Theological Quandary for the Haruhiists

Pime Taradox
More confusing than a PIME TARADOX?

Suppose you’re a Haruhiist, and you desperately want to see this genderswapping gem animated (though it has already mutated into clipshow form).

So . . . is it acceptable to pray to God that She might change Her gender? And is She the same God when She’s a He? This is, of course, assuming that Haruhi can be God and gendered at the same time. I wonder if anyone’s actually given thought to an internally coherent theological system for Haruhiism yet?

[Incidentally, it was recently announced that Haruhi is getting a UK release. And not before time too, I might add.]

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25 responses to “Theological Quandary for the Haruhiists

  1. Ugh. You have the gears of the many years of my Catholic theology in my head turning. I’ll take a shot at this one.

    In monotheistic religions, the issue of the gender of God usually is classified under feminist theology. In Christian theology, it usually leads down the path to the ordination of female priests which I don’t wanna get into because I don’t know it that well and it would make this comment really long.

    There are plenty of questions about the person of God. In Genesis 1:26-27, God creates humanity in God’s image (it may be phrased differently depending on bible translation) and that has often been used in our understanding who God is as a person. In the youth group I help moderate, an interesting question was raised about who we thought God is. One of teenagers responded that God to him looks like Morgan Freeman. And that is actually a solid response. “Image” is often interpreted as the human image of self beyond the body: the human soul. Because of that, a number of Christian theologians accept the notion that God can be mentally conceived to be white/black and male/female.

    I think the more interesting theological question about Haruhi is whether God is a theist God or a deist God. Theism is the belief that God is active within the world (immanent) while being larger than the world (transcendent) which is the way most religions work. Deism is the belief that God creates world yet God doesn’t interfere with the world (watchmaker analogy: God makes intricate watch and winds it and then sets it on the table to tick by itself).

    In my opinion, Haruhi kinda tiptoed that line between theism and Deism. But I think that can be saved for a post for another day.

  2. ^—what koneko-chan said. (This from a seminarian.)

    I might add that Haruhi most corresponds to a demi-god, more like a member of the Greek pantheon, than either a traditional theistic or deistic conception of God. Haruhi, after all, is personal and limited in her self-perception (she doesn’t know she’s a demi-god). A deist God would be impersonal and uninvolved, and the traditional theistic God would be aware of him/herself as such and rightly expect worship. Plus Haruhi is fickle and emotional, just like the Greek ones.

    I am taking an entire class on the imago dei and the human personhood right now, but to keep this short I will save that debate for elsewhere. :)

  3. I’ll be horribly gauche, from an intellectual viewpoint, and treat the question as if She were a real person. Bear with me and my reality-confused mind. Fanboyism makes for borderline schizophrenia.

    On the topic of how Her divinity, it’s easiest to see Her divinity – that is, her reality-changing powers, as something distinct from Herself. This notion is somewhat supported by the novels, too, and it also fits in a more “human” comprehension of a God, as opposed to the faceless and incomprehensible abrahamic one. I agree with Huang; she’s more of a Greco-Roman (or Japanese, hurrh) divinity, it’s merely the scope of what she can perform that is like unto the judaic God. Her ability to change the world lies in her repressed desires; Id incarnate.

    So, if She were He? I think it’s perfectly logical to pray to Her to change Her gender. After all, the purpose of it is to make life more interesting. She’d like that(I really doubt she’d do it though). On the topic if She’s the same God then as now, well, depends on definition. Her Divinity, being another thing altogether from Her Ego, and self-image/identity has little ground in Id. Terms not used as much as Freud would like it as shortcuts to saying “her self” and “her subconscious will”. On the other hand, Haruhiists pray to Her not because of Her divine powers – but for Her person, of which gender is still a fundemental part. So, there’d be quite some change in what the fanbase consisted of.

    She’s (Or he? How is pronouns affected by tempus? And change? English ought to cut transgenders a little slack) still awesome as GAR, though.

    On the topic of “internally consistent theology”, I am obliged to inform you that yes, at least one of us have.

    Also, a last bit of flattery: yours is one of my favourite blogs. Always a delightful read.

  4. I dunno, I’ve always seen it as atheist idolatry…

    No different from the Catholic saints or the Greco-Roman pantheon.

