fidesquaerens (marta_bee) wrote,

interesting piece on Richard Dawkins, the Inklings, and the value of faery-stories

.... here. Quoting from Lewis's "Three Ways of Writing for Children" and Tolkien's "On Fairy Tales," the author tries to answer Dawkins's concern that fiction, even our best-loved fairy-tales, encourage kids to accept the supernatural. Basically, believing in wizards and hobbits and consulting detectives is supposed to make us believe in other things as well that we don't have the evidence for, like God.

Only that's not the way fairy-tales work, is it? I grew up on a steady diet of Germanic folklore, but I don't think I ever thought Baba Yaga existed in the same way the great-grandmother who told me the story did, at least not since I was old enough to grasp the difference. It's probably why I never felt disillusioned by Santa Claus, another story the article mentions: because when I was, maybe, seven or eight i asked whether Santa Claus really existed, and that same great-grandmother told me that, no, there wasn't a house you could go visit at the North Pole if you traveled far enough, he didn't exist like we did, but that he did teach us about what should be, how we should care for strangers we never met and how everyone deserved nice things - just as Baba Yaga told us what it meant to be scared and brave.

And that carried over to how I thought about science, too. I knew at a young age that there was a difference between how I thought things should be or what I hoped for or was scared of, and how they actually were. Science was about the latter. The former still mattered because it gave me the conviction to use the how-things-actually-are in the best way possible, but I had to keep that separate from science because what I was afraid of or hoped for couldn't color my perception of how things really, literally were. This is entirely different from how most religious people (myself included) thinks God exists, interestingly, and I sometimes think a little faery would go a long way in helping us think more rationally even about religion. For instance, while I believe in God, it's largely my ability to dream big (which, apologies, traces back more to Grimm than to Einstein or Darwin) that leads me to be so critical of some of the ideas people have about God that seem so unworthy of the idea. The tribalism. The petty sky-god punishing my enemies. It's faery that's given me the ability to say anyone worthy of the name of God wouldn't act like that. It's also faery that taught me the difference between "I'd really like this to be literally, factually true" and "I have good reason to believe it actually is true" - an ability I can only hope someone like Dawkins would approve of.

Anyway. The essay. It's worth reading if only because it has a really nice discussion of Lewis and JRRT's views on the importance of good stories, even (perhaps especially) fantasy. I actually disagree with the author's point at the end, that reading great stories and participating in creation actually gives us a reason we should believe in a Story-teller, but that's a tiny part of the piece. I'm really recommending it for the discussion of the Inklings, which I found interesting.
Tags: dawkins, fantasy, lewis, philosophy, tolkien
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