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Kajjo

religion and gods

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There are several religions mentioned in the series (both book and show), namely The Old Gods, The Faith of the Seven, the Drowned God, the Many-faced God, the Lord of Light, the Great Stallion (Dothraki) and several more.

  • The Lord of Light appears to deliver -- resurrections of Beric Dondarrion and Jon Snow, the shadow birth of Melisandre and several vision. 
  • The Old Gods appear to deliver -- Bran's warging, greensight, three-eyed raven.
  • The Many-Faced God appears to deliver -- using faces. 

Maybe this is all just magic but no God exists? Maybe magic exists and people just interpret it differently and assign it to certain deities? The Many-faced God not even claims to be a real God, but is called Death. But As personification of Death, only magic remains for this faith.

Is there any indication other faiths deliver, too?  

Do you think this is all about magic and not about faith or gods?

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GRRM has stated at some point that he writes religions, not gods. So it's all just magic. 

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Posted (edited)
35 minutes ago, Loge said:

GRRM has stated at some point that he writes religions, not gods. So it's all just magic. 

That's nice to here. Magic is OK in a phantasy world, all the gods would make unbelievable.

So after all, the Faith of the Seven is a parody of the Catholic church and while the simple folk might believe in it, it's all just an instrument of power and submission. The High Sparrow was nicely portrayed as the biggest hypocrite of them all.

Edited by Kajjo

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On 6/7/2019 at 11:17 AM, Kajjo said:

That's nice to here. Magic is OK in a phantasy world, all the gods would make unbelievable.

So after all, the Faith of the Seven is a parody of the Catholic church and while the simple folk might believe in it, it's all just an instrument of power and submission. The High Sparrow was nicely portrayed as the biggest hypocrite of them all.

Gods would make fantasy not believable? OK.

Also, I would argue that Gods in a book can make a really great fantasy series. See Malazan.

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Posted (edited)

The books actually do treat religion and faith in a pretty fair way, the good bits, the bad bits and what GRRM said was that the gods won't appear in the story in any way they haven't already done so at this point, which is a very elegant answer imho.
So I doubt we will ever get an answer in the books whether there's any gods or just magic in the universe.

The show on the other hand has a ridiculous hate-boner when it comes to religion, that turns religious characters like Sansa, and especially Davos, into flat-earth atheists and has Jon loudly moan at Mellisandre "there's noooooooooothing Neddy, just a big black nooooooooooooooothing" (to this day book Mellisandre hasn't lost a word or slither of inner monologue that her faith includes any form of communion with R'hllor after death, or any existence after death at all)

And I'd also say the High Sparrow and the Sparrows in general come over a lot more hypocritical and "evil" in the show with their irrational homophobia and selective imprisonment of innocent Tyrells, when in the books they have more similarities to a grass-roots movement with religious character that's basically smallfolk being fed up with the petty wars of nobility.

Also, sorry, but it's laughably ridiculous to just make a blanket statement like "gods would make this fantasy world with dragons and ice demons and ressurection of the dead" unbelievable.

As to what we know. It's fairlyobvious that the Old Gods are some sort of collective soul matrix of the departed Chidlren of the Forest, and in the books possibly also of dead Westerosi humans.

As for the rest. In my own opinion it's not important to the story whether there's any gods or not, since the plot or themes aren't really concerned with that. But if I had to answer what I think on the subject, I'd say that R'hllor has the biggest probability to be real in some form, since he seems a very distant, callous and merciless deity that would fit the overall tone of the series.  Plus if he's real I could imagine he's more akin to some fairly inpersonal, unknowable Eldritch Abominations.

Edited by Orphalesion

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Posted (edited)
On 6/7/2019 at 1:20 AM, Kajjo said:

There are several religions mentioned in the series (both book and show), namely The Old Gods, The Faith of the Seven, the Drowned God, the Many-faced God, the Lord of Light, the Great Stallion (Dothraki) and several more.

