< Return to Famous Science Fiction Writers
< Return to Famous Quakers
The Religious Affiliation of Fantasy Author
Piers Anthony was raised in a Quaker family. Quakerism is clearly the religious denomination that had the most influence on him and he appears to have had a sense of identity as a Quaker while growing up. As an adult, Anthony had a strong affinity for Quakerism, and this was the organized religious denomination he had the most sympathy for. Although Anthony selectively adopted and held to many Quaker beliefs and practices as an adult, he has said that he was never officially a Quaker church member. Theologically, Piers Anthony identifies himself explicitly as an agnostic. His primary religious identity throughout adulthood (and perhaps earlier) appears to have been agnostic.
In the "Author's Note" at the end of Anthony's novel For Love of Evil (New York: William Morrow and Company (1988), pg. 364), he states that he is an agnostic but definitely not atheist:
As I have mentioned in prior Notes, I have no belief in the supernatural. These novels are unabashed fantasy. Some of you have written to object to my atheism. I do not treat such letters kindly, because I am not an atheist. I am an agnostic: one who has not come to a conclusion about the validity of the existing theories of Deity and Afterlife.
In the "Author's Note" at the end of Being a Green Mother, Anthony wrote:
I had a report that a fundamentalist school was banning my books on the grounds that I was a Satanist. (I wrote them a stiff letter, reminding them that Jesus would not have lied like that. I am at this writing approaching my thirtieth year anniversary of marriage to a minister's daughter). One reader wrote at length arguing that either Jesus was a stark, blithering lunatic who should have been put away, or he was correct when he claimed to be the son of God, with all that implies. No; this is a fallacy of limited thinking... Jesus did not have to be one or the other; he could have been a man who felt a strong need to reform the evils of the world, and whose parables were misunderstood... Jesus claimed to be the son of God? Of course he was. We are all children of God.
From: Piers Anthony, How Precious Was That While: An Autobiography, Tor/Tom Doherty Associates: New York (2001), page 12:
I think we children were something of an afterthought, because our parents did not seem to be unduly interested in us. Instead they went to Spain to do relief work with the British Friends Service Committee, feeding starving children. They were members of the Religious Society of Friends, more popularly known as Quakers, and the Quakers are known for silent meetings for worship, good business practice, integrity, and good works. This was among the latter. In 1936 the Spanish Civil War started, a kind of prelude to World War II, wherein Spain's own military fought to take over the country from the civilians. In three years it was successful, but it was hell on the children. So my parents were helping to keep those devastated children alive, by iporting food and milk and feeding them on a regular basis. It was worthy work, and I don't fault it, but there was a personal cost.
An excerpt from an anecdote from Piers Anthony's childhood, from: Anthony, How Precious Was That While, page 16:
It was not safe for my sister and me during the Spanish war, so we remained in England, cared for by our British grandparents and a nanny.
...Adolf Hitler of Nazi Germany was trying to get Generalissimo Franco of Spain to join the Axis, and a meeting between them was scheduled. Security was tigh. And there was my father, with a lot of money, near the border. He was there to buy food to feed a trainful of Jews being deported from Germany. So they "disappeared" him: they arrested him and dumped him in prison, uncharged. For three days my mother desperately tried to find out what had happened to him. The Spanish authorities denied knowing anything about it. Meanwhile he was confined with other men in a dungeon cell, whose sanitary facility was a stench... One prisoner was allowed a visitor, who brought a hot drink to him in a thermos; Alfred got them to put a postcard of his into the empty thermos, to be taken out and mailed. My mother received the card, and so learned of what had happened. Armed with that, and with the forceful assistance of a wealthy Quaker of influence who could have cost Spain a lot of needed needed monetary assistance, she was able to get them to admit that they did after all have a prisoner of that name. But dictatorships don't admit mistakes, so they agreed to let him go only on condition that he deapart the country. The relief mission of that area was shut down, and thereafter the children had to survive as well as they could without that food. I like to think that some people are alive today because of what my parents did in Spain. I was later to write a novel, Volk, relating to Spain and Germany and World War II, but have not as yet found a book publisher for it, because it is controversial. Instead, it is on sale on the Internet, at http://www.xlibris.com.
