OSC Answers Questions
Most of the protagonists in the OSC books I have read (all of the Ender/Bean and
Alvin Maker books) either struggle with, have no use for, or do not believe in
religion. When they do believe in God, they believe in him in more of the
Newtonian "Wind-up Clock Universe" theory in which God creates the universe to
run by itself without interference or help.
I see myself in their opinions. It amazes me to think OSC could understand their
characters so well if HE was very religious. Yet I know that he is LDS, and yes
this is a generalization, but I have yet to meet a half-hearted Mormon. Ah, finally
to my question. DOES Orson Scott Card believe whole-heartedly in the Bible and
the Mormon doctrine? And if so, did he ever struggle with his beliefs? How can he
write so well for his protagonists if he does not see validity in their views, and if
he does see validity in his views, does it effect his beliefs?
I realize that these are involved questions requiring an involved answer, but I do
hope to receive one. I always burn with curiosity and I beg you to dowse one
-- Submitted by Britton Boyd
OSC REPLIES: - February 18, 2004
What you're really seeing is the convention of science fiction, that God cannot be a
character. Therefore, even when characters in sci-fi SAY they don't believe in
God, there is usually a 'hidden' religion that they do believe in.
Take Asimov's Foundation series. He has the obvious religion, which is fakey and
needs to be debunked. But then he has his god-figures - the Mule (perhaps a
devilfigure <grin>), and the Second Foundation, who are manipulating things. I
call this kind of god the "intelligent purposer" - the person or group whose goals
are giving shape and meaning to the actions of the characters, either in support of
or rebellion against them. MOST science fiction is in fact very religious - but the
religion is in disguise.
So I can have a character who is an "unbeliever" in the prevailing religion around
him, but who in fact obeys a Purposer and acts on faith in that purpose. Asimov
couldn't get away from this even in his later works - behind the Second
Foundation, there was R. Daneel Olivaw, whose purposes the Second Foundation
was actually fulfilling <grin>.
Outside of science fiction, I have no such limitations. In Saints, Stone Tables,
Sarah, Rebekah, characters openly believe in God. But even there, I try very hard
to make sure my readers don't have to decide whether they personally believe in
the same God as the characters. In other words, what matters is that the characters
believe - but you can still enjoy the story even if you yourself do not believe the
And, even though you think you don't have a religion and are skeptical about all
religion, that only means that you haven't yet discovered the religion you already
believe in. There is no such thing as a human being who does not have beliefs so
deep-rooted that when they are challenged, it makes him or her extremely upset.
And those who think they have no religion are the ones most apt to think that their
beliefs are TRUTH rather than simply one way to believe.
So ... I am a whole-hearted believer in Mormon doctrine, as I understand it, and a
committed practitioner of the religion. But I am very much aware of the fact that
many people have different beliefs. I can write characters who have different
beliefs from mine - and usually do. (If all my characters were Mormons, you see,
I would have very few readers to whom to tell my tales ...). The place where a
writer's beliefs show up most powerfully - and most influentially - are not in the
religious opinions of the characters, but in the way the world of the story functions
- what works and what doesn't, why things happen, what purposes are noble and
which are vile, etc. A character who is an atheist, but moves through a world in
which Good purposes are the only ones worth pursuing - and those Good purposes
exist because of a Good Purposer - you are actually reading PRO-religious fiction.
I don't create such "pro-religious" fiction consciously. When I have found such
patterns in my work, it is only after the fact. I make no effort to plan the
"meaning" of my work in any way. I tell a story that I care about and believe in,
hoping that there will be readers who feel the same. But I have no program;
instead I trust my unconscious mind to deliver what I truly believe about the
universe onto the page. In other words, I find out what my stories are about the
same way my readers do.
However, my lack of a conscious "theme" or propaganda purpose does not mean
my work is unplanned. I always have the end of the story in mind; but I give
myself great freedom to let unplanned characters and unplanned events draw the
story into digressions. It's in the digressions that my unconscious mind has the
most room to play <grin>.