  • The Lord of Light appears to deliver -- resurrections of Beric Dondarrion and Jon Snow, the shadow birth of Melisandre and several vision. 
  • The Old Gods appear to deliver -- Bran's warging, greensight, three-eyed raven.
  • The Many-Faced God appears to deliver -- using faces. 

Maybe this is all just magic but no God exists? Maybe magic exists and people just interpret it differently and assign it to certain deities? The Many-faced God not even claims to be a real God, but is called Death. But As personification of Death, only magic remains for this faith.

Is there any indication other faiths deliver, too?  

Do you think this is all about magic and not about faith or gods?

For some reason, most of the nobility in Westeros are not charitable at all despite the dominant faith (The 7) being a Catholic Church style religion, which by implication should put a lot of attention on good works. 

Edited by Br16

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25 minutes ago, Br16 said:

For some reason, most of the nobility in Westeros are not charitable at all despite the dominant faith (The 7) being a Catholic Church style religion, which by implication should put a lot of attention on good works. 

Which is just how it is in the real life - powerful are only charitable when it helps them gain power / influence / good street cred. Also, it works with the theme of the work: power corrupts.

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1 hour ago, Br16 said:

For some reason, most of the nobility in Westeros are not charitable at all despite the dominant faith (The 7) being a Catholic Church style religion, which by implication should put a lot of attention on good works. 

Which is exactly as in the real world, isn't it? Hypocrisy in the purest form. 

 

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On 6/7/2019 at 4:42 PM, Loge said:

GRRM has stated at some point that he writes religions, not gods. So it's all just magic. 

I've never seen something like that said by GRRM.

9 hours ago, Orphalesion said:

... what GRRM said was that the gods won't appear in the story in any way they haven't already done so at this point, which is a very elegant answer imho.

But I remember references to the 2nd statement.

I've seen debate here about magic versus gods. It seems most people prefer the idea of a magic "under human control", rather than delivered by "prayers to gods". Does it mean Thoros resurrected Dondarrion by his own magic skills? Who promised a prince 5 millennium ago? Who is delivering the promise now? What are the Shadows the shadowbinders deal with? Just a trick? Why then to pay a price in blood, rather than in gold? Are all these magics created by the Others, the Shadows, the weirwood net? How is it different from "gods"?

9 hours ago, Orphalesion said:

So I doubt we will ever get an answer in the books whether there's any gods or just magic in the universe.

Likely. But if ASoIaF evolves to more supernatural stuff...

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On 6/11/2019 at 9:24 PM, BalerionTheCat said:

I've seen debate here about magic versus gods. It seems most people prefer the idea of a magic "under human control", rather than delivered by "prayers to gods". Does it mean Thoros resurrected Dondarrion by his own magic skills? Who promised a prince 5 millennium ago? Who is delivering the promise now? What are the Shadows the shadowbinders deal with? Just a trick? Why then to pay a price in blood, rather than in gold? Are all these magics created by the Others, the Shadows, the weirwood net? How is it different from "gods"?

 

Plus, it's easy to forget these days, but the very oldest form of (at least European/Western, I don't know about the other traditions) magic is invocation. People calling upon (evoking) a spirit/god/departed soul/whatever to either act through them or to bestow temporary power/knowledge upon them.
For early Indo-European cultures and long after there was no magic without calling upon or  summoning up something/someone first.

The idea of just shooting fireballs or healing wounds with magic on your own without asking someone/thing for the power is a very young concept.

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5 hours ago, Orphalesion said:

The idea of just shooting fireballs or healing wounds with magic on your own without asking someone/thing for the power is a very young concept.

This is true. Even many Buddhist scriptures described this type of human spirit interaction (they forbid it, but acknowledge that the concept exists). Basically, according to them, ghosts and spirits have magical powers but lack food and basic comforts because of their karmic combination (i.e. they did some sort of religious cultivation but were perhaps ungenerous, hateful or greedy), thus they became hungry ghosts but have powers due to their previous cultivation. What happens is that human beings who desire magical powers or for something to be supernaturally done will make ritual offerings and say what they want in a prayer, and the spirits will do it as they get offerings. It basically an exchange. Sometimes its harmless, but often it could get real dark with animal sacrifices and so forth.

