Free Speech and Religion

Oh, I know, I know. I'm not that naive nor deluded :unamused: :wink: (and BTW, I'm not a touchy pagan, I'm a secular agnostic that passionately dislikes fundamentalist Abrahamic relgions, if I indeed seem to have pagan sympathies in my use of the setting is just because pagan religions arouse more of my sympathies because well, followers of Thor and Apollo have done no Inquisitions or jihads). It's not about beliefs, it's about projecting my own RL sympathies (and prejudices, if you wish) on the setting. I just happen to find the beliefs and practices of the Middle Age Church absolutely and totally loathsome, repugnant, and a scourge on mankind's spirit. So I find somewhat unconfortable with using stories that cast the Church in too much of a positive light and objectively "right". I would prefer to use the Divine at the very least as an ineffable and mysterious force that equally sanctions the existence of all realms and allows the monotheistic faithful to draw power from it for its own mysterious reasons, but in no way directly sanctions the practices and beliefs of the Church, which are largely wrong, yet It lets priests do their stuff in the same way demons are wllowed to do theirs. Otherwise, the Divine itself should be depicted as a negative force and an enemy of mankind, just like Infernalism with an inverted sign. For my own version of the ArM setting being pleasurable, the Church must be massively wrong about so many things. Otherwise I should be forced to treat God itself as an enemy of mankind. Therefore, I would prefer to treat the links between the true nature and wishes of the Divine and the beliefs and practices of the Church as fuzzy, indirect, and ineffable as possible.

Heck, I'm a member of one of the Abrahamic relgions (not too fundamentalist, I hope!) and I still prefer my Ars Magica in the style that you describe Wanderer. It's causing me to have a weird love/hate relationship with RoP: the Divine (and to a lesser extent, the Infernal).

For what it is worth, in ArM5, the Divine is ineffable and mysterious reasons, and the Church no longer has an absolute monopoly on the truth, and is massively wrong on a number of accounts (such as Muslims being idolaters).

I think you are projecting your own prejudices on ArM5's depiction of the Divine and the Church. If you read it, you'll find a varied, textured and complex (and more realistic) depiction of monotheistic religion, and of pagan religion (who aren't wrong, per se, since there are many pagan "gods", just wrong about there being a single, omnipotent divine creator).

  • Alex -

But in Mythic Europe, everything with a soul gets eternal life as a freebie: you just get it dipped in boiling lead if you are naughty.


Well, as a matter of fact I have to acknowledge gladly that 5th.ed has done a generous effort to move the setting in this direction, with RoP:D and RoP:I creating some serious distance between the Divine and Church dogma. This is no more the repellent Pax Dei, where tyrannical and genocidal priests were directly sanctioned by God happily to do any kind of horrendous abuse, as long as it was done in its Name. Nonetheless, using Eden in a story according to the literal detail of Genesis seems me somewhat of a unwarranted and distasteful backsliding. However, after some further thought, I've realized that I can use it in a acceptable way, by making some serious alteration to the literal tale. I.e. Adam and Eve aren't the progenitors of the whole human race, they are just the first humans touched by the Divine, humans were pre-existing outside of Eden, the Garden was a special experiment by God to test humans and Creation, other offshoots of humanity were created by pagan gods (e.g Promethan, Odin), and the true origins of mankind and the Universe are a mystery. After all, where the wife of Cain came from ?

On this angle, I suddenly feel overcome by the urge to go totally off-topic and quote a classic joke by Roberto Benigni, even if my lame retelling from memory totally fails to recapture all the irresistible funny suggestive nuances that Roberto lends to it (to understand it, Italian spellings of the names must be kept):

Once Caino and Abele hit pubery, Caino, older and more adventurous and with some serious hormones raging, started going out every evening, dressed smartly, to seek some fun. But, alas, he always found rocks, trees, grass, animals, water, but no women, nothing. And he got more and more frustrated. And one day he started lookiing at Abele funny. "Ok, Abele, I've got it, Mom, Dad, and you did a good joke on me. Now drop it. You see, Adam-O, man. Cain-O, man. Ev-A, woman. Abel-E. It's not an A, but it's enough. You are a woman, aren't you ?" And he started undressing Abele. His kin resisted, and in the fight Abele got killed. God spoke "What have you done ? You have killed your brother" "Sister, you mean" "Silence, you are a murderer, I'll send you to Hell" "Are there any women in Hell ?" "Begone, you accursed". And Caino arrived to Hell, with the Devil all happy to get his first customer. "Welcome, I'm Satana" "Ahh, Satan-A !!", and Caino jumped. And in the furious, rough tumble between Caino and Satana in the fiery pits of Hell, the unlucky human race was born.