From: Piers Anthony, Bio of an Ogre, Berkley Publishing Group: New York, NY (1988), page 5:
My father, Alfed Bennis Jacob, becamehead of the British Friends Service Council mission in Spain [Friends are better known as Quakers; this was a religious misson of the Quaker denomination], feeding the hungry chidren who were the victims of the Spanish Civil War of 1936-39.
Anthony, Bio of an Ogre, page 9:
My sister and I were left with our grandparents and the nanny in England [while their parents served in the Quaker mission in Spain], where we were safe and comfortable, while my parents went, in their Quaker fashion, to war.
When he was young, Piers Anthony's family emigrated to the United States, from: Anthony, How Precious Was That While, page 18:
We docked, and my Amerian grandparents... met us and drove us to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the Quaker City. My mother was uncertain of her reception by my father's folks,for she was not even American, and might be considered an intruder, but Caroline [Piers Anthony's grandfather's third wife], similarly new to the family, welcomed her... Later I liked to refer to her [Caroline] as my wife's stepgrandmother-in-law. She was a great person, competent and diplomatic and very much a Quaker, speaking with "thee" in the manner of the elder generation. So I became acquainted with my American relatives, I liked them.
Anthony, How Precious Was That While, page 19:
We moved to a place called Pendle Hill. It was a kind of Quaker schooled for adult studies.
Anthony, How Precious Was That While, page 323:
Westtown was one of the best schools I attended--#3 of ten in my private ranking, and I do contribute to #1 Goddard College and #2 The School in Rose Valley... in bygone days, wealthy Quakers had donated formidable sums to the school [Westtown] to be used to pay part of the tuition of Quaker students. I counted as Quaker, because my family was Quaker, so got the benefit of that. Then the headmaster decided that the school could use that money better elsewhere, and took it, so that no student got its benefit anymore. Now the justice of contributing money for some students' tuiotion and not for others may be debatable, but this was a private Quaker school, so it seemed in order.
Anthony, How Precious Was That While, page 25:
[during Piers Anthony's childhood] ...our family was coming apart. My parents were in the process of separating, though they themselves may not have realized it at that point. The marriage had not been ideal fromt he start; they were two intelligent, liberal, socially conscious Quakers, but their more subtle differences doomed their union.
While growing up, Piers Anthony had a terrible bed-wetting problem. He discusses how he overcame this, and discusses how he came to become an agnostic. From: Anthony, How Precious Was That While, pages 30-32:
My parents didn't call it punishment, but it was my penalty for my persistence in wetting the bed: I had to clean up my own mess. I got the message in this and other ways: I was a burden to the family.
Anthony, Bio of an Ogre, pages 44-46:
My fondest imagination was that one day I would wake up and discover that it had all been a horrible dream, and I was really back in England with the nanny. But it never happened. I pondered my life, and concluded that if I could be given a choice either to live it over exactly as it had been, or never to exist at all, I would prefer the latter...
