past the complicated political plots, the high fantasy elements like dragons, ice fae and zombies, I think GRRM is a character writer more than anything else, at least in this series.

I think one would be missing out to not view religion as way to understand the character motivation. Various characters are fed information about the gods. Who they are, what they want, etc. The information is often not very warm and fuzzy, often contradictory, and characters wonder what's wrong or right. Different characters may make very different choices based on the same information.

Having the gods be a very concrete entity in the story takes away from the characters. A character response of "What do I do now?"in the face of contradictory or vague information is much more interesting than a clear directive from on high, where the character can only respond, "yeah sure" and then they follow the command blindly. Through the various clashing religions, and the various characters views, a more developed discussion on gods, religions, morality, etc can occur.

It's already happening with R'hllorism and the Seven, but people are now getting caught in the middle of 2 compelling but very different views. Tradition says follow the Seven, and they're getting stronger and more militant, but R'hllorism has a supernatural element which is intriguing as much as it is repulsive. Who do they choose to follow? Why make that choice? Once the Others come through the wall, the southern kingdoms will begin experiencing the three religions in conflict as we're starting to in the North now, especially in Stannis' camp where R'hllor, the Seven and the old gods all vie for followers.

Watching the interplay of religions and how the characters react and why is something I'm quite looking forward to, more so than any hard answers about the gods themselves.

 

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Posted (edited)

1 hour ago, 40 Thousand Skeletons said:

<snip

I completely disagree. I think it is pretty clearly a story with no gods, like all GRRM stories. He's an atheist who criticizes religion all the time in his writing. Why would he write a story with gods in it?

<snip

You don't have to believe in something to include it in a fictional story. Do you think GRRM believes in dragons, greenseeing, and skinchanging?

GRRM has said that others might see him as an atheist or an agnostic, but I don't think we have any quotes where he actually pins himself down as one or the other, which is fair because his beliefs are nobody's business but his. And as this is a work of fiction, from a creative genius, it may or may not have any basis in his personal beliefs.

Edited by Lady Blizzardborn

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56 minutes ago, Dorian Martell's son said:

It was just a relative comparison. The andals showed up and started cutting down and burning the literal representation of the old gods. Just like how the christians would burn the groves and temples pagan's worshiped in, or how the muslim taliban toppled and destroyed 2 thousand year old statues of the buddha. the parallels to the real world are evident, like Septon Utt having a penchant for buggering little boys is reminiscent  of the catholic church, and how Benero is literally preaching fire and brimstone. Even now, there are Jews, Christians and Mulsims that refuse to admit they worship the same god

That makes sense. 

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Posted (edited)

I leave this here

Quote

"I promise you that, by the old gods and the new, by the lamb god and the horse god and every god that lives. I swear by the Mother of Mountains and the Womb of the World. Before I am done with them, Mago and Ko Jhaqo will plead for the mercy they showed Eroeh."

- Daenerys
 

Quote

"Who knows more of gods than I? Horse gods and fire gods, gods made of gold with gemstone eyes, gods carved of cedar wood, gods chiseled into mountains, gods of empty air . . . I know them all. I have seen their peoples garland them with flowers, and shed the blood of goats and bulls and children in their names. And I have heard the prayers, in half a hundred tongues. Cure my withered leg, make the maiden love me, grant me a healthy son. Save me, succor me, make me wealthy . . . protect me! Protect me from mine enemies, protect me from the darkness, protect me from the crabs inside my belly, from the horselords, from the slavers, from the sellswords at my door. Protect me from the Silence." He laughed. "Godless? Why, Aeron, I am the godliest man ever to raise sail! You serve one god, Damphair, but I have served ten thousand. From Ib to Asshai, when men see my sails, they pray."

The priest raised a bony finger. "They pray to trees and golden idols and goat-headed abominations. False gods . . ."

"Just so," said Euron, "and for that sin I kill them all. I spill their blood upon the sea and sow their screaming women with my seed. Their little gods cannot stop me, so plainly they are false gods. I am more devout than even you, Aeron. Perhaps it should be you who kneels to me for blessing."

- Euron

Quote

Tell Mormont what Jon saw, and how. Tell him that the old powers are waking, that he faces giants and wargs and worse. Tell him that the trees have eyes again."

