I’m not what you’d call a religious man. I used to consider myself a fairly hard-line atheist – YEAH DEAL WITH IT SOCIETY – but I’ve mellowed a bit since those days. I’ve started to think that maybe there is no reason to assume that the universe could only have come into existence by accident. Perhaps the Big Bang could have been set off as a deliberate act by some form of intelligence that is as incomprehensible to us as our society is to a goldfish in a bowl. I figure, since there’s probably no way of knowing the exact circumstances that led up to the Big Bang, it’d be arrogant to dismiss anything outright.
Of course, what I most certainly cannot believe is that there could exist any kind of interventionist deity who created us for a purpose and still guides our development, crying with shame whenever anyone masturbates, because the world in which we live is far easier to accept as the result of random chaotic fluctuations. I know a lot of people take comfort in the idea of a guiding, fatherly hand up there, but I’m not sure why. Personally, I find the notion extremely discomforting. Theists don’t seem to realize what a complicated answer ‘God did it’ really is. Each time, it raises the same mass of questions, sprawling out from each other like a pit of snakes. What is God? Where did it come from? Where is it now? What is its plan? Does it love us? How could it love us? How could an immortal being of incomprehensible power possibly feel empathy for a human? It could wipe out an entire nation by trailing its sleeve across the Earth and probably not even notice.
A world that has actual, active, interventionist deities would be one so alien to our own, on so many fundamental levels, that it would be virtually impossible to understand anything that happens in it, right down to individual mindsets and decision-making. Which brings me to the subject of video game theology, also known as “Everything Kratos Hasn’t Gotten Around To Slaughtering Yet.”
I found myself thinking this way after Sacred 3, after playing to the endgame scenario in which the villain whose name I can’t remember is performing a ritual that, in some vague and poorly-thought-out manner fairly typical of the game, will turn him into a God. Now, that’s such a standard fantasy villain motive that it’s probably unfair to pick on Sacred 3 specifically about it, but I’ve already kicked it enough that a few more blows won’t hurt. On the surface, wanting to turn yourself into a God is the absolute height of insane pride and megalomania and a fitting desire for your standard certified Bad Guy.
But that position is one we take because we live in a world where there is no observable God and the concept is too unreal and outlandish. It makes sense that we think having the ambition to become a God is completely delusional, as is believing you can hear His voice in your head. But you have to consider the context that Sacred 3‘s villain is in, and I still can’t remember his name, so I’m just going to refer to him as Winker Watson. Winker Watson lives in a world where not only is there a confirmed presence of powerful interventionist deities, but that the Gods are actively working against him.
Just the knowledge that God exists and rules over us all opens a few cans of worms right off the bat. So at that point you know that every piece of ill luck that has befallen you has happened with the approval of your all-powerful overlord, who, if they didn’t directly cause it, could at least have prevented it. You exist entirely at the whim of something that can never understand what it is like to be you, because they are immortal and gifted with powers that grant influence upon reality, while you can only struggle through a short, miserable existence. Society cannot function without a middle class – the vassals or the peasants or whatever you call them have to be able to think that they, too, could rise to the top if they put the work in, because otherwise you send the message that the underclass have no power over their own lives, and do not deserve any. Of course they’re going to get restless.
Maybe the all-powerful God-beings can’t help the fact that they are born with the ultimate level of privilege that most can’t attain, but in that case, it behooves them to stay the fuck out of the affairs of mortals, Star Trek Prime Directive style. In fact, when Winker Watson discovers the ritual to turn himself into a God, the existing Gods should be fucking grateful that someone found a way to exercise upward mobility in this stagnant society. But no. The angels of paradise just empower the world’s greatest adventurers to go and destroy him because he’s evil, and he’s evil for no better reason than because he wants to transcend his allotted place in life. If God Himself is actively trying to destroy you, you cannot help but be the underdog, and this gives you a permanent stake on the moral high ground that explains why Winker Watson was able to rally such a huge army to support him.
Oh, but Winker Watson must be a force for evil, because he’s forcefully conquered the land and slaughtering people. The conquest thing we’ll leave aside because these things can only ever be judged in retrospect, one man’s liberator and all that. As for killing people, that is something we only judge as evil because it is evil in our world to kill people, where death is the final uncertainty from which no one returns. That attitude would definitely not be prevalent in a fantasy world, where in most cases, life after death is known to exist for certain.
Winker Watson knows that there exists God, and angels, and some kind of paradise realm. On top of that, the souls of dead heroes – still intelligent, cognizant and capable of communication with the living – are seen to haunt and empower weapons. So this seems to be a world where death is not an ultimate cessation of being, but a transition from one state of being to another. A rite of passage to a far worthier and happier existence as an immortal being in a higher plane of existence who retains their intelligence and personality but will never again suffer pain. I’m sure that death is an unpleasant process to go through, but no more so than puberty, and for someone to obligingly get that whole process over with fast for you may be considered an enormous favor, like throwing someone into the deep end to teach them how to swim, or forcefully making out with the groom at a wedding to make him finally realize his own denial.
So all I’m saying is, when you’re writing your little stories, remember that context is everything. Someone wanting to eat five thousand Cadbury’s crème eggs looks a whole lot different if they happen to be on a sinking Cadbury’s crème eggs freighter.