“I long for the day when men turn away from invisible monsters and once more embrace a more rational view of the world. But these new religions are so convenient – and promise such terrible punishments should one reject them – I worry that fear shall keep us stuck to what is surely the greatest lie ever told.”
—Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad, Assassin’s Creed II
I only started playing Assassin’s Creed this summer, and I can honestly say that I am absolutely in love with the series so far (I’m on Revelations). The first game is a little repetitive, but the next couple of games definitely make it worth the grind. Trust me.
This quote that I pulled out… is a sensitive topic. I am not saying that we should turn away from religion or faith completely, no that’s not what I mean when I bring this up at all. I am not arguing with or against Altaïr’s wishes (as his “dream” seems slightly radical). In fact, there are moments in my life when I hope that someone – some deity up above – is watching over me. It’s comforting in a way.
I am only here to look through, give my personal thoughts, and add in some analysis to this quote. That is all.
Altaïr’s codex is thirty pages long, ranging between drawn picture entries to long, written paragraphs of insight (and sometimes, a bit of both). Codex page 20 is long, about four paragraphs, explaining his confusion surrounding the traditional Abrahamic religions. Though it may quite possibly be the longest of all his codex pages, it is most definitely the one that hit me most.
Within the game, Assassins are known to be warriors who fight for the freedom of thought, so that the people of the land may turn away from “blind faith” as they call it. Altaïr is a perfect example of someone who questioned authority and the blind faith, and so is the perfect one to write something like this in his journal.
In the first game, in following his story, we notice that with every kill he makes to appease the Al Mualim (the Master Assassin at the time), he questions the reasoning. Over and over again, he questions and demands answers from everyone, only to get a “You will understand in time” answer, or nothing at all.
The assassin’s maxim: “Nothing is true, everything is permitted,” can be interpreted in that assassins grew up only knowing rational thought (that they only believe in what they know or see; science and logic are what they believe in. An unpopular way of thinking, considering his story is based around 500-600 years before the Age of Enlightenment). With this in mind, it is also important to note that Altaïr grew up with this thought process, which is why he is able to question everything that does not make perfect sense to him. Despite this, Altaïr is still inarguably one of the smartest characters in the whole franchise, as well as one of the most respected all around. His later promotion to Master Assassin says as much.
This quote also brings up a good point in the Assassin’s Creed series: though the original Crusaders/Hashashin conflict was between the Christian and Islamic faiths (though that may not have been the central purpose), the Templar/Assassin conflict is between religion and atheism. Altaïr, if you have not noticed, is an Atheist.
The most important thing I want to pull out of this quote is the very last bit: “I worry that fear shall keep us stuck to what is surely the greatest lie ever told.” I personally am not suggesting that anything in any religion is an all-out lie, but with Altaïr’s writing and attitude toward religion, we know that he is referring to religion when he mentions “lie”.
The first part of this is what I actually agree with, in worrying that fear will keep us stuck here. Fear of punishment. Fear of a fight. Fear of what may or may not happen. This conflict between faiths, believers, non-believers, believers of other faiths has not ended. And this is where Altaïr is truly disappointed.
As I stated before, I do not agree with his wish for all religion to end and for us all to become atheists. What I do agree with, however, is for us to get along, no matter our faiths. There is potential for the faiths to coexist.
I think if we can catch on to this way of thinking, Altaïr and many others will still be proud of our generation.