    Then again, I’ve been exposed to quite a bit of mysticism in animé and eroge (Ayu, Makoto, Kanna, Misuzu, Fuuko, Nasuverse, Hakuoro) to actually give a fair opinion.

    And besides, do you really need a coherent theological system for idol-worship? Probably some rituals, yes, but a system?

  5. You don’t need them, per se.

    They are interesting – which is why I create them, personally. For own delight.

  6. Oye. Now we seem to be rolling. We even brought out the seminarian from hiding.

    Mike Huang, agreed. Thanks for expanding upon my comment. I didn’t even consider the idea of a demi-god. Something that I should really go back and relearn.

    Kaiserpingvin: I don’t think Haruhi’s gender is theologically significant. If she really is a God (with the possible world-ending powers), the gender in which she manifests herself in shouldn’t really matter. If gender considerably changes the manner in which she acts as God, I think we’re beginning to lean Haruhi too close to the side of human (with magical powers) than a God. Since we don’t really know who Haruhi is (I haven’t read the light novels), I like to picture Haruhi as a female incarnation of some greater being in the series. Which can lead down the Christian Theology path of the personhood of God and Trinitarianism. Again, something that can be saved for later.

    Personally, I would like to view Haruhi as a female goddess than a male god. But I have already devoted my (anime) self to Hinagikuism and Kyouism.

    drmchsr0: I don’t consider Haruhi as an atheist idol mainly because there is enough material to do some interesting religious studies in a number of areas. Her fandom can be considered sometimes a mass of mindless idol worship.

    I think “theological system” is a little bit misunderstood because here it tends to relate to a set of defined doctrines. A better term is “belief systems” (or for this case, maybe “The Doctrine of Haruhi”) Whereas theologians (or pseudo-theologians like myself), tend to think of theological systems as areas of religious thought which in itself may not specifically be about religion (exegesis and hermeneutics come to mind). Theological systems are then sets of approaches to do religious analysis rather than sets of doctrine.

    I think people have created belief systems for idol-worship. Just look at number of pseudo-religions out there from Scientology to sports fandom. And while the rituals themselves may be minor, the mass of people who consistently follow them can be considered a belief system. I remember hearing that touching of the head of the stone terrapin statue at the University of Maryland before a game by members of the student body has become a tradition along with various other student body stunts and hatred for other ACC schools at sporting events. I can’t remember the stupid stuff we did at sporting events when I was a college student.

  7. Seeing this topic, I felt it was about time I commented on your blog; while I admittedly have not kept up with it, as my studies require much of my attention and spare time, I admire the amount of devotion and enthusiasm with which you manage and expand upon it.

    Incidentally, I am a student of Theology myself (of the Copenhagen School of Theology, to whoever this is relevant), but while my (lack of) religious upbringing and currently limited exposure to theology is hardly adequate to make substantiated claims about the god and its doctrines that I currently study, I have entertained the thought of Haruhiism on occassions.

    While I have only read the first novel, so I cannot say if it is actually the case, it would seem to me that Haruhi’s divinity is comparable to the Christian position of adoptionism, in that she may have been granted her divinity and world-shaping powers by another, separate deity, but this of course raises the question as to the identity of her benefactor.

    Alternatively, to avoid this second deity, one could also suppose, based on Itsuki’s theory in the anime and in the first novel, that she is the sole deity of the world she created, subconsciously perhaps, three years before the onset of the first novel. The consequence of this scenario would then be that the memories of the world’s inhabitants had been formed spontaneously at the moment of creation, which would then be as “real” as the memories of the life that Neo thought he had “lived” in “The Matrix”. In all fairness, comparable claims are made by some Young Earth creationists concerning the age of the universe (that the light of distant stars were created enroute), so it is not unthinkable.

    A slight variant of this scenario would be a world perhaps engineered by a creator god, in which Haruhi, as a deity, spontaneously manifested herself ex nihilo, altering the world into which she appeared, “overwriting” and substituting it with the world as we see it in the series, becoming an (ignorant?) usurper.

