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  1. Tumhalad's Avatar
    Needleworker of Mirkwood
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    Apr 2009
    #1
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    For what it’s worth, I’m an atheist, and an anti-theist. By
    this I mean that I not only disbelieve in any god, I also find many forms of
    theism morally objectionable. From the outset I want to say that this is not a
    post about religion per se, its merits or demerits. It is about the curious
    fact that as an atheist, and as an anti-theist, I still enjoy Tolkien’s books.
    On one level this isn’t really surprising at all: Tolkien’s books obviously
    appeal to a wide range of individuals of all types: his creations are diverse
    enough to accommodate many different world views.

    Nevertheless, Tolkien was himself a Christian and his
    Catholicism was evidently a very central part of his self-identity. Along with
    the myriad other influences in his persona and especially professional life,
    Tolkien’s religion contributed to the form that his creation eventually took.
    There is one god, a set of demigods and a whole ambiguous theology that relates
    the destinies, fates and choices of these immortals to the more folkloric Elves
    and the hobbits.

    There have been myriad books about Tolkien written from an
    explicitly Christian perspective. The most recent “The Christian World of the
    Hobbit”, by Devin Brown, continues this tradition. Of course most of the most
    well known and highly regarded critical work on Tolkien has taken place from a
    neutral perspective – Rosebury and
    Shippey come to mind. Nevertheless, there is a definite trend for academic and
    other works on Tolkien to approach his work from a perspective that already
    considers Christianity in some form to be true.

    My questions are these<b style="mso-bidi-font-weight:normal">:
    Do you think it is reasonable to approach an author, from an academic point of
    view, with a religious world view already in mind? Secondly, how do you think
    your faith or lack of it informs your reading of Tolkien? For example, are you more
    disposed to feel that Eucatastrophe should define Tolkien’s stories, and are
    wont to explain away its absence, as in <i style="mso-bidi-font-style:normal">The
    Children of Hurin?[/i][/b]

    The second part of my question concerns Christianity itself in
    Tolkien. <b style="mso-bidi-font-weight:normal">How do you think that one can
    judge the effect of a certain worldview on a literary work? What counts as “Christian”
    and “not-Christian” in Tolkien? Do you think some Christians overemphasise the “Christian”
    themes in Tolkien’s work? To answer this question let’s take a look at what kinds
    of beliefs constitute Christianity:[/b]

    Christians will probably believe one, some or all of these
    following propositions. Note, of course, that not all Christians will believe
    all of these propositions, so if you’re a Christian and you feel
    misrepresented, I’m telling you now that this list is neither exhaustive nor
    does it describe every individual who calls themselves a Christian.

    1.
    1.There exists an eternal, all-powerfull,
    all-knowing creator God, who, though of one essence, exists in three distinct,
    but not separate, persons.

    2.
    2. There exists a devil, Satan, and numerous other
    demonic beings as well as angels, archangels, etc.

    3.
    3. The earth is not billions of years in age, but
    created by God six to ten thousand years ago.

    4.
    4. There was an actual Adam and Eve in a literal
    Garden of Eden who sinned and brought upon the world the horrible suffering it
    contains

    5.
    5. God has a morally sufficient reason for
    permitting all the evil that ever has or ever will occur.

    6. 6.
    A first – century Galilean Jew, Jesus, was born
    of a virgin as an incarnate God in the flesh and performed numerous miracles
    during his life.

    7.
    7. This Jesus was crucified according to specific prophecies
    in the Old Testament as a divine sacrifice to atone for the past, present and
    future sins of the world.

    8.
    8. Jesus was resurrected

    9.
    9. There is life after death, and only people who
    have accepted a legitimate form of Christian belief will go to eternal bliss in
    heaven, while all others, with a few rare exceptions, will suffer an eternity
    of torment in hell.

    For each of these points, it seems to me questionable that
    Tolkien depicted a universe in which they are true with any fidelity in his
    books. For example, it is indeed unclear that Eru is all-loving, all-powerful,
    and all-knowing. There is certainly a significant demonic figure, Morgoth, but
    he is unlike Satan in many ways - he is
    incarnated and actually acts out deeds in person in the world. Moreover, any
    sufficiently powerful and malevolent being in Tolkien’s universe (e.g. Sauron,
    or Galadrial had she given in to temptation) would appear to mortals as a kind
    of Satanic figure. The precise age of the world in Tolkien is not really known,
    and certainly seems to be more than six to ten thousand years.

