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TheKnightOfJests

Do the show writers hate religion?

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7 minutes ago, TheKnightOfJests said:

As the overwhelming minority though.

Fine, Ned's in a flashback so we have him in two seasons then.

Well, Ned probably still functions as the moral paragon as far as this series goes, so him being a believer is a major endorsement to religiosity.

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1 hour ago, Tianzi said:

Well, Ned probably still functions as the moral paragon as far as this series goes, so him being a believer is a major endorsement to religiosity.

He kind of had to be though..........

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Ned's dead, baby - Ned's dead.

Which is a very big part of the point - honour and morality faded away way back in season 1 - nothing but continued deterioration until the ultimate destruction of Westeros remains. It's not about religion, it's about the fall of a human civilisation.

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As a lecturer in Comparative Religion, I find GRRM's treatment of religion in ASOIAF fascinating. Alas, it doesn't really come across well in the show - it could be that D&D don't have much sensitivity in that field, but in addition it could be that they've made the perfectly reasonable judgement call that the majority of the audience would find it boring so give us overdoses of nudity and gore instead.

As this thread is about the show and not ASOIAF, I'll avoid elaborating extensively on the latter, but suffice to say that in the books, every chapter is from the POV of a human character, never the omniscient narrator; therefore, by necessity we can never know anything objective about the gods in the ASOIAF universe. By extension, we're not going to get it in the show either.

Whilst the religious dimension in the show is watered down and distorted, within its limits, it's not to badly presented, imo. The story is mostly set in a quasi-Medieval Europe. You've got the High Septons in KL behaving rather like the Borgia popes and a grassroots response. Whilst the Sparrows appear a bit abruptly in the show, you can see where they come from and why in the books. Initially they are rather like the followers of St. Francis and thus the reader can wholly empathise with them. 

The genius of GRRM is to slowly twist their situation and leave us asking serious questions, questions with a contemporary relevance. Westeros, and KL in particular are like the political and moral vacuum in post-war Iraq, a vacuum there to be filled by religious extremism - again I stress (in the books) very sympathetically portrayed, up to this point anyway. I wonder if TWOW will develop them into a proto-terrorist movement, or whether Sons of the Harpy play that role alone.

I find the Old Gods fascinating too. In our world, the introduction of monotheism in comparative recent times was a game-changer. Now we have this judgemental, supposedly moral omniscient being; but before that gods were largely deemed amoral, reflections of the awe-ful, amoral power of nature. In Rh'illor/the Great Other you have allusions to Manichaeism and Zoroastrianism, both very important religions in central Asia even if little known in the West.

GRRM has certainly done his homework and created a deeply credible multi-religious landscape. The showrunners are secular-minded and writing for a secular-minded audience. I have many serious criticisms of their recent lazy plot-holes, but when it comes to their portrayal of GRRM's religious dimension, I think they're largely presenting it in a balanced manner, all things considered.

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Mr Ahmed, you raise a good point - their is a difference between being  secular and hating religion. There is even a difference between being secular and atheist.

But this leads to a potential massive problem with both the show and the universe GRRM created - how, in a world where the supernatural actually does exist, could any person possibly be secular? Sure, at the beginning of the story everyone thinks the supernatural is gone from the world - but they know it existed once.

In our real world, we have disproven the supernatural and thus earned our secularity - the world of ASoIaF makes no logical sense, when you consider this.

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My response to your points, ummester, is that you are conflating perception and reality. in your "perceived reality" the supernatural does not exist - that puts you in a small minority even in today's world. Even you must accept that the majority of people today DO believe in a supernatural being (i.e. God) or some other 'Ultimate Reality'. 

As a separate issue, even in pre-modern times there were always a brave few who rejected the existence of the supernatural. In Europe and Islamic territories they tended to get burned at the stake, but in India their views were tolerated and respected - in the Buddhist scriptures (Pali Canon) we see the Buddha debating civilly with representatives of a staunchly atheistic school.