- Qhorin

Quote

Give me priests who are fat and corrupt and cynical., ... the sort who like to sit on soft satin cushions, nibble sweetmeats, and diddle little boys. It’s the ones who believe in gods who make the trouble

- Tyrion

Quote

"Men are mad and gods are madder,"

- Daenerys

Quote

I never knew there were so many gods,

- Arya

 

Edited by rotting sea cow

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Posted (edited)

39 minutes ago, Lady Blizzardborn said:

You don't have to believe in something to include it in a fictional story. Do you think GRRM believes in dragons, greenseeing, and skinchanging?

GRRM has said that others might see him as an atheist or an agnostic, but I don't think we have any quotes where he actually pins himself down as one or the other, which is fair because his beliefs are nobody's business but his. And as this is a work of fiction, from a creative genius, it may or may not have any basis in his personal beliefs.

Well, I'm atheist myself and I find stories about gods, messiahs and religions fascinating. Personally, I enjoy the countless stories that mix the divine and human aspects of Jesus, whoever he was. I'm eager to see similar development in asoiaf and I find very probably we will see it with some PoV, particularly with Daenerys. Do gods exist? Does it matter?

Edited by rotting sea cow

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A related question is whether people in ASoIaF have souls.  We know dead people can be re-animated with some memory of their former life, but this could just be physical brain memory rather than the soul returning to the body.  We also know that greenseers and wargs can have genuine "out of body" experiences, projecting their minds across time and space and into the bodies of animals, but IIRC in the case of wargs the consciousness fades after the original body dies.  So maybe there is something like a soul, but it isn't necessarily immortal.

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6 hours ago, Lady Blizzardborn said:

GRRM has said that others might see him as an atheist or an agnostic, but I don't think we have any quotes where he actually pins himself down as one or the other, which is fair because his beliefs are nobody's business but his. And as this is a work of fiction, from a creative genius, it may or may not have any basis in his personal beliefs.

I think it's fair to infer Martin is decidedly against organized religion - and his depiction of such within ASOIAF reflects that.  Consequently, I think that perspective informs why he does not want to leave any direct intervention from "the gods" on the page, and also informs how he depicts "magic" in the ASOIAF world such as it is.

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8 hours ago, Lady Blizzardborn said:

No, he only said they won't be appearing on the page. He said nothing about whether they would interfere or not, as that would influence readers one way or another and his whole purpose for not having the gods appear was to allow readers to make up their own minds. 

^Word! Or at least he said something along the lines that any gods won't play any more of an active role "than they already have so far"

And that's the statement that waaaaaaay too many people around here misquote as GRRM "explicitly" saying that "there are no gods at all in Westeros."

While I will say that most of the religions of Planetos come across as rather shallow, the books still allow the reader to make up their own mind.

Was it R'hllor who resurrected Beric and Cat? Was it for some reason or design?

Was it the actual Mother whom Daavos saw after Blackwater? Or was he delirious?

Was it Joanna's ghost that came to Jaime? Or was only a dream?

The books allow a variety of interpretations, it's the show that shoves the "There is nnooooooooothing Mellisandre! Noooooothing!" crap down the audience's throat.

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I think the story sets up religion to be a parallel of how our own world has used it though out history - to explain what we cannot. 

Clearly magic exists in the world, and practitioners of it attribute similar outcomes to different theologies (green dreams vs. the prophetic dreams of the Targaryens vs. the red priests' fires). And there seem to be some universal rules (e.g. blood magic WORKS / only death can lay for life).

People use the old gods, the red god, the god of many faces etc. as a means to explain or justify their magical prowess but it seems like it's a lot of different window dressing for the same core power. 

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11 hours ago, Lady Blizzardborn said:

You don't have to believe in something to include it in a fictional story. Do you think GRRM believes in dragons, greenseeing, and skinchanging?

GRRM has said that others might see him as an atheist or an agnostic, but I don't think we have any quotes where he actually pins himself down as one or the other, which is fair because his beliefs are nobody's business but his. And as this is a work of fiction, from a creative genius, it may or may not have any basis in his personal beliefs.