    Of course there are vague similarities; Morgoth does
    resemble Satan in some respects, and Eru does indeed conjure a sense of the
    biblical God. Nevertheless I contend that it is in the moral dimension where
    Tolkien, consciously or not, most drastically departs from Christian doctrine.
    Unlike the Christian God, Eru is not in fact a lawgiver, nor does he make
    covenants with particular peoples, or punish others when they fail. Certainly,
    there is the example of Numénor, which is the most biblical of Tolkien’s
    stories, but in general Tolkien’s characters never decide upon their moral
    actions with reference to notions of “judgement” or “righteousness”. That which
    is good is good for its own sake (a very humanistic point that is often
    overlooked in Tolkien, I think).

    Nor, in Tolkien, is there any notion of “Sin”. As I
    understand it, sin describes not merely wrongdoing, but wrongdoing that is in
    some sense an affront to God’s character, and which requires atonement. The
    ultimate atonement, the death of Jesus, is said, therefore, to be necessary
    because all humanity sins and only sacrifice is righteous enough in God’s eyes
    to expunge it. In Middle-earth, ethical choices carry great weight and
    consequence, but they are not made in the face of divine commandments or
    threats of retribution. Likewise, a Jesus figure would seem out of place in
    Middle-earth (and indeed we see no equivalent) as the whole notion of “sin” is
    never broached. Evil, both natural and human, in Tolkien does not come about as
    a result of some direct analogue to the Fall – whereby humans were once morally
    perfect before they descended into darkness – but from the beginning the capacity for evil in
    the world was incarnate within it. Likewise, notions like shame and guilt are
    out of place in Middle-earth: certainly individuals are morally judged by their
    peers, but they are never taught to be shameful of their humanity, due to some
    kind of inherent sinful nature.

    In short, it seems to me that a case can be made that the
    Christian part of Tolkien’s work has been radically overstated, if you actually
    take his work and compare it to commonly held Christian doctrines. In the moral
    dimension especially Tolkien seems to drift away from Christian concepts of
    righteousness and wrongdoing, which revolve around the notion of sin, a concept
    that never makes itself apparent in Tolkien’s writing.

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  2. Beren Laerdir's Avatar
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    #2
    if one were to argue that the specific precepts you mention are extant within tolkiens writing, they would indeed be on shaky ground.

    the thing is that more than half of them have precious little to do with christian thought beyond simple "biblical fact", which is itself not a particularly important factor. when LOTR etc is referred to as christian it is not meant that it provides a parallel or examplification of precise biblical statements; it is more that there is a wealth of christian moral-philosophical and historical tradition which can be found.

    for instance, not long after i first started posting here, i made a topic showing how the actions of the various characters (my particular case study was boromir, but all of them to some degree show this) could be seen as behaving in a distinctly kierkegaardian fashion; specifically, i posited that it did not need too much of a stretch of the imagination to see the knight of faith/resignation dialectic being actualised through the expressed actions and thoughts of the characters.

    if my musings have any weight (i do not claim that they do) then this would be an example of an exceptional "christianity" within LOTR that is precisely nothing to do with the specifics of the life of jesus.

    all that said; whilst the "academic" perspective is often vaunted as impartial, it to be frank rarely if ever achieves that lofty station, so to single out an academic of a religious background for partiality is a case of throwing stones in glass houses.

    people, academic or otherwise, will always consume, decode and recode the meanings of the things they encounter from within the semiotic-framework of their own world view. christians will do so, muslims, sikhs, jews and atheists, and all other viewpoints besides, will do so. that is not to say that certain influences might not be over emphasised by certain backgrounds!
    obsessive blind guardian fan,
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  3. Tumhalad's Avatar
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    #3




    Quote Originally Posted by Beren Laerdir
    if one were to argue that the specific precepts you mention are extant within tolkiens writing, they would indeed be on shaky ground.



    the thing is that more than half of them have precious little to do with christian thought beyond simple "biblical fact", which is itself not a particularly important factor. when LOTR etc is referred to as christian it is not meant that it provides a parallel or examplification of precise biblical statements; it is more that there is a wealth of christian moral-philosophical and historical tradition which can be found.
    Yes, those "precepts" are Christian doctrine and no doubt "Christian thought" extends beyond them, but what is Christian "moral-philosophical and historical tradition" without biblical "facts"? When we say Tolkien is "Christian" what precisely does that mean? As for moral philosophical tradition I tried to point out that Tolkien's moral vision is in many way opposed to the Christian one which emphasises guilt, shame and the need for atonement.


