Aiyoku no Eustia is a fantastic visual novel (I initially thought it was only “great” but the more I thought about this post, the more I liked what it did) that still has yet to receive an English translation (a partial patch is available). While most people praise it for things like world-building and a character driven story, what I found most interesting about Eustia was its commentary on religion and faith. Eustia is definitely one of the most religious stories I’ve seen in otaku culture. What I mean by this is that religion itself plays an incredibly large role in the story. Indeed, many of the plot reveals revolve around the church (of a fictional religion) and personal faith is challenged in multiple characters. Perhaps this is not entirely unique as there many examples where the “church” battles “demons” or something of that nature. However, these stories are always incredibly superficial with their inclusion of religion. How often are things like personal faith and the details of the religious beliefs actually important to the story? Almost always, they are but a tool or excuse to tell a story that doesn’t really have anything to do with belief in a god.
Spoiler Disclaimer: The below post contains numerous spoilers about the visual novel Aiyoku no Eustia.
Eustia has a very specific and fictional religion in its universe. Novus Aether is a city floating in the sky, and it is thanks to the goddess that the citizens worship that the city can stay floating above the now cursed land of Earth. The world building surrounding these circumstances is lengthy, but it safe to think of this city as the only important inhabitants in the Eustia universe. Years ago, the lower section of the city collapsed in what is now known as the Gran Forte, and this created a place of degenerates which became known as Prison, a place of lawlessness and suffering. The cause of such a tragic event is that the appointed saint, who prays to the goddess on behalf of the citizens, failed to carry out her duties properly. Or so the people are told.
However, in a major turning point of the visual novel, the current Saint Irene reveals that the city’s ability to float has nothing to do with whether or not she prays to the goddess. She herself does not know why; however, she has long since stopped performing her duties yet still the city thrives. In the story, as more earthquakes that remind the characters of the Gran Forte begin to become more frequent, she is urged to pray more diligently. Pray to the goddess that the earthquakes will stop. She never stops praying, but as she reveals, she is not praying for the city. In other words, while Irene is a very faithful person, her religious beliefs are nothing like what people expect of her. Her belief in the religion of Novus Aether was shattered long ago when she realized her prayer had no effect on the city.
Blind Faith and Misguided Religion
There are honestly countless interesting things to take away from this series of events as it relates to prayer and faith. However, in the context of the story, I want to focus on the idea of misguided religion. Within the world of Eustia, the religion of Novus Aether is not entirely false. It is a classic example of mixing myth with reality and changing facts just enough to align with political gain. In some ways, it is very much like Christianity today – at least the kind that gets all the criticism for how misguided it can be. The world of Eustia is small; microscopic, even, compared to the population of today. But the influence religion has on the inhabitants is quite the same.
The people of Novus Aether cannot imagine that the religion they have been taught all their lives is false; they cannot even comprehend the idea of doubting it. It is not just an obvious truth in their lives; it is a necessary truth. Without religion, how else could they explain how the city is floating in the sky? Without a Saint, who else could they blame for the Gran Forte? And thus is the difference between well grounded faith and blind faith. While unwavering faith may be the ideal that Christians aspire to reach, it must be grounded in some level of reason. Of course, as I have said before, no amount of reason can make one’s belief perfectly logical – a leap of “blind” faith is always necessary. However, completely blind faith which is not grounded in anything besides “I was told so” is a dangerous way of life.
I often hear Christians mocked for being unable to defend their faith, and in some ways, they should be shamed if they cannot even answer the most basic questions about their faith. The ones who question Christianity the most should be Christians. We should always be questioning why we believe what we do and doing our best to make logic out of the seemingly hypocritical words of the Bible. More importantly, we should question what other believers tell us, even our leaders, and come to our own conclusions through numerous conversations, self-reflection, and prayer. If we are not consulting God and the Bible when it comes to how to live our lives, then we are only blindly following a religion that is not Christian because Christianity is about a relationship with God. Unfortunately, far too many people blindly follow what others tell them, and this has catastrophic results.
When Misguided Faith Crumbles
No one in the world of Eustia thought their religion could be wrong until it was far too late. When an entire piece of land breaks off and falls to the Earth below, chaos, panic, and true anarchy begin to emerge. The Prison, which was already a place of unrest, erupts into mobilized forces out of fear for their lives and anger at the nobles and church members. Countless people died, and the survivors of the tragedy lacked even enough food and water to continue surviving. Religion has completely failed the citizens of Novus Aether. We see such a phenomenon manifest in today’s world in two different ways.