    Or, finally, and perhaps the most mindboggling scenario, it could be supposed that Haruhi is the actual deity of this our current world and that the Suzumiya Haruhi franchise is merely the medium through which she has revealed herself, to the world as a whole or to a chosen elite who might then term themselves proper Haruhiists; whether she created or substituted the world, was herself created or created herself in this case would then be debatable, but, perhaps ironically, it is this last scenario that is the hardest to simply dismiss, as one could definitely conjure up a coherent theology based on it, while I personally have neither the time nor energy to do so. One possible way to do so could be could be to interpret the Suzumiya Haruhi franchise either as a series of recorded events or as a prophecy of events to come, whichever seems the most likely.

    As to the nature and personality of Haruhi, in all of these cases, she reminds me the most of the Greco-Roman goddess of Eris or Discordia, the goddess of strife and chaos, due to her otherwise chaotic and unpredictable behaviour; while my opinion on Eris is probably drawn more from reading the “Principia Discordia” moreso than being the opinion of the ancient Greeks, she and Haruhi are not chaotic in an evil, malevolent sense, but rather in a playful, curious and bored manner, stirring up trouble for the sake of creating excitement and rousing her environment rather than for the purpose of causing harm or grief.

    I would hope that I have managed to produce a coherent and relevant comment to this entry, and I thank the blog owner for graciously bringing up the topic; I should also note that I am not a convinced Haruhiist in the religious sense, but an avid fan of the franchise itself nonetheless.

  8. Interesting, I know little of theological reasoning. Theology for me was always been, well, Thomas of Aquino and little else. Either way, I think her gender is of importance because of the actions she will undertake (I’m assuming this would be a theological difference – as there’s a difference in whether Thor is a violent brute or a gentle dilettante). Admittedly, Haruhi if anyone would be largely unaffected by the societal norms and influences on different genders, yet I still think there might be quite the difference. Also, gods are only gods if someone worship them (mayhaps a horrid definition). Without the worship, Susanoo is merely a badass heroic storm-weilding swordsman with a complex relation to his family. With worship, he’s divine. And, vice versa, with worship heroes are made gods. And in this regard, it’s the “who worships what” that becomes interesting – Haruhiism as a social phenomenon would be different if it were GARuhi in the lead. A lot more fangirls, and less sexually-alluding fanboyism.

    I’m not sure whether those are actual theological differences or not, though. Need to brush up my knowledge in that area.

    This is wholly an argument focusing on the anime; I wouldn’t want to spoil the future developments for you, and there aren’t any massive changes in the metaphysical implications of Haruhi that applies too much to this.

    On the topic of “why humans believe”, I don’t think I should bore you anymore. Short version: Lacan, Marx, group dynamics and Jung. I do agree that Haruhiism is one mindless idolization. For some reason, she was a very powerful symbol to project, well, most everything on. It could be that her stormy, norm-disregarding and forceful person appealed to those who had yet to find a proper anima/animus (considering her gender-overreaching person) symbol.

    Also, while I were writing LillePer pops in and offers the very exact sentiment I’ve always had: that she’s Eris of Discordianism! Amazing. It’s a shame my body demands sleep, or I’d love to comment more on your post. Alas, such is the world of us without either tea or coffee.

  9. Ah. Another future theologian in the anime bloggosphere. That’ll make Mike happy now that he has another person to bounce theological buzz words with (I can only do so much with an undergraduate minor in theology from Villanova University).

    So far the general conclusion I’m taking away with is that the deity of Haruhi and the fandom of Haruhi (however idolistic) are two different creatures. It seems that we can only take analysis of her fandom only so far.

    However for me, it seems like I’ve reached my limits for analyzing Haruhi’s deity any further. It looks like I need to restudy my Greek and Roman mythology on this one. I also gotta read the light novels. They sound like fairly interesting reads.

    So I’ll take a backseat on this one. I am interested to see what else you guys can come up with. If only I wasn’t working full time, then I would have more time to contribute to what has become a very interesting post.

    Thanks again to the blog owner. We’ve kinda taken control of this one so thanks for setting us up with means of expressing ourselves on this topic.

  10. I’m not a upcoming theologian, so to speak. I’m actually considering pastoral studies en route to becoming a missionary (still gotta take theology either way, so :V)

    I’m still completely convinced the whole thing is a viral marketing tactic gone completely awry. It’s naught but mere idol-worship.