    Quote Originally Posted by Beren Laerdir
    for instance, not long after i first started posting here, i made a topic showing how the actions of the various characters (my particular case study was boromir, but all of them to some degree show this) could be seen as behaving in a distinctly kierkegaardian fashion; specifically, i posited that it did not need too much of a stretch of the imagination to see the knight of faith/resignation dialectic being actualised through the expressed actions and thoughts of the characters.



    if my musings have any weight (i do not claim that they do) then this would be an example of an exceptional "christianity" within LOTR that is precisely nothing to do with the specifics of the life of jesus.

    I'm afraid I cannot comment on this in particular except to say that appreciating Boromir as a character does not require a knowledge of Christianity or Christian themes, and nor do many readers draw parallels between particular characters and Christian saints or themes or whatever. Michael Drout has even stated quite explicitly that Galadriel "...is not the Virgin Mary" (an exact quote).

    Quote Originally Posted by Beren Laerdir
    all that said; whilst the "academic" perspective is often vaunted as impartial, it to be frank rarely if ever achieves that lofty station, so to single out an academic of a religious background for partiality is a case of throwing stones in glass houses.
    Of course the academic perspective is never completely impartial, but I'm talking about degrees of impartiality here. Surely a trained academic with a great deal of literary expertise, who either disavows any explicit religious influence or at least acknowldges it, is more impartial than a Christian theologian who writes a book about how Bilbo can lead you to Jesus (while that may sound like caricature, it's really not!)



    Quote Originally Posted by Beren Laerdir
    people, academic or otherwise, will always consume, decode and recode the meanings of the things they encounter from within the semiotic-framework of their own world view. christians will do so, muslims, sikhs, jews and atheists, and all other viewpoints besides, will do so. that is not to say that certain influences might not be over emphasised by certain backgrounds!
    Indeed, but I think certain perspectives can be more wrong, or at least misguided, than others. Surely an impartial perspective that acknowledges Tolkien's Christian influence but takes a critical approach to it is more efficacious in literary studies than a 'study' that draws explicit parallels (and mark my words, Christian writers on Tolkien tend to draw very explicit parallels, as well as IMHO totally false thematic ones).

    But I'm not just talking about overtly Christian apologetics style lit crit. Competent critics who I very much admire, like Corey Olsen, IMHO tend to overemphasise the simililarities that Tolkien's work bears to Christian thinking, without really acknowledging the differences. Brian Rosebury is a model critic of another flavour: he doesn't shy away from Tolkien's Christianity but he is willing to engage with the question, for example, of how Eru might differ in some very important and thematically not insignificant ways from the biblical god.




    Edited by: Tumhalad
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  4. Lilu Olnathron's Avatar
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    I appreciate that Christians hold Tolkien's works dear, but personally I it has more of a Saxon/Norse feel to it. Of course, the whole thing is down to readerinterpretation, although with Tolkien's fondness of early sagas and prose, I feel this may have influenced him a little.



