I have posted a new article for the Milwaukee Examiner titled “My faith (part III) – The influence of Dungeons and Dragons.
I know some people will roll their eyes at this, but role playing games have been very influential on my spiritual growth. I see some peoples’ hackles being raised at this and having flashbacks to the era of D&D hate’n in the 80’s, but Dungeons and Dragons has helped in forming my spiritual beliefs. I am sure that this is not going to be in the manner that some of you might be thinking, so please, at least try to keep your snickering and/or abject terror for the end. =)
Theism and Philosophy
Dungeons and Dragons has listed the historical or mythological pantheons of the cultures of the world from Egyptian, Greek, Norse, Celtic, to Chinese and even Indian, as well as some of their belief systems. This has exposed me to polytheism and to religious belief systems that are very different from our modern day Christianity.
I have also participated in philosophical discussions about how evils, as we define them, can be performed by a well meaning and ‘good’ society. It also helped me to see that ‘evil’ can be very relative to your society and upbringing. What is evil for one society may be normal or acceptable in another (i.e. aboriginal cannibalism). This has also had me question the very meaning of good and evil, and right and wrong, and what they really mean in such subjective and relative terms.
There was also a passage in novel from the Dark Elf series by R.A. Salvatore that stuck with me. The main character, Drizzt, who is a good-hearted dark elf coming from a society of well known evil elves worshiping a female demonic deity. He disavowed religion and the gods due to the evil he has seen that their worship has wrought with his people. Drizzt met a kind and wise woodsman who said (paraphrased from memory) that the name of the gods are just specific labels for the beliefs in peoples’ hearts. Their labels and tenets are not commandments for their faithful to follow, because the faithful have already chosen the label that is true to them.
The trick is to find the right label for what is true for you, then you will not be following a deity’s dictates, but you will be living your life with a label for your belief system and you will know when you have like-minded people about when they have the same or very similar label.
The thought that you have to find the name for your spiritual label, even one that might be be counter to the one that your society subscribes to, was a rather mind blowing concept for me when coming from the perspective of our definitely monotheistic Christian culture.
The Faltering Path
Another thing that I have pulled from Dungeons and Dragons is that even people within the same religion may not agree on what ‘their’ religion means or what is right or wrong within the dictates and tenants set forth. One person’s interpretation can be wildly different than another’s.
There is always the literary archetype of the pious cleric, priest, or leader of the faith going in the wrong direction to get things done, but for the right reasons – shifting from ‘means justifies the ends’ to ‘the ends justifies the means’ which can have serious ramifications for the individual, their faith, and for the public at large, where they often losing sight of what their faith is about in the process.