Is Star Wars More Morally Complex than Lord of the Rings?

A symposium. (Weigh in!)

You may have noticed that the cast for the new Star Wars movie has been announced. Seizing the opportunity, we thought we’d take a break from articles about the future of the culture wars, Earth Day, and how to be an effective charitable giver, and deal with a REALLY important question:

Which provides a more morally complex universe: Star Wars or Lord of the Rings?

On one level, this is just fanboy fun. But as you’ll see in the essays below, it’s also a magnificent exercise in exploring how myth can sharpen how we see our own world–both as it is, and as it ought to be.

Enjoy! Please leave your feedback in the comments below–and if you think there’s an important argument that hasn’t been made that needs longer treatment, submit your own.

When you’ve read the essays, be sure to scroll to the bottom and VOTE!

May the Force be with you,
The Editors

P.S. New to Humane Pursuits? We’re a community of imaginative people, dissatisfied with a lot of what we see in the world, exploring and imagining how we can live rounded lives in the modern boxes in which we find ourselves. Learn more about us here. If you’d like to support what we do by writing or donating, contact us at editors [at]

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Featured Essays

nathanhitchenHow Does Good Triumph Over Evil?

Only Star Wars adequately answers this question through its plot.
Nathan Hitchen


barrettbowdreVisions of Home and Friendship

Mos Eisley, the Green Dragon. Star Wars is a reflection of our world. Lord of the Rings is an antidote to it.
Barrett Bowdre

There Are No Mere Mortals in Lord of the Ringsbradlittlejohn

A little literary analysis reveals vastly superior depths in Tolkien’s characters.
Brad Littlejohn


johnehrettWhat is Evil?

A look at how each story views history.
John Ehrett


Taoism and Mere Christianityjohnbrewereberly

The Lord of the Rings is like Caravaggio – high contrast, drama, and tenebrous lighting as symbols for morality’s definition and simplicity.
John Brewer Eberly




Morality and Fantasy – Alexander Hwang
Characters with Consequence – Casey Rath
A Less Elegant Moral Universe for a Less Civilized Age – Patrick Brown
A World Where Feelings Are King – Sean Hadley
Darth Vader and Solzhenitsyn – Nathaniel Torrey
The Church Needs Hobbits – Brian Brown
It Depends – Peter Schellhase
A Constellation of Worldviews – Jeff Hart
Harmony is Better than Balance – Luke Westcott
Glimpses of a Redeemer in Lord of the Rings – Riley Strong
When Competing Moral Claims Get in a Fistfight – Jonathan Bales



Based on the thoughts you’ve read, which universe is more morally complex? Share this page to unlock the poll.

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Which is more morally complex?
Star Wars
Lord of the Rings
It’s a tie

Poll Maker


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