That's the Infernalist recruting line argument, and it has a good point: if you won't submit, and can't win on your own, go join the opposition. Too bad that Infernalists in the setting aren't heroic gallant rebels against a cosmic tyrant, they are bastards just as bad as what they oppose, the mystical equivalent of rebels that bomb buses and malls.

That's why my sympathies go to the None of the Boave option pagan Viking mages burning churches, who just as happily keep the minons of the Dark One at spell's end (at most they can accept a Chthonic blessing) 8) :smiling_imp:

Okay I've been following this debate from the sidelines. I am amazed what a repetition of the earlier thread on mystery cults it is. Or a very vivid deja vu. I don't want to go through all the same notions over again, so I'll only be tossing in my two generel chips:

[size=117]On YMMV[/size]
Wanderer we have very different takes on Ars, Mythic Europe and on roleplaying in generel. That's yesterday's news. Where you see the destinations in AnM I see the roads. Where you relish the power to be gained I relish the stories to be had.

What lies at the destination might spur on the characters; what appeals to me are the grand stories and siren plot hooks in AnM. I would let the mystery draw them onward and have the story span sagas. I would only use one or at least only a very very limited number of the secrets in a given saga - not because of their impact on the game setting alone, but most definately because I think sense of wonder and antiquity is lessened by volume. Even if only using one, if any of the secrets in the book, I would not feel my money or time reading it wasted. There is plenty of material for future sagas, for generel mood and theme rumors of Seekers in the neighbourhood or even as failed attempts of the PC to... (sneak into Eden, retreiving fertility fetishes or learning Canaanite necromancy etc). I dont find the free form consequences pushing the Hermetic Theory so interesting in it self, even if empowering, but I rather think of the changes in terms of the multitudes of storypotential from the very process of their implementation; who will get involved and who might oppose it and how and with what means? What are the stakes when you rattle the equilibrum of the Order? Who will step unto the stage? What cracks might it create, expand or solve within the Order? When first the power is there - what ever it is - it will be of less interest. It will sort of turn wonderless. Or in someone else's approximate words - why then play a Hermetic in Mythic Europe if I really wanted something else to begin with?

The above is all a question of the immortalised YMMV. It's great that the game can embrace a heterogen crowd of fans. It's also great that we can debate on the forum; get input, inspiration, strengthen our knowledge of the game and distilate our respective visions of ME. So even as we differ I respect the differences and your position. Or maybe because of it.

[size=117]and Respect[/size]
To what extent you draw on your RL sentiments in your roleplaying is not mine or anyone elses business either, nor your antipathy toward Abrahamic faiths. But respect on a forum can only exist as a mutual thing. And even if you despise certain churches and faiths or for that matter dislike an author's work, respect is nevertheless still a cornerstone. And when you take your grievances and the chips they got you on your shoulder out of your own game back home and vent them here; when you move on to trash what other people hold sacred, then you do not give respect and in turn looses others respect toward yourself. I can only speak for myself, but several of your comments in this thread has, by proxy, had that effect on me. It is possible to be passionate and invovled without having to trash either authors or gods (in whatever ranking order). When you trash what to others is important you also trash those people - even if you neither target them nor call them out.

Kindly consider it.

I was somehow reluctant to answer this part, but again I feel important to explain myself. I've heard and considered your plea for sensible speech, and respectfully but forcefully I must answer "No". Sorry.

It's not my purpose to bore anyone and be an ass by coming in this forum, or another one, and launch in an unwarranted and unasked tirade about my own beliefs. If however, in the course of discussion, someone asks me or comments about my gaming preferences, and those happen to be justified by my RL beliefs, I will feel dutybound and entitled to explain such reasons, in frank terms. The Abrahamic argument came from my comment that I was hesistant to use the Eden story b/c I dislike such religions, not because it was uninteresting or badly-written. It was a way of explaining my opinion. It indicates that I do not see any other reason of not using it, apart from sheer lack of interest in the topic. If a discussion develops from it, it's spontaneous discussion, not a preplanned soap-box. The thread title I started was "my impressions about Ancient Magic", not "how many Bibles and Korans I would burn daily". However, once the discussion arises, if I feel interesting to take part, I will, and I recognize personal offense and truth as the only boundary in speech. I will respect other people, as persons, but beliefs aren't persons. I will never say that a person is because it believes , but I will never fail to say my opinion about the belief by itself.