    Take for example, Gandalf. The Norse god, Odin (Saxon, Wotan) appears in Middle Earth (Midgard, where humans dwell) as a wanderer. He has a long white beard, a staff, and wears a blue hat with a grey robe. He guides, observes, but does not directly intervene, unless it is a matter that affects the other gods or humanity as a whole. Odin is also reborn when he is slain - in the Ragnarok myth, he is killed by Fenrir, but his spirit emerges after his son holds the wolf's jaws open, to be resurrected in a new body at the beginning of the next age. Gandalf is described as wearing the same clothing, but has two eyes, unlike Odin. Although I feel this quote is a joky reference to Odin/Gandalf:
    Sam: "You will keep an eye on Frodo, won't you?"Gandalf: "Two eyes, as often as I can spare them."
    The themes of sacrifice, honour, loyalty, end of times, can be compared to most theologies or mythologies, and are not just Christian virtues. The Norse/Saxon beliefs held nine noble virtues;
    1. Courage2. Truth3. Honour4. Fidelity5. Discipline6. Hospitality7. Self Reliance8. Industriousness9. Perseverance
    These could be applied throughout the Fellowship and beyond (i.e. The Last Homely House), and without them, the quest would have failed.
    At no point in the book do any of the characters pray, which I feel a Christian would do when faced in dire circumstances. Frodo summoning the Light of Elendil when he faces Shelob is close, but can also be argued that this is using Elven Magic, something again that is in line with the Norse/Saxon belief system.
    We also have the different races. In the Norse/Saxon lore, there are nine worlds. Alfheim, where the elves dwell, and Svartalfheim where the dwarves dwell are included in these. In later intepretations, Svartalfar have been seen as dark elves or goblins, who live in the dark places beneath the earth (read Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner). There are also giants (who dwell in Jotunsheim) and a realm of the dead, Nair. All of these get a mention in LotR. You won't read about Elves and Dwarves in the Bible.
    The pantheon itself (consisting mainly of deities called the Vanir, but also Aesir) is very similar to the Valar.
    I would compare Morgoth to Loki more than Satan. Neither is an opposite force to a divine power, merely an aspect of Chaos and undesirable qualities that are added to the pot to create a balanced universe.
    Then we have a magic ring. The culture of the Rohirrim. Trees that talk and wights. All appear in the myth/lore of the Saxons and Norse.
    The clear message to me in the book is that it is down to the individual how he or she chooses to respond. That even the smallest person's actions can alter the fate of the world. Not god. Not the devil. It is down to YOU. And that concept is also very Norse/Saxon.
    There is a lot more if you are interested, but these links give you a good brief summary of things.
    Norse Cosmology
    Ragnarok
    Norse Creation Myth
    Vanir
    Aesir
    In the OP you ask:
    <b style=": rgb255, 255, 255;">Do you think it is reasonable to approach an author, from an academic point of view, with a religious world view already in mind? Secondly, how do you think your faith or lack of it informs your reading of Tolkien? For example, are you more disposed to feel that Eucatastrophe should define Tolkien’s stories, and are wont to explain away its absence, as inThe Children of Hurin?[/b]<b style=": rgb255, 255, 255;">
    [/b]1. Only in terms of where influence may have emerged. It is easy to recognise aspects of your own beliefs in any piece of fiction. It is reasonable in my eyes, providing you don't use it as a tool to ram your own beliefs down other peoples' throats, or justify your own internal belief system. LotR is not the Bible, the Koran, the Torah, or Norse/Saxon tales rewritten. But it may be possible to see similar themes or influence in certain points throughout the story. Tolkien was working on an imagined mythology for Europe, and so it is reasonable to assume that these religions and other folklore influenced his writing.
    2. Faith or lack of, will influence a person's outlook, whether it be a work of fiction or life itself. We all look for reinforcements to confirm what we believe is right, even if this is atheism. We are all biased to some degree, because we are individuals.Carl Jungexplains more on this, and how religion affects a person's outlook if you are interested. Eucatastrophe can be found in many sources, for example, in classical myths, where the hero overcomes great odds to save the day. However in this age of celebrity and a drought ofcontemporaryheroes, I feel our society is left neglected in that area... but that's a topic for another thread I guess. ;)





    Edited by: Lilu Olnathron

  5. geordie's Avatar
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    This is a very interesting discussion; thanks to all who have taken part so far. Personally, I never found anything overtly Christian in LotR when I first read it; nor at any time subsequently. I don't think it's because I'm particularly 'deaf' to any supposed religious themes in the book - it's just that it never struck me that way. It wasn't until books came along with themes of 'The Lord of the Rings as Christianity' that I was even aware that others thought of the book in that way.

    Speaking for myself, I have little patience with writers who simply use Tolkien's works as a hook on which to expound their personal beliefs. At one time, books on Tolkien were a rare occurence, and often I'd buy anything which claimed to be about him, without looking at it too closely in the shop. Once, I found a book - can't remember its name now - which seemed to be about Tolkien, but was in fact a homily on how for example Frodo's suffering in Mordor is to be read as a parallel to the suffering of Christ. No ifs or buts; that's how JRR meant us readers to understand it, 'cos Tolkien was a Catholic. I can't stand being lectured at; esp. by individuals as blinkered as this.

    What were Tolkien's views on the subject of religon in his works? Without scratching my head, or putting on my thinking-cap, I can recall one or two various points. First of all, Tolkien says in the Foreword to the 2nd ed. that as far as he was concerned, the story had no hidden meaning or 'message' whatsoever. All he wanted to do was to try his hand at a really long story, to move and delight hs readers. And this he has done.

    Also, at some point or other, he said that he carefully went through the story and removed any overt religious attributes - I take this to be a measure of Tolkien's innate courtesy, which he extended to his readers (of his academic works as much as his fiction) - put simply, he did not believe it was for him to beat people over the head with his religion (as it were). Or, as he would have said; there are people whos calling it is to preach Christianity; they are called priests. On a personal level, he didn't much approve of his friend Lewis's sermons; on the radio or elsewhere.

