While my review for Brandon Sanderson’s latest book, The Way of Kings — the first in an epic ten-book series known as the Stormlight Archive — won’t be up until around November 15th; in the meantime I wanted to put up a passage from the book involving the King and one of the main characters, Jasnah, who is an atheist in a world of adamant and determined believers of various religions. She is seen as a heretic, but in this wonderful passage, her ideology as an atheist is brilliantly explored and succinctly put, providing a clear explanation why atheists are able to be moral and know the difference between right and wrong, without following the words of a book or the threat from some deity.
As an atheist, Jasnah is certainly a welcoming and enjoyable character to read about.
“Atheism is not a disease, Your Majesty,” Jasnah said dryly. “It’s not as if I’ve caught a foot rash.”
“Of course not, of course not. But . . . er, isn’t it difficult, having nothing in which to believe?”
. . .
“I wouldn’t say that I have nothing to believe in, Your Majesty. Actually, I have much to believe in. My brother and my uncle, my own abilities. The things I was taught by my parents.”
“But , what is right and wrong, you’ve . . . Well, you’ve discarded that.”
“Just because I do not accept the teachings of the devotaries does not mean I’ve discarded a belief in right and wrong.”
“But the Almighty determines what is right!”
“Must someone, some unseen thing, declare what is right for it to be right? I believe that my own morality – which answers only to my heart – is more sure and true than the morality of those who do right only because they fear retribution.”
“But that is the soul of law,” the king said, sounding confused. “If there is no punishment, there can be only chaos.”
“If there were no law, some men would do as they wish, yes,” Jasnah said. “But isn’t it remarkable that, given the chance for personal gain at the cost of other, so many people choose what is right?”
“Because they fear the Almighty.”
“No,” Jasnah said. “I think something innate in us understands that seeking the good of society is usually best for the individual as well. Humankind is noble, when we give it the chance to be. That nobility is something that exists independent of any god’s decree.”
“I just don’t see how anything could be outside God’s decrees.” The king shook his head, bemused. “Brightness Jasnah, I don’t mean to argue, but isn’t the very definition of the Almighty that all things exist because of him?”
“If you add one and one, that makes two, does it not?”
“No god needs declare it so for it to be true,” Jasnah said. “S could we not say that mathematics exists outside the Almighty, independent of him?”
“Well,” Jasnah said, “I simply claim that morality and human will are independent of him too.”
“If you say that,” the king said, chuckling, “then you’ve removed all purpose for the Almighty’s existence!”