NOTE: images may be missing, lost in journal-transfer. sorry.
[It might help to read the previous/lead-in post on this topic
, or the points in here might not make as much sense. Erm, I hope they do, but just in case. Also: a handful or so of images behind the cut. None that massive -- I sized them all down -- but still. Just in case you're on a reallllly slow dialup.]
When last you heard from this unrepentant bastard, I was busy prefacing another lengthy think-out-loud with a comment that I didn't actually chase anywhere in that post: most stories have a pantheon of some sort -- whether this be a competitive one (set against a backdrop of generic monotheism) or completely supplanting real-world religion.
Now I'm going to... so here we go.
Granted, 'pantheon' is usually taken to mean a system of belief in which there are a multitude of gods, but I'm with Tillich on this one, which is why I tend to use 'pantheon' to mean a multitude of beliefs. Diverging slightly (but not entirely a tangent), let me explain my comprehension of the stricter definition of a belief system, with a host of nods to Tillich: that we must remember there are two words in that phrase. The system, then, is the dogma and the observation and the ritual (however slight to overweening) that one participates in, observes, or acts out -- and the belief is focused on one's understanding of the ultimate. That should be ultimate with a capital U, but I'm not that reverent.
Suffice it to say that for some, this may be a single god, a collection of gods, no-god, or even material things like money, technology, or even another person. It's whatever is the center of your universe; it does not necessarily have to be that which created
your universe so much as that which has ultimate power over you
. SF, especially harder SF, tends to have belief systems focused on an ultimate of technology -- and here I find myself thinking of Bladerunner
, or even William Gibson's earliest works, in which technology has ritual, dogma, and definite power over a person's life.
Stories grounded in today's modern life (and here I speak mostly of US-as-west, although to some degree this seems true of Europe-as-west, as well) will invariably have, somewhere in the background, a cultural belief system that is mostly-to-strongly theistic. ( Yes, that seems like a big fat duh, but there's a reason I'm spelling that out. Whether we realize it or not, this theistic framework that permeates the western culture(s) has a massive impact on our understandings of fantasy and magic. )