  11. Um, epic thread?

    I’m no theologian, so I can’t offer much comment on what’s been said. Beyond saying that the ‘Haruhi is real’ theory is decidedly worrying in a Philip K. Dick manner. Even though I don’t find it credible, I suppose it’s technically possible.

    But regarding what koneko just said, don’t worry about using this thread for your own purposes if you want to. I have no problems with people generating content for me (!), plus it makes for fascinating reading.

  12. Epic thread indeed. Steal away, in the off chance I mention anything worth stealing!

    @LillePer – I’ll pick up on the “ignorant usurper” theme. Do I sense a gnostic influence here? Haruhi as the Demiurg would certainly make sense (here a late whammy in the novels would be very interesting from the viewpoint of the Aeons/Pleroma). Would that make the Shinjins the Archons? And Kyon, perhaps, Sofia?

    @drmchrs0 – A viral marketing scheme? I must say I’m rather doubtful to that idea. It’d be a quite godlike (heh) show of skill on behalf of KyoAni’s PR department, and a kind of psychological warfare on quite an extraordinary level. Of course, still possible, but I rather believe that Haruhiism exists as a reaction to the very powerful symbolic, archetypical values in Haruhi herself (the jungian Hero, which is also the blueprint of the Ego, “corrupted” in the sense that she no longer fights for “society” but “herself”).

  13. That is a cunning observation, Kaiserpingvin; while I did not consider it when I wrote my comment, it was definitely the underlying thought of the gnostic distinction between the creator god and the reedeming, supreme god I had in mind. Although, in this case, Haruhi occupies a unique “middle ground”, in that particular scenario, in that she is both distinct from the supposed creator god and yet a creator god herself.

    If one was to get closer to a gnostic interpretation, the demiurge would be the supposed creator god and Haruhi would be the incarnation, or chosen representative, of the supreme god, but as the gnosticism I am familiar with has Jesus as the “dying and rising godman” within, rather than an actual figure, it does not readily fit on the Suzumiya Haruhi franchise.

    On the other hand, Haruhi as a figurative character is more in line with this strain of thought, her struggle against boredom, perhaps stretching it a bit, being the struggle against her emotions and her lower self on the path to enlightenment, which is sought to be mirrored by the follower to whom this figurative struggle is equally relevant.

    To return to the “Haruhi is real” scenario, while I do not intend to call the matter of the validity of religion itself into question here, the prospect of Haruhi being a, or the, actual deity of this world is only as worrying, to me, as the prospect of there be any actual deities at all.

    Furthermore, a myriad of questions arise with this scenario: what would be the role of the author of the franchise in the propogation of this supposed revelation, and would allegations of copyright infringement be applicable to hypothetical Haruhiist cults adapting his works into religious scripture?

    Considering that Scientology often has the law on its side in manners of copyright and in censuring its classified information or removing its leaked documents, it could be argued that such would also be the case with these Haruhiists, if granted enough funds or attention, lest the freedom of religion would be compromised or the courts of law be ruled hypocritical. An interesting case in terms of Scientology would be its claim that humanity was transported to earth on spaceships “looking exactly like DC-4s”, albeit without the engines; this would suggest that the original designer(s) of the DC-4, knowingly or unknowingly, had copied an ancient alien design – while the sane answer would have it be a purely fictional account produced by Hubbard in which the contemporary DC-4 was incorporated, though, owing to my lack of omniscience, I would not know.

    In fact, it is exactly this security, as provided by the policy of religious freedom, with which many existing cults, all over the world, are operating, their right to their doctrines superceding any concerns about the factuality of such. This, of course, not being a critique of the freedom of religion as much as it is a comment that the tolerance which is afforded even to questionable religious groups is an unfortunate, uncompromising must, even if it can lead to potentially disastrous conflicts in the long-term.

    But all of the scenarios I have mentioned are purely speculative and I take no stance as to the likeliness of any of them while not denying the probability of any of them being the case. In fairness, I would think it is only eccentrics such as myself who give this amount of thought to Haruhiism as a potential religion rather than being a fandom phenomenon. These fans are only “atheist idolators”, I would think, so far as they do not realize it, and the author of the novels, let alone KyoAni, could not possibly have anticipated the immense popularity the franchise was to enjoy.

