Readers of my story “The Monk” might have noticed recently that the story line has moved into the next phase of development. Key parts of the background for the story are being revealed. This is a bit of a new genre because most stories about religion tend to be about existing religions, while for this story I am inventing two entirely new religions that exist in opposition to each other. The clerics of the two faiths are battling with each other and soon there will be a war of words developing as the two faiths battle for the hearts, minds, and souls of the characters.
Fans of the Star Wars franchise will point out that the Jedi and the Sith reflect two opposing religions. However, in no part of the movie franchise do the Jedi and Sith battle out their differences in a debate or dialectical struggle. They just fight violently with each other immediately on contact. This battle of goodies and baddies was enough for me as a child, but as an adult I find myself disturbed by the mindlessness of their constant warfare. The imperial and the republican forces may well represent the globalist and nationalist political forces that have existed throughout human history, but because the movies never delve into depth about the ideology driving the two factions one cannot easily distinguish the two. Luke Skywalker never once shows any remorse for the people he murders throughout the series with the exception of his own father. We never learn about Luke’s thought process, and it’s bothered me whether or not he is actually a good person.
Turning away from the shallowness of Star Wars to the depth of philosophy. It’s rather curious how of the five traditional fields of philosophy there isn’t a sixth field of theology even though Plato invented the field of theology with his ideas of philosophical monotheism. Of course traditionally there is much tension between philosophers and theologians… or is there? In the European religious tradition there are many theologians who are skilled at philosophy. The separation of faith and philosophy is a recent development of the enlightenment if it exists at all in the West. In the Monk I want emphasise an aspect of religion rooted in philosophy and not superstition.
I am also writing “The Monk” partly because I have wanted to read an exciting story about religion and generally the few plot lines about religion typically focus on particular individuals either moving towards faith or away from it. The exceptions are these “devil comes to Earth” stories that generally make a mockery of religion by their massive contradictions where the devil has loyal servants yet he’s a traitor to even his followers, or god is all powerful yet the devil is allowed to befoul his creation. My favourite religious book was “Paradise Lost”; perhaps one of the most beautiful books about religion I have read, however, it still wasn’t exciting enough for me. I want a story about religion that’s got action and adventure in it!
I didn’t want to write it about an existing religion because existing religions are bogged down by their own history and dogma. I wanted something fresh so that my readers would experience the confusion and wonder my protagonists experience as they try to grapple with an entirely different way of framing their lives, morality, and the universe. I do want to introduce other religious characters like a Christian, a new age hippy, a wiccan, an atheist, a Buddhist, etc… in there at some stage so there’s more conflicts that help illustrate the tension between different belief systems.
The first major topic of religious discussion I plan to bring up is prayer. How different people approach prayer, and how prayer impacts a person’s life and thinking. I was writing down all the different ways people pray and it fascinates me how little in common any two religions can have in regards to prayer. I don’t want to discuss details because that would be spoilers! Anyway, I hope you’re enjoying the Monk.