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Dr. Markus Altena Davidsen will give the first lecture of the 2022-2023 Current Issues in Religious Studies and Western Esotericism lecture series. Dr. Davidsen is university lecturer in the sociology of religion at Leiden University. His research interests include fiction-based religion, the pragmatics of religious texts, religious education, and method and theory in the study of religion.

Event details of Religious uses of fantasy fiction
Date 26 September 2022
Time 16:00 -17:00
Location Bushuis/Oost-Indisch Huis
Room F1.01B
Dr. Markus Altena Davidsen (photo by: Arash Nikkah)
Bushuis/Oost-Indisch Huis

Room F1.01B

Kloveniersburgwal 48 (main entrance)
1012 CX Amsterdam

Abstract
Fantasy fiction and religion have obvious similarities: like religious narratives, fantasy fiction is populated by superhuman beings (elves, dragons, ghosts, gods) and full of magic and miracles. Due to its more or less religious content, fantasy literature lends itself to religious use, and this lecture discusses two categories of ‘religious use of fantasy fiction’. First, we examine how authors of fantasy fiction use fantasy as a narrative vehicle to get a religious message across. C.S. Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles and Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, for example, are fantasy works that are not intended to be believed literally but which nevertheless communicate certain religious truths and values. Lewis does not, for instance, want the reader to believe that Aslan is real, but he does want the reader to understand that Aslan is a metaphor for Christ. Second, we examine three cases of religious use of fantasy that go against the intentions of the author: Satanists and chaos magicians who invoke the monster gods from H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos, Jediists who have created a religion based on George Lucas’ Star Wars series, and practitioners of Tolkien Spirituality who engage in rituals with the Elves and the Valar (lower gods) of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth fantasy. Besides describing these fascinating examples of fantasy-based (or broader: fiction-based) religion, the lecture takes up the more theoretical questions of how fiction-based religions emerge and develop, and which kind of fantasy it takes to ‘afford’ religious use.

More information
If you wish to attend, please write to the secretary of Religious Studies, Antoinette Rutten, secr-religiewetenschappen-fgw@uva.nl. For further information, write to: g.a.wiegers@uva.nl.