But it wasn't all bad. My parents did care, though they did not understand how the world seemed from my perspective... My father offered two remedies: he could arrange for a sympathetic group to pray for me, or he could take me on a trip to the city to talk with a knowledgeable woman. I never did have much faith in the supernatural, so I chose the trip. It was always a pleasure to get away from the wilderness and into civilization... I forget whether the trip was to New York or Philadelphia, but the woman was Mrs. West. She explained to me how you could not see electricty, or hear it, or smell it, but nevertheless it existed, and you know that when you turned on a light or some appliance. Similarly, she said, you couldn't see or hear God, but he nevertheless existed. Now that's a rationale I can accept, and it may be the reason I became an agnostic rather than an atheist. I remember being told about Santa Claus: a jolly fat man who squeezed down the chimney and brought presents to all the children in the world, in a single night. I didn't buy it. Then I was told about God: a big old white man with a long white beard sitting on a cloud, looking down at mortal folk. I don't buy that either. I make my living from fantasy, but I always knew the difference between fantasy and reality. I am a realist. But I understood the difference between lack of evidence, and proof. If you're driving on a mountainous road, and you want to pass the slow car ahead, and you don't see any oncoming traffic, you don't just assume that none exists. You wait until you can see ahead on a straight stretch. To do otherwise is dangerous. So while I have never seen persuasive evidence of the supernatural, and really don't believe in ghosts of flying saucers, and like the great playwright George Bernard Shaw I am wary of a man whose god is in the sky, I don't feel free to declare that there is no God. So I am agnostic, not presuming to deine the nature of God. And if you define God as Truth, Justice, Compassion, Beauty, Honor, Decency, and the like, then I do believe. But the bigotry I have seen in so many religions prevents me from joining any of them; I don't think that any great religious leaders, including Jesus Christ, ever intended their followers to practice anything like the Inquisition or Crusades or Jihads, converting others by sword and torture. In fact I think that if Jesus returned to the world today, his tears would flow to see what has been wrought in his name. He was a man of tolerance and peace, and he welcomed evern a prostitute to wash his feet. I think that he and I could have a compatible chat, and he would not object to my philosophy any more than I object to his. And I think that the bigots would crucify him again, in the name of religion. So I am agnostic, and satisfied to be so. When I grew up, I married a minister's daughter, and we don't have any quarrels about religion. My background was Quaker, hers Unitarian Universalist, both "liberal" religions, and I like to think that when good work is quietly being done, there is apt to be either a Quaker or a U-U person involved.
So I appreciated Mrs. West's rationale, without being persuaded of the existence of God. After that she took me to a bookstore and bought me a book. No, not a religious one; it was a storybook with games... it was that wonderful book that was the prize from my trip. Perhaps it contributed to my love of books... But the thing that impressed me most about the trip was the proof it represented that my father really did care...
Since I was plainly a maladjusted child, I was sent to a series of psychologists and psychiatrists. Now I may have appeared subnormal, but I was not; I caught on early that these wre paid profesionals who had little inkling of the true nature of children. So I would talk about this and that, being generally positive, and they would be satisfied that they had done me some good, while never actually touching the real me... [after much idiocy by therapists] I developed a cold attitude toward such meddlers. In due course I simply refused to see any more of the, outright. I retain a healthy disrespect for that profession, and I find much of Freudian pretension laughable. Theory is one thing; real people are another.
Piers Anthony discusses his relationship with the woman who would become his wife, from the time when they first knew each other, from: Anthony, Bio of an Ogre, page 80:
Yet there can be some value in psychiatry. Psychiatry is considered a science, while astrology is considered fantasy, but I see them as equivalent. The psychiatrist employs largely irrelevant assumptions to unriddle the confusions of the human personality. The astrologist employs similarly irrelevant parallels to the celestial phenomena to fathom the course of human events. It doesn't matter. What does matter is that in each case, a disciplined person gives his whole attention to the problems of the confused person, trying to help. That attention is what counts. The client realizes that someone cares. That is not generally sufficient to solve his problems, but it can make them easier to live with. The human mind likes to make sense of things, and any philosophy that seems to provide such sense is valued, even if it is nonsense. Hence we have psychiatry, astrology--and religion. But I don't require any of these in my life.
I have, however, a fond and perhaps irrelevant memory of one astrologer, Marc Edmund Jones...
The psychologists were my mother's route; my father had a different one. He prefered a more spiritual approach. Now I never did have much truck with the supernatural, but this may have had its effect. My father said he could write to a group who would pray for me [about Piers Anthony's bed wetting problem], in that way helping me to get better, or he could take me to see a lady personally, who might be able to help me. I considered, and saw no benefit in being anonymously prayed for, so I chose to visit the woman... The woman was called Mrs. West, and she talked to me for about half an hour, and told me how some things were real even though we could not see them. She used electricty as an example...
Now the things-real-but-not-seen thesis of course relates to God, and while I retain a halfway open mind about that concept, I can't say I believe it. But the electricty I believe. I regard this as an excellent analogy. But I think more important was the evident fact that my father cared enough about me to use several days to take me just to talk to someone. Of course my mother cared too, but somehow the ignorant psychologists did not impress me the way Mrs. West did. she did not pretend to know the real nature, of things, she only offered a way of looking at things, and that was fundamentally acceptable to me. I have always had more respect for the person who says, "I don't know the answer, but let's consider and see what we can figure out," rather than the one who says, "I know best; you just do what I say."
