Monday, 1 February 2010

Terry Pratchett the Theologian

Terry Pratchett is best known as the author of the fabulous Discworld novels. More recently, his diagnosis with Alzheimer's has brought him into the spotlight as both a fundraiser for Alzheimer's research and a participant in the debate over assisted suicide. His recent Dimbleby Lecture, Shaking Hands With Death is available on iPlayer.

So, in his honour, I thought I'd post a couple of interesting quotes.

The first is from the lesser-known Discworld book Eric, a parody of Faust. When my grandfather died, many years ago, we discovered that he had typed this quote out and put it in his writing box.

  • The gods of the Disc have never bothered much about judging the souls of the dead, and so people only go to hell if that's where they believe, in their deepest heart, that they deserve to go. Which they won't do if they don't know about it. This explains why it is so important to shoot missionaries on sight.
The next quote is from Pratchett's latest book Unseen Academicals.

  • The Patrician took a sip of his beer. 'I have told this to few people, gentlemen, and I suspect I never will again, but one day when I was a young boy on holiday in Uberwald I was walking along the bank of a stream when I saw a mother otter with her cubs. A very endearing sight, I'm sure you will agree, and even as I watched, the mother otter dived into the water and came up with a plump salmon, which she subdued and dragged on to a half-submerged log. As she ate it, while of coruse it was still alive, the body split and I remember to this day the sweet pinkness of its roes as they spilled out, much to the delight of the baby otters who scrambled over themselves to feed on the delicacy. One of nature's wonders, gentlemen: mother and children dining upon mother and children. And that's when I first learned about evil. It is built in to the very nature of the universe. Every world spins in pain. If there is any kind of supreme being, I told myself, it is up to all of us to become his moral superior. p. 229

And this makes me think that those of us who dare to lay claim to a belief in God must, simply must, take account of the words of those who do not share our fundamental beliefs. For us to assume any kind of superiority is an act of arrogance unworthy of the very faith we claim to hold.

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