    Tolkien had soame very definite views on folk who wanted to equate Jesus with Frodo. Or Aragorn; or Gandalf. On the other hand - - and in quite a different, tho' related area - he did say (in 'The Road Goes Ever On') that Gildor's elves were in fact praying to Elbereth - and furthermore, when they met Frodo & co. in the Woody End, they were returning from a 'pilgrimage' to the Tower Hills, where Elves could look in the palantir there, and sometimes be rewarded with a vision of Varda upon Oiolosse. Tolkien called Frodo and Sam's invocations to Varda Elbereth 'one of the few references to religion in the book, often overlooked'. (paraphrase from memory).

    For his own part, C S Lewis had some ideas on what these sort of critics call 'Christian' writing; he didn't agree with it. In a paper on the subject, he wondered what a 'Christian' cook-book would look like - a boiled egg can only be cooked one way, whether the author is a Christian or not!

    To sum up - my personal view is that there ain't anything overtly religious in LotR. If anyone sees something there, then that's down to what Tolkien called 'applicability'.

    Edited by: geordie
    It's all in the books...

  6. Lilu Olnathron's Avatar
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    #6




    Quote Originally Posted by geordie
    On the other hand - - and in quite a different, tho' related area - he did say (in 'The Road Goes Ever On') that Gildor's elves were in fact praying to Elbereth - and furthermore, when they met Frodo &amp; co. in the Woody End, they were returning from a 'pilgrimage' to the Tower Hills, where Elves could look in the palantir there, and sometimes be rewarded with a vision of Varda upon Oiolosse. Tolkien called Frodo and Sam's invocations to Varda Elbereth 'one of the few references to religion in the book, often overlooked'. (paraphrase from memory).


    ....


    To sum up - my personal view is that there ain't anything overtly religious in LotR. If anyone sees something there, then that's down to what Tolkien called 'applicability'.


    Thank you geordie, I had overlooked this. Certainly though this would not be a Christian form of worship, more an invocation of a goddess figure to the Elves. And you are quite right. It is all in the eye of the beholder.



    Edited by: Lilu Olnathron



  7. Quote Originally Posted by geordie
    Also, at some point or other, he said that he carefully went through the story and removed any overt religious attributes - I take this to be a measure of Tolkien's innate courtesy, which he extended to his readers (of his academic works as much as his fiction) - put simply, he did not believe it was for him to beat people over the head with his religion (as it were). Or, as he would have said; there are people whos calling it is to preach Christianity; they are called priests. On a personal level, he didn't much approve of his friend Lewis's sermons; on the radio or elsewhere.
    That's not quite right, I'm afraid. What Tolkien said (in Letter 142, to Father Robert Murray), was:
    The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally
    religious and Catholic work; unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the
    revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all
    references to anything like 'religion', to cults or practices, in the imaginary
    world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism.
    So he makes clear that in revising the work he solidified the Catholic symbolism. The removal of overt religious attributes in the revision process was not to avoid beating people over his head with his religion, but rather to avoid including religious elements in his imaginary world that directly conflicted with his religion.Now mind you, I am not a Catholic, nor a Christian of any kind, and I certainly take from The Lord of the Rings very different things than someone who is. But I think it is wrong to deny the influence of Tolkien's religion on his writings, particularly since he so explicitly made clear that he consciously included those elements in the story and the symbolism. Just as I think it is wrong to deny the influence of pagan mythology on his work. The merging of these two influences is one of the things that makes Tolkien's work so unique and compelling. In my opinion, of course.


  8. Beren Laerdir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tumhalad
    Yes, those "precepts" are Christian doctrine and no doubt "Christian thought" extends beyond them, but what is Christian "moral-philosophical and historical tradition" without biblical "facts"? When we say Tolkien is "Christian" what precisely does that mean? As for moral philosophical tradition I tried to point out that Tolkien's moral vision is in many way opposed to the Christian one which emphasises guilt, shame and the need for atonement.
    christian moral, philosophical and historical tradition is the summation of all its actions and thought systems. the translations and works of aquinas, or the works of kant or kierkegaard are part of a christian corpus of philosophical thought; the wars of cesare borgia or the 30 years war are an important part of catcholic history, representing as they do moments of the physical struggle with the idea of ceasaropapism. the primacy of the papacy over the pentarchate itself is another example. all of these combine to make up christianity, and the religions 2000 year history has many and more philosophers, moralists, peacemakers and warlords that add to its scope. to reduce all that down to facts from selected parts of a book which is indeed heavily edited to impart a certain viewpoint, even if that book is the bible, is to strawman the religion. (edit-given what you say through out the rest of your post, i think the writer(s) you may be taking issue with are the ones building with straw, and you are reacting to that. if that is the case sorry about the accusation!)

