God/s exist in GRRMs World of Ice and Fire
2. For this debate the following terms will apply:
God/s: A supernatural transcendent being/s identified as a deity by worshipers with the ability to effect the natural world in an imminent fashion.
Proof: Informal logical proof that meets the criteria of the principal of sufficient reason.
GRRMs World of Ice and Fire: The fictional universe created by George RR Martin, which is the setting of his "A Song of Ice and Fire" Series.
Burden of proof is on Pro.
I agree with these three definitions. However, I believe that we should decide upon the meaning of the word "transcendent" as the first meaning in the Oxford Dictionary (http://www.oxforddictionaries.com...), which is "Beyond or above the range of normal or physical human experience", and that the definition of "World of Ice and Fire" should note the fact that Dunk & Egg and other novellas also take place in this world.
I would like to thank Stannis_Lawyer for agreeing to participate in this debate. I readily agree with his definition for “transcendent”, and agree that George RR Martin’s “World of Ice and Fire” is also the setting for the Dunk and Egg novellas, and as such are available as sources. Good luck.
The “World of Ice and Fire” is a fictional fantasy setting, where the presence of supernatural forces is undeniable, shown through the point-of-view character’s witnessing the effects of these supernatural forces, known and described by them as “magic”.
I will attempt to show that the methodology of certain types of magic, performed by characters in the “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels, supports the assumption and gives the reader reasonable cause to believe that these specific types of magic can only be caused by a transcendent supernatural being with intelligence, which fit the character’s conception of a deity or god.
My argument will focus on particular types of magic performed by a particular group of magic-users in the setting, namely the Red Priests of R’hllor, known as the “Lord of Light” by their followers.
In the novels, the Red Priests of R’hllor have shown the ability to call upon R’hllor to perform certain supernatural/magical actions. These actions include 1) resurrection, 2) prognostication, and 3) specific forms of pyromancy (fire magic).
Evidence for resurrection can be found in statements made by Thoros of Myr, a character who speaks to the POV character Arya Stark:
“I have no magic, child. Only prayers. That first time, his lordship had a hole right through him
In the statement it shows that the magical resurrection performed by Thoros was a particular funeral rite performed by the Red Priests, and it can be assumed that the rite invoked the Red God, R’hllor directly. It has not been shown, anywhere, that the same type of magical resurrection can be performed without the specific funeral rite utilized by Thoros, and without invoking R’hllor. It is reasonable to assume that only a Red Priest of R’hllor can perform this type of resurrection, by performing the funeral rite, because there is no evidence that the same form of resurrection can be performed by others, through different methods.
It is also interesting to note that Thoros himself ascribes the source of the magic he performs, as outside of himself.
Almost every Red Priest has shown the ability to prognosticate, through the particular method of looking into flames and ash. Not only is this particular method of prognostication unique to the priests and worshippers of R’hllor, the method of calling forth images is of particular importance.
“Show me Stannis, Lord, she prayed. Show me your king, your instrument”
“I pray for a glimpse of Azor Ahai, and R’hllor shows me only Snow”
Melisandre, A Dance with Dragons, Melisandre Ch. 31
Not only does Melisandre ascribe the ability to prognosticate as coming directly from R’hllor, but the method of invoking the visions is particularly important. She invokes visions by specifically calling upon R’hllor. Not only are the visions brought about through direct invocation, but the visions specific to what the invoker requests.
The fact that the magic is performed only through direct invocation, that only a particular sub-set of magic users can prognosticate in such a specific fashion, and that the magic is tailored by the request of the invoker to a named deity, is sufficient proof that the visions are granted by an intelligence that is able to hear, decipher, and answer the invoker. Not only must the magic be granted by an outside intelligence, but it can be assumed, in the light of lack of further evidence, that this intelligence MUST be supernatural and transcendent in nature.
RoninDemon is, of course, right. George R. R. Martin's world is a fantasy setting, and magic clearly exists in it. However, I believe that the existence of magic does not prove the existence of a god that powers the magic.
