aneonfoxtribute

Did anyone else think that Sanderson could have done more to show Shu-Dereth as evil?

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When I read Elantris, one of my biggest problems with it was Shu-Dereth. Sanderson wanted to portray it as a religion of evil, which would be fine, except he forgot to actually make it a religion of evil. Throughout the book, I was constantly thinking "Okay, when am I gonna get a reason to actually dislike Shu-Dereth", and it never came until the end of the book. Even Fjordell as a whole, I didn't really dislike going through the book, because I didn't see many reasons TO dislike it. Everything that it did to try and make me dislike Fjordell or Shu-Dereth just made me hate Wyrn as an individual, instead of the whole. Yes, they destroyed Duladel, but I still never saw the religion as being evil. The fact that we only see two real practitioners of Shu-Dereth (At least that I can recall), one of them being probably the most likeable and charismatic character in Elantris, and the other being noted by the former to be absolutely insane, doesn't really help that. I dunno, I just feel like he could have done more to try and make me see Shu-Dereth as evil.

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I think that is actually the point that Sanderson is making. The religion isn't evil, just some of the practices and leaders are. I mean, his choice to show Hrathen as ultimately a hero, to me, shows that he's trying to say, No it's not evil, but much of what happens under its aegis is evil right now.

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1 hour ago, RShara said:

I think that is actually the point that Sanderson is making. The religion isn't evil, just some of the practices and leaders are. I mean, his choice to show Hrathen as ultimately a hero, to me, shows that he's trying to say, No it's not evil, but much of what happens under its aegis is evil right now.

I agree with this wholeheartedly. Shu-Dereth is not an evil religion, as Sanderson portrayed with Hrathen. It's actually one of my favorite things about Sanderson's writing as a whole, this nuanced, realistic approach to religion.

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Posted (edited)

Agreed. We know that Shu-Dereth is heavily influenced by the Skaze and they're power-hungry but as Brandon points out on multiple occasions, none of the Shards is inherently 'good' or 'evil'. Under other circumstances, the same Shardic mindset that influences Shu-Dereth could have produced something like classical Chinese civilization or pharaonic Egypt, extremely long-lasting and generally stable societies based on hierarchy. Getting back to the Selish example, it's just that under current circumstances Shu-Dereth is being bent towards world conquest by the people running the show. That aspect has more to do with how it's being used (read the backstory on present-day Fjordell here) than anything that's inherent in the religion itself. I wouldn't be surprised if in the future of Sel we read of a reformist Shu-Dereth that's stripped out those aspects.

Edited by Weltall
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It felt to me like, in spite of Hrathen being ultimately a good guy in the end, the story was still trying to portray the religion itself as evil, what with everyone but Hrathen saying it was evil. Perhaps by the end, with the "'My issue is with Wyrn, not God" line was meant to create a shift there, but it felt like it was meant to be seen as evil up to that point. I do understand what you're saying, though

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3 hours ago, aneonfoxtribute said:

It felt to me like, in spite of Hrathen being ultimately a good guy in the end, the story was still trying to portray the religion itself as evil, what with everyone but Hrathen saying it was evil. Perhaps by the end, with the "'My issue is with Wyrn, not God" line was meant to create a shift there, but it felt like it was meant to be seen as evil up to that point. I do understand what you're saying, though

I mean, it makes sense for the characters to make a bogeyman out of it, since they're the ones having trouble with it. That doesn't necessarily mean that Brandon would agree.

Although I do think that he has since become way better in a nuanced portrayals like that, as seen with how the listeres are handled in Stormlight. It's a similar case, but way clearer. So I see where you're coming from.

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8 hours ago, aneonfoxtribute said:

When I read Elantris, one of my biggest problems with it was Shu-Dereth. Sanderson wanted to portray it as a religion of evil, which would be fine, except he forgot to actually make it a religion of evil.

I think the premise is wrong. Sanderson wanted to build a believable antagonist. Why would people follow an evil religion? Shu-Dereth is the classical religion of an empire. Our perception of empires is wildly unfair. Rome good, Persia bad, China undecided, Caliphate bad, Alexander good ... Why?