    I'm afraid I cannot comment on this in particular except to say that appreciating Boromir as a character does not require a knowledge of Christianity or Christian themes, and nor do many readers draw parallels between particular characters and Christian saints or themes or whatever. Michael Drout has even stated quite explicitly that Galadriel "...is not the Virgin Mary" (an exact quote).
    you misunderstand me. i am pointing out that these characters and their actions can be easily consumed and their meanings formulated by the reader in a christian manner. my very example also indicates an example of how they can be understood as examples of existentialist thought as well, given the importance of kierkegaard to that movement.

    Of course the academic perspective is never completely impartial, but I'm talking about degrees of impartiality here. Surely a trained academic with a great deal of literary expertise, who either disavows any explicit religious influence or at least acknowldges it, is more impartial than a Christian theologian who writes a book about how Bilbo can lead you to Jesus (while that may sound like caricature, it's really not!)
    they are quite different things; the latter-the "christian theologian" in your example, is not a man looking at TH/LOTR through a christian mindset so much as he is a man looking at TH/LOTR with a christian agenda. the devil is in the detail here, because whilst the former will find specific things that make them think "oh-this correlates well with x..." the latter will "force the square peg into the round hole".

    ultimately, i feel your specific problem is not with christians viewing Tolkien's stuff in their own way, but with christian writers trying to force it to conform with their agenda, whatever it may be. i agree fully with you that this is a highly problematic thing, which should be renounced. i just think that there is a considerable difference between this lamentable practice and with people simply pointing out that there can be parallels; to paraphrase mister T, the latter involves applicability, for former implies allegory, which any lover of his works should have a healthy distaste for. Edited by: Beren Laerdir
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  9. Dorwiniondil's Avatar
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    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" topmargin="1" leftmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">Of course, some Christians believe that far from being Christian, Tolkien was an occultist at best, and a satanist at worst. Here, for example:
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" topmargin="1" leftmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" topmargin="1" leftmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">http://www.lasttrumpetministries.org...s/tract11.html
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" topmargin="1" leftmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" topmargin="1" leftmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">and here: http://www.mombu.com/religion/bible-study/t-r-r-tolkiens-satanic-verses-evil-faith-witchcraft-clear-magic-4392191.html
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" topmargin="1" leftmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" topmargin="1" leftmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">Of course, Lewis is even worse; http://www.jesus-is-savior.com/Wolves/cs_lewis-fool.htm
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" topmargin="1" leftmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">
    <DIV marginheight="1" marginwidth="1" topmargin="1" leftmargin="1" ="WebWizRTE">(sorry, just couldn't resist ... )Edited by: Dorwiniondil
    "I am no longer young even in the reckoning of Men of the Ancient Houses."

  10. Ah, Dorwiniondil, here I was just gearing up to be serious . . .


    Troels Forchhammer, physicist, Denmark
    The love of Faery is the love of love: a relationship toward all things, animate and inanimate, which includes love and respect ...

  11. Dorwiniondil's Avatar
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    <DIV =WebWizRTE leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" marginheight="1" marginwidth="1">Oh dear yes. I think it was seeing the juxtaposition of S. A. Kierkegaard with C.G. Jung (not to mention I. Kant) that filled me with fear and trembling.
    "I am no longer young even in the reckoning of Men of the Ancient Houses."

  12. wiebkes's Avatar
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    Dorwiniondil what have I done???I talked a friend into watching LotR with me - and it was fun, so much fun. But now that friend might be lost for the true faith in physics and math because the devil of J.R.R. Tolkiens works (and the even greater devil of PJs interpretation as geordie might say) has touched him.
    Couldn't you warn us earlier that we joined a strange cult? That we are lost when we sign up at the plaza? That we will cause our friends to loose their path in science?

  13. Gee, Henry, The Science of Middle-earth— soon to be out in a second edition as e-book:http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Science-Middle-Earth-Henry/dp/0285637231



    Tolkien himself was a scientist! A scientist of language, yes, but a scientist nonetheless (as Gee points out, in Tolkien's day philology was more rigorously scientific than evolutionary biology).
    And I just lost 40 minutes worth of considered writings on the topic, so I'm a bit irritated with myself
    Troels Forchhammer, physicist, Denmark
    The love of Faery is the love of love: a relationship toward all things, animate and inanimate, which includes love and respect ...