Obviously he doesn't believe in dragons. A huge part of ASOIAF is criticizing religion. The followers of the Red God burn people alive. GRRM would not write a story where religious fanatics who burn people alive and want to wage a genocidal war against "the Great Other" are correct and justified in their beliefs. If R'hllor is real it defeats the entire purpose of the story. And we know the Old Gods are not literal gods at all, just a telepathic hive-minded being similar to things from GRRM's sci-fi stories. And then there is the Seven which is basically the medieval Catholic church, which GRRM obviously thinks is BS since he is a "lapsed Catholic". And those are the biggest religions in the story.

GRRM explicitly said he does not believe in an afterlife, and that's the key aspect. Beliefs in heaven or hell or a great war between good and evil motivate people in the real world and in ASOIAF to take irrational, immoral actions. The followers of R'hllor are being set up to follow Dany (and possibly Jon too) into war, and I doubt it's going to be pretty. Fundamentally, if any of the gods in the story were real, it would justify evil actions to one degree or another, whether it's forcing women to be Silent Sisters, burning people alive, or drowning children.

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16 hours ago, Sea Dragon said:

You guys are always so great at answering my confusing questions. Thank you. And now I have some more. 

I am still reading the forum here a lot between classes and moving and all, and one thing I think I am understanding is that there is no real "gods" of any religion because religion does not exist. Is that right? It seems there are a few posters that have identified lots of religions that only have the same start and only have name changes. 

One in particular that seems to come up a lot and is on another thread now is that apparently the old gods and r'hollor are the same and that is why Jon will be brought back from the dead. 

If there are no gods and religion, then what is Bloodraven doing? Where does the moral structure and "abomination" rules come from? And Mirri Maz Duur is the same as Melisandre? 

Sorry for so many questions. I have not been able to read the books as many times as some of you other posters have. 

Oh there are religions and their accompanying deities.  Gods do not actually exists but any being sufficiently powerful can be considered a god by the less powerful.  What defines a god after all and what sets it apart from the rest?  A being that possesses powers that the average joe doesn't.  A greenseer can be considered a god because they can see the past.  A dragon rider is considered a goddess by those who can't ride. 

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19 hours ago, Sea Dragon said:

Thanks for the answer. I remember that you gave me some good answers on another question I asked. I did read through the books once and I want to start the Dunk and Egg books soon, but it seems that while reading through the forum here that many other posters found "links" that I guessed I missed. The recent thread that r'hollor will bring back Jon got me thinking about this, because isn't his faith the old gods? 

There are a lot more other examples that other posters seem to have linked together that made me think there is no religion and I was wondering. 

Remember, R'hllor also brought back Catelyn Stark through Beric Dondarrion's kiss and Catelyn was a follower of the Seven. It seems that the religion of the recipient of the "kiss of life" is irrelevant, only the religion of the giver of the kiss matters.

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21 minutes ago, Red Man Racey said:

Remember, R'hllor also brought back Catelyn Stark through Beric Dondarrion's kiss and Catelyn was a follower of the Seven. It seems that the religion of the recipient of the "kiss of life" is irrelevant, only the religion of the giver of the kiss matters.

To me, even this seems irrelevant: what mattered was that Beric *died* (for good this time). MMD doesn't seem to have beeb a follower of the Red God but was also able to stave off death by killing Danny's child in the womb.

A recurring theme is that there must be some sort of blood sacrifice for power, regardless of anyone's religion. Mel stole some of Stannis' life force (a little death, in more ways than one) each time she created a shadow; it seems likely that *someone* died in order to create the paste the CotF gave to Bran to awaken his full potential. 

Even the Kindly Man seems to allude to this when describing to Arya the difficulty in using magic to change one's face - note that glamors also don't seem to have anything to do with the Red God or Manyfaced God but there is sacrifice involved. 

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3 minutes ago, Smirking Knight said:

To me, even this seems irrelevant: what mattered was that Beric *died* (for good this time). MMD doesn't seem to have beeb a follower of the Red God but was also able to stave off death by killing Danny's child in the womb.