On rereading my comments about Timothy's work, they seem rather fair-minded to me. I praised some stuff, criticized something else, even told how IMO it might be done better. Which AnM author's work did I criticize in an offensive way ? About faiths, I respect the faithful, not necessarily the faith. If I think some belief is harmful (and there have been plenty in hostory, both religious and secular), and the discussion is appropriate for the statement, I will tell. I won't however interrupt a nice discussion about prices of wool in Renaissance London to speak my mind about how much Communism sucks. An ongoing discussion about the effects of setting up a Covenant as a agrarian communistic system, however, might eventually trigger such a comment, as a sidenote.

My committment to respect of other people extend to themselves. Not their ideas. Other people are quite welcome to trash my beliefs, and to tell me that at length. As long as they are not moved to violence, it's quite fine for me.

Have my sincerest feelings of regret that the present discussion caused you to feel disconfort. My sympathy. However, I won't excuse for having any kind of opinion, no matter how unpopular or how sensitive the topic, or for being frank about my opinions, ever. Freedom of speech and thought is too important to me. I can make an exception for tact, and avoid telling an opinion when it is plain that it would cause someone serious grief, because of the circumstances (I won't explain my agnostic beliefs at the grieving widow when it's plain that religion is a confort) but I will never do self-censorship because I might harm the feelings of some random sensible person in an ongoing discussion.

Sorry, I can make a sincere effort to avoid unwarrated viciousness, but IMO truth, freedom of expression, and intellectual honesty are far more important than sparing everyone from even the slightest harm to their feelings. I won't purposefully trash someone's feelings for the sake of doing it, but frank, sharp, and blunt negative opinions are the best expression of my ideas, I will speak my mind. In sum, if you won't hear my opinion about anything, don't ask or provoke for it, beacuse it will tel it just the way it is. For what I care, political correctness and its offshoots can join the deepest pits of whatever oterworldy place of torment you believe in.

Done. But I've made my mind about it long ago. I have very much appreciated the way you expressed your disconfort, and I feel regret and sadness that it caused you or anyone else disconfort, but IMO there are more important things for whose worth it is better to accept some disconfort, I must say I don't think it's the right thing to do, so I won't. Sorry.

Wanderer you are missing my point.

I am talking about form and not substance!

I was not asking you for any kind of self-censorship on what belongs here or not; what issues to discuss, relate or explain. What opinions to be in or out. When I say that you're RL sentiments are not my business the point is not to say you shouldn't went them here! On the contrary the point is that it is not anyone elses business to judged or question them, as they in all essense are YMMV. My point was to establish that I were about to do that in the sense of critizising not your sentiments but your method of venting it. I have not and will not forward any notion of distinguishing what subjects or opinions people might feel like posting, but this forum is however something we attend to discuss Ars Magic and Mythic Europe, so anyone has the responsibility to post in a tone respecting that we all hail from very different real life situations and sentiments. The responsibility to not use a form, to express one's substance of opinion, that might abuse, trash or bully; to not use a form that goes beyond stating your opinion genuinely to become derogatory.

To avoid any possible misunderstaning of my point: it is a not a matter of your opinions Wanderer, but the form in which you voice them!

Do not make this into an issue of rights of freedom of speech or political correctness. Frankly just as we all have our right to write as we please, all Ars fans should have the right to come here and participate without their real life sentiments being attacked in a derogatory form. Freedom of speech is not the right to verbal battery nor is common decency not the same as political correctness. Political correctness implies strategically speaking against your true sentiments or keeping your silent out of fear of the social stigma or connected loss of otherwise possible social options. Decency on the other hand is not out of strategy or stigma, but choosing your words out of genuine respect and consideration of those you address. Rasing the banner of free speech and/or claiming that calls for decency is a political correctness infringing on that freedom is curiously often proclaimed by those who would abuse it.

