cool dark beauty of the forest elfquest
Reading Time: 10 minutes (Chloe Ridgway.)
Reading Time: 10 minutes

Hi! Recently, I showed you Billy Graham’s biggest reason to believe in his religion. This major Christian leader offered up Jesus Christ, as characterized in the Gospels. This reason represents a departure from the norm, however. Many Christian soulwinners ask their targets to perform rituals like prayer in the hopes that their targets will experience something sublime while doing it. However, they face sharp limits to the usefulness of experience as a selling tool, namely because their religion describes a world to us that doesn’t match reality. I’ll show you what I mean today–by comparing their worldview to the fictional world of Elfquest.

cool dark beauty of the forest elfquest
(Chloe Ridgway.) The souls of our kind have always longed for the cool, dark beauty of the forest.

First: Apples to Oranges.

I mulled over this topic for a while.

Oh, I mean not about the Christian end of it. I’ve lost track of how many Christians have double-dog-death-dared me to pray. I always tell them I’ve prayed many times in my life, and nothing’s happened. Without missing a beat, they demand I do it again just in case this one time something wacky happens as a result. Sometimes, I get lucky and the Christian even indignantly accuses me of being scared to see what might happen.

(Yeah, cuz “nothing” is super-scary. Well, not to me, anyway.)

But this tactic usually comes out of the laity. Their leaders usually issue demands to pray only to the flocks. Often, their advice columns suggest prayer as a way to regain faith when it gets weakened by reality. One can easily see why Christian flocks might get the idea that prayer functions as a powerful way to zap non-believers with Jesus Juice and subsequently spark belief to life.

The problem these earnest soulwinners face is that there’s no such thing as Jesus Juice. Nothing zaps people who pray or work themselves into euphoria–except themselves. It’s all hormones and emotional highs. We can reproduce the effects quite effectively in non-religious settings and in other religions.

All the same, I wanted to compare Christians’ claimed experiences with something that really does happen. The problem is that the supernatural doesn’t exist, so there’s really not a correlation anywhere.

Once I decided to forage through my bookcase, however, I quickly found exactly what I needed for my comparison:

Elfquest soul names.

You know how Supernatural fans always say their series has a gif for everything? Similarly, Elfquest can be related to literally everything.

(A Quick Rundown.)

Elfquest is an incredible indie comic book series that began in 1978 and (sorta) wrapped up just recently. It’s always had one main artist and lead, Wendy Pini. I got hooked on the series somewhere around 1984. You can find their online library here. I apologize in advance for burning your entire day to the ground with that link.

For the purposes of today’s post, please allow me to sum up the concepts needed.

Every elf gets born with a special, top-secret soul name, though not all elves do anything with this concept. Elves can communicate telepathically, though not all of them do or even know how to (while others vastly prefer it to speaking). And every elf’s body can discern its ideal genetic match for procreation; when two elves hit the jackpot there, that process is called Recognition.

When two elves Recognize each other, they both know it instantly and unmistakably. They each get telepathically flooded with the other’s soul name (if applicable). They also want to get VERY busy together, VERY soon. That horizontal bop is guaranteed to cause a pregnancy, after which the intense urges dissipate. It’s possible to procreate without Recognition, but elves are not terribly fertile without it.

For today’s topic, a female elf named Leetah has Recognized a male elf named Cutter from another tribe. Long ago, Leetah’s tribe forgot about soul names and telepathy, though they’re quite familiar with Recognition. She doesn’t like Cutter much, largely because they met under adverse circumstances. As a result, she resists the siren call of Recognition.

As Leetah continues to push away that biological demand, Cutter’s soul name haunts her mind. However, she doesn’t know what the sound represents at first. Nobody said it to her; it came into her mind unbidden at the point of Recognition through the telepathy she also doesn’t realize she has the capacity to do. (For his part, Cutter’s baffled because he didn’t receive Leetah’s soul name!)

Someone’s having a bad night. (V4, p.5.) You can tell. She forgot to wash her makeup off.

The Question of Questions.

On page 5, issue 5, we find Leetah needing help and advice about her situation. She seeks out one of Cutter’s tribemates, Nightfall. This conversation happens:

(V5, p5.) Not quite passing the Bechdel test. But the series passes in many other places.

Nightfall doesn’t even know how to answer her. She probably welcomes the huge rumbling noise that distracts them right then! Leetah’s question had to sound as weird to Nightfall as how is red?