  14. I'm sorry, but I just don't have the patience to recreate it all — what follows is a few of the points I wanted to make, but more haphazardly put together. I can only ask you to put up with this.



    Essentially I think it's a balance. I think Corey Olsen exaggerates the influence of Tolkien's faith on The Hobbit(though not by very much), but I also think that geordie very much underestimates the influence of Catholic ideas on The Lord of the Rings.
    I believe that the revision of The Lord of the Ringsmarks a change in the way Tolkien used his faith in his writings. Before that, his ‘Ardarin’ writings are generally reasonably consonant with Christian ideas, but certainly not in every detail, but after this point, Tolkien became more and more conscious about the connection, as can be seen e.g. from his extensive (but ultimately fruitless) pondering about the nature and origin of Orcs, from the Athrabeth Finrod ah Andreth(and associated writings) and much else.
    You can certainly read The Lord of the Ringswithout bothering about the Christian themes, but if you start asking yourself questions about how Tolkien's sub-created world works, the inner mechanics of causation in the story, then you need to understand the Catholic concepts of mercy, pity, forgiveness, providence, grace etc. Trying to use other conceptions of these ideas will inevitably lead you to erroneous answers.
    In The Hobbit, the attachment of a providential outlook in the last chapters has always appeared to me somewhat contrived — for most of the book Tolkien appears to me to have followed a (Northern?) heroic version of luck rather than the providential outlook that became the foundation of The Lord of the Rings.
    In the 1930s Quenta Silmarillionwe could still meet Morgoth as the creator of the Orcs with no hint of the theological problems that this would later cause Tolkien, in The Lord of the Ringswe meet both this view of Orcs, but also the later idea that Morgoth couldn't create and hence the Orcs were corrupted from Children of Ilúvatar.
    So, I think I have two main points:
    1. Catholic thought came to play a greater and greater importance in Tolkien's Ardarin writings, with the revision of The Lord of the Ringsinto a “fundamentally religious and Catholic work” marking a kind of turning-point: a point where this development was greatly accelerated so that it makes sense to speak of a ‘before’ and an ‘after’.
    2. It is certainly not necessary to look at the influence of Catholic ideas on Tolkien's Ardarin writings in order to <i style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: small;">appreciate[/i]Tolkien's work, but if you wish to <i style="font-family: Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: small;">understand[/i]it, it is essential that you understand this influence as well (among many other influences).
    Troels Forchhammer, physicist, Denmark
    The love of Faery is the love of love: a relationship toward all things, animate and inanimate, which includes love and respect ...

  15. Beren Laerdir's Avatar
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    #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Dorwiniondil
    &lt;DIV =WebWizRTE leftmargin="1" topmargin="1" marginheight="1" marginwidth="1"&gt;Oh dear yes. I think it was seeing the juxtaposition of S. A. Kierkegaard with C.G. Jung (not to mention I. Kant) that filled me with fear and trembling.
    Did you perchance experience the terror of the sublime?
    obsessive blind guardian fan,
    <br />
    <br />i perpetually yearn for times past and places that never were. that yearning grows heavier in me every day...

  16. Dorwiniondil's Avatar
    Old Took
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    #16
    Not exactly - more a case of neither / nor (my head hurts).
    "I am no longer young even in the reckoning of Men of the Ancient Houses."

  17. Beren Laerdir's Avatar
    Master Craftsman of Lindon
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    #17
    It's a non stop punomenon

    I have to say, those links trod a fine line between sad and funny dorwiniondil
    obsessive blind guardian fan,
    <br />
    <br />i perpetually yearn for times past and places that never were. that yearning grows heavier in me every day...

  18. Globümûdû's Avatar
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    #18
    Nice discussion so far....I agree actually with a lot of what you've said in the OP. (For a little background, I am a rock solid Catholic so that should you give you a better understanding of where I'm coming from for those who don't know me)....
    Like I said, great OP, I just have a few minor squabbles, this being one:
    That which is good is good for its own sake (a very humanistic point that is often overlooked in Tolkien, I think). (Tumhalad)
    Combine that with this one:

    The themes of sacrifice, honour, loyalty, end of times, can be compared to most theologies or mythologies, and are not just Christian virtues. (Lilu Olnathron)
    OK, I wanna clear a little something up. I am not going to speak for Evangelicals or any other Christians because that would not be fair to them.....however, there is a misunderstanding of the Christian (Catholic) understanding in those statements.
    First of all, we believe there is absolute truth. If you tell me you don't believe that, I will ask you if you are absolutely sure, rob you, and tell the judge it never happened because "everything is relative."
    So if there is absolute truth (which is what the Catholic Church teaches) then what is good is good. If an evil person accepts something good, that does not detract from its goodness. Like if Hitler thought reason was a good thing, reason was not any less good because reason is good in itself. Therefore it is wrong to call any virtue "Christian", unless you mean that only Christians accept that ideal as good. All people see loyalty as good in itself; just because a Mormon accepts that doesn't make loyalty any more LDS than it is Catholic or Jewish for that matter. I hope that makes sense.

