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A few weeks ago, I listened to an episode of The Thinking Atheist podcast hosted by Seth Andrews with Dr. Chrissy Stroop called “I Left Because…” It was a call-in show where people shared their stories about why and how they left organized religion to become atheists. Some were dramatic, but the majority were comprised of gradually drifting away as they learned more about about the religion itself and the world around them. My own deconversion was likewise a gradual process as I realized how little sense religious doctrine made. I went from being Christian (specifically Lutheran Protestant) to Deism (the clockmaker god), flirted briefly with Wicca and paganism, stayed agnostic for a while, and finally embraced the label of atheist and humanist (in part to help destigmatize the word “atheist” and to help show that you can be “good without god.”)
However, when I was telling this to a friend, I told them that I stopped being Wiccan because it was so anti-climactic compared to the fantasy novels I was used to reading. My friend expressed surprise that fantasy actually helped me leave religion rather than encouraging me to stay, since magical thinking is required to accept a lot of religious tenants. I hadn’t actually thought about this and decided to examine this idea further.
Continue reading ““I Left Because…” How Fantasy Helped Me Become an Atheist” →
Audio Edition Coming Soon!
My family is kind of weird when it comes to death.
So far most of the deaths in my family have not come as a surprise. It grieves us, but we keep moving forward. We cry, but not much and not in public if we can help it. We don’t go in for dramatic displays of grief. We tend to not even discuss it. (In fact, aside from a few short conversations with my brothers, all of these statements come from my own observations and perspective, so I could be completely wrong about all of this.) But, on the surface at least, my family and I tend to be very pragmatic about the whole thing.
And yet I will break down into gut-wrenching sobs and go through all five stages of grief when a fictional character I love dies.
On the surface, this seems strange, even sociopathic. I don’t cry for my dead relatives but will bawl my eyes out for someone who never even existed? It seems backwards, almost wrong somehow, and has bothered me for quite a while. I couldn’t figure out why this was happening. But I think I may have solved the mystery.
Continue reading “The Deep Impact of Fictional Deaths” →
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“Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter.”
— Jedi Master Yoda, from The Empire Strikes Back
Souls permeate fantasy. You find them everywhere. In books like the Vlad Taltos series; in movies like Crimson Peak; in television shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer; in video games like Jade Empire; in anime like Soul Eater; and manga like Fullmetal Alchemist. Even if souls are not the focus of the story, it is almost always assumed that souls exist. In some universes, all living things have souls, while in others only sentient races have them. In a few, only humanity is granted this unique ability to transcend oblivion.
Continue reading “Permutations of the Soul” →
This entry may contain spoilers! Proceed at your own risk.
I recently watched the anime Mobile Suit Zeta Gundam and loved it. The story was interesting, the characters engaging, even the secondary characters (a trait the early Gundam shows are famous for), and a great mix of comedy and melodrama. I followed the characters on their journey, through trials, tribulations, daring plans, narrow escapes, joys, sorrows, and maturation through 48 amazing episodes. Then, the final episodes 49 and 50….everything fell apart. Within those two episodes, half the cast was killed off and one was left alive, but rendered absolutely flippin’ insane. And the story ends. Just like that. No time for me or the survivors to mourn, just stare at the rolling credits going, “What?! That’s it?!”
I sent a text to my friend Fullmetal, who had lent me the series, that said: “Well. I just finished watching Zeta Gundam. The show was AWESOME…up until the last two episodes. Those last two sucked. An unresolved cop-out!”
His response: “But everyone dies.”
Continue reading “A Few Words on Character Deaths” →