I wondered years ago how Nightfall might have answered that question. In the comic series, it’s such a fundamental concept for Cutter’s tribe, which is probably why hippies and pagans in real life grabbed it and ran with it in the 1980s–errybody had a soul name back then in that crowd, it seemed like.1

Eventually, Leetah figures things out for herself and accepts the Recognition–and Cutter.

And her question to Nightfall stands as our example today.

“The Infilling of the Holy Spirit” vs. Soul Names.

In Recognition, characters experience a very real–but very non-physical–phenomenon. This isn’t an emotion like love or irritation that comes from within us and shines outward. Nor it is an entirely subjective experience. Instead, it’s a tangible force. It’s as real as apples in the world Pini created, even if the elves don’t know exactly how it works or exactly why it joins who it does. The elves know when Recognition is there or it isn’t, and they know what happens if affected elves accept or reject it.

They can make accurate and consistent predictions about Recognition.

Now let’s compare that idea to something supernatural that many Christians believe is totally real and tangible.

Imagine that I, like Leetah, asked twenty Pentecostal Nightfalls to describe the infilling of the Holy Spirit.

I’d get back a number of different subjective answers–probably not as many as 20, because to a large extent those folks get coached heavily by leaders and group pressure, but it’d be a lot. All the same, I’d come out of that questioning not knowing anything tangible about it. Nothing those Pentecostal Nightfalls would tell me would relate to anything identifiable in reality. Nor would our pouf-coiffed Nightfalls be able to make any consistently-accurate predictions about any aspect of the Holy Spirit or what it does.

In fact, I spent almost my entire time as a Pentecostal worried about just identifying it. Was this particular sensation divine? Or something sent by demons, or even just of the flesh?

Why was I having so much trouble figuring out what my god’s voice sounded like? The Bible said I’d always know his voice, but I got fooled all the time and so did all the other Christians I knew.

(The solution stared me in the face, but I couldn’t deal with it yet.)

Getting Into the Cool Kids’ Club.

Back then, I envied my fellow Christians who seemed so tight with Jesus. They claimed to hear his voice audibly and to have this incredible two-way communication with him.

But I didn’t.

Obviously, I was the problem. I was doing something wrong. If I could only figure out what it was and fix it, I would enjoy the same closeness with my god–or so I thought.

(There was another way more likely answer for what was going on with those other Christians. I couldn’t deal with it yet, either.)

At the time, I figured I just wasn’t in the Cool Kids’ Club at Jesus’ school. He’d start talking to me once I proved myself devoted enough. And I broke myself trying to do just that. Weirdly, for all my intense fervor and devotion I never once heard a single thing from “Jesus” that I could have told you for 100% sure came from him–rather than from me or some other source (namely: demons).

It bothered me very much that all those words from the Lord at church and in testimonies were all literally stuff we could have come up with ourselves. Nobody ever got anything from these “prophecies” that could be reasonably counted as an actual prophecy.

After I deconverted, I noticed that I experienced all those same feelings elsewhere that I’d once felt in Christian contexts–especially in distinctly non-Christian settings. And I began noticing that Christian prophecies (well, really all prophecies) were just rah-rah and cold reads of the political situations at the time.

It was exactly like everyone was just making everything up as they went along, and everyone just pretended to play along with the Horse Puckey Icecapades everyone else created and shared with the rest of the troupe.

Southern Baptists JUST WISH they could do this. (V4, p. 1.) For context, Cutter just saved Rayek’s life. Rayek’s furious at him for it.

Testing: 1, 2, 3.

When I was Christian, my various leaders taught me phrases like “test all things; hold onto what is good.” They said Christians should learn to “test the spirits” to figure out if something we thought was divine really was. But none of us could actually categorically test any message we thought might be divine.2

Meanwhile, over in Elfquest-Land, the elves knew exactly what would happen if someone resisted Recognition too much, or if the wrong person got their hands on another elf’s soul name. They could push at the boundaries of their world a bit–like one impatient elf-couple who shared soul names to Recognize themselves. But nobody was going around talking about being an a-Recognitionist, or challenging other elves to big debates like “Soul Names: Totally Real or Made-Up Self-Important Hooey?” One might as well deny the existence of the sun itself.

Man, that’s the DREAM for fundagelicals, though, isn’t it?

Christians would love it if their notion of the Holy Spirit operated like Elfquest’s Recognition and soul names.

The Land Where Dreams Come True.

Click 2 embiggen.

Just imagine what the world would look like if it did! 