Our relationship had crggy ups and downs, for she was a conventional girl, the daughter of a Unitarian/Universalist minister, while I was an agnostic doubter... We didn't date, for Goddard [the university they attended] was too informal for that; we just went together... I never dated the woman I was to marry.
Anthony, Bio of an Ogre, page 88:
I'm also the only person I know of who made a conditional [marriage] proposal. Because I was vegetarian, and I had seen my parents' marriage sundered in part by their difference over vegetarianism, and because while I was tolerant of the ways of others, I wanted no such barrier between us, I said, approximately: "Understanding the conditions existing, will you marry me?" She said yes without hesitation. Taken aback, I said, "Did you understand the question?" I mean, if she had misheard me, and thought I was saying "What a beautiful night!"--but no, she had heard and understood. She became a vegetarian in order to marry me, and while it is true that I would not have married her had she not done so, it is not true that this was because of any defect in my love for her. I intended my marriage to be permanent.
Cam had agreed that the wedding [between her and Piers Anthony] would be small. It would be in her father's [Unitarian-Univeralist] church, and he would conduct the ceremony, which I thought was a nice touch.
Anthony, Bio of an Ogre, page 109:
The loss of our third baby was a deep disappointment... Adoption? We were willing, but we knew better than even to apply at an agency. I was a vegetarian, an agnostic, a hopeful but unsuccessful science fiction writer, suffering from neurasthenia (imaginary illness), and was earning a minimum wage; no way we would be permitted to adopt. The fact that we might make genuinely caring parents counted for nothing. Had I been a churchgoing meat eater with a better job and no literary aspirations, adoption, might have ben easy enough. [Eventually Piers Anthony and Cam had two daughters.]
Anthony, How Precious Was That While, page 38:
There seems to be a small cadre of critics whose purpose in life is to spread false stories about me. I tackle these head-on when I encounter them, but it's like dealing with pickpockets; they are hard to catch in the act. I have been called a Satanist, maybe because Satan is a character in a couple of my novels, annd a possible child molestor, and some even hint that I must be into bestiality because there are mythical half-human creatures in my fiction, like centaurs and mermaids...
Anthony, How Precious Was That While, page 45:
My grandfather's Quaker family left Ireland because of the onerous vaccination law. In those days it wasn't a simple matter of a quick needle; they sliced open the flesh, and deaths sometimes occurred from the process. When my grandfather, Edward H. Jacob, got established in America, he married Edith Dillingham. They had five sons and a daughter, of which my father Alfred was the fourth... he attended Woodbrooke, a Quaker institution which had no examinations and no pressure; students there were to learn what they wished, in the way they wished. He was interested in biographies, and was studying about Ghandi, the great Indian pacifist.
Piers Anthony's father (Alfred) met his future wife while at Oxford. From: Anthony, How Precious Was That While, page 47:
...Norma Sherlock [Piers Anthony's mother] ...was the daughter of a doctor, and granddaughter of a Church of England bishop. [She converted to become a Quaker after Piers was born.]
Piers Anthony's father was originally from the Philadelphia region, and returned there after having studied at Oxford, marrying a British wife, and serving in the Quaker mission in the Spanish Civil War. From: Anthony, Bio of an Ogre, pages 18-19:
My father had left America to go to Oxford University... I had a stepgrandmother, Caroline Nicholson Jacob, who I think was a prominent woman in Quaker circles. She welcomed my mother and made her feel at home. That was the beginning of a long friendship.
