The Ren Faire Exists and Other Musings on Reality

Share on Pinterest
Share this post via email


I've been to Renaissance Festivals in two different states. It's typically hot and expensive and exhausting and little changes year to year. But my wife and friends love going, so I don my bed sheet monk costume and sometimes try to have fun. A vendor, in full regalia, once barked after me, "Forgive me, Father, for I will sin."

Friar Luke

NFQ from "No Forbidden Questions" has a post comparing being an atheist to being stuck inside a Renaissance Fair. I started writing a response and failed. Now, with a blank blog post staring me down, I'm going to try to create a coherent thought or two.

If I've got it right, her main point is that religious claims about reality are so far fetched and ridiculous that it's akin to thinking modernity does not exist. All religious nuts, like me, refuse to see beyond the walls of our made up Ren Faire. Living along side us is as frustrating and absurd as living in a world full of people who refuse to connect with reality.

My response to the post fell apart when I remembered that I have made similarly negative assumptions in the very recent past. I know the feeling. It's strange to encounter people who honestly believe things different from us.

But she is right: We, religious folks, do really, honestly, actually believe that Christianity teaches us what is true. I love how C.S. Lewis drives this point home in God in the Dock. It's a fact that I can easily forget: I don't believe in and follow Christ because it's nice, produces good in the world, or is more comfortable than alternatives. I believe in and follow Christ because it is true.

If living life as an atheist is like being stuck in a Ren Faire, I find philosophical naturalists to be like someone who claims there is no such festival because they've never been there.

"But I've been to them, multiple times," I say.

"You poor, duped person," they may reply. "You may have hung out with a bunch of people who dressed up and whatnot. But we now live in modern times. There is no such thing today."

I guess it depends on how you define reality. Ren Faires exist. The people who visit them and work in them know that there is more to life than the 1500s. We all know about technology. We're happy to talk about movies (though I've got nothing to say about basketball). But we also believe that less than a hour from my house is a place that transports us out of this modern life and into another time (sort of, but not really). In fact, ignoring these festivals and rejecting their place in reality cuts out a huge swath of experiences.

The analogy breaks down here. Christianity is not just some fun place of escapism. It's something that should dictate how we live. Orthodoxy is not something you dress up in once a year so you can eat a turkey leg and watch someone swallow swords. It is something that provides the words of eternal life and explains reality as it really is.

And if someone, even a blog friend like NFQ, finds my life as nonsensical as if I wore that brown bed sheet costume every day, it doesn't bother me. Because I believe, like her, that I live in the real world... virgin birth, Ren Faire, and all.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Guardian

Share on Pinterest
Share this post via email


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.


  1. NFQ

    Hey Luke, I've got to first say I'm flattered that you put this much thought into what I have to say. :-P I think my analogy came across as harsher than I intended it, or at least somehow didn't come out right. Sorry about that!

    When you write, "I don't believe in and follow Christ because it's nice, produces good in the world, or is more comfortable than alternatives. I believe in and follow Christ because it is true," you frankly set yourself apart from most religious people I've spoken with. I often encounter people trying to convert me by saying their religion is more pleasant than atheism, or that it produces good in the world, etc. So, kudos to you for recognizing that Christianity is a set of truth claims and behaving as such! Honestly, I really appreciate that and I wish more people were like you. It would make so many conversations so much less confusing.

    Suppose that you and other like-minded Christians traveled to Pakistan, where the vast majority of the population is Muslim. Wouldn't that be weird? All these people around you, deeply believing something false, while you and a small minority could see the truth? Or maybe you could go to China, where a majority of the population is atheist -- though it would be less overwhelming than Christianity in the US or Islam in the Middle East. You might feel the same way. "Everyone around me is living in a fantasy-land!" Of course, from my point of view the religious side is the made-up one and atheism is the reality, but I could imagine this analogy applying to any religious person surrounded by people of some different religious persuasion, provided that they actually recognize religion to be a set of factual claims. Most people don't seem to realize that's what they're up to, which was the impetus behind my post.

  2. Thanks so much for replying here (and on your blog), NFQ! The analogy did come across harsh and I started a reply at the time trying to sort out what I was missing, but then I realized -- as I link above -- that I have had exactly the same feeling when I last traveled to India. So I totally hear ya there. But for me, upon personal reflection, the uncomfortable feeling is really based in my own proclivity against or unwillingness to see people as thoughtful seekers of truth. They may be dead wrong, but they're not lacking brain power or logic. They're coming at things with a different set of assumptions.

    Now, I do fully agree that many, many, many people -- no matter their assumptions, presuppositions, or beliefs/truth claims -- do not think about them. When pressed, I find that many people who claim Christianity or atheism have little more than "it makes sense to me" / "it's just how things are" as their reason for thinking as they do. In fact, I find many atheists/agnostics don't even have a reason to believe what they believe about God, they simply personally don't like this or that belief because it makes them uncomfortable or they have had a bad experience involving religious types. In those cases, their rejection of religion isn't even based on truth claims but rather emotional responses to pain.

    But, oh my, yes. If people actually talked about why they believed things, it would make communication so much easier!

    You, of course, have thought long and hard about all this. Which is one of the many reasons I so much enjoy reading and interacting with you on your blog <smile>.

    Thank you, again, for taking the time to share your thoughts here.


  3. Pingback: Reminder: Faith Matches Reality | Sonlight Blog