None of this, however, is pertinent to the question in hand. GRRM expertly gives voice to characters with a very wide range of attitudes re. religion/spirituality/the supernatural or however you choose to describe such a 'realm'. One that I see quite prominently in both the books and the show is one that was articulated by a character in Dostoevsky's 'Brothers Karamazov'. His view was that whilst God exists, he is so arbitrarily cruel as to be unworthy of worship. I suspect that might be close to GRRM's personal belief although he disguises it very well. It would also resolve what you perceive to be a problem.

 

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1 hour ago, ummester said:

Mr Ahmed, you raise a good point - their is a difference between being  secular and hating religion. There is even a difference between being secular and atheist.

But this leads to a potential massive problem with both the show and the universe GRRM created - how, in a world where the supernatural actually does exist, could any person possibly be secular? Sure, at the beginning of the story everyone thinks the supernatural is gone from the world - but they know it existed once.

In our real world, we have disproven the supernatural and thus earned our secularity - the world of ASoIaF makes no logical sense, when you consider this.

One fantastical thing being real does not mean that god is necessarily real in the setting. Even in our own world there's a lot of crazy stuff which we have no explanation for and may never find the explanations for (though we assume they are governed by the laws of physics). Does Mel being able to birth a shadow baby mean that R'hllor is real? Not necessarily.

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protar,

I think there is very little that cannot be explained rationally, outside of human emotions and imaginings, nowadays. I'm struggling to think of anything?

Holiday in House Cambodia (interesting name change :) ),

Though the majority of humans on the planet may currently subscribe to some type of monotheism, most of the governing institutions in the developed world are secular. Also, as I understand, around 30% of the worlds population is atheist or has no religion, which is a greater percentage than any single religion. So, even though close to 70% may believe in the supernatural, considering not more than 30% can agree on which particular supernatural to believe in, I'd say it is fairly logical to assume that there either is no God or at least no God as humans have thus far attempted to define it. Even if there was a God, the problem would be us, not God.

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This isn't a debate about whether or not God exists - that belongs in a whole other forum or website. This is about the portrayal of religion in the show. I think the showrunners quite accurately portray what you are saying - that there is a diversity of beliefs (and levels of commitment to them), and that what we can empirically agree on is that many people hold those beliefs, not which one(s) if any are ultimately true.

 

[nb. the name-change is due to me signing up today and not being able to put in a username for the first few hours]  

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Yes, we can agree many people hold different beliefs - but I think it is impossible to imagine a world where the supernatural is a proven concept having a similar belief, or range of beliefs, to us.

Actually, this has always been my biggest problem with the books and the show - why the fuck do these people think and act like us when their world is so different? I guess I used to accept it as  kid reading Sci FI and fantasy - but it's a bit of a mental sticking point for me now :D

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Okay, I see two associated points here. To take the second one first, This is GRRM's fantasy universe. It works so long as the characters within it have thoughts and motivations that are internally consistent. Personally, I think that (contra to S6 of the show so far) they do, so I have no problem suspending my disbelief. The deeper issue I see with your position is how on earth any writer can describe a world that bears NO relation to our own.

This leads onto the other point re. religion. Most religious philosophers - and believers with a philosophical bent, would assert that the Ultimate Reality they subscribe to is ineffable - i.e. beyond the limits of human imagination. For example, our limited human notions of Love, Justice or Freedom are not the same as God's. Therefore, what they talk about is but a limited, pale reflection of that Reality. Plato set out that position in his allegory of the cave long, long ago. Thus your first point is a bit of a straw dog - namely, the kind of impression of God held by young children, but which mature minds ought to have grown out of (though maybe few have). That again I think is neatly alluded to in ASOIAF in the Faith in the Seven. Six manifestations of the Ultimate have anthropomorphic representations, whilst the real nature of the Seven is represented by The Stranger. That's pretty damn deep to me!

 

 

[In the interests of transparency, maybe I should reveal that I am inclined towards atheism myself]

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How can any writer describe a world that bears no relation to our own? Without an Earth human as a POV character - realistically, they can't. But... Cersie, Tyrion etc - they aren't Earth humans, are they? If humans did evolve on another planet, they wouldn't think like us. ASoIaF/GoTs is basically a fairy tale that takes itself seriously, you can't really approach it any deeper than that. The writing is like Varys' little saying, it's depth is a trick, a shadow on the wall.