A recurring theme is that there must be some sort of blood sacrifice for power, regardless of anyone's religion. Mel stole some of Stannis' life force (a little death, in more ways than one) each time she created a shadow; it seems likely that *someone* died in order to create the paste the CotF gave to Bran to awaken his full potential. 

Even the Kindly Man seems to allude to this when describing to Arya the difficulty in using magic to change one's face - note that glamors also don't seem to have anything to do with the Red God or Manyfaced God but there is sacrifice involved. 

Oh I agree that several religions/beliefs/magic powers have the ability to stave off or reverse death and not just Red Priests. I meant that specifically in the case of the R'hllorist's kiss of fire it matters that the giver is "believing in R'hllor to work through them" or however it is that Thoros describes it. Also, Thoros brought Beric back many times without it ever costing Thoros his life, but I do wonder if there was some cost that we just haven't seen yet. The cost may not always be immediate death (although certain times this has been the case), but could just be giving some portion of one's "life force" or "essence." In the case of Thoros and Beric, the cost could have even been extracted from Beric and that's why he's a little "less" each time he returns and also why Thoros doesn't seem to suffer any ill effects from the process.

This theme of sacrifice for power is interesting and from what we've seen in different instances it seems that the cost can be extracted from any of a multitude of sources -- the recipient of the gift (as in the case of Beric's resurrections); the giver of the gift (seen in the case of LS's resurrection); or even a third party, or proxy sacrifice (evidenced by the cost of Rhaego in MMD's "gift" to Drogo).

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1 minute ago, Red Man Racey said:

Oh I agree that several religions/beliefs/magic powers have the ability to stave off or reverse death and not just Red Priests. I meant that specifically in the case of the R'hllorist's kiss of fire it matters that the giver is "believing in R'hllor to work through them" or however it is that Thoros describes it. Also, Thoros brought Beric back many times without it ever costing Thoros his life, but I do wonder if there was some cost that we just haven't seen yet. The cost may not always be immediate death (although certain times this has been the case), but could just be giving some portion of one's "life force" or "essence." In the case of Thoros and Beric, the cost could have even been extracted from Beric and that's why he's a little "less" each time he returns and also why Thoros doesn't seem to suffer any ill effects from the process.

This theme of sacrifice for power is interesting and from what we've seen in different instances it seems that the cost can be extracted from any of a multitude of sources -- the recipient of the gift (as in the case of Beric's resurrections); the giver of the gift (seen in the case of LS's resurrection); or even a third party, or proxy sacrifice (evidenced by the cost of Rhaego in MMD's "gift" to Drogo).

Agreed - the cost does seem to vary in degree and source - it almost seems like Beric's *soul* (or something like it) was drained by his constant resurrections. Very little of what made Beric himself remained - just a sense of justice. For LS, it seems like there's very little Cat left too - just hate.

Euron's dragon horn also seems to prove the proxy theory - Moqorro points out that it matters who is the master of the horn. The master will derive the benefit of its power even through the sacrifice of someone else's life. 

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Posted (edited)

9 hours ago, 40 Thousand Skeletons said:

Obviously he doesn't believe in dragons. A huge part of ASOIAF is criticizing religion. The followers of the Red God burn people alive. GRRM would not write a story where religious fanatics who burn people alive and want to wage a genocidal war against "the Great Other" are correct and justified in their beliefs. If R'hllor is real it defeats the entire purpose of the story. And we know the Old Gods are not literal gods at all, just a telepathic hive-minded being similar to things from GRRM's sci-fi stories. And then there is the Seven which is basically the medieval Catholic church, which GRRM obviously thinks is BS since he is a "lapsed Catholic". And those are the biggest religions in the story.

GRRM explicitly said he does not believe in an afterlife, and that's the key aspect. Beliefs in heaven or hell or a great war between good and evil motivate people in the real world and in ASOIAF to take irrational, immoral actions. The followers of R'hllor are being set up to follow Dany (and possibly Jon too) into war, and I doubt it's going to be pretty. Fundamentally, if any of the gods in the story were real, it would justify evil actions to one degree or another, whether it's forcing women to be Silent Sisters, burning people alive, or drowning children.

I was under the impression that the story is about human individuals choosing how to act. The battle between good and evil being waged within the human heart, as GRRM has said.