    Catholics believe that if something is good, we should use it. For example, Aquinas built on the philosophy of Aristotle, who was not Catholic. Aristotle taught truth; truth is good. Aquinas could care less if truth was not "Catholic"(like, Aristotle wasn't Catholic); truth has to be Catholic because Catholicism only teaches truth. (Yeah yeah I just contradicted myself but you see what I'm saying. Sorry if I'm going into religion too much, trying to keep it on philosophy but am trying to explain it better).
    So basically a virtue which is inherently good is no more "Saxon" than it is "Catholic". It is good, and that is what makes it a virtue.
    What does this have to do with this thread? Let me tie it in.
    It is true that some authors go out of their way to "prove" that Tolkien's works are "Catholic". Whether that be calling Frodo a priest, saying Gandalf is like Jesus, etc., that is just wrong bnecause it goes against everything Tolkien said (aside from being dumb sometimes) But when most people say Tolkien's works are "Catholic", they mean that they correspond to the truths taught by the Catholic Church.
    Like for example, Tolkien's works are Catholic, because they embrace the ideals of sacrifice, heroism, and perseverance. These ideals are embedded in Catholicism.
    I hope that made sense? I see where you are coming from and I agree with you, but I have no problem with somebody saying Tolkien's works are Catholic because of some noble truth. On the other hand hidden connections and stuff like that is dumb, of course. And of course, if someone were to come out and say Tolkien's works were Jewish for the same reason....they could get away with it very easily by proving their points (though it wouldn't make much sense since Tolkien wasn't Jewish.....) I better shut up before I say something else very stupid.
    All of the other things, like Elbereth/prayers, and The Akallbeth....as he himself said there is no allegory, I believe he wrote them in out of his subconscious...
    .For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism. (Letter 142)
    I kind of see the word "absorbed" as meaning "subconscious" but that is opening a whole new door.....
    Dorwiniondil, would you please stop letting out our little secret?

    (that was sarcasm for all you haters) (word haters used in jest you know)

  19. Bostonion's Avatar
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    #19


    Tolkien himself was a scientist! A scientist of language, yes, but a scientist nonetheless (as Gee points out, in Tolkien's day philology was more rigorously scientific than evolutionary biology). -TroelsfoFor quite a while actually, many of the world's greatest scientific minds were members of a religious community, as science and religion were seen as compliments to one another in achieving Truth. Your comment though sparked another thought, and that is, if I read a religious context in Tolkien's books, it's actually a religion of language. I think about oaths and the biblical oaths that first come to mind are the oaths between God and God's people. There are many examples of oaths throughout Tolkien's legendarium, Oath of Cirion and Eorl, the oath between Isildur and the Soon-to-be-dead-men (it's late and the name of their geographical inhabitance in Middle-earth escapes me right now ), Oath of Feanor...etcThe power of the biblical oaths always seemed to be derived from God (although I am not at all a Christian theologian, so if this is not right, then feel free to correct me). The consequences of breaking a sworn word to God comes from the fact of the supreme powers as God.

    The power of oaths in Tolkien seems, to me, to come from the power of language; or the fact that there is power to sworn words between two consenting parties.

    "Yet sworn word may strengthen quaking heart" said Gimli
    "Or break it," said Elrond. - FOTR: The Ring Goes SouthThis isa very short dialogue between Gimli and Elrond, but it was one of my favorite exchanges in the books. Not only Gimli highlighting the positive reasons for taking an oath, but Elrond succinctly stating the severe danger of oath-breaking. The power isn't in swearing an oath to a supremely powerful being, but in the power of language, in the making of the "sworn word."



    everything is a copy, of a copy, of a copy

  20. Stronghold's Avatar
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    #20
    That is a very good post, Eafurth. I think that is a good way to explain the literary use of universal truths vs. specific religious ones. It also would help the layman understand the nature of religious arguments... the most important of which are over absolute truths and how they were arrived at.
    Melenkurion Abatha Duroc Minas Mil Khabaal, pal

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