Religious themes are interesting to me. I rarely go into a book saying, “I am going to expose this foible of religion” or “I am going to highlight this wonderful part of religion.” I go into a book telling stories about characters, and the ways that they believe and the things that they believe have an effect on them. I try to present those as realistically as possible.
I do think that there is a dangerous line between faith and what goes beyond that. You call it blind faith, yet at the same time there is something to be said for trusting those who have gone before and for not having to fall in a pit yourself because other people already fell in that pit. Where that line comes is a subject of great debate between religious people and non-religious people. I do think that questions should always be allowed and should always be asked. It is important to be asking questions.
I don’t really mind how people believe, or what faiths people have. I think it’s a fascinating part of us, that we all have different faiths. Where we stray into danger is in how we treat people who don’t agree with our faiths. That, I think, is a very dangerous and frightening thing—the ways that various people treat others who disagree with them. No matter what side you’re on, whether they belittle them, discard them, or destroy them, these various things are one of the great pitfalls of any type of belief or faith. So I deal with that. But again it’s not because I sit down and say, “I am now going to write a book about this, or tell a story about this.” It’s because that’s what’s important to the characters I’m writing.
That said, when I was approaching WARBREAKER, I did think distinctly to myself, “You know, religion’s been the bad guy in the past two stories you’ve told. You probably ought to do something different.” That’s why the—Spoiler alert!—the religion in WARBREAKER is vindicated in the end. I think there are some very good things about their religion, and though Siri is convinced that they are the bad guys, it turns out that indeed they are not. In fact, they are quite good…though there are certain things they’re doing that I wouldn’t necessarily agree with.
In The Way of Kings, religious questions are very important to Shallan and Jasnah and to an extent other characters such as Dalinar. I wouldn’t include religious discussions if religion was’t very important to the characters. And what’s important to the characters has a strong influence on what’s important to the plot.
Dalinar’s visions are to be believed, then there is a very interesting theological conundrum to this world. Something claiming to be God claims also that it has been killed. Which then in some ways leaves someone who is atheist right, and yet at the same time wrong. When Jasnah and Dalinar meet, you can expect some discussion of what it means to be atheist if there was a God and God is now dead. Or will she say that obviously wasn’t God? Those circles of thought are very fascinating to me and to the characters.