Piers Anthony's suggestion that he "fell between the cracks and belonged to neither" Quakerism nor the Church of England (Bio of an Ogre, page 19) ignores the fact that his father was a devout Quaker. He seems to be exagerating the distance between himself and Quakerism. Subsequent chapters in this autobiography, and also material in his second autobiography, makes it fairly clear that Piers Anthony was considered a Quaker while growing up, and probably thought of himself as a Quaker. Certainly this is primary denominational identity, although he indicates his theological preference for agnosticism emerged fairly early
This was of course the Philadelphia region [that Piers Anthony's father brought his family back to]: the Quaker City. "Quaker" is the colloquial name for the Religious Society of Friends, founded in England by George Fox in the seventeenth century. It was bestowed derisively when Friends spoke of quaking before the Lord, but they made it their own. Friends [i.e., Quakers] are known for their silent meetings, believing that no spiritual intermediary is required between man and God; eachperson is guided by his own inner light. Friends wore plain dress and spoke the "plain langauge" typified by the use of "thee." They have always protested war, and have been persecuted for that. They also object to the use of oaths, preferring that a man's word be his bond at all times. In the larger world, two things seem to distinguish Friends: they are pacifists, and they are good businessmen. There is a joke: The only person who can buy from a Jew and sell to a Scotsman and make a profit is a Quaker. I don't believe this is intended to be derogatory to any of the three parties named. At any rate, William Penn was a Quaker. Thus we have the state of Penn-sylvania, (Penn's Forest), and the City of Brotherly Love. The city and state government are no longer run by Quakers, so they suffer the corruption and violence of other regions, but at least the memory is there. Certainly my grandfather was a good businessman, and he supported Quaker causes. Thus the American influence on me related to pacifism, simple devotions, integrity, and good business sense.
I was born in the time when my mother was changing her religion from Church of England to Quaker; thus I fell between the cracks and belonged to neither. When I grew up, I elected to join no religion. I will have more to say on that later. But certainly I hold no objection to the Religious Society of Friends, and I sincerely respect its precepts, and honor them informally. I believe particularly in the principle of honesty; to me a lie is an abomination. I am not, however, a pacifist.
Anthony, Bio of an Ogre, pages 52-53:
This is a subject I would have preferred to avoid in this narration, but it is integral to my attitude on integrity and must be covered. It is a Quaker tenet that anything that requires secrecy for its accomplishment is better done in the open.... Certainly the secret disposal of my goats was wrong, and contributed to my further alienation from my mother.
Anthony, Bio of an Ogre, pages 60-63:
How could a Quaker woman come to practice such a device? Obviously she did not consider it to be wrong, merely expedient... In Spain the word of Quakers was known to be good... But the principle had been established: The ends justified the means. A lie in a good cause was all right. It then became easier to use suspect means for lesser ends. Thus I learned, through more than one experience, that I could not trust my mother. Slowly, as I pondered such matters, I came to the conclusion that the only place to stop the erosion of honesty was at the outset... [More about this, as Piers Anthony demonstrates that in some ways, he holds to some Quaker principles and teachings even more stridently than his overtly Quaker mother.]
One of the facts of life in a Quaker school was the Friends' Meetings. We had them twice a week. I had been attending Meetings for two or three years before then, so this was nothing new, but the experience at Westtown disenchanted me, and thereafter my attendance verged from sporadic to not at all.
Anthony, Bio of an Ogre, page 92:
The Quakers (The Religious Society of Friends), as I have mentioned, believe that no middleman is required between a prson and his God. Thus the religious service is basically silent, with no priest or minister. I understand that in some branches there is a ministerial capacity, but I was never exposed to this form. About the only form of direct guidance at a meeting is by a leading person--in this case the headmaster of the school--who would signal for the onset of the service by silently taking his seat at the front, facing the majority, and signal the conclusion by turning and shaking hands with his companion.
However, the silent meeting is not literally silent. At any point any member may be moved to share his thoughts with the others, either in the form of an open prayer or as a straight discussion. On occasion, one such expression will lead to a series of additional comments by others. Once a student stood and said, "What can you do with a thief?" He spoke with passion, summarizing the problem of an anonymous thief who was ransacking students' rooms, and the helplessness of the victims in dealing with this. More than one faculty member rose in the course thereafter to address this issue, one going to the Bible to detail the savage punishment described in the Old Testament, which extended even to distant relatives of the thief and to other generations. I believe that by the time that particular Meeting was done, the entire community had a much clearer appreciation of the problem. Though normally the topics addressed are religious, there is no limit, and this consideration of the problem of the thief was, I believe, an excellent example of the proper functioning of the Meeting.
