Most people who say they are atheist or agnostic still believe in supernatural powers: In the United States, 38% of people who identified themselves as atheist or agnostic went on to claim to believe in a God or a Higher Power. While the UK is often defined as an irreligious place, a recent survey … found that … only 13 per cent of adults agreed with the statement “humans are purely material beings with no spiritual element”. …
I love this. As a well published fiction writer, all I can say is so true. Here's another writer's tip: No matter what happens in your story, do not kill the dog.
The Greek and Roman pantheons didn't dish out karma. And the animistic religions are very important, they may have few followers today but they were the first religions and they continue to serve as a reminder that you can have religion without all the petty moralizing of modern religions.
Name some religions that don't claim a karmic force exists. It is central in Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, which together cover pretty much all advanced civilizations. There is no karma AFAIK in most animistic religions, the kind you'd find in tribal societies in Africa or the Americas, but that's all I can think of at the moment.
I've argued before that the defining characteristic of classic fantasy is that rule-based or virtue-based ethics work in the fantasy world. This is common in popular fiction, as you point out. In fantasy, it's taken a step farther: The author goes out of his way to construct a worst-case scenario, in which following "virtuous" behavior is obviously stupid and immoral, and then things work out so that doing so is crucial to the protagonist's victory. One example is Frodo sparing Gollum's life in Lord of the Rings.
But karma exists only in some fiction. In post-modernist fiction (say, anything published in the New Yorker in the last 50 years), we have anti-karma: Virtue, or at least innocence, is inevitably punished.
If you are going to write an antihero, you need villains who are even worse.
You made a rather strange claim about moral responsibility (or at least causal responsibility) for death and destruction.
I would see it tested.
Please list the the principal dead involved, the causative agency of their death, and moral agency as you see it. For both Bush-Cheney vs Saddam. I'll do the same, and we can compare notes. My goat is waiting.
>While the UK is often defined as an irreligious place, a recent survey … found that … only 13 per cent of adults agreed with the statement “humans are purely material beings with no spiritual element”.
I think this statement is poorly chosen, as most people probably get confused by the wording and interpret it as an axiological rather than ontological. "Purely material with no spiritual[ity]" sounds to philosophically untrained ear almost like an insult, I guess.
You lose your goat senselessly; this concerns theories of historical causation and interpretations of the objectives of the actors' intentions, not common sense.
Or, to flip it around slightly, the omniscient narrator is just another manifestation of God.
I think this is also what is quietly radical about House Of Cards. It's hard to think of another piece of popular culture where the protagonist is undeniably a villain and undeniably wins the end.
"An average intelligence adult acknowledges that rules, an almost omnipresent referee and immediate sanctions are are exclusive to sports. Life is not like that, but people want to see fair play everywhere.....in war, in the job, in family, etc..."
I'm no expert but I'd say wanting to establish and enforce rules leads to there being rules that are somewhat enforced which leads to less misunderstandings and backstabbing. It avoids the sort of general chaos that would drive a social species to extinction.
Right, Stories are a useful tool in life. It is also necessary change "stories" for "fiction" in the aphorism. What Robin argues is that you don't need to believe literally the fiction story to be influenced by it. You don't need to believe in the gods of Game of Thrones to find solace in the idea of cosmic destiny, karma, whatever. Another example is the fair play idea from sports. An average intelligence adult acknowledges that rules, an almost omnipresent referee and immediate sanctions are are exclusive to sports. Life is not like that, but people want to see fair play everywhere.....in war, in the job, in family, etc.
It occurs to me that this explains a certain brand of metafiction. Terry Pratchett is most famously associated with it, but he's not the only one.
If you're an author with a naturalistic worldview, it might bother you to have things happen in your story acausally; you don't want the good guys to win in a scenario where, if it were real life instead of a story, the good guys wouldn't win, for no in-universe reason. And although there's a long tradition of using "God did it" as an in-universe explanation for the good guys winning, you might not want God to exist in that way in your story.
On the other hand, you might still want to write the kind of story where the good guys win, because that's the kind of story that you like.
If you're unafraid of mixing up different meta-levels, you can elegantly solve this. The in-universe cause for the good guys winning in your story is the same as the out-of-universe cause: because it has to be that way in order for your story to work. Hence the Theory of Narrative Causality.
Yeah, also Saddam much more resembled a classic villain. He was a violent psychopath who killed his first victim with his bare hands when he was a teenager. Cheney, and especially Bush fall more into the incompetent leader category, storywise.
Nah, believing in a somewhat just world is believing that you can make a difference and that good accomplishments can last. Those beliefs are essential to even get out of bed in the morning. It's a motivational necessity to keep an intelligent species going, although it must be said that over the very long term humanity has been goign back to its innate forager values that feel "just". For a human living today the successes of the gay rights movement and the decline of worldwide violent crime and war can be seen as confirmation of the just-world hypothesis.
Perhaps successful ancestors are more likely to have received justice than those who did not?