From a post to DAVIDWEBER.NET forums on 5/25/2011

Judaism in the Honorverse

    I realize I'm a goy, but I'm a very nice goy, really, and I'm also the author, so if I may, I'd like to comment on the idea.

    First, a little bit of history which might be affecting my judgment in this case. Immediately after The Honor of the Queen was released, Baen received correspondence accusing me of anti-Semitism on the basis that if you stripped the New Testament out of the Christian Bible, you were obviously suggesting that the people who had done it were Jews. The fact that I'd chosen the name "Masada" for the planet where the people who had done that lived was taken as an additional slur and proof of my anti-Semitism.

    Now, I think it should be fairly obvious to most of my readers that nothing could have been further from my intentions. In fact, the choice of "Masada" as the planet's name was intended as a comment on the irrationality of the people who had chosen it and as an example of how any name or any symbol can be misused and twisted. The Masadans, like The Church of Humanity Unchained on Grayson, is fundamentally Christian in origin and basic doctrine, but the Masadans are lunatics who are a lot closer to being heretical Christians (inasmuch is anyone who denies the divinity of Christ can be considered "Christian" by even the broadest stretch of the imagination) then anything else I can think of. As a practicing Christian — and a historian — myself, I can say that while they might be a little more extreme than some lunatic "Christians" who have come along, they're certainly right in the mainstream of religious fanaticism, choose your own flavor.

    It's possible that I'm feeling a little gun shy about your notion because of that allegation from so long ago. Personally, I think its source was probably pretty lunatic in its own right, and it's indisputably true that no matter how careful you are, there's always the risk of stepping on someone's bunions. I think it's pretty obvious that's what happened in this case.

    I think, however, that you've raised a very worthwhile point which I probably need to address, possibly in one of the anthologies. The question, of course, is how to go about it. I'm not sure that there are any religions which would be a good fit for proselytizing Masada and converting the planet to sanity. I can see aspects of both Judaism and Christianity which would tend to soften the very black-and-white, legalistic, judgmental, self-righteous view of its version of "the Law" which has totally dominated and shaped Masadan religious beliefs and society (to the extent to which there is any differentiation between the two). The truth is that they need something to break that stranglehold, either by an entirely "new revelation" or by a reevaluation and reinterpretation of their version of the Law. The problem, of course, is whether or not they're prepared to listen to anything of the sort.

    The insertion of Autentico Judaism into the Honorverse mix was actually Eric's idea, although I approved of it enthusiastically when he initially asked me about it. In my own mind at this point, though, I think it's probably a better fit for the genetic slaves than it is for Masadans. I say that because the slaves, like the Jews, have been focused on surviving the grindstones of history, intolerance, and bigotry for centuries, where is the Masadans have been the ones practicing intolerance and bigotry (not to mention misogyny) for centuries. And, until the last twenty years or so, they confidently believed that they'd be the ones defeating the "heretics" on Grayson. There's a fundamental difference in mindset there, and I'm not really sure how much the fact of their military defeat is going to change it, especially since the planet's still intact. Their defeat was profound and total, but the destruction involved in it was minimal. Given the human animal's ability to deny the obvious, the reaction of a lot of the Masadan population has to be along the lines of "If they'd really beaten us, they would have destroyed us, since that's what we would have done to them." Against that kind of thinking, missionaries and proselytizers of any stripe are going to face tough sledding.

    Nonetheless, Masada and its abortion of a religion are something that true people of faith, whatever the exact form of their faith, would feel compelled to do something about, regardless of the challenge (or the personal danger) they would face, and it's probably time that I did something with that strand of the Honorverse. You've given me some significant food for thought here, which I appreciate, and I'd actually like to see this thread expanded into a general discussion of where you guys, the readers, think Masada is going, where it ought to be going, and how it might get to either of those destinations.


    Oh, by the way, in regard to your question about the Judean League. I'm afraid it is part of the Solarian League, but its sympathies are definitely not with the "Mandarins," as Kolokoltsov and his buddies have been christened by the Solarian newsies. I haven't entirely decided how the JL will play out in the League's internal dynamics as the situation with the Star Empire goes further and further into the crapper, but I think you can take it for granted that Kolokoltsov won't like whatever it ends up doing. [EG]

    I really regret that it produced that sort of impression. I guess my take on it was that the Masadans were such obvious lunatics (not simply in my eyes but by the standards of all the "good guys" in my books) that readers would realize I thought they were total maniacs who were going to twist and distort everything with which they came in contact. They had already desecrated my book by completely deleting the New Testament, and they proceeded to desecrate your book by ignoring — oh, the odd four or five thousand years or so of theology, philosophy, and sanity. The fact that they saw themselves as the spiritual inheritors of Masada was meant to underscore the fact that they were totally out of touch with reality and that they — as the genocidal aggressors on Grayson — were identifying themselves with the heroic resistors of oppression, thus twisting everything that the historical Masada had stood for. It was, if you will, a case of their profaning something to prove their own detachment from reality, sanity, and any sort of true religion, and Masada — as a very powerful image for me, as well — resonated perfectly (for me, at any rate) with what I was trying to communicate.