Elantris shows a believable conflict because both sides have sensible reasons.

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Posted (edited)

Sanderson has a great way of not showing evil, but showing why people would believe something is good even if this means there are evil actions. He is able to show that if people believe something is good then we can understand why.  Even if it's inherently evil, he has a way of showing why other believe that this is wrong and would follow that particular concept

Edited by Wander89
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On 6/8/2019 at 7:52 PM, aneonfoxtribute said:

Sanderson wanted to portray it as a religion of evil, which would be fine, except he forgot to actually make it a religion of evil.

How do you know that he wanted to portray it as evil?  I think what you're coming across is that you expected it to be evil, because that's the trope, and he subverted your expectations.  So he didn't forget, he did it intentionally.  

 

We have a couple of WoBs about Shu-Dereth.  They're pretty interesting, but they don't mention anything about it being evil:

https://wob.coppermind.net/adv_search/?tags=shu-dereth

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Shu-Dereth and Shu-Korath both came from the same source, they were just taught with different focuses. Shu-Dereth on obedience, and Shu-Korath on love. It makes sense that they wouldn't seem evil to us, but as followers of different sects, they would have issues with each other. Plus I think that Shu-Dereth's mind set of eat up all the nations and expunge all other religions gives it an evil cast.

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5 hours ago, Bork said:

Shu-Dereth and Shu-Korath both came from the same source, they were just taught with different focuses. Shu-Dereth on obedience, and Shu-Korath on love. It makes sense that they wouldn't seem evil to us, but as followers of different sects, they would have issues with each other. Plus I think that Shu-Dereth's mind set of eat up all the nations and expunge all other religions gives it an evil cast.

Except most religions have requirement arms.  The fact that this one is unusually successful and exceptionally good at administration does not make it evil in the slightest.  It may be antagonistic but that perception is due to the bias of the characters we side with not anything inherently wrong with the religion itself.

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21 hours ago, Karger said:

Except most religions have requirement arms.  The fact that this one is unusually successful and exceptionally good at administration does not make it evil in the slightest.  It may be antagonistic but that perception is due to the bias of the characters we side with not anything inherently wrong with the religion itself.

Though one could argument it certainly crosses a line once you take into account monasteries that train assassins and Dakhor monks. But that is also a problem when you combine state and religion into a theocracy. 

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4 hours ago, Pathfinder said:

Though one could argument it certainly crosses a line once you take into account monasteries that train assassins and Dakhor monks. But that is also a problem when you combine state and religion into a theocracy. 

Plenty of governments train assassins including our own.  This still does not make the religion inherently evil.

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Posted (edited)

7 minutes ago, Karger said:

Plenty of governments train assassins including our own.  This still does not make the religion inherently evil.

That's why I made a point of stating that is the problem of a theocracy merging state and religion. The assassins and dakhor monks are viewed as a holy command directly from their god through Wyrm all the way to the monastery gragnet. So it is considered religious doctrine. The monasteries train assassins and dakhor monks, so that would constitute evil to me. But that is more on a technicality than the goal of the novel. 

Edited by Pathfinder
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1 minute ago, Pathfinder said:

That's why I made a point of stating that is the problem of a theocracy merging state and religion. The assassins and dakhor monks are viewed as a holy command directly from their god through Wyrm all the way to the monastery gragnet. So it is considered religious doctrine. The monasteries train assassins and dakhor monks, so that would constitute evil to me. But that is more on a technicality than the goal of the novel. 

So these assassins are under the command of their government's supreme civil authority who also happens to be the religious authority.  How is this evil?

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Posted (edited)

11 minutes ago, Karger said:

So these assassins are under the command of their government's supreme civil authority who also happens to be the religious authority.  How is this evil?