"I have no magic, child. Only prayers. That first time, his lordship had a hole right through him and blood in his mouth, I knew there was no hope. So when his poor torn chest stopped moving, I gave him the good god's own kiss to send him on his way. I filled my mouth with fire and breathed the flames inside him, down his throat to lungs and heart and soul. The last kiss it is called, and many a time I saw the old priests bestow it on the Lord's servants as they died. I had given it a time or two myself, as all priests must. But never before had I felt a dead man shudder as the fire filled him, nor seen his eyes come open. It was not me who raised him, my lady. It was the Lord. R'hllor is not done with him yet. Life is warmth, and warmth is fire, and fire is God's and God's alone." Thoros of Myr, Chapter 39 A Storm of Swords
Thoros says that the kiss was intended to "send him on his way", and that he simply imitated what the Red Priests of Myr did. It is clear that the first revival of Beric Dondarrion was completely accidental, and that R'hllor was only invoked, if at all, to send Beric to paradise or its R'hllorite equivalent. It is wrong to claim that R'hllor fulfilled Thoros's prayers, and since R'hllor does not act independently in any other situation, the logical inference is that Thoros, not the Red God, was responsible.
It is also important to note that Thoros has bestowed the last kiss before, and the context makes it clear that he already knew how to "fill one's mouth with fire", probably from his training in Myr. Nowhere does he describe R'hllor entering his body.
"It was not me who raised him, my lady. It was the Lord. R'hllor is not done with him yet. Life is warmth, and warmth is fire, and fire is God's and God's alone."
This is Thoros's reason for his belief that R"hllor raised Beric. However, we notice that he has no logical proof that R'hllor, and not Thoros himself, is responsible: he simply dogmatically believes that only R'hllor can raise the dead, and does not think of other possibilities. Thoros believes that R'hllor raised Beric because his faith and education lead him to believe that R'hllor is responsible for all magic, not because of any physical sensation or logical reasoning.
The Red Priests do invoke R'hllor in order to see visions in fires. However, all visions are vague and prone to misunderstanding, as Melisandre herself well knows. This means that R'hllor does not exist, that R'hllor is a fool, or that the Great Other is blocking him from communicating effectively.
It is also important to note that precognition in the form of vague images is not at all unique to the magic of the Red Priests. The warlocks of Qarth used such a system of divination towards Daenerys in the House of the Undying. Dragon dreams and green dreams also feature vague and symbolic images. This makes the simplest option, which is that R'hllor does not exist, very likely.
Therefore, there is no substantial evidence that gods intervene in the books. In fact, there are some problems with the notion that gods intervene and exist in A Song of Ice and Fire.
First, R'hllor, a deity that is supposedly obsessed with people believing in him, has done absolutely nothing to prove his existence beyond a sliver of doubt. If R'hllor is as powerful as his followers claim, why is that he cannot do something as easy as creating undeniable proof of his existence? And why can he not act independently, without the aid of one of his priests? So our options are: R'hllor does not exist, R'hllor does not intervene, or the Great Other completely overpowers R'hllor. There is no evidence that the Great Other exists, and the fact that no wildlings believe in the Great Other or R'hllor makes the existence of the Great Other even more unlikely. This means that R'hllor does not exist or does not intervene, and until we have evidence proving the existence of R'hllor we should assume that R'hllor does not exist. The same goes for the Drowned God and the Seven.
Second, deities are often invoked but do not answer. During Tyrion's trial by combat, Oberyn lost though Tyrion was innocent of killing Joffrey. During Sandor's trial by combat, Sandor won though he was guilty of killing Mycah. Thus, R'hllor and the Seven do not exist, do not intervene, or are not benevolent. Again, gods not existing is the logical option that must be assumed until evidence of their existence is released.
Third, there may be supernatural beings, but they may not be transcendent. For instance, we know of the existence of supernatural beings that are worshipped (indirectly, in most cases) and affect the natural world in an imminent fashion, but they are not gods, just greenseers like the Bloodraven (the Three-Eyed Crow), because they are not transcendent: Bran, Meera, and Jojen can see greenseers physically. Therefore, if R'hllor exists, he may simply be a supernatural being with a physical form, like greenseers.
Therefore, I believe that the evidence listed by RoninDemon is not sufficient to prove the existence of gods in the World of Ice and Fire, and that there is evidence, such as their lack of answers when invoked, the lack of evidence that could prove their existence without doubt, and their unnecessary indirectness, indicates that there is (are) no god (gods) in the story.
Con has countered that the initial resurrection of Beric Dondarrion, by Thoros of Myr, was accidental. I readily agree to this and it is not disputed. But the claim I made was that “only a Red Priests of R’hllor can perform this type of resurrection, by performing the funeral rite, because there is no evidence that the same form of resurrection can be performed by others, through different methods”. As it is, the claim stands. Con has not shown any evidence that the specific form of resurrection used by Thoros can be performed by other magic-users, through any different methods. The fact that the first resurrection of Beric was performed accidentally, is inconsequential to my argument.