And finally to making something crystal clear to you: I do not believe in any otherworldly place of torment nor is being "random sensitive" or "slightest harm" the issue! It is a mistake to think my response as partisan or an attack on the substance of your views. I am not religious myself - the buttons you hit are not religious either. They are out of simple humanitarianism.

I personally found the tone of your comments here aswell as in the TMRE thread linked earlier unduely personal and belligerent in nature, but in any instance I think Timothy is the best judge of that, so I'll leave it at that.

It is a mistake to narrow voilence to physical voilence. In a matter of fact my initial response was spured by your verbal abuse of other peoples faith; even if cloaked in irony. That you extend a mutual invitation to trashing makes no difference. To the lurker or those feeling pommeled that gesture makes no difference what so ever. Especially since they might opt never to answer or start posting. Granting a mutual jus ad bellum-like casus belli does after all not subside the jus in bello.

And the somewhat fantasy-ized Middle Ages versions of RL religions happen to be a big part of both, so periodic discussions about those issues are bound to arise. It's about Catholicism, Islam, Judaism, Asatru, Greco-Roman paganism, not followers of Shazzarrok or Yog-Sothoth.

Which I translate as "do not make offensive and inflammatory statements versus people that hold such sentiments, such as "Zoroastrians are crazy and dangerous". The beliefs themselves, are another matter. It is perfectly in-topic to tell that I won't use such-and-such character concept or setting element because I don't like the RL thing that it is plainly inspired from, and in a discussion it is natural to express opinions of dislike in frank, strong terms, or to express negative opinions about belief systems which have been and are openly expressed by millions everywhere, and can be met in every library or corner of the net. Frankly, my trust in mankind is too great to accept that the psyche of the average person could be significantly wounded by being suddendly and forcefully reminded that some other fan of the same hobby, somewhere in the big world, holds totally negative opinions of some cherished belief of oneself. Such things simply belongs to the facts of life.

I have some idea of what to do in order not to abuse, trash, bully, or be derogatory towards other people. I have some guidelines about how to be decent towards people. I have not the slightest idea of how to avoid doing nasty things to beliefs, or be nice to them, nor really, really I care to learn how to. Since IMO the world becomes a better place in the long run if ideas do get all the abuse they deserve in the opinion of whoever thinks it so.

I despise something is not an attack. It is a statement of belief. Just like the belief it is expressed about. I deem that such and such belief was, or is, negative, dangerous, or harmful is an opinion. Another belief. Which deserves just equal respect as the original one, and equal airspace. You feel such and such because you lack the intelligence/maturity/sensibility to feel otherwise, that's an attack.

And I will, to people, according to circumstances and appropriateness. But don't ask me to extend to ideas the same standard.

So is my stance. Because IMO it is far, far better in the long run for the intellectual growth and psychic health of mankind that frank, sharp, blunt, and even violent freedom of expression is given the largest possible field, short of directly creating physical violence, or serving no tenous slighest useful purpose for the transmission of ideas, and that it is far better some bruised sensibility, here and there, than treating people like infants with no skin. Overprotectiveness is harmful and dangerous to people when they grow up, and it keeps so in adulthood.

This has nothing to do with Ancient Magic, so I've pulled it out into a separate thread. FEAR my moderator powers! Muahaha!


On the general principle of free speech, I agree with Wanderer: free speech does include the freedom to be offensive, insulting, and mocking, even of people's most deeply held beliefs (even, perhaps, especially of such beliefs), and the response to that should be no more serious than being mocked and insulted back.


This is an Ars Magica dicussion board, and stating your opinion of real-world religions in offensive terms is inappropriate here. I'm not going to censor people who criticise the game or particular products in an offensive manner, because that's what the board is for. (Well, hopefully not exclusively, but at least in part.) I'd prefer they didn't, but the freedom needs to be preserved.

But being offensive about off-topic matters is different, and your (generic your) opinion of the historical actions of the Abrahamic religions is off-topic.

In short, if you're on topic, I won't stop you being offensive, although it won't improve my opinion of you. If you want to make off-topic comments, you're already on sufferance, so be nice. If you can't be nice without feeling like a hypocrite, then say nothing.

I personally found the tone of your comments here aswell as in the TMRE thread linked earlier unduely personal and belligerent in nature, but in any instance I think Timothy is the best judge of that, so I'll leave it at that.


I'm not suprised, Wanderer, that you find what you yourself have said, and believe, to be fair minded. Ver few people feel they aren't fair-minded people.

