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Monday, November 16, 2009

Religion in Elizabeth Moon's Familias Regnant novels.

Elizabeth Moon has written a variety of fantastic literature. Her Nebula award-winning The Speed of Dark is set on earth, in a time not far into the future. Her Paksenarrion and Gird novels are set on some unknown planet, or perhaps an alternate earth, and are fantasy. Her Vatta's War and Familias Regnant novels are both set in the far future, when humans have expanded into many other solar systems. These two groups of books have been called, with some justice, space opera.

In this post, I wish to consider the religious aspects of the Familias Regnant novels. The books are not so much about religion as the Paksenarrion and Gird books, but religion is certainly mentioned.

The Familias Regnant worlds, a large collection of habitable planets, linked together by commerce, culture, and government, don't have a single religion:
"The Familias legal codes -- and those of the Regular Space Service -- allow freedom of belief, and freedom of religious practices which are not directly harmful to others. Because of the wide variety of beliefs, many held strongly, we do not generally discuss religion with those we do not know." (Elizabeth Moon, Change of Command. New York, New York: Baen Books, 1999, p. 151.) A minor character is explaining the way things are to a visitor from another culture. Note that the question of what religion is practiced is important to the visitor.

I found no Christ-figure in these books. Not only that, none of the main characters expressed any firm religious belief. Once in a while, when under stress, they wished that they had a religion, or attempted to pray, but religion wasn't important to any of them.

There were religions in some of the other cultures, and they seem to have been some version of Christianity, from the USA, extrapolated into the future. The results were usually (but not always) male-dominated, and based on deeds -- eternal rewards and temporal blessings were not gifts, but earned, by right behavior. Several peripheral characters were clearly dominated by their religious beliefs.

I have posted here and here about the religious aspects of the Paksenarrion novels, and here about the Gird novels. Moon does not ignore religion, even in the future, even if it doesn't play a dominant role for the main characters in these books.

Thanks for reading.

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