If it were possible that the resurrections of Beric Dondarrion were begin conducted without the aid of a supernatural being with intelligence, then it would be logical to presume that other users of magic who are not Red Priests would be able to perform the same type of resurrection without invoking R’hllor. There is no evidence that this is the case.
Con claims that the only reason Thoros believes that R’hllor is responsible for the magic that he has performed is because his education has led him to dogmatically believe this. This is also possible, but does not prove that such a belief is incorrect. Con has still not shown that anyone other than a Red Priest, invoking R’hllor, can perform a resurrection of the type performed by Thoros on Beric Dondarrion.
Con has argued that the fact that the visions seen by the Red Priests in their fires are vague, and that this is proof that R’hllor does not exist, or that R’hllor is a fool, or that R’hllor is being blocked by another god. The second two possibilities support my argument that R’hllor does in fact exist, so I will focus on the first. The fact that the visions are vague are not the result of the visions themselves, but of their interpretation.
“It was an art, and like all arts it demanded mastery, discipline, study.” Melisandre, A Dance with Dragons
“There is truth in the flames, but it is not always easy to see”. Melisandre, A Storm of Swords
“Many a priest and priestess before her had been brought down by false visions, by seeing what they wished to see instead of what the Lord of Light had sent.” Melisandre, A Dance with Dragons
The three excerpts above support the claim that the vagueness of the visions in not inherent to visions themselves, but in the interpretation by the interpreter. False interpretation of a message does not show that the messenger does not exist, any more than any misinterpretation proves that the messenger does not exist.
Con has argued that prognostication is in fact not unique to Red Priests of R’hllor and that this shows proof that prognostication in and of itself is not proof of the existence of R’hllor. I do not dispute the fact that other magic users in the series have shown the ability to see the future. However, none of the other characters who have been able to prognosticate are able to do so in the same manner that the Red Priests do, through looking into the flames and invocation.
There is no evidence that these other characters can see the future in flames, or that the Red Priests that can see the future in the flames can do so through any other means used by other prognosticators. In this manner the ability to see the future as the Red Priests do is indeed unique to the Red Priests.
Con argues that R’hllor is obsessed with spreading the faith that follows him, and the fact he has not convinced everyone is proof that he does not exist. Again, con gives three options; that R’hllor does not exist, that R’hllor does not intervene, or that the Great Other completely overpowers R’hllor.
First, there is no direct evidence that R’hllor indeed is obsessed with spreading the faith of the Red God. There is evidence that the Priests themselves desire to spread the faith, but this is not evidence that R’hllor himself is obsessed with either proving his existence or spreading the faith.
Second, con provides two possibilities that would answer why R’hllor would not be able to act independently or create proof of his existence. These possibilities actually support my argument, and may stand as they are, but I will provide a third possibility.
The author of the series, George RR Martin, has expressly stated that at no point will a god or gods manifest themselves in a manner as to create a deus ex machina.
“I don't think any gods are likely to be showing up in Westeros, any more than they already do. We're not going to have one appearing, deus ex machina, to affect the outcomes of things, no matter how hard anyone prays.” George RR Martin interview
The fact that R’hllor, or any other god, has not manifested itself in order to prove it’s existence is explained by one simple concept. It would make a horrible story. If R’hllor were all powerful he could supposedly manifest and solve all of the World of Ice and Fire’s problems and then rule from a golden throne like Zeus on mount Olympus. But that would make a horrible story in the opinion of George RR Martin, and probably the majority of his readers.
Con has provided evidence that other gods, such as the Seven, do not exist. However, this evidence does not counter the evidence I have provided that R’hllor exists.
Finally, con has argued that there is no evidence of any supernatural being in the World of Ice and Fire that could be described as transcendent, and that R’hllor may be a supernatural being with physical form, such as the Greenseers.
In order to make this argument, Con must first concede that R’hllor does in fact exist, and that he is an agent in the magic performed by his followers, which con has in fact argued again in the majority of the claims he has made. This negates the arguments made that R’hllor does in fact not exist at all, or that he is not an agent, and narrows the argument to a single contention, that R’hllor is not transcendent.
