I’d like you to take a part in a little thought experiment for me. This is going to be a very ruminative post, not wholly substantive, but play along with me. Close your eyes and really imagine what it would be like to live in the following society.
You live in a society governed by auspicious bodies. Your life is devoted, as instructed by these bodies, to purity and goodness. Every day you read the scriptures you are given, and are enriched by them. All around you are the guardians who know your every hope, every impure thought, every desire. If they do not, then they serve those who do. They are charged with keeping your society harmonious and pure, and they do. This is the world in which you live.
Alright. Let me now inform you that this is heaven. The auspicious bodies are the gods, the scriptures exactly that. Those guardians are angels, there to guide you and help you become better in all ways. Society truly is harmonious and peaceful. Sounds nice, right?
OK. Second go. Let me now inform you that this is a dictatorship. The auspicious bodies are the one-party government you live under. This time, the scriptures are official government propaganda. And the guardians are their police, who keep the society harmonious and pure. And they do.
Doesn’t sound so great, huh?
Now, my goal here is not to cast aspursions on religion. Despite my comparison, I don’t believe that heaven, if it does exist, will mirror an authoritarian dictatorship. Rather, my point is to bring up a third explanation. How’s this: The people living in the society are the Draenei living on Draenor, the “auspicious body” is the Holy Light. The scriptures are the writings of their own people, devoted in service to the light, and the guardians are the Naaru.
And my question is: Which of the first two scenarios is this closer to?
It’s easy to argue for heaven. It’s probably right to argue for heaven. The Draenei certainly seem to have a warm relationship with the Naaru, and the Naaru are certainly closer to angels than black clad government agents. And yet they do remain a religious force; they represent a morality, a way of living. And this is an entire society of people devoted to that system of life.
How is this enforced? Where is the place for the outsider in this society?
The Draenei are always portrayed as very empathetic, gentle, and forgiving. This may be true in its entirety. Maybe it is only true in part, however. We’ve previously discussed here on Blogatelle that religion is not as simple as good or evil. There is no firm line between the extremist zealot and the nice little lady who works at the soup kitchen. She may be both.
Let’s step back and take yet another way of looking at this. I realise this is wooly and not exactly to the point, and I apologise for that, but I am not convinced I can directly state my point. It seems more accurate to circle it, paint a wider picture rather than a narrative.
Recent studies into morality argue that humans have five different loci of morality, universal among all societies, based on our evolutionary history. These are Harm (we find it immoral to hurt other people), Fairness (we find it immoral to treat others differently if they’ve behaved in the same way), Loyalty (we find it immoral to betray others), In-Group Identity/Patriotism (we find it immoral to hate ones own society) and Purity (we find filth and bodily excretions immoral, this extends out also to most sexual morality as well). Every human society has all of these as moral focus points within them, however, different societies weight them differently. One society may look at the ‘harm’ imperative and not see it as being as important as loyalty or patriotism – These societies tend to be very clannish and tight-knit. Another may see fairness as the over-riding concern. Our society today mostly champions harm and fairness as the important loci.
Which ones, I wonder, did the Draenei champion on Draenor? And how different did it make them? How does it feel to live that close to god, with the Naaru not just a matter of faith but reality? How did the society regulate itself? What moral values come out of such a society? One of the overriding themes of the Draenei is their alien nature. I just want to know what it’s like to live among the angels.