So most religious philosophers think God is just an ideal? Ideals only exist because we imagine - see how that becomes circular and pointless? It's not deep, it's just our minds tying themselves in knots because we evolved imaginations :D I'm not trying to prove that God exists or not - I'm just saying the whole concept is a pointless by-product of how we think.

You know what the Stranger is? I bet you anything you like it's the God Arya is praying to - it's death. There is no other logical way to resolve it. Again, it's not really that deep, it's just an over complication because the characters in GRRMs story, fake humans pretending to be just like us, have no idea what happens when they die and they fear it.

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I agree with it being odd that in a world filled with supernatural things, that it's odd that religion isn't more prominent.

I think in the books GRRM handled the balance of the religious and the non religious very well.
I really just think that after say.... season 2 of the show that they sort of quit caring about balance, and decided to be a bit more heavy handed towards characters shunning the gods.

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8 minutes ago, TheKnightOfJests said:

I really just think that after say.... season 2 of the show that they sort of quit caring about balance, and decided to be a bit more heavy handed towards characters shunning the gods.

I'd say it's just an attempt toward angst and darkness.
 

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56 minutes ago, TheKnightOfJests said:

I agree with it being odd that in a world filled with supernatural things, that it's odd that religion isn't more prominent.

I think in the books GRRM handled the balance of the religious and the non religious very well.
I really just think that after say.... season 2 of the show that they sort of quit caring about balance, and decided to be a bit more heavy handed towards characters shunning the gods.

This is very true. The characters are all very consistent in their views all the way through the story so far. And I also admire the fact that GRRM has included so many different religions, even if the majority are only mentioned on page, there is no single "right" religion.

One thing I have noticed that does bug me because it is how tv Sansa seems to have forgotten religion. In the books she is a very devout young lady. Even when horrible things happen to her, she still prays. In the show it seems they just dropped that side of her for ??? reasons. Not to be confused with Sansa making the decision to walk away from her religion.

Tv Jon never talks about Ghost being of the old gods, which he starts to identify that Ghost and he are one = Jon is of the old gods. This is a key bit of characterization in Jon's development (and doesn't take any $ to show).

Book Arya is in a multi-cultural city and has her chance to "experiment" with other religions, she is even given a tour of the different religious temples, but she knows deep down that she is a child of the old gods. The show has done a poor job of showing anything in her training other than public beatdowns that taught her......

The travels of Brienne in AFFC are actually there to show us both what the ravages of war have done to the common people and also that religion is uniting so many of these people (and also the good work of the BWB, etc). I know that her storyline in Feast can induce lots of eye rolling, but there was a point. But with tv Brienne, we get a revenge crazy woman who doesn't have any second thoughts about killing a wounded, unarmed prisoner of war as he openhandedly yields to her.

Yeah, I'd say the show is not giving a good representation of religion and personal characterizations, especially after season 2 as you mentioned. And I am a devout atheist.

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Wow, glad I returned to this thread. Fascinating ideas and thoughtful, respectful discussion... :eek:

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I'm honestly surprised at all the atheists who agree with me in terms of the show.

As a religious person I thought for sure this topic would be dismissed.

This is epic.

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You don't have to be a racial minority to find racism offensive. I don't think you have to be a person of faith to find the show's treatment of religion cartoonish and superficial. 

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1 hour ago, TheKnightOfJests said:

I'm honestly surprised at all the atheists who agree with me in terms of the show.

As a religious person I thought for sure this topic would be dismissed.

This is epic.

I'm one such. :)

Many of my friends are religious to different degrees, or at least have spiritual beliefs of one sort of another. Variety is the spice of life, in everything including this, imo. And any type of extremism bothers me, including fanatical atheism. 

As to the show's portrayal of religion, it bothers me because it feels patronising, and it feels very much like viewers are being spoon fed this notion that "region is bad". Which is the opposite of Martin does. 

34 minutes ago, TepidHands said:

You don't have to be a racial minority to find racism offensive. I don't think you have to be a person of faith to find the show's treatment of religion cartoonish and superficial. 

Very well said. 

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