While it is undeniable that certain individuals with supernatural abilities are in fact physical beings, this does not in fact disprove the existence of transcendent beings within the World of Ice and Fire. While the Greenseers have been proven to be undoubtedly physical beings, there is no proof that R’hllor is in fact a physical being. Without evidence to support the claim that R’hllor is a physical supernatural being, it is reasonable to assume, considering the setting where the supernatural is obvious, that R’hllor is an immaterial, transcendent being.
It is true that only a Red Priest can, as far as we know, revive the dead as was done with Beric. However, the Pro claims that this proves the existence of R'hllor. This is not true.
We know that to perform the magic of the Red Priests, one must be trained to do so. We have no evidence that fire magic is taught anywhere outside the Red Temples. Therefore, magic as performed by Red Priests may be unique to them solely because nobody else is taught that particular form of magic. For instance, the Faceless Men of Braavos possess magic that is unique to them, but since Jaqen H'ghar is able to use the Faceless magic, it is clear that the capabilities of the Faceless Men are because of their training, not divine intervention. There is no reason that the Red Priests are any different.
The visions are prone to misinterpretation because they are vague. For instance, had Melisandre's vision of Alys Karstark made it clear that she was not Arya Stark, there would have been no misinterpretation. Therefore, the vagueness of the visions does indicate that R'hllor does not exist.
The visions Daenerys spots in the House of the Undying and the visions Melisandre sees are different only in the medium that the vision is seen through. The precognitive visions themselves are more or less identical. Hence the precognitive magic of the Undying and the Red Priests are fundamentally the same, just as a paper book copy of A Game of Thrones and a Kindle version of A Game of Thrones are fundamentally the same. And again, there is no evidence that people who do not believe in R'hllor are trained to see visions in fires.
Pro countered that R'hllor may not wish to spread his own faith. R'hllor clearly wishes to spread his faith. Melisandre and Moqorro both want conversion to R'hllor, and it is preposterous to believe that these two pious priests do not believe R'hllor wants conversion.
The claim that R'hllor does not act directly because it would make a horrible story strengthens my argument that R"hllor does not exist. As R'hllor will never ever act directly for narrative reasons, that means that in-world, R'hllor is a fool or handicapped, or does not exist. There is no proof for the first two possibilities, thus without further evidence the logical position would be that R'hllor does not exist.
Pro countered that injustice in trials by combat disprove only the Seven. However, he seems to have accidentally missed my point: "During Sandor's trial by combat, Sandor won though he was guilty of killing Mycah." Sandor's trial of combat in A Storm of Swords invoked R'hllor, and Thoros was involved. But R'hllor let the guilty go free.
My point was that even if one accepts the existence of R'hllor, which I do not, there is no evidence that he is transcendent. We know of physical beings with supernatural power, yet we do not know of any transcendent beings. Therefore there is not much of a possibility that R'hllor is transcendent.
This argument can be used even if one does not believe in the existence of R'hllor, since I am pointing out that not only is there no evidence that R'hllor exists, there is no evidence that R'hllor is transcendent. I may, however, have phrased my argument in a way that may have brought confusion, and apologize for any misunderstanding.
Pro countered that it is possible that R'hllor is a fool, that he does not intervene, or that he is blocked by the Great Other. However, as I stated during Round 2, there is no evidence that R'hllor is a fool or exists at all, or that the Great Other exists. The Pro has not countered this lack of evidence.
Therefore, there is still no evidence that R'hllor, or any other deity, exists.
Con has re-stated his argument that the accidental nature of the resurrection of Beric Dondarrion by Thoros of Myr proves that no outside agent could be responsible or an accessory to the resurrection. I agree that the nature of the resurrection was accidental, but that does not mean that the resurrection was not incidental to an outside agent other than Thoros.
Con gives only two options; that R’hllor acted independently, or that R’hllor does not exist. I agree with con that there is no evidence that R’hllor has ever acted independently. However, the intent of the human agent is inconsequential in the event of the existence of a secondary, supernatural agent.
What is of consequence is that Thoros conducted the funeral rite and invoked R’hllor. The intent of Thoros in conducting the funeral rite is of no more consequence in proving agency than proving that 911 operators do not exist if the number is dialed accidentally. What proves their existence is that that emergency services arrive after being called, not the intent of the caller.
In fact, the accidental nature of the initial resurrection of Beric Donarrion lends greater support to the idea that a second agent was involved. The alternative is that Thoros, without aid, somehow resurrected Beric accidentally and without intent. If intent is required than the existence of a second agent is necessary for the initial resurrection of Beric to have taken place.