R'hllor being real wouldn't defeat the purpose of the story. It wouldn't even make him a god necessarily. It's not him but the people who believe in him who drive that aspect of the story. And they choose to believe.

We do not "know" that the Old Gods are not literal gods. We assume. "Similar to things from GRRM's sci-fi stories." Pardon me for thinking he'd be able to come up with something else instead of just elaborating on the same thing over and over and over again.

Yes, I know the Seven parallels the Catholic Church with some paganism and a few other things thrown in.

Beliefs in heaven and hell or a great war between good and evil also motivate people in both the real world and ASOIAF to take rational and moral actions. There are two sides to every coin, which GRRM takes pains to show in this series. He's fair about it, and does not inject his own bias into the story. If he were going to do that he would have said flat out every time he's been asked that the gods aren't real, instead of leaving it for each reader to decide. Personally I don't care one way or the other whether the gods are real.

Any of the gods being real does not justify evil actions. Being real doesn't mean being good, or being right, or being all-powerful. For all we know R'hllor could be a short, bald man named Stan behind a curtain in Valyria, throwing toxic smoke and pyrotechnics at anyone who sails too close...which we'll never see of course because Stan won't be appearing on the page.

Edited by Lady Blizzardborn

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Posted (edited)

21 hours ago, rotting sea cow said:

Well, I'm atheist myself and I find stories about gods, messiahs and religions fascinating. Personally, I enjoy the countless stories that mix the divine and human aspects of Jesus, whoever he was. I'm eager to see similar development in asoiaf and I find very probably we will see it with some PoV, particularly with Daenerys. Do gods exist? Does it matter?

You see, I think that's the point here. If the gods do exist in the story, they seem to be sitting back and just letting things play out, so it's a moot point anyway. The story isn't anti-religion, it's anti-pigeonholing. Even the villains weren't villains to begin with, and Cersei still loves her children and has great cheekbones.

It's about humanity and each person deciding for themselves what to believe, what to reject, and which path to take. Whether anyone believes in a higher power or not doesn't make them good or bad. It's the actions we choose that tell us who we are, regardless of what we claim to believe or follow. 

Edited by Lady Blizzardborn

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4 hours ago, Lady Blizzardborn said:

It's about humanity and each person deciding for themselves what to believe, what to reject, and which path to take. Whether anyone believes in a higher power or not doesn't make them good or bad. It's the actions we choose that tell us who we are, regardless of what we claim to believe or follow. 

:agree:

What strikes me most is that the gods in the story are quite real for the individuals who believe in them. That doesn't necessarily make them demonstrably real to anyone else, in-world or out, which is a pretty genius touch, really.

Osha hears the old gods in the wind. Davos hears the Mother. Cat sees the Stranger's faces. Melisandre has darned shadowbabies. And so on. 

And even more fascinating is the way that not everyone believes the same things about the same faith, or practices it the same way: Mel, Selyse, and the Queen's men vs. Thoros, Beric, and the Brotherhood is the obvious example. The BwB executes an awful lot of folks, but they never burn them or, as far as we know, sacrifice in any way to R'hllor; some of the Queen's men, meanwhile, can't wait to barbecue them some Greyjoy princess.

As far as what we've seen that could be considered divine acts or answered prayers, they've all been executed or requested by specific persons who may or may not be crediting them to the gods of their choice (I think this point has been made already :) ), and if sometimes the beneficiary or the witness believes in other gods, it doesn't necessarily diminish any existing faith or create a new one.

It's interesting to me how often this happens with the Red God: Davos witnesses Mel's shadowbaby labor, and Beric raises unCat, Moquorro heals Victarian's arm, and Sandor broke Beric's flaming sword and won his trial... That's always reminded me of the last Narnia book, where Aslan explains that all the good done in Tash's name by folk raised in his faith is actually Aslan's and vice versa, because Aslan is good and Tash is evil (and non-believers are just excluded because they refuse to see). I don't think it's anything as straightforward as that in Planetos, but I can't help wondering if R'hllor isn't rather a bit like Tash in that sense.

In any case, I do think the George did a pretty darn spectacular job with building religion into Planetos. It's complicated and controversial and probably makes for poor dinner-party conversation. ;)

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