Later the thief was caught. He was my classmate. He was not expelled, and did not choose to leave; he stuck it out, and expressed his regret for what he had done, and made such restitution as he could. When the matter of theft came up in another context, he had input: "I know what thieving is like, because i have done it." There is no more pertinent comment than that by the person who has been there. This, too, illustrates the Quaker principle of the pacifistic solution to problems. Outright condemnation is usually based in ignorance, and it is better to try for understanding, reform, and restitution, making of a thief a responsible member of the community. Of course this not work in all cases, and this is one reason I am not a pacifist despite my sympathy with the principles of pacifism; I experienced too much of the schoolyard bullly, and knew that acceptance led only to further bullying...
But Two Meetings a week was just too much. I saw that some speakers were more enamored of their own voices than they were of the Will of God, and some had limited perspectives that I doubt stemmed from the principles of God or Jesus. In addition, I do not believe in coercing children to follow the religious beliefs of their elders. If the religion is sound, the children will in due couirse perceive its merit and join of their own volition; if not, then it should not be forced. About half the students at Westtown were not Quakers, so their attendance at Meetings represented no special benefit to them, as I see it. For my own children, I have neither required nor denied religion; the choice is theirs.
In addition, I did not believe in God, except perhaps as a man's notion of the ideal, so there seemed to be little point in sitting silently in quest of some message from the nonexistent... I had a rational mind, despite the evidence of my early schooling, and tried always to think things through fairly, exactly as I am doing here. I concluded that the legend of Santa Claus could not stand logial scrutiny, and never believed in him as other a comic character. Thereafter I was presented witht he concepts of God: an old white man with a very long beard who wore elegant robes and sat in a throne high above the clouds, and who looked down on mankind and required its worship. My mind traveled the same course as it had with the concept of Santa Claus, and came to the same conclusion. I never believed in that kind of God. Since it became evident to me that many people did believe, or professed to believe, and that organized religion was dedicated to this belief, I rejected it from the outset. I have never had occasion to change my mind. I think G. B. Shaw, the playwright, said it best: "Beware of the man whose god is in the skies."
...The God of the Quakers is not in the sky, it is in the heart, where it belongs, called the "Inner Light," but my disbelief was firmly established long before I learned of that. I believe that a person's religion should be integral to his everyday existence, and that he should conduct his every moment of life as if God is watching him, and that is how I try to conduct my own life. To me, there is no God, so he cannot be watching, but I am watching, and my standards are a good deal stricter than those I see governing the majority of those who profess to believe in God. I need no formal worship, no Sunday church or Meeting; my life is my religion. As Shaw also said: "What a man believes may be ascertained, not form his creed, but form the assumptionson which he habitually acts." So I endorse much of Quakerism, but have no formal participation. Richard Nixon, whom I regard as our nation's first criminal president, professed to be a Quaker; obviously he was something else.
My attitude at the time can perhaps best be shown by this: One day, as a friend and I were leaving Meeting, a techer, Master Charlie, called us aside. He took us to an office, and there he said: "Chess is a fine game. But not during Meeting." Then he dismissed us. There was no punishment, but the point had been made, and I never did it again.
1957... We [Piers Anthony and his wife Cam, not long after they were married] decided that if I had to be drafted, it might as well be soon, since we were barely surviving [financially] as it was. Get it out of the way when we could use the security of a guaranteed income, rather than later, when it might cost me a better job. So I wrote to the Draft Board, volunteering to be drafted as early as possible. Generations of Quakers may have rolled in their graves, but it seemed the best decision in the circumstances. In those days a person might be granted alternative service in lieu of the draft if military service was contrary to his religious doctrine. Since I had no religion, and only opposed the taking of human life, I had no legal grounds to object. My choice was between the military and prison, and it seemed to me that prison was likely to work greateer mischief on my conscience, what with the threat of violence and homosexual rape, than the U.S. Army. So, once again, I took a course that was contrary to the expectations of my family. I can't fault that choice, in retrospect.
Piers Anthony's autobiography Bio of an Ogre contains many other references to his Quaker upbringing, including pages 56-66, 229-243, 253-255.
Piers Anthony's autobiography How Precious Was That While contains many other references to his Quaker upbringing, including pages 52-53, 55, 338-339.