Again, since it is a theocracy, and Wyrm is their god's voice, and all things that flow through Wyrn are divine edicts, then their God as they understand it is condoning, and encouraging assassination as well as the rituals that go on in the Dakhor monastery. A government can claim deniability, or end justifies the means, etc. But as a theocracy, and how it is structured, to me it is saying their god is telling them assassination is ok, should be encouraged, trained, and used. It changes it from the personal choice of the ruler, to a command from God. It is the equivalency of making a commandant "Thou shalt kill under cloak of night by any means necessary so long as I command it"

Edited by Pathfinder
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I personally think that the judicious use of assassination under the right circumstances is permissible or even laudable.  How does denying this or rationalizing this make it better?  You are killing people.

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Posted (edited)

53 minutes ago, Karger said:

I personally think that the judicious use of assassination under the right circumstances is permissible or even laudable.  How does denying this or rationalizing this make it better?  You are killing people.

I am confused by what you are saying. Could you clarify?

My point is that as per the doctrine told to us in the novel, what Wyrn says is treated as the voice of God on this earth. Anything Wyrn writes is considered holy scripture. The orders to kill everyone near Elantris and Teod is considered directly from their God. The monasteries and everything those monasteries do is considered as decreed by their God. So it is not an act of a political leader. it is not an act the individual assassin. It is as per their religion a literal act of God. So it is their religion committing those acts. 

 

edit: to elaborate further, that was the whole reason for Hrathen's crisis of faith. Dilaf showed him the orders he got from Wyrm. Those orders are treated as deific decree. Dilaf is higher ranked than Hrathen, and as a head of a monastery is treated as an extension of Wyrm. So Hrathen was told that his God literally commands all these people to die. Hrathen didn't want that to happen, but to prevent it means saying he thinks his God is wrong. A god that his religion teaches is infallible. Wyrm as his god's voice is taught by his religion to be infallible. There is no chance of miscommunication. Wyrm is the direct line to their God. Disobeying Wyrm, means disobeying God. 

Edited by Pathfinder
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23 hours ago, Pathfinder said:

I am confused by what you are saying. Could you clarify?

Assassination itself is not wrong inherently.  It is just dangerous to use correctly. 

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27 minutes ago, Karger said:

Assassination itself is not wrong inherently.  It is just dangerous to use correctly. 

There are a whoooooooole lot of people on this forum that would adamantly disagree with you on that. They have said that murder is murder period and is evil regardless the rationale. For myself I see the application in certain scenarios. Regardless it does not change that as per the doctrine, their god called for the death of a whole nation (Teod) and a whole city. As per the religion, every action Wyrm and by extension Dilaf took is their God made manifest. 

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13 minutes ago, Pathfinder said:

There are a whoooooooole lot of people on this forum that would adamantly disagree with you on that. They have said that murder is murder period and is evil regardless the rationale. For myself I see the application in certain scenarios. Regardless it does not change that as per the doctrine, their god called for the death of a whole nation (Teod) and a whole city. As per the religion, every action Wyrm and by extension Dilaf took is their God made manifest. 

That is true.  However another Wyrm could in 30 years declare that the attack was meant to fail as a way of teaching the faithful that fighting is not the correct way of doing things thus moving the religion back into the good territory.

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Posted (edited)

5 minutes ago, Karger said:

That is true.  However another Wyrm could in 30 years declare that the attack was meant to fail as a way of teaching the faithful that fighting is not the correct way of doing things thus moving the religion back into the good territory.

Wyrm could say that clouds are pink fluffy elephants lol. For the purpose of this book, in this case, Wyrm called for the death of a nation of people, of which a good chunk are very innocent. Wyrm is the voice of their God, thus their religion is calling for the death of those people. You can personally view that as fine, that is your prerogative, but others would very much disagree and by extension term that religion as evil.

Edited by Pathfinder
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17 minutes ago, Pathfinder said:

Wyrm could say that clouds are pink fluffy elephants lol.

If he did that would be the official doctrine of the religion.

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Posted (edited)

7 minutes ago, Karger said:

If he did that would be the official doctrine of the religion.

As of the time period of this book it is not and this post is discussing this book. 

Edited by Pathfinder
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