So I feel that R'hllor is a dark god that likes cruel sacrifices. That is why he's so responsive, he wants to keep the offerings coming. 

According to many eastern thoughts, getting magical powers on your own is possible, but only if you cultivate virtue and serious effort in positive forms of meditation. For example, Taoists believe that to become qualified to cultivate immortality, you need to first do 3000 good deeds and abstain from all sorts of evil acts and selfish or malicious thinking for several years. Apparently, "after you qualify" a deity will elevate you and you become a demigod basically. 

Needless to say, most people can't be bothered to go this route and just stick with invocation and offering exchange to get what they want (which could often be selfish goals). Its basically the spiritual version of hiring sell swords. 

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Religion is based on belief, imo. The aforementioned gods, or supernatural forces, to keep from inflaming tempers, don't need to show up. People need to believe in them. To follow rites or offer sacrifice, to dedicate themselves to them. Whatever it means if there’s an answer or result to supplication, faith, prayer, offering? That's more than enough proof for a believer.

If, as appropriate for a fantasy setting, some are 'gifted'? That can be an answer, maybe to events we don't witness, more than something organic to the characters themselves. I really don't see 'magic' as a sort of 'human' attribute in this reality. More an answer from some'thing' else.

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For me it is a world where magic obviously really exists, where creatures like dragons, direwolves, wights, white walkers, children of the forest, giants actually are real. 

If we accept magic to be real, there is no need for gods and the religions are depicted as delusions or illusions of man but not as facts.

The only god that might exist and "have delivered" is the Lord of Light with Melisandre's miracles. Maybe it's just magic, though. This is what I tend to believe. All the religions are manmade superstitions, one bolder and dumber than the next, very colorful and mostly absurd stories.

But the Drunken God? The Seven? Death? These are allegories on real-world religions and their man-made absurdities.

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19 hours ago, Kajjo said:

For me it is a world where magic obviously really exists, where creatures like dragons, direwolves, wights, white walkers, children of the forest, giants actually are real. 

If we accept magic to be real, there is no need for gods and the religions are depicted as delusions or illusions of man but not as facts.

The only god that might exist and "have delivered" is the Lord of Light with Melisandre's miracles. Maybe it's just magic, though. This is what I tend to believe. All the religions are manmade superstitions, one bolder and dumber than the next, very colorful and mostly absurd stories.

But the Drunken God? The Seven? Death? These are allegories on real-world religions and their man-made absurdities.

Nobody says any of the gods are real.

Just that it's absurd to say that magic is okay to have in a story, while gods would make a story, somehow, "unbelievable".

And also that the possible existence or non-existence of any gods isn't really important to the story, as opposed to the Lord of the Rings, for example, and its extended universe, where the existence of Eru Illuvatar and his various Valar and Maiar is a fact and they play an integral role in the plot. 

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16 minutes ago, Orphalesion said:

Just that it's absurd to say that magic is okay to have in a story, while gods would make a story, somehow, "unbelievable".

If you re-read my statement that caused this controversy, you will notice that it was about "all the gods" and I still feel that way. Several contradicting deities inside one story are simply not believable for me, at least not in this setting of otherwise quite straight-forward storytelling. Of course I agree that there might be phantasy stories in which multiple deities could act simultaneously. However, for me, this would decrease believablitiy, too. Personally, I can a lot easier believe in magic as part of a phantasy world than in several gods. Maybe it's just me. But it's the way it is for me.

19 minutes ago, Orphalesion said:

And also that the possible existence or non-existence of any gods isn't really important to the story

I agree, but we discuss very many non-essential issues here. It is interesting for me to know what other think about the many different faiths and gods introduced in this story.

Just magic or really several gods? That's an interesting question.

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