Piers Anthony had two daughters (Cheryl and Penny), at least one of whom (and presumably both) regularly attended Sunday school (religious education) as a child. Piers Anthony apparently enrolled his daughter Cheryl in Sunday school even before she attended any regular grade school. From: Anthony, How Precious Was That While, page 99:
...there are memories of Cheryl too. Her first day at Sunday school she did beautifully. Then when she saw me coming to pick her up, she burst into tears. As I make it, she behaved with poise, but was really worried about the absense of her parents. When she saw me she knew she could relax, and her feelings abruptly overwhelmed her. I picked her up and took her to Cam [Piers Anthony's wife]. She [Cheryl] had no further trouble with Sunday schoo, knowing that she was not being deserted.
Anthony, How Precious Was That While, page 279:
I... don't much like proselytizing, where some fifteen-year-old boy seeks to acquaint me with Jesus Christ. As it happens I already know Jesus, having made him a character in my major philosophical novel Tarot, and think he's a fine person--so fine that the bigots couldn't stand him, and crucified him--and if he came again to Earth, those same bigots would crucify him again, in the name of Christianity. In any event I don't care to be lectured on morality or religion by those who hardly understand the message of tolerance that Jesus preached.
Anthony, How Precious Was That While, pages 281-282:
Another category of letter [received by Piers Anthony] is the "How come you're an atheist?" query, sometimes phrased as "How come you're a Satanist?" I'm not; I'm agnostic, which means I don't presume to define the nature of God. There seems to be no tangible evidence on the subject, just assortted faiths whose readily kill those of other faiths. I see no evidence of divine order in the universe, but neither is there any absolute refutation. So I don't believe in Heaven, Hell, or an Afterlife, or in any kindly white man with a beard in the sky, or in any burning red man with a pitchfork underground, but there does seem to be a certain order in the universe for which the explanation is obscure, and perhaps that would be evidence of a divine presence. Our universe seems to have started fifteen or twenty billion years ago ina great explosion, and what came before it? Did it all form out of nothing? Maybe so; I can appreciate how the sum of all the things of the universe might be zero, like an equation 3+4+5 = 6+6. Simplify it and you have 0, yet the equation itself exists. Does every electron hae a positron, the hole left in vacuum when the electron was cut out? Does all the terrene matter have equivalent contra-terrene matter, its exact opposite? If so, and if the universe were simplified by putting together each bit of matter and antimatter, it would all cancel out and there would be nothing. Then only the fact taht he universe is too chaotic for all the bits to get together accounts for its continued existence. So maybe it could have come from nothing. But why did it happen? Wouldn't it have been easier just to stay nothing? Maybe that "why" could be called God. Are there intangible things, like Honor, Compassion, and Realism (my personal triad), and if so, who created them? I don't know. So I'm agnostic. I think my mind is more open and inquiring than are the minds of most religionists or atheists, so I believe I am more likely to ascertain the truth, if there is any such thing to be ascertained. And I really don't favor being lectured by those whose minds are evidently closed.
Anthony, How Precious Was That While, page 50:
Today only a minority of couples seem to wait for marriage before indulging in sex. It was different for my parents, sixty years ago... Norma's [Piers Anthony's mother] sexual education consisted of a quiet briefing by her mother on the eve of her marriage, of the "just close your eyes and think of England" variety... And so they married in 1933, and though they were in love and meant well, that was probably the beginning of the end of their relationship. Norma was simply unable to enjoy sex, and had to struggle to participate at all. Nevertheless I [Piers Anthony] was born the following year in the Oxford hospital.
Anthony, How Precious Was That While, page 285:
And there is a category of letters I find awkward, though not objectionable: the ones that solicit my congratulations for a Boy Scout's achievement of Eagle Scout status, or Bar Mitzvah, or similar. I was never a Boy Scout, so I am not conversant with its processes, and I was never a Jew, so am similarly ignorant there. I do not know the people concerned. So what am I to say. I try, but worry that my responses may be inadequate to the occasion.
