I suppose it’s a writer thing, but I can be downright entertained by multiple meanings. For example, the verb “mining” could refer to the extraction of valuable resources, or it could refer to setting explosive booby traps ready to blow up in someone’s face.
As anyone who’s been around the Internet is no doubt aware, bringing up religion and/or spirituality is one of the most sure fire ways to set off a (figurative) explosion. And yet such matters are so intrinsic to the human condition that it’s a rare storyteller who doesn’t set foot in that minefield sooner or later. To go back to the other meaning, there are valuables there to be mined and brought forth. Judeo-Christendom alone has provided countless strikes of metaphorical bounty for writers throughout the centuries, not even counting instances of outright fan fiction like The Divine Comedy or Paradise Lost (and those in turn have inspired quite a few spin-offs of their own). Shakespeare all but strip-mined Greek mythology for his plays, and now in latter days we strip-mine Shakespeare and posit “What if Puck was some rich dude’s executive assistant?”
Now would an Ancient Greek who believed in the Gods and Goddesses and lived their life accordingly find those representations of Puck blasphemous? Better yet, would they have been offended by, say, how Homer represented Zeus and Poseidon?
“Unlike practical Greek religious observance, Homer’s portrayals of [deities] suited his narrative purpose, being very different from the polytheistic ideals Greek society used. To wit, the Classical-era historian Herodotus says that Homer, and his contemporary, the poet Hesiod, were the first artists to name and describe their appearance and characters.“
Sounds a lot like what we do to this day when someone decides to represent God as George Burns or Morgan Freeman. I like to think that the reactions are similar, where a minority might take offense but the majority will recognize it as fiction and have no more problem with it than a professional computer programmer does with the average Hollywood hacking scene, unless it’s particularly insulting.
Anyhow, I don’t even want or need to bring personifications of myth or religion into Zombie Ranch, but I did feel that sooner or later I would want to touch on religious topics in a world-building sense, after establishing early on that Christianity in some form had survived the apocalypse. The easy mode most zombie (or apocalypse) stories seem to default to is splitting the world into two camps: atheistic amoral hooligans, or bloodthirsty religious fanatics — with the heroes caught somewhere in between, usually too busy trying to survive to really consider any theological questions.
Now do extremists exist? Sure. Do they get more traction in times of crisis? By the lessons of history, absolutely. Are they the whole story? Absolutely not. Cults like the Flagellants during the Black Death came and went, but the core Catholic Church endured. And because endurance in the face of disaster is one of my biggest themes, it was a more interesting answer to me that institutions like the Catholic Church could and would endure the zombie apocalypse, and a couple decades and councils later would have discussed and resolved some of the theological issues that the walking dead presented. I find the Catholic doctrine of spirit (or “rational soul”, present only in man) versus the material soul which motivates plants and animals to be a fascinating concept, and one which I could easily see being applied to the riddle of the zombie. I lay no claim to being a theologian, but I believe the Church skewing in the direction of incorporating the new facts of life (or unlife) in the Weird New West–with as little change to existing doctrine as possible–to be a plausible outcome.
Hopefully that doesn’t blow up in my face. If it does, well, them’s the breaks of mining, I suppose.