    Lastly, I am glad that I am not alone in noticing the parallels between the Discordian Eris and Haruhi; Haruhi has certainly been emancipated from the curse of Greyface herself, through a voluntary resignation or divine intervention. Breaking the curse, in my own case, has certainly contributed to my own happiness, as my problems were solved, though it leaves the unbearable realisation that I do not know how to fulfill my part of the bargain, that is, solving the problems of the goddess Eris, but this discussion is best left to Discordians, being far beyond the scope of the current entry.

  14. The whole Haruhi premise reminds me vaguely of the way Fox Kids handled their adaptation of Peter Pan back in 1990. In their iteration, the world of Neverland exists largely as an extension of Peter’s imagination. The people of Neverland are basically living in Peter’s dream. The big series climax is based around Peter losing his memories and fantasizing about growing up. The world of Neverland begins to dissolve from beneath the rest of the characters who now call it home.

    As the Wiki article mentions, it was a pretty serious and dark cartoon for the weekday afternoon lineup, but I loved it growing up.

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  18. Well I know this might sound a bit odd but if you read this i’m just wondering does anyone think that the Anime World really exists? I mean do u think that there are different worlds out there that are like animation or black and white because I mean I have friends at school, I get pretty good grades but I just don’t fell like anyone understands me…….. well anyone that reads this will probably think i’m nuts but i’m not i’m just a normal kid that doesn’t belong here thats all. I wish and I hope that there trully is an anime world out there……………………….

  19. @ The_Anime_World: If it’s any comfort, I’d say that we live in a world full of people who at one point or another feel like they’re out of place and not understood.

    I suppose as a good sceptic I can’t really rule out the existence of an animated world – and I wonder what limited amount one could do by messing around with people’s optic nerves in this world – but if it does exist I doubt its existence has much importance.

    But the effects of the fake, narrative worlds in our anime on real life (consider the odd behaviour of more fanatical anime fans) are quite significant enough.

  20. I am in no way a theologist, but I have been pondering over this particular subject for quite some time already. While the fact that Haruhi is God is actually quite plausible, it does raise some interesting questions, such as: If Haruhi is God, but doesn’t know it, how does She moniter the entire world, if She really is only concerned about the little bit She lives on? She would have to maintain a constant effort of concentration to make sure the people who are not connected to her have a life and a will. That is assuming, of course, that we really do exist. What if, at some point of time in their life, every single person on the planet meets her in some way, and that is the only time we ever truly exist? In other words; out of sight, out of mind. We don’t exist until She needs us to exist. We are not actually living our life, because we simply do not have one. That is altogether a quite frightening prospect, but I hope it deserves a little thought.

  21. Here’s another thing. In one of the episodes, the fate of the entire world rests on one baseball game. Now, THAT is terrifying. If Haruhi is always so obsessed with winning, then the world MUST have been remade quite a few hundred times by now. For the world to make sense to her state of mind, seeing as she doesn’t know she’s God, then she has to lose at least some battles. Now, I know that part of the reason she was so angry and unhappy was because she wanted Kyon to prove himself, but still; if you were God, wouldn’t you make sure your very special person would fulfill most, if not all, your expectations?

    Well, that’s all I can think of at the moment.

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  23. The “Haruhi is real” question is easily answered in one sentence
    Kyon’s name is Nagaru Tanigawa.

    One theory growing in the haruhiist comminity is that the books are autobiographical.
    The evidence for this is that the school in which the story is set is the same school which the author attended, also that Kyon’s (any other characters without super powers) names are never fully said.

    However as a haruhiist myself I only acknowledge haruhi as an example to live my life by, Not in the sense of commiting crimes, Only she can get away with that, but her believe that the world is boring and uninteresting, that individuality is shadowed by conformity. Of course I have my “holidays”such as Tanabata and the last 8 days of summer break being unlucky, but I don’t actually “worship” Haruhi.

    It’s more akin to rememberance, the kind of feeling you feel towards veterns on Veterans day/Rememberance day/Anzac day, No worshiping is involved.

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