From Another Universe Column – On Religion

Author Lynda Williams is contributing a monthly column to Tyler Clarke’s Cutbanks: The Prince George Cultural Magazine. Tyler has granted Lynda the right to re-publish the columns a few months after each appears. The column, called From Another Universe, connects themes in real life with the Okal Rel Saga and its companion legacies series of stories and novellas set in the same ficitional universe. Below is the first online installment, from the July edition of Cutbanks in print. Cutbanks is a free magazine supported by advertizing revenue and distributed at cultural outlets in Prince George and area.

On Religion

by Lynda Williams, author of the Okal Rel Saga and editor of the Okal Rel Legacies collection

The quintessential Buffy the Vampire Slayer line for me is: “Note to self, religion freaky.” I concluded as much as a teenager trying to make sense of the diverse religious convictions in my father’s family while growing up in Prince George. I read a book named How the Great Religions Began by Joseph Gaer and decided there was definitely something universal underpinning the myriad manifestations of belief in the divine, although it might as easily have been a human need as an actual divinity of any sort. Now, having reached middle-age, I am back to square one on the question of belief in a Greater Good. I think we need it because science has pretty much flopped as a means of achieving peace on Earth through the techno-missionaries of corporate power. But I share Bill Maher’s fears, in his documentary film Religulous, about the threat posed by religious leaders to whom the destruction of life on earth is an acceptable risk in the single-minded pursuit of their own particular dogma. Sadly, I am just as sceptical about the ability of the scientific world view to side-step the pitfall of usurpation by greedy bastards. I doubt, for example, that too many of the CEOs gleefully impoverishing pensioners in pursuit of yet another yacht were attending any kind of church except a bank. In my own work as a novelist, I’ve found answers in the integrity of individuals, whatever their believe system, and a zero tolerance attitude to the idea of anyone blowing up the world to make a point. Part 2: Righteous Anger, in the Okal Rel Saga, deals most directly with religious strife, but moral dilemmas underpin the tensions in most books. Morality itself has become my bottom line. I just haven’t figured out how to define it any better than the dramatic portrayal of decisions made by characters in the thought experiment of my science fiction saga. If forced to try, I think it would go something like this: If nine out of ten grandmothers from a reasonable cross-section of cultures say it’s evil, then it’s evil. Cut it out.

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