Religion on Pern? – Richard J. Woods

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On the topic of religion on Pern, Richard J. Woods offers the following commentary and quotes:

“When asked by one interviewer why the people of Pern were not overtly religious, Anne explained,
“As you probably realize, during a terrible war situation people either cling as their last hope to the religion of their choice, or they become agnostic, losing their belief in a Good, Kindly [and] Wise Deity who has allowed such atrocities to happen to innocent people. The colonists who went with Admiral Benden and Governor Boll were of the second type, especially from groups who had suffered from atrocities committed BECAUSE of religion: notice what’s happening in Kosovo and Iran. What happened to the Mormons in the USA? So no ORGANIZED religion was brought to Pern and none was set up. There is, however, a strong ethical code among the colonists and by this they govern their lives and interactions. Not even Thread was allowed to alter these precepts.” [http://pernhome.com/aim/anne-mccaffrey/frequently-asked-questions/]

[Woods continues:] Anne was well aware of the role “organized” religion played in bloody strife, not least in Northern Ireland, as well as in other global hotspots. She – along with her Pern colonists – deliberately precluded that from marring what was planned to be a permanently peaceful new world, at least in that respect. There would be plenty of malice, greed, hate, and violence, of course – what would fiction be without them? – but not as the result of religious conflict. Not on her planet! I suppose it could be argued from this that Anne’s evaluation of what religion ought to be was, in fact, too lofty. She was hardly a utopian, but she had high ideals.
As we learn from Emily Boll’s speech in Dragonsdawn, eliminating organized religion from Pern had been deliberate from the earliest phases of the colonists’ planning:
“We may not be religious in the archaic meaning of the word, but it makes good sense to give worker and beast one day’s rest,” Emily stated in the second of the mass meetings. “The old Judean Bible used by some of the old religious sects on Earth contained a great many commonsensible suggestions for an agricultural society, and some moral and ethical traditions are worthy of retention” – she held up a hand, smiling benignly – “but without any hint of fanatic adherence! We left that back on Earth along with war!”

Though admittedly smug, Emily’s statement effectively summarized the colonists’ rationale. Anne’s own explanation [-p.157] (supplied after the fat hit the fire following the publication of “Beyond Between” in 2003) provided some personally meaningful detail:
“I figured – since there were four holy wars going on at the time of writing – that religion was one problem Pern didn’t need. However, if one listens to childhood teachings, God is everywhere so there should be no question in any mind that he is also on Pern. Thus, there is a heaven to which worthy souls go. So, without mentioning any denomination of organized religion, I figured that both Moreta and Leri deserved respite after their trials … and that’s where “Beyond Between” is.” [http://www.writing-world.com/sf/mccaffrey.shtml]” (pp.156-157)

Woods also notes that: “Absent organized religion on Pern, the matter of profanity also posed something of a problem, if one more literary than political. For reasons deep and dark, religion (next only to sex) seems always to have provided humankind matter for its most outrageous and, therefore, useful expletives, frequently curses involving the inappropriate use of the Lord’s name or ingenious (and obscene) references to sacred body parts. The retrospective volume Dragonsdawn does find the original colonists swearing colorfully, if not frequently, including some vocabulary that would have seemed out of place in the original Pern stories. But even these hardy pioneers seem temperate in employing the usual religious epithets, giving the more heated exchanges a kind of Victorian hue. But it is cumbersome even to be mildly profane when there is no fanum to be outside of.” (p.160)

Ref: (emphases in blue bold mine; italics in original) Richard J. Woods ‘Religion on Pern?’ pp.150-170 Ed. Todd McCaffrey, with Leah Wilson (2013) Dragonwriter: A tribute to Anne McCaffrey and Pern. Smart Pop, Dallas, Texas

Woods’s quoting of McCaffrey is taken from: http://www.writing-world.com/sf/mccaffrey.shtml

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