The first is on a very small and individualistic scale: people stop believing in Christianity. College students have one of the, if not the, highest rates of turning away from Christianity, and for obvious reasons – it is often the first time they are truly thinking about why they are a Christian. They begin to see other worldviews that make far more sense. Prayer, much like the prayer in Eustia, has completely failed them, and there many other things in life which have are far more reliable. Without having a strong foundation of faith, people will turn away from Christianity. However, a strong foundation does not just mean going to church and reading the Bible; it means asking questions and thinking critically. It means having a certain level of doubt before accepting something as true. It means building a relationship with Jesus, not marking off a list of checkboxes.
The second way is, in a way, an exact replica of Eustia – countless of people suffering because political decisions were made based off blindly following religion. Perhaps I am edging too close to a political stance for this blog, but it is obvious to anyone that there is a disproportionate amount of anger both towards and from people who identify as Christian. The story of Eustia reminds me greatly of the current political situation we live in now, and while it is no doubt an incredibly complex set of issues, the role misguided religion has played in it is quite apparent. Far too many people have blindly followed so-called Christian teachings, and while the core concept of it may be true, it is hardly recognizable to me. Much like Novus Aether, if people had stopped to consider the real meaning of what they were being taught, perhaps the tensions could have been minimized.
The end result in Eustia is a civil war and the complete destruction of Novus Aether as it falls back to the Earth, with the survivors left to restart life from scratch. The blind faith of the citizens leads to hatred and mutual destruction. A religion meant to bring about peace and prosperity crumbled apart after being twisted into something far different from its original form. The story of Eustia is perhaps more relevant than ever in these uncertain times, so what can we learn from it to avoid a similar outcome?
Religion’s Interaction with Society
Eustia can be seen as a story about how religion and society interact with each other, how religion affects our ways of thinking for better and for worse, and, most notably, how easy it is for a religion engraved into the culture to cause unintentional chaos when it veers off track for long enough. Christians are always so keen on spreading the message, but somewhere along the lines, we have become too complacent about Christianity that is not based on God’s love. Rather than focusing our efforts on spreading the Gospel, I deeply wonder whether we need to first redirect our attention to those who are misrepresenting what Christianity is about. How can we hope to raise good Christians when such a large proportion of Christian examples to follow are so wrong? Moreover, it is clear from both Eustia and in real life that this spreading of hate based on religious beliefs can manifest in incredibly dangerous ways in society. It is one thing when different denominations have different interpretations of what the Bible says about doctrine; it is another thing completely when so-called Christians are calling for murder and genocide.
But while it may be easy to point to these people and say they are the problem, it is just as easy to let ourselves off the hook. The way Christians raise children or new believers is something that can have a permanent effect on what kind of people they become, and many Christians go about it the wrong way. Rather than teaching them how to live a Godly life, they teach what actions need to be done. It is a subtle difference, but one which manifests completely differently. As I have interacted with more and more Christians in my life, I see this manifestation more and more clearly.
There are Christians who simply say they are Christians and go through the motions, and then there are Christians who just so loving, caring, and accepting I am forced to accept how amazing Christianity truly is. Are people being shown how to have a relationship with God and how to act in a loving manner, or are they only being told the list of things that need to be accomplished to be a good Christian? Every now and then I hear church members praising some 2-year-old child for parroting Biblical stories and how he or she “gets it” at such a young age. To me, these people are taking Jesus’ words about being like children far too literally; it is exactly this kind of thinking that creates people who don’t have any kind of deep understanding of Christianity.
Thus, the issue is not just that there are misguided people blindly following their faith but how such people came about in the first place. Perhaps one can even argue that the Christian desire to spread the Gospel to as many as possible in a quantity over quality type of approach is what led to this. Either way, people who are blindly following Christian ideas without having a true relationship with God are something we must be very wary about, arguably even more so than those who aren’t claiming to be Christian at all. When so many have been on the receiving end of hatred from them, it is not enough to simply say they don’t represent “real” Christians. Naturally, everything exists on a spectrum, and it is hard to draw a line between a “real” Christian and one who has gone too far. All of us have parts and actions in our lives that are very un-Christian, myself included.
Regardless, as we seek to be Christians who love others, we must also show that we are serious about any misconduct that our fellow Christians are doing. We must make sure people’s faith is not blind but grounded in true understanding, and that they are truly building a relationship with God. We must actually listen to the complaints and criticisms people have of us; while some may be pointless hatred, there are plenty of reasonable criticisms to be made as well. Being a Christian is not just about teaching others. It is also about interacting with everyone around us in a loving manner and making sure that our society does not end up the same way it does in Aiyoku no Eustia.