No more of these second-rate, cut-bargain-bin, $5 Wally World sales rack ZOMG MEERKUL claims that only look miraculous if you tilt your head just right and squint! No more chintzy why-on-earth-did-he-even-do-this weird coincidences that only barely (if that) correlate to the need or question at hand!

Just imagine how the world would look if just prophecies were real!

It’d be time to R-U-M-M-M-B-L-E!

“Welcome back to the News From Prophecy Desk. I’m Chip Diller. Today, Stuart Jenkins of Starks, Louisiana foretold a serious stock market crash. Millions pulled their money out of the market just in time for it to happen this evening. That was one heckuva drop! Aunt Brenda at our Health Watch Prophecy Desk just announced that [faraway country] is going to be hit with a mumps outbreak next month–make your travel plans accordingly. Now let’s hear from Coach Harris at the Sports Prophecy Desk about the big game on Sunday!”

Hospitals would close. All those kids with cancer? Their parents would convert and begin praying, and as the Bible promises repeatedly, their kids would get healed. Amputees would take selfies after their restorations to send in to that “Why Won’t God Heal Amputees?” site–cuz, uh, he DID.

Linguists would crowd into Christian churches to study the ancient and esoteric languages on display there.

Christians’ divorce rates would plummet, because Christians could finally actually figure out who their god wanted them to marry. Obviously, their Jesus Power would end racism and all systemic ills from their culture–and tangibly change people for the better, just as many Christians claim today.

The best part? Apologists would go out of business immediately. When one has evidence, one doesn’t need blathered arguments anymore. Arguments are what conjobs offer when they lack evidence.


Instead, Christianity looks exactly like I’d expect if Christians were totally making up their PROOF YES PROOF and nothing supernatural really existed.

All we see are constant failures of prayer to do anything tangible, prophecies that are just rah-rah and informed guesses and wild hopes, manufactured and exaggerated miracle claims, and adherents who profess their fervent faith while remaining raging hypocrites.

And gang, we encounter all of this stuff in the religion because none of it’s really true. If its claims were true, Christians wouldn’t need to sell their religion with lies and fakery. They’d have the truth to show us then. Instead, they lie–because they must.

Remember: Real and true claims don’t need lies to sell themselves.

Kahvi is probably the closest you’ll get to an a-Recognitionist in Elfquest. (V16, p.25.)

By contrast, nobody in the World of Two Moons has to sell Leetah on the reality of soul names–or, for that matter, on the reality of the elves’ telepathy. That’s because in her world, that stuff is real! It all operates exactly the way the elves expect, just like any real phenomenon should.

Weird, ain’t it, how a fiction series’ made-up cosmology can so effectively highlight how totally false and imaginary Christianity’s claims are?

NEXT UP: An Easter Egg-Stravaganza Super Special! Then, on Saturday, join me for a very special “Road to Emmaus” journey. See you soon!


1 NO I DID NOT. But Biff tried to saddle me with one after his conversion for some reason. If you’re wondering, he decided that my soul name was “Shree.” Remember, this was after his miraculous conversion. No idea why he did this; soul names are far from standard-issue fundagelical canon. I think he hoped I’d make one up for him too but I never did. The precocious-toddler act he always put on while using or discussing it was too twee and cringeworthy for words. Thankfully, he eventually dropped it.

However, before I reconverted, my good friend Scott and I once visited the home of someone in our SCA group because he’d misplaced his wallet. It wasn’t there, but Shalimar–the high priestess of the group who lived there–was. She excitedly offered to perform a magic ritual to find it. But Scott lacked a soul name for the incantation she wanted to perform. So she guided him through a ritual to find his soul name first. After a few moments, Scott suddenly acted wide-eyed and amazed!

He’d gotten his soul name, y’all! It was TRAF!


And Shalimar bought it! She went nuts over how “Traf” perfectly captured Scott’s most vital essence. After she’d gotten both rituals out of her system, we left. He laughed all the way home, though he was a bit indignant over Shalimar so easily believing that his “vital essence” was an inverted fart. He found his wallet eventually–naturally, it wasn’t anywhere she’d predicted it’d be. (Back to the post!)

2 Bless their hearts, our leaders tried to pretend at least like they had any idea how to discern a divine communication from any other kind. Luckily for them, their flocks are well-indoctrinated by now to take circular reasoning as valid. (Back to the post!)

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ROLL TO DISBELIEVE "Captain Cassidy" is Cassidy McGillicuddy, a Gen Xer and ex-Pentecostal. (The title is metaphorical.) She writes about the intersection of psychology, belief, popular culture, science,...

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