On Anne McCaffrey and the Dragonriders of Pern series
Religion on Pern?
“If you come to the church, you’ve gone too far.” That pretty much sums up Anne McCaffrey’s approach to organized religion.
Anne once told me that she came from Catholic stock, but separated from Rome over a number of issues long before I met her. Nominally, she was Presbyterian, a wise choice for the Republic of Ireland, where she had moved with two of her three children in 1970. In the end, her funeral was conducted warmly and well by a retired Presbyterian minister, Rev. Jim Carson. He had been her choice, and it was the right one. (Jim asked me to give a reflection at the service, which I was honored to do. But that’s another story.)
Because Anne had excluded religion from her Pern stories in particular, many fans and even some professional critics assumed that she was an atheist. Some celebrated the assumption; others denounced it, for instance, as, “Anne’s hatred of religion and morinic [sic] view on religion as an evil destructive force. The people of Pern are not human, since every one of them are atheists.”1 She did have many atheist fans, who peppered the dozens of McCaffrey (and other) forums with their views, not least in the “Atheist OUT Campaign” string on the New Kitchen Table page.2
But Anne was not an atheist. Her attitude toward religion, including religion on Pern, was more nuanced than might appear from blogs and brief reviews, however, and it was especially so toward the end of her life. Thereby hangs my …