Basically, though, I made such a pest of myself in my early years on the net that I can't go around berating people.

In my own personal terms, the only time I felt offended by your comments, which, as I pointed out were based around the monosyllable "meh" which is as meaningless to me as, say my local "khe" is to you, was when you said I'd chosen to write the way I did because the power level gave me cold feet. Now, locally, cold feet are consdiered to be the physical symptom of cowardice. At that point you made a comment directly about me, rather than my work. I can see that wherever you come, things may not mean the same things, and so I just thought I'd let it pass, but if you are asking for comment on your comments, here's a genenral principle:

Whenever you comment on the reason an author has chosen material, or worked material in a particular way, then you are commenting about the author, not the material. If your reason is game related, like "He changed the Tremere because he thought they were broken" or "I don';t think this fixes the Criamon because it limits my play style." then that's cool. For me, anyway. If you go any further into deconstructive analysis of the authors, then that's a hazazrd, because you come out sounding offensive.

I didn't choose co-ordinates because I was scared of the changes wrought by high power level: I chose them because, as it says in the front of the Infernal book, I collect succulents. I own a dragon tree, and a Schwatzkopf and noticed they both came from the same place, and that it is just past the edge of the Order. Then I thought "Why -dragon- tree, precisely?" and seeing what material follows naturally from there. I shouldn't have to explain this to you though: you should just cut me enough slack on the creative process that I don't need to explain to you that my selection is not based on my having an undesirable personal trait.

But I decided to let that pass: on the net its easy to misread tone, and what you say may mean different things where you are. Coldfeet may be great indigenous hunters or, whatever.

I'm cool with you. I don't agree with you on Abrahamic religion, which I see as a useful step forward from what came before, but there you go...

Then pardon me, but at one point of our discussion, you sounded to me as one reason for your choice was (IMO excessive and unwarranted) concern for power level and setting changes. Sorry if I misinterpreted.

I understand your stance, but I also have to remark that in a discussion on a game where somewhat mythologized on the otherworldy side, but nonetheless fairly close to historical stuff on the social and cultural side, versions of Abrahamic religions squat on the vast majority of the setting, it may be rather difficult to always draw the line accurately. Especially when the game setting's timeline falls where (or fairly close to) some of said religions did their worst. Discussions on the Divine and the Infernal are unavoidably prone to slide (sometimes very quickly) on the slippery slope from strict setting stuff to the bigger historical reality.

One can make an ongoing effort to keep the distinction, but sometimes the distinction is going to feel hypocritical. The statement "I don't like to use Divine PCs because IMO the Church in ArM are bigot tyrant enemies of mankind that destroy wonder and freedom, I prefer to use them as cannon-fodder enemy NPCs that I hunt down and slaughter just like Infernalists"***, theoretically it's a perfectly fine on-topic statement in any ongoing discussion that involves the Divine or the Infernal, if maybe in strong language, but then that's within the free speech style choice of the writer, because I'm speaking about a purely fictional game element in ArM setting and my way of using it, but in practice anyone can see from which RL ideas such a stance is likely coming from, and may choose to comment on the real reasons for that stance, and nobody likes to look like a moron that can't adequately explain the reasons for his own choices. Therefore, nobody (I think) wants to come to your nice forum to stage purposeful soap-boxes tirades on RL politics or religion, but discussions have a life all their own, and may often go where they want. And nobody likes to self-censor (which always being nice is) because the game topic has RL reflections or equivalents and the discussion may or does suddenly wander in that direction. Not purposefully stoking fires, but no self-censorship, either.

In sum, in a game where there are supplements like Divine and Infernal, discussions about RL religion are sometimes unavoidable. If you wish people to find them interesting enough to buy them, that is. :wink:

***Note: this statement may feel biased against the generous effort you and 5th Ed. authors have done to redress the previous horrid "Pax Dei" stance of the Divine in ArM, and to give it a more nuanced and balanced situation. I very much appreciate it and acknowledge it. It is but one of the elements that lead me to assume that the current edition fo the game is the by far best version ever. The point is, in order to be confortable into giving religious characters and organizations a positive and friendly representation, I need them to be something closely approaching modern liberal religion. This, while possible in ArM for fringe and individual characters and subgroups, is sadly wholly unrealistic and anchronistic without massive alterations to the canon setting.