Con argues that the only Red Priests are able to resurrect in the particular manner that they do because they are the only ones trained to do so. Yet there is evidence that resurrections can be performed and visions seen in flames by others.
Beric Dondarrion was able to resurrect Catelyn Stark, and Stannis Baratheon was able to prognosticate without either having been trained as Red Priests.
The two instances are evidence that disputes the claim that an agent needs to be a Red Priest or be trained in a Red Temple in order to perform the magic associated with R’hllor. What does seem to be required is that the agent be a believer of R’hllor, and invoke or petition R’hllor. If belief and invocation/petition were not required, then some third party should be able to perform the same magic simply through observation. This has not been the case.
Con again argues that the vagueness of the visions received by Melisandre proves that R’hllor does not exist. As evidence he shows the misinterpretation of Alys Karstark as Arya Stark by Melisandre. It is clear however, that the visions are visions only. There is no explanation given. This is the source of the misinterpretations made by Melisandre. She is granted visions of the things she requests, but does not understand them. My claim that the vagueness of the visions lies in the interpretation, and thus is the fault of the interpreter, stands.
Con has argued that it is clear that R’hllor wishes to spread his faith and his inability to do so proves his inexistence. However, the evidence con uses to support this argument are the actions of the Red Priests Melisandre and Moqorro. These actions provide evidence only of the desires of two of his Priests. Thoros of Myr seems to be just as devout a Priest and does not demand conversion from anyone. Nor does Melisandre and Moqorro for that matter, who habitually work with non-believers. There is no evidence that either the Red Priests or R’hllor are “obsessed with people believing in him” as con claims.
Even if we were to grant that R’hllor was obsessed with conversion, not only are there possible reasons that R’hllor could not create “undeniable proof” which con demands, but I have also given a third possibility why a deity could not provide this proof in the World of Ice and Fire. The reason being that George RR Martin does not wish to utilize a deity as a deus ex machina.
Con argues that due to lack of proof that either R’hllor is handicapped or a fool, that his third option, that R’hllor does not exist, but be true through logic. Thus con’s logical syllogism seems to be:
Yet, we know from experience that proof is a matter of discovery. The fact that there is no proof that R’hllor is a fool or handicapped is not logical proof that he does not exist, any more then DNA does not exist before it is discovered by Friedrich Miescher. The first premise of the syllogism is false. Things may exist without proof, because proof is point of view dependent.
But there remains more proof that R’hllor does exist then proof that he does not. In the same manner that one can suppose the existence of DNA or black holes, before they are proved to exist. Through the experience of the effects that these objects create.
Con has argued that the incidence of the guilty winning a trial by combat, or the innocent losing, is proof that the gods invoked do not intervene, are not benevolent, or do not exist. Again, con gives two reasonable possibilities over the possibility that R’hllor does not exist. It is possible that R’hllor, or the Seven, do not wish to intervene, for their own purposes, or are not benevolent deities. To this I will add two other possibilities, that either the Seven or R’hllor have their own motives, or are unable to intervene in that way at all.
There are several possible motives the Seven could have in allowing Tyrion to lose his second trial by combat. It could be the Seven wanted Tyrion to go to Essos and meet Danerys Stormborn. It could be that R’hllor did not believe that Sandor Clegane’s crime should be punishable by death. The possibilities are endless. What we do know for certain is that if these gods did have the ability to effect who wins or loses a trial by combat, it could not be in an obvious deus ex machina way, because George RR Martin eschews this use.
Con argues that because there is no evidence of transcendent supernatural beings, while there is evidence that material supernatural beings do exist in the World of Ice and Fire, that it lends credence to the argument that transcendent beings do not exist in the series. Yet as I have shown, there is ample evidence of the existence of a transcendent being in the World of Ice and Fire. Transcendent, immaterial beings can only be viewed by their effects. They cannot be viewed directly in the manner that a material supernatural being is. The proof that pro is demanding is impossible due to the very nature of the subject’s immateriality and transcendence.
In closing, I would like to sum up my argument with the proof I have given that R’hllor, a supernatural transcendent being, exists in the World of Ice and Fire.
I would like to thank Stannis_Lawyer again for the opportunity to debate this issue here. It has been lots of fun. Please vote.
stannis_lawyer forfeited this round.