Anthony, How Precious Was That While, page 319:
Abortion is one of those difficult issues that keeps me firmly on the fence. I don't like it--but then, I don't think anyone does like it. I am a vegetarian because I don't like the unnecessary taking of life, and a baby is a life. But some others who oppose abortion seem to stand for nothing much else I approve. They really don't support life, because they tend to approve the death penalty, they bomb clinics, and they murder doctors and others associated with abortion climics. I also have a problem, because I believe that the overpopulation of the world with people is perhaps the major threat to the continuation of civilization as we know it, and if every baby is saved, that will only get worse. I would much prefer to see effective contraception, so that an unwanted baby would never be conceived. There seems little point in requiring an unwanted baby to be brought into a hostile situation. So I hesitate to second-guess the women who seeks abortions. But I hate the thought of the most truly innocent of creatures, unborn babies, suffering the death penalty.
Anthony, How Precious Was That While, page 328:
The death penalty is another difficult issue for him. I don't like it in general, and I see its racist application, but there are specific cases where it does seem justified. Some people seem to exist only to harm others, and I just don't see why they should be allowed either to be free to rob, rape, abuse, or kill others, or to be supported at society's expense in prison. So this is another case where I figuratively hold my nose and let it be.
My politics are generally liberal, and I am not shy about them, though I value integrity more than philosophy. For example, those "liberal" students who shout down conservative speakers are not making a political statement, as I see it, but rather are demonstrating their lack of appreciation for freedom of expression. They need an education in courtesy and the First Amendment before they can claim to be true liberals. If they object to what conservatives say, they should skip the program, or, better, listen carefully, then make reasoned statements of refutation. But I must say that most of the illiberalism I see is on the conservative side...
About the funeral service of Piers Anthony's father-in-law and mother-in-law, who were Unitarian-Universalists, from: Anthony, How Precious Was That While, pages 337-338:
The memorial service was at the church on Mirror Lake, in St. Petersburg, where Ernest Marble [Piers Anthony's father-in-law] had been the minister for fourteen years. He had married us [Piers Anthony and his wife, Cam] there in 1956, and his three children had grown up in that vicinity. Now they were all there, with their families. The service was for both Ernest and Elizabeth, nicely done by the current Unitarian Universalist minister... I think it was a fitting legacy: all three of the children of Ernest and Elizabeth Marble were in enduring marriages with unified families. Something had been done right.
About the memorial service of Piers Anthony's mother, from: Anthony, How Precious Was That While, page 340:
My own family, in contrast, was much less unified. My parents were divorced in 1952 after nineteen years whose last decade had been essentially null, and my father remarried... My mother, Norma Jacob, lived in a Quaker retirement community in Pennsylvania...
[During a visit with his mother] We rented Crocodile Dundee on video and watched it with her [Piers Anthony's mother]. I liked the scene where a mugger is threatening the party with a knife, and Crocodile seems bemused. "That's not a knife. This is a knife." and he draws his huge blade and drives off the mugger. Norma didn't seem to apprecaite the sene, though, and I think it was because the mugger was black: she was so politically correct that she couldn't apreciate any black person being in the wrong. I don't care what the color is, a mugger is a mugger, and I'm glad to see one foiled. That movie was careful to be racially balanced, so the limo driver Crocodile encountered, another black man, won his respect. He wasn't racist, the movie wasn't racist, and it wasn't racist to enjoy the good scenes, regardless of the colors of their participants. So I differed with my mother on that, though nothing was said.
I attended the memorial service with Penny and Cheryl [Piers Anthony's daughters]... I spoke [at the memorial service], and likened her travel to the next realm toa ride on a train bound for Eternity. "And though I am so sad to see her go," I concluded, "I hope she rides that train forever." The complete comment is at the end of the Author's Note in the novel I was then writing, The Color of Her Panties. I don't believe in any Afterlife, but it is a pleasant fiction.
Piers Anthony concludes his second autobiography, How Precious Was That While, with a detailed discussion of his personal credo or philosophy, which he summarizes with three words: Honor, Compassion, Realism. He discusses the significance and personal meanings for each of these words and how they encapsulate his personal religious/philosophical beliefs (pages 347-352).
Webpage created 25 July 2005. Last modified 14 September 2005.
We are always striving to increase the accuracy and usefulness of our website. We are happy to hear from you. Please submit questions, suggestions, comments, corrections, etc. to: firstname.lastname@example.org.